Mon 18 May 2009
I know that you’ve been breathlessly awaiting this weekend past dear Acowlytes, and I’m sure that, like me, you all stayed glued to your sets through the wee hours to absorb the delights of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest! But if you didn’t, well that’s okay too, because today on The Cow we’re presenting a re-run of the Cow Commentary that went down live as the show unfolded. This year I was pleased to have with me my Cow co-commentators Vermilion and Viridian, mavens of the young fashion world, and Violet Towne, connoisseur of all things boppy.
But hush! The crowd is settling in, the mirror balls have fired up and Eurovision 2009, hosted this year by Russia, is off and running.
Lithuania is first up – an unenviable position. As seems usual, they offer up a young effete boy singer who delivers an unmemorable tune. What is memorable is the little magic trick he does at the end – a puff of flame from his hand. I’m not sure what it has to do with anything but it is pretty. The crowd responds politely as he shuffles off into obscurity.
Israel is next, with a ditty from Israeli-Arab duo Noa & Mira Awad. It is called There Must Be Another Way, a title that succinctly sums up the whole Eurovision experience. The tedium of their song is interrupted for a few sparkling seconds when they take to bashing some olive-oil tins in a kind of odd percussion solo. It’s touches like this that really set Eurovision apart.
Russia has gone all out this year to present the most lavish Eurovision ever. The entire Irkutsk region will have to live on stale potatoes and thawed snow for eighty years to pay for it. The staging is magnificent, with huge image projection screens enfolding the performance area, pyrotechnics in nearly every routine, and illuminated glass-bottom pools of water, complete with acrobatic dancers, swinging precariously above the audience.(i)
But on with the show! France has entered the fray with something that can only be described as very French. The singer(ii) wearing an off-the-shoulder black dress, delivers up a dirgy torch song that has the smoulder setting up so high that it’s in danger of choking on its own smoke. Ms France could seriously use a little help from Mr Lithuania’s flammable fingers.
Sweden takes the stage with a singing style that Vermilion immediately dubs as Op-Pop. The blond singer belts out a number that sits squarely between My Heart Will Go On and the Queen of the Night aria from Die Zauberflöte. Poking out of what looks like a small cloud of marshmallow, she is accompanied by the cheesiest dance troupe ever to grace the Eurovision stage. Well, until later on this evening anyway.
As Ms Sweden’s last penetrating note fades away, and the remaining shards of shattered glass from the aerial swimming pools rain down on the audience, Croatia takes the podium. The wind machines are racked up to full as the handsome lead man dressed suavely in black and flanked by a bevvy of vampire brides, plays the camera with winks and smiles and a fair chunk of the smoulder that had turned to charcoal for Ms France. “It’s a Croatian Twilight!” says Viridian, and so it seems! The song, alas, is rather dull, and somewhat dragged down by the sudden appearance of a most un-Twilight-like blonde who manages to provide the only atonal notes that we’ve heard so far, and as it turns out, for almost the entire evening.
Portugal comes on and goes off after having an energetic good time. They sure tried. Now it’s Iceland. The staging sets us up in the clouds. It’s all very blue. The blond viking lass doing the trilling is sweet in a freshly-washed-in-Persil kinda way, but the song truly sets a new standard for bland. A striking moment comes just before the inevitable key change, when a giant dolphin sails through the clouds. The number is called Is It True?, and sadly, yes it is.
Next up is Mr Greece, a strutting macho boy in a shirt and trousers so snowy bright that my tv monitor did a spontaneous auto white balance. This is Our Night! he pouts, doing his very best George Michael moves. Which consist mainly of him attempting to expose as much of his chest as possible without making it looking too much like that’s what he’s doing. “It’s Straight Guy for the Queer Eye!” shriek the twins. The song attempts to get make the Guinness Record for the ‘Most Clichés Strung Together in a Pop Song’ and is a significant contender until about three songs from now. The highlight of the number comes when Mr Greece does a Moonwalk. Except he doesn’t – a conveyor belt under his feet does it for him. Sadly, it doesn’t quite manage to take him completely off the stage.
