With so many new countries joining in the past decade we’re getting to know a Europe outside… well, Dublin basically! Ironically enough Turkey’s not one of those new countries as it’s been waiting for a victory ever since 1975! And so it happens we’re putting a toe in Asian waters as we’re travelling to Istanbul for the 49th edition of the Contest. The world is our oyster, eller hur?
The Turks obviously realised what a hugh opportunity Eurovision is to present yourself as a country and did an impeccable job on an organisational level. The venue isn’t enormous but comes across very atmospheric on screen and the flexible stage set-up provides a nice back-drop. I love the helicopter effect at the start of the show, well done on them for not using fireworks to try to make an impression – been there done that! Sertab‘s present of course and plugs a song I already knew from her album I bought 4 years before – I suppose 95% of the viewers didn’t realise it but I was disappointed anyway. Presenters Meltem Cumbul & Korhan Abay do a decent job and I feel there weren’t a lot of hosts before mister Abay that handled the French language that well – pity miss Cumbul’s English wasn’t on par…
The Turks had their work cut out for them as 2004 was the year the semi (only 1 at this point) was introduced so every country had the theoretical possibility of ending up with the Eurovision trophee in their hands. Now you can call me lazy all you want but I’m not too keen on reviewing the semis: the eliminated countries couldn’t get to the final in real life so why should I let them compete for my douze? I will be selecting ‘the one that should have been there’ from each semi every year but I’ll keep my full review focused solely on the actual final.
And the final in 2004 did not entirely live up to the expectations 2003 had created – but it was decent enough. There are only a handful of songs that I think are truly awful and the worst of them all is the Austrian dirge which is so larded with clichés I’m getting diabetic in a flash. Poland could have been brilliant but those extremely nasal sounds Tatiana Okupnik produces are too much for my nerves to handle. And then there are The Two Eurovision Institutions called Ireland & UK, both sending boys who are in way over their heads and who are both packing songs that are simply a disgrace to their countries’ musical history. For shame!
The two Belgians in the Contest disappointed big time, each in their own way. Xandee won our national selection very easily but the difference between that rather small television studio and the Turkish venue clearly didn’t do her dance song a world of good – the fact the act wasn’t adapted for the big stage was a big mistake and Xandee delivered a vocal performance that made me think she probably was overrehearsed. Another bottom place and I’m afraid this time there’s no debating it.
The French recruited our own Jonathan Cerrada and they emphasised him being quite short by putting him next to a lady on stilts – a bit of a weird tactic. The entire thing is simply arty-farty and doesn’t work at all on screen and Jonathan pulling faces like that with every high note tops it all off. Pity, because the song itself is quite good really…
Come to think of it there was a third Belgian on stage! Half of the Dutch duo wasn’t in fact that Dutch, but sadly it wasn’t the one who coúld sing – no wonder my subconscious decided to ignore him and his eyebrows.
The rest of the middle field all have something to make me shrug my shoulders. Spain’s got its usual dated showboat choreo going on, Germany’s got a unibrow & combover combination which manages to distract from a decent song until THAT note, Russia’s got its circus going on, FYROM’s just imitating Sertab, Greece is only good on mute and Iceland forgot to inject that rockballad with some decent verses (and Jónsi forgot to iron his pants).
So that’s that, my top ten luckily contains a couple of Golden Eurovision Moments! But first let’s discover which one I would have loved to switch with Austria:
The One That Got Away:
Well, I actually liked a couple of songs in the semi but the all got butchered live (I’m looking at you Estonia, Andorra & Belarus!) so I’m going for one that I don’t think is particularly brilliantly written (so repetitive!) but got performed quite well on stage. I love Sofia Vitoria‘s stage presence, her voice is lovely warm and that pink dress is (gay alert!) just fabulous. So I’ll give her her 2 seconds of fame on here.
But these ten are the only ones to actually receive some points – here are the points of the Dimivision jury!
1 point: Malta – On again, off again
The wooden Don Juan and his Mariah Nanny – a match made in Daft Hell. Utterly plastic but they know and don’t try to hide it which gives this an extra dimension. A clear case of something being so bad it’s fab again.
2 points: Albania – The image of you
A great debut for the somewhat anonymous Balkan country and Anjeza Shahini is just such a lovely girl she made half of Europe’s cold hearts melt in one note. The song isn’t brilliant, some might even call it standard and/or slightly outdated, but the freshness of Anjeza’s appearance makes up for A LOT. Even that insufferable electric guitar solo – I had hoped those got stuck in the ’90s but I obviously shouted too soon.
