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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Eurovision Semi 1

posted by on May 21 at 10:01 AM

Eurovision night, highlight of the year. Thanks to the ever-expanding contest, I now have three highlights in my year. Thank you, Europe!

A far too long review behind the jump.

(Bart and André are the Belgian commentators)

Bart and André welcome us to Belgrade, to the beautiful arena where … oh, about 10 people appear to be in attendance for this first semi-final. They’re all very enthusiastic and most of them have flags, so that makes up for a lot. An empty arena looks ridiculous on screen, how about charging a little less for those tickets?

André starts off on the right foot with the locals by remarking “that there has been no hostility towards the foreign guests”. What exactly are you implying, honey? That the Serbs are violent? I can only assume he means hostility towards poofters and queens because apparently they’re not too keen on us in good old Serbia. Meanwhile the opening act is well underway and Bart cautiously asks “so is this Balkan culture then?” as we gaze at strange men playing the trumpet, thus paving the way for André to be all Dumbledore-like in his wisdom (and sexuality probably, but that’s another matter here). I love how the roles between the Belgian commentators are always clear: André = genius/master, random other person = moron/slave.
André immediately shows his brilliance by stealing my remark (yes, I was there first, folks), about how Zeljko Joksimovic is the new Johnny Logan. Welcome to my blog, André, I didn’t know you were a fan. (How about getting me press accreditation for Moscow next year?)

On come Zeljko and his Random Female Co-host and The Girlfriend is thrilled to see he’s been taking style tips from Marija Serifovic, seeing as he’s dressed in a suit and white trainers. He learned from the best. Both Zeljko and RFC have sexy Russian accents and we start thinking it might be nice to have a Serbian Eurovision every year.

Finally the show starts and what better country to start with than Montenegro? … Well, in all honesty I can think of about 18 better countries to start with, but I didn’t get a say in the matter. Stefan, what were you thinking wearing an oversized white shirt over ugly leather trousers? Who’s responsible for that haircut? And why are your backings dressed as S&M nightclub girls? The straightboy dancing is still fun but apart from that… urgh. Moving on.

To Israel. André-or-Bart remind us that this entry was written by Dana International. Who knew she could actually *write* music?? I thought she was only good at miming songs! Now Boaz here is an example of a well-dressed man. He has a gym membership and boy, does it show. Just look at those arms. One look at him and the stylist threw everything with sleeves out the window! Boaz also brought five other good-looking men to gaze longingly into the camera. An obvious try for the discerning gay gentleman’s vote (as opposed to the euroqueen and the twink vote) and it works.

Much hilarity on the sofa when the camera pans to the ten people in the audience and some of them are waving Israeli flags … on blow-up hammers. Nice way to promote peace and unity, Israel.

And there’s Carnival entry number one: Estonia. They’ve changed nothing in their act, apart from the fact that two of them are now humping the piano instead of just the one (why? Did the first one get lonely?) and no-one can believe that the songwriters/singers aren’t in fact Paul Whitehouse and co. The sofa shouts “bono estente” and “scorcio” at the tv for the full three minutes of this song. Ellen, who’s never seen this entry before, is amused at first but quickly shuts up when she sees the glares of the rest of the Sofa. Don’t mess with the Sofa. It’s a lesson kids learn from an early age.

Moldova does nothing but make us want to drown ourselves in a pool of our own blood. What a horrible pretentious piece of crap. “Here I am, on Pall Oskar’s sofa (give it back!), clutching my teddy bear, singing to my boyfriend who’s playing the trumpet”. You’d think it’s impossible but this is actually worse than Montenegro. Carola’s wind machine kicks in, which makes this whole thing even more ridiculous seeing as she’s pretending to be in her living room. Perhaps she should close a window.

San Marino gets a mini-soviet-gymnast card with little girls who are doing gymnastics and one girl who carries a drum. “She was probably too fat to be allowed on the team” the Girlfriend cruelly remarks. The postcard is actually the best thing about San Marino’s performance. Who cut your hair, Mister San Marino Rockstar? Are there no combs in San Marino? “If this goes through” our resident butch poof remarks, “there’s something seriously wrong with the world”. For some reason, the ballet teacher of the girls in the postcard starts flapping about on stage, in order to make the whole performance even more mystifying. Right. Glad that’s over.

Time for Belgium. The sofa is uncharacteristically silent, a bit nervous even. And we end up going “yeah, that was alright wasn’t it.” Sure, we could discuss the styling, and yeah, it’s still a silly song, but it made *us* smile for a little while at least. So that’s something, right.
After the song Bart remarks “it’s already time for another country?” Come on, sweetie, this is Eurovision, this show is taking two hours already, time to move on!

