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Friday, May 30, 2008

Put your clothes back on!

posted by on May 30 at 12:12 PM

Winning Eurovision has its benefits: you get a glass-studded dildo, the praise of millions of Europeans, a couple of mentions on Line Out, and in Dima Bilan's case you even get a street named after you. A street!! Why not rename the whole city while they're at it? "Dima Bilantown", come on Medvedev, you know you want to...

Unfortunately winning Eurovision also has its drawbacks. Apart from costing your home country millions of Euros (or Roubles) to organise this campfest, there's also the hatred of millions of Europeans, you invariably get accused of plagiarism (every single year) and this time bad halfnude photos resurface with whispered gossip of "gay porn"and "escort".
Not in Russia, of course, where Dima is well on the way to sainthood (hey, the man resurrects ballerinas and little kids, I'd like to see you try it!), but pretty much everywhere else.

But look what a sex scandal did for George Michael's career! It can only increase his popularity in the gay community. And what else could Dima be aiming for? It's all one big plot to make this boring song a tad more interesting. I bet the KGB's involved....

(thanks for the tip, Terry... though now I have to get to those images out of my head)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In All The Squatch Talk This Weekend...

posted by on May 27 at 11:38 AM

...You may have missed this little post about the Eurovision Song Contest Final, which was held this weekend.

Of particular note is the video that opened up the final show. It was last years Serbian winner Marija Serifovic who sang a Eurodance remix of her winning song, "Molitva", while a bevy of lesbians interpretive-ly got "married" behind her. Here it is:

The only real smirch on this years Eurovision is that a fascist political group made up of old guard politicians and new guard skin-heads, that is very popular in Serbia, volunteered to beat up and chase out of the country any and all gay fans that would show up for the competition. From what I have heard in news reports, it sounds like that didn't happen, but it's too bad that it had to even be threatened by the host country.

A bigger problem for Eurovision next year may be the fact that Russia won this year's competition. And if there could possibly be a country more fascistic and homophobic than Serbia, that country would be Russia.

Amazingly, Dima Bilan, the singer who brought home the prize for Russia, is about as faggy looking as they come. And I say that as a fag. With the mullet, the over the top vox, the figure skater.... I mean, come on folks. One can hope that Dima might help tamp down some of the hate politics in Russia as they prepare for this large endeavor next year, but I have no real belief a country as fucked up as Russia can face its problems just for the sake of Eurovision.

So see(?!?!), Eurovision does represent more than just irony masked in gay songs, dances and feather boas, as we learned this year from the fact that Serbia was hosting its neighbors who it is ready to go to war against (again!) over silly things like, you know, borders and stuff.

I'd like to send a huge - HUGE - thank you to Griet who braved every single contestant video and gave us such a unique and historic look at Eurovisions past, present and, now, future. That was an awesome job from our intrepid Stranger European Bureau reporter. Thank you so much Griet!

See you next year...

In Russia!

Dima Bilan singing the winning song "Believe".

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision final recap

posted by on May 25 at 6:58 AM

For me the excitement is less than it was during the semis because we’ve already seen 19 of the 25 songs performed. Still, we’re all pretty happy, dressed as we are as either “random Eurovision fans”, Denmark, Azerbaijan (pretty impressive display there), Belgium/Iceland (a combination) and “er… I’ve got a green T-shirt… I’ll be Greece”. Some people really don’t make enough of an effort. (Photos of random Eurovision parties)

Continue reading "Eurovision final recap" »

Friday, May 23, 2008

Eurovision semi 2: recap

posted by on May 23 at 11:40 AM

It's the second semi-final and already I’m feeling the exhaustion. I really can’t handle that much excitement, I am getting older you know. This time we’re making do with Cornald, the Dutch commentator because Belgian TV is too cheap to show every single Eurovision event this year. Shame on you, VRT. And no I will not press my digital red button, you bastards! I don’t have one of those. And I don’t want one either. Cornald will do just fine, and he immediately welcomes “all the Flemish viewers” as well. Bit cocky, isn’t he.

Continue reading "Eurovision semi 2: recap" »

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.

Continue reading "Eurovision Semi 1" »

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Eurovision Party

posted by on May 19 at 9:47 AM

I hope some of you are now intrigued enough to watch this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It should be shown on a number of channels e.g. ETV Internacional, most major European channels and it will be streamed on the official website (here). The first semi is on May 20th, second on May 22nd and the Final on Saturday May 24th, each time live at 21:00 CET (I think that’s noon for you folks in Seattle). If you download or tape it, make sure you’re not spoiled beforehand, because that would be a real shame.

Now what do you need for a Eurovision party? Booze, obviously. Lots of it. There are a Eurovision Drinking games here and there for those of you who need to be drunk to be able to sit through an entire night of questionable music.

But apart from that, score sheets are also essential. You can make them yourself (find the list of participants at the Eurovision website) or if you wait long enough, the BBC usually makes a handy one for the final. You can score on song, singing, lyrics, outfits, performance, key changes, general ridiculousness or hotness of the performers. Whatever works for you! Derive your winner from that and be prepared to be pissed off if Europe doesn’t agree with you.

Flags are nice, those little paper ones, but not the ones you put on cheese, those are too small, I know.. I’ve tried. You definitely need a country to back. For Europeans, it’s easy, just pick your own country (or *don’t*, as is usually the case for me), but for the rest of the world this opens a range of possibilities. Choose a country for its name, because it’s where your ancestors’ roots lie, because it’s your favourite holiday destination, because you like the song the most (or least) or because no-one else wants it (Belgium comes in handy in this last category). Defend this country and this song, no matter your personal feelings towards it, to the death. Shout at everyone who’s bitchy about it and hate all the countries that declined to vote for it. Drag wars into it if you have to –you wouldn’t believe the amount of times World War two gets mentioned around here at Eurovision time-. Be prepared to feel gutted if your favourite doesn’t make it even close to the top ten.

The big difference between the semis and the final is the voting. In the semis, the presenters will just get envelopes and read out who got through to the final. During the final the votes are given live (an example of this here). The votes are half the fun of Eurovision. Every single country has a satellite link and shows a local celebrity sitting in front of a national landmark. You’ll have a Brit sitting in front of Big Ben (ok, a blue screen with Big Ben projected on it, but still), a Frenchman in front of the Eiffel tower and here and there someone who just didn’t bother with landmarks and who sits in front of ugly wallpaper. Even when giving out the scores, Europe tries to impress. The voting usually takes well over an hour and is stereotypically the same. The country mentions where they’re calling from, they compliment the presenters on a magnificent show, try to say something in the native language of the host country, and if they go on too long you can see the presenters thinking “get the fuck on with it, you’ve only got one minute”. Entertainment guaranteed. They give their country’s three highest scores, the rest automatically appears on the screen, the audience in the arena starts booing if their country didn’t get any points, and they’re off again. On to the next country. This is where the bitching really starts. Conspiracy theories! Bloc votes! Politics! Ethnic Cleansing! Everything and anything goes as an explanation why your country didn’t get its rightful place in the ranking.

So, dress up, wave your flags, fill in your scoresheets, gently mock the contestants who deserve it, and be sure to acknowledge those who are fabulous. Have fun!

And for your (or my) enjoyment: two Eurovision Queens. First up: Deen from Bosnia & Herzegovina (9th in 2005), who might technically not be a queen, but ... well... He wants! To dance! All night! In the discoooo....