Armenia is up now with a catchy little number called Jan Jan. It’s a fetching piece of Europop with some odd (presumably Armenian) costume work that is kinda funky. Unfortunately, the English lyrics that begin the song are rather tragic, and the eventual switch into Armenian doesn’t completely erase the musty taste of cheese – one has to suspect that the native-language lyrics aren’t really much better, just cooler-sounding to English-speakers…
Next, Ms Russia (who is definitely no Yuliya) opts for the heartfelt serious ballad. It’s a mistake – in a scant thirty seconds she completely undoes all the chirpy ‘we’re-not-really-stodgy-potato-eating-vodka-drinkers’ hipness that the host country is trying so earnestly to convey to the rest of the world. Her humourless pleading is accompanied by a video of herself aging. I imagine it closely emulates what is happening to her manager offstage, as he realises that a tactic that looked good on paper is about as welcome here as an undertaker at a kid’s birthday party.
Quick! Wheel on an antidote! Let’s try Azerbaijan! The boppy Azerbaijanis reel off the most impressive clichés of the evening:
Always on my mind
Always in my dreams
I wanna hold you close to me
Always all the time
I believe I’m addicted to you
In your eyes I see dreams coming true
Finally I have found you and now
I will never let you go
If they have a chance, it’s because Ms Azerbaijan is stunningly attractive. Her short skirt and some handy puffs from the wind machine almost offset the negative effect of short, bald Mr Azerbaijan…
Bosnia & Herzegovina‘s entry is a small troop of escaped 19th century soldiers whose uniforms have been bleached white in the sun. That’s about all that can be said for them. I think they sang something.
Moldova appears waving colourful rainbow mops and dressed in a funky version of what I assume is some kind of national costume (I think they should seriously consider permanently adopting the knee-high purple boots, if they’re not already compulsory). Malta‘s solo singer floats among Saturn’s rings and really gives it her all. Which isn’t enough. Estonia is instantly forgettable.
Denmark‘s effort is a kind of power ballad. The lead singer seems to be in a different band to the rest of the performers.(iii) He earnestly tells us I Wanna Believe Again! but this Dane’s tomorrows are numbered. He valiantly battles through a sea of troubles, but sadly, his future as the winner of Eurovision 2009 is not to be.
Germany rocks up with the colourful Miss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It’s Cab Calloway meets Casino Royale with music discarded by the Pet Shop Boys on an off night. Viridian and Vermilion think it’s cool. It sure is energetic, and just to make sure they really get noticed, the Germans perform the second of the evening’s three magic tricks by summoning up the very busty Dita Von Teese as a piece of human decoration (the eponymous ‘Miss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ in the flesh, one presumes). The crowd goes wild. Why, I’m not exactly sure, but I guess they are the first (and only, it turns out) impressive breasts of the night.
Turkey delivers a credible dancy pop beat which proves popular with the audience. Then it’s Albania‘s turn. This is the kind of performance we hang out for on Eurovision. The song itself is a colourless ditty with no single redeeming feature. The performance on the other hand is an eccentric outtake from a Fellini movie. The singer, dressed in a fluffy pink tutu is shadowed by a green man who looks like nothing so much as a giant Gumby. As she performs, he hovers around her like some kind of malevolent green Spiderman. Aphidman, maybe. It’s most disconcerting. But not as disconcerting as the two midgets in face makeup that prance to either side. None of us, neither Vermilion nor Viridian, nor Violet Towne nor myself can make head nor tail of what this is supposed to convey. Until Viridian screams “It’s her dreams!!!” And so it is. The song is called Carry Me in Your Dreams, and it appears that these weird dancers are supposed to be from pretty Ms Albania’s dreams. Of course! Everyone dreams about stretchy green men and midgets, right?
We’ve barely recovered our composure as Norway takes the spotlight. An impossible cutesy young boy fronts the band and delivers the soppy Fairytale. The lyrics are the worst kind of awful, the song is insipid and lame and the performance is tacky. But the twins love him. “He’s so c-u-u-u-u-u-t-e!!!” they squeal. And I have the terrible sinking feeling that young Mr Norway is going to romp home with the gong.