And here are my favourite Azerbaijans: Elnur and Samir. And it’s all there: the slutty devilchild, the aerobics-angels, the wings, the throne. Everything! Three minutes of camp, ridiculous, horrible madness. Fan-tas-tic. For some reason the angel looks a whole lot scarier than the devil. Perhaps that’s the intention!! Perhaps Azerbaijan wanted to show the world that appearances can be deceiving, that there’s good and bad in everyone, that even angels have a dark side and devils can look like great camp poofs! Or it’s probably more likely that the stylist said “ooh look, white contacts” and handed them to the angel. In the end the devil is transformed into a gay angel and one of the backing dancers lifts her skirt to show us her string. Seriously. The Sofa erupts in “did we just see what we saw” and we’re pretty sure that those were some bare arsecheeks flashed in front of the whole European audience (and those ten people in the arena).

Slovenia starts out decently enough and I find myself wondering why everyone hates this performance so much. Sure the dancers are wearing S&M style outfits and motorbike helmets, and yes the fact that she’ll be dropping that god-awful silver cape is obvious from the very beginning (why else would anyone wear it), but apart from that I find myself wondering what’s wrong with it. I quickly learn everything is. The song evolves into some kind of Venga Boys fiasco and ditto dance-routine, when she does drop that cape we scream in horror at the neon green skirt she’s wearing, shoe-rollerblades didn’t do anything for Thomas Thordarsson in 2004 so why try now and S&M outfits are pretty boring if no-one starts stripping. You’ve brought male eyecandy to Eurovision, now use it, you stupid girl!

Forget angels and devils as a theme, after Azerbaijan’s preview video everyone ran away in fear. S&M and wind machines are by far this year’s most popular feature. Hurray!

Norway brings us a multitude of blonde goddesses. Now I don’t usually fall for blondes, but I’ll gladly make an exception this time. “Are we sure this isn’t Sweden?” someone on the sofa remarks and we quickly glance on our score sheets. Nope. Norway. “They’ve got the 360° camera shot” The Girlfriend proclaims happily -even though that never brought anyone any luck- and the lyrics are still awful (“Love can be hard sometimes/ Yes, it can catch you off guard like bad crimes”), but they’ve all got great boobs. I hope they make it to the final!

Yes, I can be a straight guy sometimes. Why do you ask?

We move on to the horror that is Poland. This woman is so orange that if they’d used an orange backdrop for this song, the audience would think there was a dress standing on its own on the stage. Her teeth are so white they’re practically neon lights and she’s brought a fake pianist and fake violinists along. Overkill on the cheese here? If anyone could be used as a warning against too much plastic surgery, I think Isis Gee should be the one. Go on, Isis, protect the children, don’t let them make the mistakes you did!

Who ever thought Ireland could be a breath of fresh air in this contest? Certainly not me. Dustin tries his best, but the singing is offkey, the song is actually not that good and while the lyrics are hilarious, half of Europe doesn’t understand them. The chorus is so repetitive I’m starting to suspect they’re trying to hypnotise us (Irelande douze points! Irelande douze points!) Whatever its good sides, the golden rule for gimmick entries is… the song still has to be good. See Verka Serduchka, see Lithuania in 2006. If the song sucks, like this one does, you’re still not getting through.

Andorra begins fantastically off-key and I’m so relieved when I see her outfit. Belgium might not be gettting the Barbara Dex award after all. What the hell is she wearing? And why? Nothing can save this dreadful song, not even singing in two languages. No amount of vote grabbing could ever be enough.

On we go to Bosnia and Herzegovina. This song has grown on me in the past month and this performance was –to me- fantastic. Laka hiding in the wash basket, the knitting brides, the clothesline, her outfit with the apples, however disjointed and weird… it all seemed to make sense. The singing wasn’t great, but for some reason that didn’t matter. Whatever this performance was about, it was freaky but cute, and we kept watching with a smile on our faces. Love it, love it, love it.

Armenia sent a decent pop-slutty song but what’s with the bad singing? Sirusho traded her gym clothes for an ugly short dress and one of her dancers keeps peaking under it, but despite that (yep, that was a plus side) this is hugely disappointing. The poor girl can’t hold a tune and she looks overwhelmed.

No, then The Netherlands are a lot better. Even though I have to dislike the Dutch (being Belgian, there’s no other option really) I must admit that Hind sings good but her styling is way off. An ugly dress with a high split and thigh-length boots (why the split then?) and dancers wearing too many clothes (again, if you bring eyecandy, show it off) who start doing their gym routine in the middle of the song. No, no, no! The Sofa is overjoyed to see Hind recycled Kate Ryan’s neon microphone stands, though given Kate’s result in 2006 we don’t think this bodes well for her. A discussion starts on the sofa on whether this is “good enough” or “ just plain kebab shop music” and before we can reach a consensus, the song is over. Ah well.

With Finland we immediately discover that, yes, even rockers use botox. And quite a lot of it apparently. The shoddy camerawork shows us a decapitated man, though they could just have attempted to zoom in on his hairless torso (and they say there are no gay men in Serbia… tsk). Imagine the styling discussions this band must have gone through. “You can go bare-chested, you keep your shirt on, and for the two of you we’ll design a shirt that gives the illusion of pecs where there are none in sight, ok?”. Apparently, these rockers also trim the hair under their armpits. Which is a plus. And long live Carola’s wind machine! Yes, victory is all in the details, sweeties.