And Helena Paparizou (winner in 2004) and her gorgeous men (note the Fire/Desire rhyme):

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Eurovision: the final two.

posted by on May 17 at 9:58 AM

We've arrived at the last two countries:

Spain has always guaranteed an er… typically Spanish song. Sung in Spanish (quite like the French), sometimes up-tempo, a little old-fashioned. You name it. There was Mocedades in 1973 (Eres Tu –2nd place), Azucar Moreno in 1990 (Bandido – 5th place), Annabel Conde (Vuelve Conmigo – 2nd place) in 1995 and the gorgeous Beth in 2003 (Dime - 8th place). This year they’re sending Elvis. Rodolfo Chikilicuatre has an insane DIY dance routine called Baila el chiki chiki (“dance the chiki chiki” - kinda like the Macarena, but better). In case you’re wondering what he’s on about, there’s a translation and most of it its made clear by the fantastic dance routine. I’m a big fan and this should definitely keep Spain out of the bottom four.

Serbia qualified for the final by winning last year. No, I won’t plug Marija Serifovic again, but she deserved to win. And this year, they might just win the whole damn thing again. Jelena Tomasevic sings Oro, yet another folky ballad from Serbia. And, obviously, I really like this one. Zeljko Joksimovic, the writer of Oro, took part once in Eurovision (runner up in 2004 with Lane Moje), he wrote the Bosnian entry in 2006 (third place for Hari Mata Hari) and this year he’s one of the presenters of the show. In short, he’s the new Johnny Logan, a contemporary Mr Eurovision. Oro is in the same style as his previous Eurovision entries, but since I liked all of those, I don’t mind. I looked for a translation of the lyrics to find out what she’s singing about, but the lyrics might as well still be in Serbian… : “My wheat, do not sleep, kiss him, put me to sleep/ Do not break my ice, it lacks water/ Do not put salt on my wound, there are no tears” Erm. Yes. Well, whatever the lyrics, it’s obvious that once again this is Tragedy with a capital T.
And what better way to end this godforsaken Eurovision preview?

So that were all 43 participating countries.
Rehearsals are well underway in Belgrade and so far there's been a minor Russia/Greece incident (they both use too many props for the one stagedoor), Dima Bilan re-grew his mullet, Isis Gee's teeth are scarier than they appeared in the video, Ireland's turkey admitted to liking both cocks and hens (whatever gets him the votes), Belgium sucks and is the frontrunner for the infamous Barbara Dex award (the award for the worst dress... well, at least then we'll win something), Iceland and Sweden battle it out over the botox, there's a lot of pyro (pyrotechnics are this year's wind machines) and Finland is performing shirtless.
As to who will win, no-one knows, though Russia, the Ukraine and Croatia are hot favourites.
All will be revealed next Tuesday, Thursday and -finally- Saturday.

Coming up: tips for your very own Eurovision party.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eurovision: Don't mention the wars!

posted by on May 15 at 10:00 AM

In recent years the big four tend to be the “bottom four”. Do they not make enough of an effort, are they not considered cool and hip, or.... as Terry Wogan seems to think, does Europe hate them and their alliance with the US? Hm, I hardly think someone in Hungary will say “ooh I loved that song from the UK, but since they’re at war in Iraq I refuse to vote for them. I know, I’ll vote for Albania instead”.
For me the Big Four generally don’t make enough of an effort, they send music that doesn’t appeal to the Eurovision audience and they tend to exaggerate. Spain and Germany got decent results in 2004. Even the UK did alright with James Fox in 2005 (in Belgian terms 16th place is nothing to mock). So there.
The Big four (specifically France and the Uk) are used to dominating the contest because they sung in languages a lot of other European countries understood. Since the free language choice they no longer have that edge and it’s taking some time to get used to it.
But still, let’s see what our big financial contributors (thank you for that by the way) are sending this year.

The UK sent some real horrors in recent years. Who could forget their first ever null points in 2003 (and really, get over it, do you know how many times Belgium got null points? And it was more than deserved). Jemini had problems with their earphones (that’s the story anyway). Result: no points. Surprising? No. The song was a decent-enough trashy dance song, but the vocals were horrid. They also tried with Daz Sampson, some kind of rap thing about school (urgh) and last year they sent Scooch: calculated camp, innuendos (four fifths of Europe didn’t get it, but still), flight attendant uniforms, European flags, the lot. I quite liked it, but when you’re on after Verka Serduchka, you really don’t stand a chance.
This year they’re going with Andy Abraham who’s singing Even If. It’s funky, it’s decent, it’s quite catchy, there are actual instruments on stage and Andy shakes his ass like there’s no tomorrow. The UK deserve a good place with this, but this song will probably be too “normal” to stick in the mind. If you’ve got the time (or the inclination) have a look at Michelle Gayle, runner up of the national selection in the UK: she brings a 50s kinda Birdie Dance. Just imagine her backing singers and the turkey from Ireland… what a team.

Speaking of that turkey, I just heard he brought his own wind machine to Eurovision. Eurovision needs more wind machines, it's a fact.

Eurovision is the time where Germany proves that they do have a sense of humour (you heard it here first, folks). Back in 1979 they sent the incredible “Dschinghis Khan” with the song of the same name. A memorable performance. In 1998 they sent the magnificent Guildo Horn and his band “die Orthopädischen Strümpfe” (the orthopaedic stockings) with “Guildo hat euch lieb” (Guildo loves you), a man for whom the stage was one big jungle gym. Then there was Stefan Raab in 2000 with Wadde Hadde Dudde Da. And Lou who sang “let’s get happy and let’s be gay” in a very heavy German accent in 2003 and came 11th. (She claimed “let’s be gay” was not an intentional attempt to grab the gay vote. Right. Sure.) Unfortunately Germany seems a bit devoid of fun this year. With No Angels and the song Disappear they’re sending a completely unmemorable thing. We’ve got Big Hair Angel, Shabby Angel, Barbie Angel and Posh Angel trying to be sexy and making an attempt at flag-waving with parts of their outfit. They get points for that, but I fear it’s going to be Bottom Four for this one. One of the comments on Youtube was quite fitting: “with a song like this we’ll only get points from Austria and Switzerland”.
Oh, you bloc-voters, you.

Wah! Look at that, Jesus is taking part in Eurovision!! Quick, check his hands and feet for stigmata, to see if he’s the real deal. La douce France is entering Eurovision with a bit of a riot on their hands. Sebastien Tellier's song (Divine) is… not in French. Probably the first year ever that a Eurovision song for France is not in French . France’s entry from last year (Les Fatals Picards ) could hardly be considered completely French either, but they sang in a kind of Franglais (“je cours, je cours, I’ve lost l’amour et without you, seul à Paris…”) and wore pink ties designed by Gaultier, so at least that was something . Those poor French! This year, half the contest starts singing in a foreign language but instead of French, they’re all picking Italian, and then their own representative claims he can’t sing about love in French, so he has to choose English. Apparently though, he has given in to the frazzled nerves of the French nation and agreed to sing parts of it in French. We’ll see. A friend of mine came up with the idea to have the English lyrics simultaneously translated on the backdrop during his performance. The French politicians will be happy and the rest of Europe gets a free French lesson, thus promoting the French language yet again. Not that the lyrics make much sense, but hey. You can’t have everything.
This song is unlike any other song in Eurovision, it' s some kind of electro-y, disco-y, retro-y... er... listen, I don't know what it is, let's just say it's something good, I do love it, but –alas- I doubt it’ll do much of anything vote-wise.