I’m ready to pack it in for the evening when the highlight of the show strikes up. It’s the Ukraine with Svetlana Loboda and the obscurely (if somehow appropriately) titled Be My Valentine (Anti Crisis Girl). O! M! G! Where to start? With the three nearly-naked centurion dancers that swing Svetlana around like she is a kitten? With the giant hamster wheels that make up the stage set? Or simply with the striking Svetlana herself? If the winner is getting voted on energy, Svetlana has no competition. She doesn’t stop throughout the entire number, belting out the song, dancing with the centurions and playing a drum solo. It’s high camp of Everest altitude. I am laughing so much that I’m sure she sings to one of the gay boys (for surely, they are) “You have sexy bum”, but it turns out she’s really singing “You are so sexy BOM”, which only makes sense when you know that another part of the lyric is “Because I’m crazy BOM”.
Here. Enjoy Svetlana and co. on their official preview video. It doesn’t have the er, glamour of the Eurovision performance, but it will give you some idea of the talent on offer.
[PARENTAL ADVISORY: Features images of coffee beans being crushed, naked people covered in chocolate, skimpy bikini shorts, fruit, archery and angels]
Phew. How do you follow an act like that?! Not with the insipid effort offered up by Romania, that’s for sure.
My hips are ready to glow,
This record is so hot and I have so much to show.
I’ll find a boy for a kiss.
Who knows maybe he’ll be my prince.
I hope you do find your prince, Ms Romania, because you’re never going to make a living off your songwriting.
Oh dear. Now it’s the United Kingdom‘s turn. Apparently the UK hasn’t won the Eurovision for many a year and they are desperate to get a look-in. And when I say desperate, I mean Desperate with a capital $. Ms UK, Jade Ewen, takes the platform and belts out a number penned by Andrew Llloyd Webber and Diane Warren. And, for that added je ne sais quoi, Sir Andrew is actually present tonight on piano, in support of Jade’s efforts. He’s had his ‘hair’ specially coiffed(iv) for the occasion. The song is called It’s My Time:
There’s nothing I’m afraid of
I’ll show you what I’m made of
Show you all
It’s my time now
I’ve got the will
I’ve earned the right
It’s my time
It’s my time
Jade. Dear. No it’s not.
Which leaves only Finland and Spain to clean up the mess. The Finnish entry is the wimpiest combination of pop and white-boy ‘rap’ (I use the word cringingly) you’re likely to encounter this side of a Christian Fundraiser, and the Spanish effort is remarkable only for the execution of perhaps the lamest magic trick(v) ever performed outside of an 8 year old boy’s bedroom.
And so, without even a glimpse of a fat lady to sing us on our way, it’s all over. My vote is going to the Ukraine, because, well, someone has to preserve the true Eurovision tradition. Sadly though, after we cross to the International Space Station(vi) for the announcement of the commencement of the voting process, the European viewers don’t seem to be agreeing with me. They all like the insufferably cute boy from Norway, who veritably trounces the competition in one of the most decisive wins in Eurovision history.
And so, as the Russians party well into the early hours with liberal helpings of borscht and vodka we bid a fond farewell to Eurovision 2009. Next year it looks like we’ll be in Norway acquiring tolerance for Rakfish and akvavit, and even more spectacle, as, in the tradition of Eurovision, the Norwegians attempt to outdo all those host nations who’ve come before. I know you just can’t wait to join me there.
- I can’t even imagine someone trying to pull something like this off in our hyper-litigious Western society… [↩]
- Apparently a star of some repute; as we will see, the Big Guns are being wheeled out all over this year! [↩]
- Who evidently think they’re in Kiss judging by the fireworks they’ve requested for the song… [↩]
- …or is that a squirrel sitting on his head…? [↩]
- The lead singer was ‘vanished’ in front of our very eyes! A couple of guys held up a curtain and then whisked it away and she was gone. Magic! Except that she very plainly just stepped off the back of the conveniently high platform she was on once the cloth was in position. Puh-leeze. And this in front of an estimated audience of 100 million people! [↩]
- In space, no-one can hear you scream. [↩]