3 points: Croatia – You are the only one
Another one I feel is not contemporary enough but it’s a rumba so I guess we’ll call this … timeless? ’80s feeling aside I think this is sung VERY well by Ivan Mikulić who’s really giving it his all, almost to the point of irritation. Almost. But this comes across quite classy, so well done.
4 points: Norway – High
Someone should fire his stylist – or hire one, either way that silver suit is just a disaster and distracts a lot from what is really an okay pop song. Sometimes I am really puzzled by the voting tactics of the European public: this is really miles better than – off the top of my head – Austria, UK and Ireland and still this ended up last. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact Knut Anders Sørum simply refuses to look into the camera? Who knows.
5 points: Romania – I admit
Now before you try to squeeze me into a straightjacket: take away the porn look and the nerves on Sanda and this comes across in a different way. I agree, as she admits herself, this does look foolish and it suffers from overkill but with a more slick presentation this could have come across much better. I really like the song, okay? Fine, bring on that straightjacket anyway.
6 points: Turkey – For real
The home team usually has a bit of an advantage but the Turks in the audience were right to fire this on the way they did. Kuddo’s to them for not going in the same direction as Sertab, in fact they’re not taking the easy road at all: I don’t think we’ve really had ska on the Eurovision stage and Athena pulls it off with an ease that makes me admire them. You can tell they’re experienced performers and that they’re true to themselves and it works. The only thing I would have cut is the dancer which gives it the artificial touch it didn’t need.
7 points: Sweden – It hurts
We’ve got a saying here in Belgium that states it doesn’t hurt being crazy but I see that doesn’t apply to the Swedes. Or to Lena Ph at least. The song is just nuts, she’s nuts, the routine is nuts – in short, how can you not love this? Too repetitive you say? Agreed, but it doesn’t really matter this time. It’s nice to see Sweden crawl out of its safe schlagerzone (although the song isn’t thàt risky) like this, about bloody time.
8 points: Bosnia-Herzegovina In the disco
Going for the same cuckoo voters as Sweden but taking it even further really. Deen and his bouncy friends go way over the top and that’s what this quite average pop song lifted to another level. Gay with a capital G but also Funny with a capital F and even though it’s not always on the mark vocally Deen does deliver a powerful performance. It all comes together very well and just puts a smile on my face. Up and down, here we go!
10 points: Serbia-Montenegro – Lane Moje
I have a bit of a difficult relation with this one. On the one hand I can see its obvious quality and the way it’s constructed and delivered is borderline magical. On the other hand it’s almost clinical and calculated so I’m, 8 years later, still not entirely clear on how brilliant I think this is. It definitely is, don’t get me wrong, and at least it’s got a sound we’ve hardly/never heard before in Eurovision which is a feat on its own. And Željko Joksimović has got such a warm voice it’s to die for.
12 points: Ukraine – Wild dances
This was my favorite before the Contest and even though they presented it in an entirely different way I had imagined/hoped for I still think this is very cleverly put together. This takes the ethnics to an entirely different level and even though the savage concept was pretty risky it oozes such power it’s simply obliterating its competition. Ruslana sings this very well and to me this is one of the most undisputed winners in the history of the Contest. Quite symbolical as well: Ukraine wins in its second attempt and translates the greed of some countries to win in a fitting way – Europe’s been warned. The Huns are coming.
Not a brilliant Contest but it’s got some nice highlights that make it semi-memorable (no pun intended).
A douze for a new country which probably will remain invisible in the all time top 25 for quite some time. Meanwhile the UK is slipping down to 10th position *enter obvious sneering remark here*:
1 France 197 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
2 Netherlands 193 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3 Belgium 169 (1968 – 1983 – 1986 – 1990 – 2003)
4 Portugal 152 (1972 – 1998)
5 Finland 149 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989)
6 Italy 149 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
7 Sweden 141 (1974)
8 Germany 134 (1959 – 1975)
9 Norway 132 (1966 – 1982 – 2000)
10 United Kingdom 132 (1961 – 1965)
11 Spain 128 (1973)
12 Ireland 119 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
13 Israel 102 (1976)
14 Turkey 92
15 Denmark 84 (1957 – 1963 – 2001)
16 Greece 79 (1981)
17 Switzerland 72
18 Austria 59
19 Slovenia 58
20 Croatia 49
21 Iceland 41 (1987)
22 Bosnia-Herzegovina 39
23 Cyprus 37
24 Russia 30 (1994)
25 Estonia 30 (1999)
Now off to a new destination again – must not forget to pack a birthday cake!