Coming up: Spain and Serbia.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Eurovision: I get excited, you get excited too

posted by on May 13 at 9:14 AM

Tell me, what do you think about when you think of Malta? Yeah… probably nothing much, eh. But still, when you’ve had some time to think…. Try. Come on! Nothing? But … how about Gorki Park? No? Well, spying then!? Snow? No?? Seriously, you don’t? Well, then why on earth is Morena representing Malta with Vodka, a very up-tempo song about a spy running for her life in Gorki Park after decyphering a code. Or something. Or nothing. Yikes, I wish they’d just pretend to be Chinese again like they did with last year’s Vertigo (favourite lyrics: “you colour me blue, turn my passion to red, it’s feeling like I’ve become indigo”). Still, “Vodka”’s not too horrid, and the choreography should be interesting (something satanic or angelical perhaps? I hear it’s all the rage)

Cyprus sends Evdokia Kadi with Femme Fatale, a song in Greek about … well, about a femme fatale probably. There’s no way to know for sure because I don’t speak Greek, they could be singing their shopping list. It does sound quite sexy though. The Cypriots have something with French titles it seems after they sent Evridiki last year with “comme ci comme ça”. Now allow me to rant for a second about how Evridiki should’ve made it to the final. She should have, it wasn’t fair, I tell you, it wasn’t fair. And you know what, this song should make it to the final as well. I think it’s funny, it’s original, there’s a woman being adored by a bunch of –probably- gay men on their knees, there’s a clothes change and who knows, there might even be a fire/desire rhyme… only in Greek.

FYR Macedonia has always qualified from the Semi-Final and that’s not always on merit, sometimes it was (Tose Proeski –ESC 2004), sometimes it just boggled the mind (Mojot Svet -ESC 2007). They’re one of the countries that could send a farting sheep and still make the top ten. This year –despite the absence of a farting sheep (I didn’t say it was a necessity, did I)- they should do so again even though they send a “genre” (Eurovisioned pop-rap) that doesn’t usually do well at Eurovision. Tamara, Vrčak & Adrijan sing Let me love you, a song about love or sex depending on which gender is talking. But at least they’re enthusiastic about it. The whole thing looks rather messy (they’re too cool not to be messy), the “rappers” seem to forget their whole macho act once they start dancing (which is nice) and there’s a lone backing singer who apparently failed at dance class because he just stands behind the microphone looking lost. Or perhaps he’s too cool to be all choreograph-y and stuff. That’ll be it. I just hope these guys don’t do too well, because I’m not in the mood for 43 R&B/rap songs in next year’s contest. I think I’d even prefer 43 turkeys.

Portugal ends our second semi final. They're sending Vânia Fernandes with Senhora Do Mar (Negras Águas) . A catchy title if ever I heard one. It means “lady by the sea” which makes sense once you start thinking about it. This is Bombastic Ballad number 250 and it’s another beauty. You can tell from the music and Vania’s facial expressions that this is Tragedy with a capital T. She’s miserable and it’s probably something to do with a guy. Fantastic! Portugal generally does bad at Eurovision but that’s mainly because they’ve hardly ever sent anything decent. Two recent examples? Amar (2005) and Coisas de nada (2006). For some reason there’s not a decent video clip to be found of this song, so it loses some of its power in the bad sound, but hey… if she can pull off the high notes live, she deserves a place in the final.

And that’s it for the second semi-final.
Of these 19 songs 10 will qualify to join the top 10 from the other semi and the 5 automatic qualifiers in the Grand Final. From those 25 songs the winner will be chosen. It’ll either be a Bombastic Ballad, a turkey, a political conspiracy vote or a trashy dance song -probably something to do with the devil-. I can’t wait.
Still to come: Spain, the UK, Germany, France and Serbia. Well, and the actual shows of course.

Eurovision: Moscow 2009?

posted by on May 13 at 4:57 AM

Below is the video of Dima Bilan's first rehearsal. As you can see good old Dima (glad to see the mullet is back in full force) has thrown literally everything at this performance. Yes, that is a ladder. And that's an ice skating rink. And yes, that is Olympic gold medalist Eugeni Pluschenko skating on the Eurovision stage.

Ha. But at least Belgium's got a circus tent dress! In your face, Dima!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eurovision: decent songs about peace (or piss) and exquisite talent.

posted by on May 11 at 9:00 AM

Ooh, action in Eurovision land! The rehearsals have started today. For those obsessives, you can read reports of the rehearsals on All Kinds of Everything over on Livejournal. They're Irish, so they'll go mad over the turkey. What have I learned so far? Moldova lost their bubbles, Israel is selling man-candy and Estonia is still the same. For me, this is the highlight of my day.

But on with the previews, because otherwise we'll never get this damned thing finished and the first Semi is just over a week from now.

We move away from Bulgaria's (fantastic) trashy beats to an annoyingly “decent” song from Denmark. What is it with “decent songs” and their invasion of Eurovision? Why? Simon Mathews’ All Night Long (and I can’t help but sing Lionel Richie’s song over this title) reminds me of Denmarks last decent result: “I’m talking to you” by Jakob Sveistrop in 2005. From last year’s pink feathered drama queen to this, variety is a keyword in Eurovision. The problem with this is, it’s a good song. It’s a happy song, it’s sung well, the guy has charisma, he’s got self-confidence, he’s suave, nice to look at… but it doesn’t do anything for me at all. It just bores me. Still, I’m sure Simon won’t be upset that little old me doesn’t like him, knowing how my favourites usually fare at Eurovision (*cough* Bulgaria *cough*), he’s better off with me not liking him, and I’m pretty sure he’ll do well. I wonder if he’ll be bringing the band (with the actual instruments –urgh-) on stage with him, or if he’ll go for the feathered girls from his promo video (yep, Lineout taught me to watch promo videos).

Georgia’s Diana Gurtskaya goes for the age-old Eurovision classic: songs about peace (see Ein Bisschen Frieden back in 1982) She sings “Peace will come” in an effort to reassure us that things will be alright and give us hope in these troubled times. Now I know I’m a horrid person, and I’m probably hallucinating (reviewing all these songs will do that to you) but on my ipod her chorus sounds suspiciously much like “Piss will come” which –since I’m a 10-year-old at heart- amuses me to no end. Eurovision accents are the best! (… Yeah, give me a boll of yarn and I’m quiet for hours, no trouble at all.) Last year’s Georgian entry (their debut: Sopho – Visionary dream) was quite great (a lady in a red dress surrounded by sword-fighters), but this year… Urgh. I’m too cynical to believe in songs about peace. The performance of this song however –the complete ridiculousness of it- makes up for a lot. “What can we do to prevent a song about peace from turning into a bathroom-break? Oh! I know! Choreograph it to death! We’ll turn Diana from a devil into an angel (do all choreographers go to the same costume shop or something? Or did they all copy one guy who’s now extremely pissed off?) and we’ll camouflage it all with a gigantic bed-sheet. Fantastic!”
Looks like this year’s Eurovision theme is devils and angels then.

Csézy represents Hungary with the song Candlelight. The Eurovision bio calls Csézy a “young, beautiful and exquisitely talented singer” and her song “another beautiful, heartbreaking ballad”, the backing singers meanwhile are “superb background vocalists”. Seriously, who the hell writes these things? They’re a fan, that’s for sure. And seeing as this is a girl with smoky eyes singing a bombastic –ahem, heartbreaking- ballad, so am I.