Urgh. Romania next. Scientific research (my own) has now proven it is impossible to die of boredom in three minutes. If it was, I wouldn’t be sitting here. Romania brought us three minutes of Italian drivel. The only thing that made it entertaining was the obvious hatred between Vlad and Nico. She keeps touching him, pretending to want to be near him and all the time you see the panic in his eyes. Poor Vlad.

After that song I’m almost glad to see it’s time for Russia. Almost, yes. I never like the favourites and it looks as if Diva Dima Bilan’s ego now needs its own dressing room. Dima stares longingly into the camera, thrashes about on the floor (I hope they cleaned it, the boy’s in white), implores us to hear his plea and despite his wealth and superstar status he apparently can’t afford shoes. Times are tough in Russia, I know, apparently even for Diva Dima Bilan. The Sofa starts a discussion about whether or not he’s well endowed. We decide he’s not. This gives us a little satisfaction and we now feel strong enough to go on with the rest of this …thing. Plushenko skates (well obviously he skates, to have him juggling would have been a bit ridiculous) on a mini mini skating rink and at the end Diva Dima rips open his shirt to reveal his hairless torso. We all have a good look, but opinions are divided. Oh. There’s also a violinist, for no apparent reason. This’ll probably win the whole damned contest. Ah well.

And then Greece to end with. They send an American/Greek Britney Spears-before-she-went-crazy clone who’s awfully nasal and disgustingly cheerful. These are dire times, girl, has no one briefed you? There are wars, floods, earthquakes and hunger. Quit being so damned cheerful, it gets on my nerves! Go to your room and be emo and depressed. Greece has brought along a tropical garden (in plastic) shaped in the form of a heart. This prop -which is hardly used- is the reason why the EBU had to put an unnecessary ridiculous commercial break between Russia and Greece. Anything for glamour. There are costume changes, a lesson in anatomy where the BritneyClone points to various erogenous zones (her mother will blush when she sees that) and they probably dusted off Carola’s wind machine as well.

So much for the first semi.

Finding ten songs the Sofa felt were good enough to go through was an impossible task. The songs were generally so bad most of us didn’t make it to 7. Still, the results are quite… well, mixed.

The finalists are:
- Israel (woohoo!)
- Azerbaijan (yessss!)
- Norway (ok)
- Poland (WTF??)
- Bosnia & Herzegovina (yay!)
- Armenia (Like I said, they could send a farting sheep and still get through. But this time it’s not deserved)
- Finland (hehe)
- Romania (blurgh, but I can see there’s a granny market for it)
- Russia (urgh)
- And….. not Belgium.
- Greece (urgh)

RSS icon Comments


I was wondering when you'd get this up! I've been looking forwards to it.

I personally liked Slovenia, because seriously, Europop space bondage. What isn't there to like about that?

I also agree with you about Bosnia- I'm not sure how I missed it in my first watch-throughs, but it's seriously grown on me now. It's just so bizarre and awesome.

Russia's amount of ludicrousness impressed me. Barefoot, shirtless, needlessly earnest, a random violinist, a gold-medalist figure skater on an ice rink about 5 feet long...true, the song is dreck, but that's not the point. The point is, if it's Moscow 2009 I won't be hugely upset.

Although I really, really, really want it to be Azerbaijan. I've even learned to spell Azerbaijan, based on how great it is.

Poland is laaaaaame. Even her being from Seattle doesn't validate her. At least Romania produced Dracula, My Love last year, so I'll give them a pass for now on being boring.

I approve of Armenia of only because the lyrics make so little sense. Also, it's a big improvement on last year's Armenian entry, which was boring.

I liked Belgium, for what it's worth. It was pleasantly daft. The ten people in the arena seemed to like it too. More than Estonia, anyway.

Bring on Thursday! I'm most invested in Latvia, I will be very upset if there are no pirates in the final.

Posted by Abby | May 21, 2008 11:21 AM

I'll terribly upset if there *are* pirates in the final!

For tomorrow I'm hoping for Iceland, Sweden, Croatia, Portugal and... even though I know they won't make it, Cyprus. If those first four aren't in the final I'll be seriously pissed off.

Posted by Griet | May 21, 2008 12:15 PM

Oh yeah, Iceland. I still like the Haffi Haff or whatever it was song more, but I bet Euroband will come up with a good performance.

I still want Latvian pirates, damn it.

Posted by Abby | May 21, 2008 12:41 PM

Important question: Are there any bars in the Seattle area showing Eurovision on Saturday?! Especially the UK coverage (Eurovision without Terry Wogan just wouldn't be the same :( ). Ideally live, as I'm going to be flying from around 6pm.

Posted by Ian | May 22, 2008 11:57 AM

Wow, Bosnia-Herzegovina's was surprisingly great.

I'm Polish and I'm embarrassed that our entry ended up getting through, I'm so, so sorry.

Posted by Jon | May 23, 2008 1:27 AM

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