Saturday, June 15, 2013


One great thing about the arrival of broadband into Panda Mansions is that we can now stream big TV events and watch them on our computer screens. Thus it was that we found ourselves able to take part in the viewing of the Eurovision Song Contest, an event for which I have always had great affection.

This year's song contest seemed a bit low on ridiculous onstage gimmicks. There was the usual array of guys treating us to interpretative dance but the most memorable completely ridiculous slices of Eurovision nonsense were the woman from Moldova who seemed to be a human volcano on the brink of eruption and the lady from Belarus who emerged from a giant disco ball (in which she seemed to have mislaid the bottom part of her costume). And there was that rubbish song from Azerbaijan, which had a guy dancing in a perspex box for no obvious reason; this proved inexplicably popular with the voters.

The tunes were the usual kind of up for it Europop, though as always there were a good few songs which reacted against this. An odd tendency in the non-pop tunes was what seemed like a definite Belle & Sebastian influence. Malta's song about Jeremy who worked in IT really could have the kind of thing in days of yore Stuart Murdoch would produce on an off-day, while Hungary's entry suggested that its creators had some exposure to the great band of the 2000s. A more generic kind of lamer indie music was represented by the Lithuanian entry - it started with an impressive PJ Harvey guitar lick and then mutated into a load of emo nonsense.

There was a trend among some songs to nod towards folkiness, usually without actually being folky tunes. The Greek and Danish entries did this (of which more later) while the Spanish entry began appealingly with some nice piping before degenerating into a lamer power ballad.

The songs I considered particularly notable, but not always in a good way, were:

1. The French entry, sung by Amandine Bourgeois, that opened the show. It was somewhat rocky and sultry and somewhat disabused me of the idea that the French fundamentally do not get Eurovision (though I do not think it did that well in the voting)

2. The Belarus song was pretty good, notwithstanding the gimmickiness of the disco ball and the missing bottom half of the singer's outfit, but I cannot really be liking Eurovision entries from dictatorships (speaking of which, where was the Vatican's entry?)

3. The Armenian entry was written by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. If you were hoping for a blatant knock off of 'Iron Man' or 'Paranoid' you would have been sorely disappointed - this song was False Metal.

4. The Netherlands entry was a song called 'Birds', sung by a woman called Anouk who appears to have no surname. It seemed to be the most defiantly un-Eurovision song of the night. It did credibly enough in the voting but seemed to have wandered into the contest from another dimension and maybe would have been more at home at an event for lady singer songwriters. Although it was never really in contention as a Eurovision winner, it struck me as the kind of thing that I could imagine appearing on albums that people would buy. Anouk is an established artist in her own country, which does not particularly surprise me.

5. Many people liked the Romanian entry, in which a man dressed as a vampire sang in a very high voice. It did not really do it for me.

6. The Icelandic entry was sung by a guy who looked like THOR but instead of being a monster metal tune about doing battle with Goblins and Giants it was just a load of boring emo shite.

7. The Greek tune (performed by Koza Mostra, with the assistance of one Agathon Iakovidis) was a weird mix of Hellenic folkiness and high-octane ska music performed by a load of guys in kilts. At the time I felt that it deserved to win, as it was perky, upbeat and ridiculously catchy, but the people of Europe disagreed, though it did make the top 5.

8. Norway presented us with Margaret Berger, a blonde Servalan who fronted a surprisingly full-on electronic dance tune with great crunchy synth sounds. I liked it.

And then there was Denmark's entry, sung by Emmelie de Forest. My notes say "drums flutes star quality". It was not my favourite while we were watching but it is hard not to like, with its seamless blend of folky elements (aforesaid flutes and drums, obviously they are chasing the Northern Ireland vote) and more traditional Eurovision electropop stylings. Yet the song was not just an unambiguously up for it dance floor filler, with the title ('Only Teardrops') suggesting the sadness behind the perkiness. Ms de Forest was able to suggest a sadness and vulnerability that hauled in the votes. In the end the song won resoundingly (beating Azerbaijan's perspex box bollocks by a margin of 47 points). In retrospect I have decided that it probably was the best after all.

The Irish entry was a fairly forgettable tune involving some buff topless men drumming while sporting fake Celtic tattoos; it came last, suggesting that the whole thing about Eurovision being a predominantly gay event may be a bit exaggerated. And the British sent us Bonnie Tyler, who delivered a credible power ballad. Neither of these over troubled the voters, leading to the usual hand-wringing about biased political voting.

I should also mention Petra Mede, who presented the event and then performed an amusing song and dance routine in the interval, during which various jokes about Sweden were made. She radiated an effortless star quality and seemed the perfect Eurovision host to such an extent that I cannot but think they should make her the permanent host.

In a fit of Eurovision excitement, I went mad and downloaded five Eurovision songs - the entries from Greece, Norway, Netherlands, France and Denmark. I am not sure why I picked the Netherlands one as I did not like it that much on the night, but it struck me as something that might just be worth listening to again [READER'S VOICE: "That's what YouTube is for, Ian"]. Let us see if I continue to like the others as much as I did on the night.

Belarus entry picture

Click here to see the performances of all the other entrants

An inuit panda production

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