Up next: Malta and Cyprus.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Eurovision: pirates of the sea, 75 cents in my pocket and a 90s beat.

posted by on May 9 at 9:00 AM

Latvia has quite a decent Eurovision trackrecord. They debuted with the charming group Brainstorm in 2000, have since won once (Marie N – I wanna – ESC 2002) and three years ago they sent the cutest display of innocent blond boys (and funniest simultaneous sign language) to date with Walters & Kaza ‘s “The War -or as they sang it “ the wur”- is not over”.
This year Latvia sends Pirates of the Sea (as opposed to Pirates “of the Air” or “of the land” I suppose) with Wolves of the sea. Unfortunately, when they say pirates they actually do mean pirates. This is a traditional Latvian er… pirate song but thankfully we find out that, despite whatever rumours to the contrary, pirates can do choreography. Fancy that. There’s even a lady pirate, and apparently Captain Hook started a new career as a Latvian singer. This song sounds like Aqua, but then on speed (remember Barbie Girl? Or was that only a hit in Europe?) and examines the identity crisis pirates go through when they find out that “pirates are all they can be”. It can’t be easy being born with an eyepatch or a hook for a hand and realising that your future is determined for you. Philosophical food for thought, thanks to this Latvian entry. Thank you, Latvia.

Representing Croatia is Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents with the song Romanca. First off, why 75 cents? Why? What on earth does it mean? And who is 75 cents? The man with the hat? The older guy who mutters things from time to time? The change in their pockets? I doubt we’ll get the answer anytime soon, but my autistic nature has a hard time dealing with this. Anyway, let’s move over to the song. I love this, I don’t know why. Granted, I’m usually a big fan of Croatia. Croatia could send a dressed up dog to Eurovision and I’d probably still vote for them. I loved Danijella (Neka Me Ne Svane - ESC 1998) and Doris Dragovic (Marija Magdalena - ESC 1999) and every Eurovision review I’ll ever write will at some point feature the name Claudia Beni (ESC 2003). I also have a soft spot for songs with a tango-y, gypsy feeling, though that doesn’t always do well at Eurovision, see Jari “Cockring” Silanpaa (Finland ESC 2004) or Ivan & Delfin (Poland ESC 2005). For whatever reason, be it the gypsies, the tango or the old folks, I’m completely, totally and utterly charmed by this song, though I have to admit that -having just listened to the song- already I can’t really remember what it sounded like.

And from one end of the spectrum (real instruments and street musicians) we go to another: Bulgaria sends Deep Zone and Balthazar (again: which is which?) with “DJ, take me away”. Woohoo! It sounds like we’re back in the nineties! Seeing as this is Eurovision, that means we’re still a decade or so ahead of the rest of the contest… The lyrics are as varied as they are thought provoking (“when the lights go down, I need you, DJ please take me away”) and this song reminds me of the trashy stuff I used to listen to when I was in high school (Sash – Encore une fois, 2 Fabiola, etc). Obviously, I love it.

Next up: Denmark, Georgia and Hungary.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Eurovision: Celebrate, let's celebrate

posted by on May 7 at 9:59 AM

As a nice intermezzo in the doom and gloom that is -generally speaking- this second semi, I present you with the fantastic promo video for Iceland (thanks, Abby). What do you mean “Quit plugging Iceland”? Check it out.

Right, now that’s over and done with: For Switzerland, Paolo Meneguzzi sings Era Stupendo. When Switzerland does well in Eurovison, it’s usually because they’re sending someone who’s not actually Swiss. The most famous example of this is Celine Dion who won in 1988 with “Ne partez pas sans moi (laissez moi vous suuuuuuiiiiiiivre)”. In 2005 they got another rare decent result when they sent an Estonian girlband singing about their friendship with a caged tiger (Vanilla Ninja – Cool vibes). Sending people from other (preferably European) nationalities is one of the many desperate vote-grabbing measures that exist in Eurovision. In 2006 Switzerland outdid themselves by sending Six4One, six singers from six different nationalities with the nausea-inducing song “If we all give a little”. The title alone says it all, doesn’t it.
The Swiss have not had much luck in recent Eurovision years, mainly because they’ve been sending utter crap. How else can we describe Six4One, or the unintentionally hilarious “Piero and the Musicstars” (how’s that for a band name!) with the amazing “Celebrate”. Wait for the moment where the Musicstars keep chanting “celebrate, let’s celebrate” while they’re out of breath. Oh, and let’s not forget DJ Bobo! Worldfamous in er… Europe (or just Switzerland and the Benelux?) who threw a tantrum when he didn’t qualify from the semi-final with “Vampires are alive” last year. I’m sure many a vampire was disappointed.
Era Stupendo is the third ballad in a row, so one of these will probably cancel the others out. This year Switzerland chose a singer from San Remo who will charm the ladies and men. Just look at that earnest face. The funny thing is that at one point a totally unrelated powerdance class seems to start behind Paolo, but he –ever the professional - doesn’t mind, he just keeps singing. I wonder if the choreographer just re-used parts of DJ Bobo’s Vampires dance. It does look that way.

Czech Republic sends a girl named Tereza Kerndlova with the song “have some fun”. Oh I detest songtitles that immediately tell me what to do. No, I will not have fun, unless I very well *want* to, ok, Tereza? As you can tell my hackles were raised before poor Tereza could start singing and I can’t say I reviewed my opinion once she did. Ugh. This girl looks good, as do her backing dancers (her backing singers look good as well, but they’ve been camouflaged in black, like all backing singers), but their outfits come straight from Sluts-R-us. I think it’s the same shop Poland’s representatives from last year (the Jet Set, a bunch of 16-year-olds dancing in a cage, shouting “let’s party, you’ve got the right to party”. Oh, I’ll party, just not with you) went to. And don’t get me started on the quality of the song, let alone the singing. I hope she took some singing lessons, if not… well, if not this could become pretty damned funny.

Representing Belarus is Ruslan Alenho with Hasta La Vista. Ukraine debuted in Eurovision with that very same title back in 2003. Their act consisted of a rocket, a couple of ballerinas and mock rock-opera. If that isn’t promising, I don’t know what is. I don’t know why this seems to be such a common song title, Terminator must be pretty hot over in Belarus/Ukraine. Belarus has only been taking part in Eurovision since 2004 with the hilarious “My Galileo”. The fun lay mostly in trying to figure out what they were singing about (I actually quite liked it), the year after they sent the high camp (Baroque gay boys) of Angelica Agurbash and last year they sent a Princess Diana lookalike with a Bond-esque song. This year it’s the perfect son-in-law singing a run of the mill song about a girl. The “live” videos I found all show him on his own standing on the stage. Er.. if that’s the performance they’ll be doing in Belgrade it’s not going to do much, he really doesn’t have the charisma to just stand there, sway a little and get votes. His official video however, was a better idea, because there we see Ruslan in the middle of an orgy/bal masqué practically having to fight off gorgeous women (why, did someone spike their drinks?). Bring the girls to Eurovision, Ruslan.

Next time:Latvia, Croatia and Bulgaria

Monday, May 5, 2008

Shady ladies, nomads in the night, and you're in my ass.

posted by on May 5 at 10:57 AM

On we go to Ukraine where a lady called Ani Lorak sings a song called Shady Lady. Now if there’s anything the Ukranians know how to do, it’s sending sexy ladies with original choreographies. Just think of Ruslana (winner 2004), Tina Karoll (ESC 2006) or er.. Verka Serduchka. This year’s entry is no exception. Ani is surrounded by backing dancers in adventurous outfits and make up. II admire men who can do the splits, and I keep wanting to send her dancers on a kind of exchange project to Iceland or Azerbaijan. I think they’d fit right in there.

Now with a title like “Nomads in the night” (for some reason I can’t help but hum “strangers in the night, doo doo doo doo”) you’re pretty sure you won’t be heading for a happy go-lucky clap along kinda thing, aren’t you. Lithuania sends Jeronimas Milus and good god, look at those lyrics: “This hollow day, like day before I walk through thousand smiles
And try to find the look that heals all wounds inside/ But still I’m here at the world’s edge falling like stone to you/ Shining so high, alone – like me”
. Er. Yes. Lyrics like these are of course part of the charm of Eurovision, and -let's face it- half the contestants singing in English haven’t got a clue what exactly they’re singing about. Anyway, Nomads in the night is –as expected- a bombastic piece of music sung by a guy who seems to have taken wardrobe tips from a vampire.Vampires were last year’s theme, Lithuania. Still, the guy can sing and this is one of those songs which will divide fans: those who think it’s a decent well-sung moving song, and those who think it’s a piece of utter drivel. Take your pick.

Albania brings us the second bombastic ballad in a row. I love my bombastic ballads, but two in a row is a bit much even for me. Olta Boka sings Zemrën E Lamë Peng, which apparently means “we gambled our hearts”. She’s singing in Albanian which is a pity in a way, because I still remember Anjeza Shahini in 2004 who convincingly sang “you’re in my ass, you’re in my heart” until –rumour has it- Terry Wogan told her to work on her pronounciation of “eyes”). No such hilarity this year but I think this is a bloody decent song. I do. Long live Olta! If you’re interested in other Albanian entries, I’d advise you to check out Luiz Ejlli with Zjarr e ftohte, for well… the best combination of ethnic and contemporary outfits. And a fez. Or something that looks like it.

Up next: Switzerland, Czech Republic and Belarus.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The ubergaying of Eurovision: Iceland and Sweden! Oh, and Turkey.

posted by on May 3 at 9:03 AM

The second semi-final of Eurovision starts with the amazing, glittery Iceland (Euroband) with the gayest anthem of the contest: This is My life! With a title like that, what else could this song be like? Pall Oskar was involved in the making of this, which is also more than enough to have me jump up and down in excitement. Who’s Pall Oskar? Pall Oskar is the first out gay performer at Eurovision back in 1997, when he took part for Iceland with four latex-clad ladies, a white leather sofa and lots of eyeliner. Because the voting was still done by juries then (as opposed to televoting) and there was a live orchestra instead of a bass-filled backing track, Minn Hinsti Dans got very few votes, but his performance is a classic. Check it out here (and discover how sexy Icelandic is). Iceland may well be one of the gayest Eurovision countries out there, at least judging by the national preselection they had. Also competing was “The Wiggle Wiggle song” by Haffi Haff, whose performance might have even been a tad more fabulous than that of Eurobandid. Iceland is one of my favourite countries in this contest. I just hope they make the choreography a little more dynamic, though they deserve credit for the mini-clothes change in the beginning.

And here’s another Euro-stomper: Sweden’s Charlotte Perelli with Hero. Charlotte Nilsson (as she was then called) won Eurovision in 1999 with the very Abba-sounding “Take me to your heaven”. Kinda like Carola (another Swede who took part three times so far: Watch Carola getting more (1983 – 3rd) and more (1991 – winner) botoxed and Born-Again-Christianed (2006 -5th)), she can’t get enough of Eurovision and decided to take her chances again. Even without the introduction you should be able to tell straightaway that this is a Swedish Eurovision entry. It ticks all the boxes: blonde pretty ladies (though Charlotte looks a bit scary), an Abba dance routine, the typical Swedish Eurobeat and look, they’ve even recycled Carola’s windmachine yet again! Another hit in gay clubs and a definite candidate for the final, without a doubt.

Turkey sends Mor ve Ötesi with Deli, thus ending our gay invasion of Eurovision for now. Though the lead singer is definitely nice enough to look at, so the fun is not totally ruined. We’re back into the regions of rock, without a feather boa or backing dancer in sight and –even worse- real instruments on stage. I’m meant to write a review of this song and they give me no material, whatsoever. Right, back into the history books then. Turkey’s last rock entry was Athena with For Real who came fourth in 2004. The year before that, Turkey won for the first time in their Eurovision career when Sertab (the Turkish Madonna) and her harem of German backing singers/dancers narrowly beat Belgium (the nerve!) with “Everyway that I can”. Certain parts of that performance still make me grin like an idiot. Not that I need much, but still. So yes, this year’s entry. Well, seeing as it’s Turkey, they’ll definitely make it to the final, so in case you’ve not lusted after the lead singer enough in the semi, you’ll get a chance to do so again in the final. Every cloud has a silver lining, no?

Next up: Ukraine, Albania and Lithuania

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eurovision Semi-final: Terrace concrete, Nico & Vlad, Dima's mullet and Kalomira

posted by on May 1 at 9:00 AM

Finland sends the rock group Teräsbetoni with Missä Miehet Ratsastaa.
Ever since Finland’s first ever win two years ago with a bunch of latex-masked monsters singing hardrock-pop (Lordi ESC 2006), they’ve been sending rock songs. Why cange a winning team, eh. Well, the fact that last year’s entry was one big flop might give them some food for thought, but apparently not. Now I don’t dislike rock. I think this song is decent enough, and I loved Norway’s Kiss –wannabes a few years back (Wig Wam ESC 2005) but come on, sweeties, where’s the glamour, where’s the humour. Mr Lordi wore a cute hat with the Finnish flag on his monsterhead, he had wings and fireworks! Wig Wam had spandex and a feather boa! These guys… well… some of them are shirtless, which is something, at least. But apart from that it appears to be a very “serious” rock song.
Oh go on, watch the clip. If only for the Finnish introduction.

Romania brings us Nico & Vlad (how’s that for a Romanian name!) with Pe-o Margine De Lume. I generally have a soft spot for Romanian entries since they often consist of the crazy Eurodisco you only hear in… well, Romania probably. Say for instance Nicola in 2003 whose accent was so heavy that I honestly thought she sang “did you ever know what’s the prince ass for”. Ok, so it didn’t make sense, but Eurovision has had weirder lyrics than that (According to teh internetss she actually sang “what good friends are for”. And just check out that choreography). Last year Romania sent a group called Todomondo who sang in six languages (Eurovision recipe for success) and whose members looked like stereotypes of the countries they represented (English guy in a bowler hat, Italian guy looking like a mafia leader…). Eurovision is always classy and subtle, isn’t it. This year they're sending a ballad, a very classical duet between a broody looking man (think Angel with a tan), a lady in a ballgown, a white piano and the sluttiest backing singers yet. What the hell are those girls up to back there? The video is funny for the total lack of chemistry between the two lead singers. Vlad looks like he hasn’t got a clue what to do with all these women and would have preferred being on stage alone. I can’t say I blame him.

For Russia it's the reappearance of Dima Bilan, Russian heart-throb and runner-up in 2006. Oh, 2006… what a glorious performance that was. Dima sang “Never ever let you go” with a heavy Russian accent, in jeans, trainers and white tank top. (Can you use the word “tank top” for men? I’m Belgian, I don’t know these things… whatever you want to call it, it was hot. Shame about the mullet, but you can’t have everything, can you). At one point a dead ballerina crawled out of the piano –a piano that no-one was playing- and started throwing rose petals about. Weird, but for some reason it worked. Check out the youtube clip. Unfortunately, this year Dima is singing Believe, a rather boring ballad –in my opinion at least- but his performance makes up for a lot. Sadly he’s wearing a suit this time (honey, show off those arms), he’s grown hair on his face (tsk) but at least the mullet is gone. His accent still is the cutest, especially when he sings words like “impossible”. He’s a superstar in the ex-USSR so he should definitely make it to the final.

And the last country in the first semi-final is Greece. Oh lookie here, they’ve sent Helena Paparizou again! And they’ve even given her dancers a chance to take part again as well! Or not? The differences are minimal. Greece has a recent reputation for catering to the gay audience and this year is no exception. Helena Paparizou was a good example, and so was Sakis Rouvas in 2004 with the intelligently titled song “Shake it”. Check out the clip if only for the incredible design of that shirt he’s wearing: just tight and short enough to show off both pecs and abs, and a fabulous example of a classic Eurovision clothes change. (And while we're at it, have a look at the Dutch votes in 2006 when Sakis was presenting the contest and Paul De Leeuw decided to flirt with him).
This year Kalomira sings Secret Combination, a typical pop song with some Greek elements (think a slow Sirtaki). She’s wearing an impossibly short skirt (granted, she’s got the legs for it) and her dancers have stolen Dima Bilan’s 2006 outfit. The lyrics of this song are about as dirty/innocent as the ones of “Genie in a bottle” ("My secret comination is a mystery for you, use your imagination, I’m not easy but I’m true”) but all is forgiven because the dancers take off their shirts at the end of the song and spell out the word “LOVE” on their chests.

And that's it for our first Semi-Final, airing on May 20th. Don't worry though (or no time to rejoice yet, depending on your point of view), we've still got a second Semi-final and five finalists to go.
Next up: the übergaying of Eurovision in the beginning of the second Semi-Final.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eurovision Semi-Final: The Bosnian Bjork, Armenian Qele and Dutch Hind.

posted by on April 29 at 8:31 AM

Bosnia & Herzegovina scare me this year. They usually send us a typical Balkan ballad, something folky or a typical Eurovision queen (seriously, click on that link, you won’t regret it). This year however, they’re sending Pokusaj with Laka. The lyrics, in case they’re singing the English version, go something like “I don’t want to be a wacky boy, we are living in this wacky world”. Interesting. The video shows a French maid with a crazy guy, who's arrying a live chicken (no live animals at Eurovision, thank you very much). In the background, farmhands are acting out some weird choreography and there’s plenty of meaningful gazing into the camera. At one point, the French maid transforms into the Bosnian version of Björk –without the shrieking- and starts flopping about on stage like she’s chased by a serial killer. She’s not, but at this point I wish she was. The music is at some places quite decent, but then it’s ruined again. Well, for me anyway. Also, in the video, pay attention to how unimpressed the studio audience looks. It’s probably the most entertaining thing about this whole song.

Armenia is relatively new to Eurovision and they tend to do well (Don’t mention block voting! Don’t mention block voting! I mean, come on, they send a man singing a ballad in front of a cardboard tree covered in paper and still take 8th place?! I don’t see a lot of countries following that example). Sirusho should ease into the final with Qele Qele, and not just due to block voting. The song starts off with some serious er… shouting, which will be impressive as long as she manages to keep it in tune. The lyrics are hardly Shakespearian quality (“instead of watching me, you should be reaching me. Come Qele, move Qele”), the accent is cute, but honey… seriously…Not wanting to look like a slut is fantastic. I commend you for it, I really do. But you don’t have to look like you’ve just worn something to rush to the supermarket. “I’m off to Eurovision, what should I wear? Oh I know, my jeans and this ratty old sweater. That’ll be good enough. And I’ll get the girls from next-door to wear their gym clothes and they can dance backing. Brilliant!”. No no no, give me some glamour! Thankfully Sirusho makes up for her wardrobe choices by including the Eurovision Clichés of playback-drumming on stage (+10 points) and fake Riverdance (+20 points).

Hind (and my god, does she have a funny name for English speakers) represents the Netherlands with the originally titled “Your heart belongs to me”. It does? Well… it might. This is another example of a poppy, happy song with a lot of Eastern influences. One could say the ethnic sounds are an attempt to gain some Eastern European sympathy, but I don’t care (You’ve probably already noticed that in Eurovision, Eastern Europe is seen as at least as powerful as the Mafia. They’re like the father you have to work hard to please, the teacher you don’t want to disappoint.). To me this is a decent pop song, sung by a sexy lady (hel-lo there, Hind) wearing nothing more than a short coat. Forget trousers, Hind, the outfit’s great this way!

Next up: Finland, Romania and Russia.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Eurovision Semi-final: Drag Barbies, golden GoGo Boys and a singing turkey

posted by on April 27 at 9:00 AM

Abby pointed out that the promo video for Azerbaijan is -if possible- even more fabulous than the live recording, and I have to agree it might just be that. Check it out here. Am I the only one who's expecting both singers to start kissing?

But we mustn't dwell on Azerbaijan, amazing though it is, there are more countries in this year's contest.
One of them is Poland, they're sending Isis Gee with the song For Life and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Was everything else even worse? How is that possible? “For Life” is one of those sleep-inducing ballads where you’re waiting for something to happen… “surely at one point the song is going to explode, she’ll start shouting, the tone of the song will change and…” no. Nothing. Just Drag Barbie (I know the youtube clip is quite grainy, but check out this photo, she looks like a blonde Dana International… only far less pretty) doing the Whitney Houston-patented “Dramatically Moving The Microphone Away From My Mouth When I Reach A High Note” amidst the clouds, with her boring fake-violinists and fake-pianist. The promo video is even more annoying. Moving on.

And on we go to Ireland, incidentally the country that’s won the contest the most (and only sends crap entries since the last time they won in order not to have to host it again). Ireland is taking a risk this year by sending Dustin the Turkey with the glorious “Irelande, douze points” (Ireland, twelve points). Risky? Because they should easily make the top ten with this, and who knows, they might even win the damn thing again. Ireland also wins the prize for the most annoying vocal so far. I know allowances must be made for the fact that Dustin is a turkey, but that excuse only goes so far. The eurobeat makes up for everything though, as do the lyrics: “Drag acts, and bad acts and Terry Wogan’s wig, mad acts and sad acts, it was Johnny Logan`s gig” (I’ve never heard a better description of Eurovision). Also, note the ending where Dustin namedrops all the Eastern European countries in the hopes of getting their votes, and let’s not forget the golden GoGo boys in the background. Classy!

After all this madness, unfortunately it’s time for Andorra. Oh, I don’t hate Andorra, I'm sure it's perfectly nice and last year they sent cute high school boys with guitars who sang something about the environment (and of course didn't make it to the final).
No, the sad thing is the piece of crap they’re sending to Eurovision this year. “Casanova” is a hysterical piece of “dance” music you’d expect at Junior Eurovision instead of at the Real Contest (yes, the contest gets Capital Letters). I couldn’t find a live recording of the song so who knows if Gisela will hit those high notes. The promo video features a lot of doors, a ballgown and snow. I’m expecting arty choreography and for this to disappear without any votes at all.

Next up: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Armenia and The Netherlands.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eurovision: The devil and the disappearance of the Fire/Desire rhyme

posted by on April 24 at 9:08 AM

Even though we’ve already seen the winner of Eurovision (Belgium, obviously), I might as well go on with the (p)reviewing. After all, Eurovision is about more than just the winner. I’d even say the other competitors are much more important: the ones who sing offkey, the tragic dance routines, the clothes changes gone wrong. Those are just as important a reason to watch Eurovision as finding out who the winner is.

And here’s a real Eurovision beauty (a soon to be classic): Azerbaijan, who are taking part for the very first time. But they don’t come unprepared, oh no, they have learnt the Eurovision Guidelines by heart, and boy does it show. Elnur & Samir sing Day after Day, a song/operette/piece of musical theatre/future piece of Eurovision history. It starts off with an angel singing opera (as angels do, after all) only to evolve in hysterical screams. Oh no!! What happened?! The camera moves away and we see… the devil! Sitting on his throne with a slutty girl draped over him. The angel and devil start singing a duet in what appears to be English, but it’s hard to be sure. Were they lovers? Has one betrayed the other? Oh, the pathos! Oh the pain and heartache! The devil pours wine (or blood?) over his slutty assistant and our beloved angel is joined by two other angels who appear to be doing aerobics (again, as angels do) before they drop dead at the end of the song. I don’t know about you guys, but as far as I’m concerned this deserves a standing ovation!
You can read Elnur’s interpretation of the lyrics here (and strangely enough it doesn’t include the words “I haven’t got a clue, I was drunk”). Unfortunately the article also states the song is to undergo changes. Don’t mess with this example of Eurovision Perfection, I beg of you! This has to be my favourite song of the contest so far.

Right… I’ll try to calm down and move on to Slovenia’s Rebeka Dremelj with Vrag Naj Vzame. Slovenia is –in Eurovisionland at least- the black sheep of the balkan in recent years. They’ve sent fabulous Eurodisco and a cute boy with a blow-up sexdoll singing a haunting ballad (the sexdoll lady isn’t till the end, so you’ll have to sit through the song in case you’re curious), complete with a sexy accent or a sexy language, all to little effect. Only last year did they get a decent score with a soft-opera-discobeat with built-in lighting, and let’s not forget they’re the first Balkan country to embrace the true spirit of Eurovision by sending a bunch of drag queens back in 2002. Right. Why the long introduction? Because I generally like Slovenian entries, I love the underdog, and frankly there’s little or nothing interesting to say about this year’s entry. A quirky girl with huge earrings sings a poppy song about the devil (erm.. yeah, again with the devil) while her cousins (again with the cousins) sing backing and a weird dance routine takes place behind her. At one point she gets angry (probably at the devil or at one of her cousins), and then she calms down again. That’s it.

Norway sends Maria with “Hold on, be strong”. A ballad, or what else did you expect with a title like that? Only it’s not your typical Eurovision ballad, it sounds suspiciously like a piece of actual music sung by an actual singer. At Eurovision?! The horror! I think this would actually be good enough to play on any given radiostation. Well, in Norway at least. The prize for most philosophical lyrics so far goes to the fantastic quote “if it ain’t right, it’s wrong”. Well, yes. Thank you.
Which brings me to the realisation that unless I’m very much mistaken, I’ve not yet heard a single “Fire/Desire” rhyme in the contest so far. Fire/Desire rhymes are essential to Eurovision, just think about 2005’s winner Helena Paparizou (“you’re my fire and desire”), or Konstantinos Christoforou (Cyprus 2005) “Feel around me the desire, search my body, reach the fire” (incidentally both Konstantinos and Helena provide us with some nice eyecandy for those who like men) and countless others. But this year? Not a single one so far… weird. Practically a case for Torchwood I’d say.

Next up: Poland, Ireland and Andorra.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ESC Semi Final: Geta, Complice & O Julissi

posted by on April 22 at 9:32 AM

Fourth in line in our first semi-final is Moldova. They’re sending Geta Burlacu with A Century Of Love. Moldova tried to send a quality jazzy song, which is -to me- boring as hell, and not just for this review. Lucky for all of us, the song is styled to death. Judging by their outfits (or is it just me?) Geta and her friends seem to think they’re stereotypical Parisiens. An expression of Moldovan identity if ever I’ve seen one! I haven’t got a clue why most of her mates are on stage with her, since they don’t appear to be doing much. One of them seems to be rolling up a boll of yarn, probably to make Geta another one of her pretty hats, another is forever blowing bubbles and yet another one –in scarf and baret to fight off the cold in the studio- pretends to play the trumpet. And just when you thought it was getting weird, in come the ballet dancers. Fabulous stuff.

San Marino is taking part for the first time and they’re sending a rockband! Wahey! Well, a rockband in Eurovision standards anyway. Miodio sing “Complice”, yet another ballad, but with an edge. Again, in Eurovision terms. It’s haunting, or at least it tries to be, and it’s also so devoid of anything funny that there’s not much I can say about it. So I’ll keep myself happy with comparing how different the band looks in their hunky boyband-style promo photo as opposed to in their official video.

On to the masterpiece of the contest: Belgium sends Ishtar with “O Julissi” My home country, so don’t expect anything objective from me. It’s fantastic! It deserves to win! There. Moving on….

Belgium consistently ends in the lower half of the scoreboard -mostly totally justified- but sometimes we're quite frankly robbed. Be sure to check out this clip: Nicole & Hugo reaching last place with “Baby Baby” back in 1973. Or how about Telex (the ones of Moskow Diskow) who took part in 1981 with the hilarious Euro-vision?! If those songs were to take part these days, they’d definitely make the top 10, no doubt about it.

The two regions of Belgium, Wallony and Flanders, take turns choosing a candidate for the contest. Traditionally, the Walloons are a lot better at it than the Flemish, though that’s not saying much. The Walloons have been known to send the occasional French Chanson and they’ve produced the only ever win for Belgium (Sandra Kim “J’aime La Vie” – ESC 1986). And what do the Flemish traditionally send? Ah, Europop (Xandee ESC 2004), Swedish Europop (Kate Ryan ESC 2006), or an epic song about peace with electric guitar-mock guns sung by a Flemish gay icon (Liliane St Pierre ESC 1987). Do the Flemish ever do well? Er... not in the past twenty years they don't. And why not? Because the Balkan is better at drumming, the Swedes are better at Swedish Europop and we were 20 years too early for air-guitar-guns. So this year, Flanders went for a different style. After Belgium's last decent result (Urban Trad: 2nd place in 2003, a Walloon entry), we're trying to repeat that performance by sending something er...exactly the same in the same line:a folky song in a made up language (as if we don't have enough languages already in Belgium: three for 10 million people). Will it pay off? That's the question. I just heard that the lead singer will not be wearing her red boots in Belgrade, so I think we’re pretty much doomed (now if only she’d learn how to keep her head still while singing, I might be a tad more positive).

Next up... the one and only Azerbaijan, Slovenia en Norway.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Eurovision Semi Final 1-3

posted by on April 20 at 9:08 AM

We’re kicking off the contest with Montenegro. Eurovision Queens like to believe that Eurovision is one of the reasons why Serbia en Montenegro split back in 2006. When a boyband from Montenegro won the national preselection (over a “qualitatively better” Serbian song) rumours of tactical nationalistic voting arose. Serbia & Montenegro then withdrew from the contest, only to split a month later. Not-Eurovision-Queens would claim that the withdrawal was one of the effects of the growing Serbian and Montenegrin nationalism, but they’re wrong. Obviously.

So now we get two countries for the price of one, and this year Montenegro sends us Stefan Filipovic with Zauvijek Volim Te (“never forget I love you”). Aw… isn’t that sweet.

You’ve got to love the clumsy straightboy dance moves Stefan is pulling off here. He’s hardly the first to manage this at Eurovision, one of funniest clumsy straightboy dance routines was –for me- FYR Macedonia’s Martin Vucic in 2005 (Specifically pay attention to his backing vocalists! Hilarious. And look how excited Martin is to be at Eurovision, you can just see him thinking “Wait till I tell the guys!”). Also a close contender in this category was Malta’s Julie & Ludwig in 2004, just look at Ludwig shake in the chorus!
Anyway, back to Stefan, he seems to have brought along his cousins and they look like they’re at a wedding aching to have a little dance but not yet drunk enough. Come on, this is Eurovision, give this guy something to do! Get him some costume changes or a juggling elephant.

This song is utterly forgettable, but I have a weak spot for Balkan pop/ballads/anything so it will have me (as probably the only person in Western Europe) swaying along.

Second in line is Israel. Hang on a second, Israel’s not in Europe. No, it’s not. That doesn’t matter. Israel sends Boaz with “The Fire in your eyes” . True to Israeli tradition, like everyone else they’ve ever sent before, Boaz sings the song in both English and Hebrew (treat yourself and look at the gorgeous Shiri Maimon in 2005 singing a gorgeous ballad in an even more gorgeous dress). Also true to tradition, they send some serious eyecandy (see Shiri Maimon, again. Can you tell I’m a fan?), and they do the trick with the singer with the androginous voice again (see David D'or in 2004… wait for the unintentionally hilarious moment where he switches from his countertenor voice to his normal speaking voice “Come on, everybody!”).

And now for something completely different: Estonia sends Kreisiraadio (Crazy Radio) with “Leto Svet”. They’re sending one of the more adventurous Eurovision entries, or at least it looks that way. Girls in gold bikinis? Check! Girls waving Estonian and –for some reason German- flags? Check! Weird guys who can’t hold a tune? Check! Eurobeat? Check! Slow-mo Riverdance? Check! Guy pretending to do unspeakable stuff to a piano? Check! Posters of cakes and is that an onion or a bomb? Check! Song sung in Serbo-Croatian in a sure-to-fail attempt to get the balkan vote? Check! This whole thing could be a sketch from The Fast Show. It’s a song and act that followed the “how to make a crazy Eurovision entry”-guidelines to the letter. Unfortunately for them, they’re not the only ones who had that idea this year, and the other idiots are better.

Next up: Moldova, San Marino and... Belgium.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Eurovision Season!

posted by on April 18 at 10:00 AM

The Eurovision Song Contest is the yearly pinnacle of kitsch, camp, over-the-top acts, over-the-top heartfelt ballads, disco-ish songs, and don’t even get me started on the outfits… The only moment in the year where Europe is one. “One” in the sense that all over Europe everyone ridicules the other countries’ tastes in music. Truly the spirit of unity! And let’s be fair, in this day and age of bland English popsongs, where else are you going to hear a Croatian song about stilettos (Severina - Moja Stikla –ESC 2006)? Or a Ukranian warrior song? With whips!? (Ruslana – Wild Dances –ESC Winner 2004) Or see a dancing penguin (Sophie & Magaly: Papa Pingouin -ESC 1980)? Such cultural highlights would be lost without Eurovision!

The rules of Eurovision are simple. Every country that’s an active member of the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) can take part. You don’t necessarily have to be European, Israel’s been taking part since the 70s! Every country sends a song that’s under three minutes long, there can be no more than six people on stage, no live animals either (though cardboard cut-outs are fine (Alf Poier – “Weil der Mensch zählt” – ESC 2003), all the vocals must be sung live, since the late 90s you can choose the language you sing in (though countries like France and Spain tend to stick to their own language, well… most of the time), political messages and pornography are not allowed, and the participating country must air the complete contest (the cause for the Lebanon’s withdrawal a few years ago when they refused to air the Israeli entry).
After all the songs have been shown, every country gets to vote for their favourites (usually through televote) and awards 12, 10, 8-1 points to their top 10 songs. You’re obviously not allowed to vote for your own country. The country with the most points wins, and gets… nothing! Well, they get the honour of having won and the financial backlash of hosting the contest the next year. Who wouldn’t be up for that?!

The next couple of weeks I’ll be reviewing all the songs that are taking part in the contest in Belgrade this year. Why? Well, because someone was crazy enough to ask me. Or maybe I volunteered… I’m not quite sure anymore.
I’m from in Belgium, at the heart of Europe (or so we like to think), incidentally a country that’s been taking part since the very beginning in 1956. Without much success, but still.

Ideally, Eurovision should be watched with a bunch of friends, in a house filled with flags (you need flags to wave during the songs, there’s no other way), some alcohol, score sheets and plenty of discussion. Afterwards, when the normal folks have gone home, I tend to watch the contest again with the 2 other Eurovision freaks I know and watch the show in depth. Just try and listen to the songs when 10 people are commenting on the choreography, it’s impossible.

Eurovision night when I was a kid was invariably the same thing. My parents would watch it and remark that the festival used to be a lot better. They’d keep watching though. Year after year. When the time came for the scores, “Hello Belgrade, this is Brussels calling”, my father would complain the voting was political, usually when some Scandinavian country gave another Scandinavian country their 12 points. When The Netherlands was the only country in the whole contest to give Belgium any points, he usually called it “justified”. Of course. When the winner was announced my father stayed with his verdict that it was “all about politics” and “he’d never watch again”. Until the next year, obviously.

There’s no denying that countries don’t get points just on the merits of the song. E.g. Cyprus will generally give their 12 to Greece and vice versa. And yes, Eastern Europe seems to benefit more from this than western countries (And hey, let’s not forget ex-Yugoslavia: Honestly, first they go to war against each other, then gain independence and the first thing they do when they enter Eurovision -undeniably one of the reasons they wanted to be independent in the first place- is vote for each other.) Despite all that, neighbours voting for each other or emigrants voting for their home country hasn’t decided on a winner just yet.

This year, the contest is at a record of 43 countries taking part in two semi-finals (May 20 and 22) with 19 countries each. The top 9 (and 1 wildcard) of each semi-final will go through to the final on May 24th where they’ll join the Big Four (UK, France, Germany and Spain, the main financial contributors to the contest who automatically qualify for the final) and last year’s winner Serbia. The songs are a mix of trashy Eurobeats, ethnic ballads, weird acts and er… a turkey. Something for everyone!

To start things off, here’s last year’s winner: Marija Serifovic (Serbia) with her lesbian-styled Molitva (being honest, it’s the only believable choreography they could’ve thought up).

And to show you the other side of Eurovision: last year’s runner up: Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka- Dancing Lasha Tumbai.

I absolutely love both songs, in case you were wondering