Eurovision 2014 Review – Beige but not bland

Posted: 05/06/2014 in General

Raving reviews all over the place: Post Eurovision Depression has left its mark yet again and fans all over Europe are fanwanking all over the 2014 edition of our beloved Contest. But was it thàt great? Was it really? A thourough analysis is needed, me thinks! Hashtag joinme.

 Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start (sorry, couldn’t help myself there)). Weren’t we all begging for diapers as we were shitting ourselves in fear of how the Danes would tackle this edition? Because the last time they did we weren’t over the moon happy with how it went, especially because of the location and the accompanying magnitude of it all. But several years of DMGP it seemed like DR was ready to take on the challenge once again – until they announced the location, at which point apprehension took over again.  And then the first impressions of rehearsals came through and they all talked abut how MASSIVE the set was in real life and came across on screen. At which point alarmbells went off all across Europe. But all hissyfits were unnecessary because the set looked nothing short of effing fantastic. Yes, the idea of the cubes was a bit redundant and yes, some performers (even our own Axel Hirsoux) looked simply tiny but the LED screens and accompanying visuals were simply breathtaking. They were so mesmerizing I hardly payed any attention to the presenters – not that they were worth noticing to begin with. Lise was nice but quite unnoticable (and I could have done without those wannabe Oprah moment with ao. Sanna & Conchita), Nikolaj was pretty to look at (let’s leave it at that) and Pilou (sing that name to the tune of Israel 1993, you’ll never be able to shake it off (you’re welcome)) was a bit bewildering – I did not get nor care for the China “jokes” at all, by the way. And why were there three of them again? Were Petra Mede’s shoes that hard to fill? Come to think of it, they were. But still. Anyhew, the fear of getting a production that was so OTT (over the top, keep up with the lingo) was presumptious and although not entirely unjustified this time the OTT-ness of it all actually saved the 2014 edition.

Because let’s face it: what a beige bunch of songs was. I don’t care what anyone claims at this point: I’m still not shaking in my pants. Normally I get up to 15 songs that battle it out for a top ten position, now I had to scrape for life.
The battle for a bottom position (HA!) was harder than ever (double HA!) though, as there are 9 (!!!) songs that could switch positions (I’m gonna stop HA!-ing now, promise) at any old time. Not that I’m inclined to reshuffle them, as that would mean I would have to sit through them again and I’m not too keen on thàt.
Worst of the bunch has to be the over the top nothingness that is Romania, with a soulless attempt that has to be covered up by a million bad ideas (the round piano, the projection, THE HUG) – a stain on their 2010 memory. They could be replaced at any time by either Germany (one dimensional nothingness, wrapped in questionnable ‘fashion’), Montenegro (been there, done that like a zillion times before – where’s the Montengro that kicks serious ass?), Ukraine (flat song, flat singing, flat ideas – kuddos for the boy hamster, but I still say NO), Malta (bleak Mumford & Sons and that jeans and T is the biggest fasion crime this year), Greece (a lot of atmosphere but weak singing and rapping (hello again to the backings) and WHAT is with that trampoline??), France (cool idea, extremely poor and amateurish execution), United Kingdom (seriously, how could people see this as a contender with that fickle composition, those fragile vocals and that outdated message) and Denmark (much less energy than I had anticipated, the flag is preposterous and the blatant ripping off of The Real Thing is still a BIG nono).

In the middle of the pack we get a fivesome of songs that might not get my juices flowing but at least there’s something there to keep my attention. The Belarussian cheesecake might not have been my taste as far as the song goes, but the self assurance that Rob…Just..TEO gave us was endearing enough and the slick presentation lifted the badly articulated entry to a new level (who knew it could have levels at all!). Azerbaijan sparked the exact opposite sentiment: the song had a certain je ne sais quoi, but the way Dilara mumbles her way through it raised many eyebrows at Casa Dimivision. No seriously, what was she ON about???) Slovenia in the meantime just floated by and was saved by a clever visual presentation which held the middle between Azerbaijan 2010 and Estonia 2009 (I said  visually, mkay?). Spain suddenly came across less vomit inducing than I had feared as Ruth Lorenzo clearly is a live performer – in combination with the dripping effect on the stage floor and her wet hair I almost forgot that cliché of a song. And right above her we get the (songwise) sister from Sweden which suffered from the same disease: cliché song (seriously, this won MF? And came third? I don’t get, it leaves me stone cold) which is saved by a powerful performer and effective staging.

No, then I’d rather have two cups of crazy, slightly tickling my top ten but lacking a bit of oomph to really get there. The idea behind Iceland was cool, if somewhat retarded: six different colors preaching equality is a good idea in theory but it all turned out to be too much Limp Bizkit and too little Linkin Park, if you catch my drift. And Poland…well, what is there to say that hasn’t been said already?  I thought it was fucking hilarious and the only thing that stops me from putting this in my top top ten is the clumsy switch to English (because it interrupts the flow and it really is clumsy English). And red skirts + red stage floor = awkward overhead shot. Just saying.

So, only two songs outside of the top ten that I kinda like. Curious to find out who did manage to scrape through?
Here are the points of the Dimivision jury:

1 point: San Marino – Valentina Monetta – Maybe

I can’t believe I’m doing this. But. After two rather bleak attempts we got a third serving of Valentina and running up to the Contest I had very little regard for this snooze of an entry. Anyone who feared a visual catastrophe (keeping in mind the Ikea globe in 2013’s attempt) got their money’s worth with that giant ‘shell’ made out of fabric – what, Danish television didn’t provide enough screens to make an impression? It felt so outdated it did match the entry perfectly, one has to admit. ‘Maybe’ sounds as it ran away from The Love Boat and barely has a memorable hook so it kinda just floats by…in the studio version. But something happened on stage I have to say. Valentina suddenly turned out to be a seasoned performer, grabbing the cameras and audience whilst pulling out an armography that didn’t even look thàt silly. She even managed to give the song a hook, by emphasising the ‘maybe’ in such an endearing way I’ll probably think of it every single bloody time I’ll use the word for the rest of my life. I even fell head over heels in love with the parlando bit, which pushed this dated entry over the top – and over the top is where the best entries reside, as we all know. I do feel we’ve had enough Valentina for now. And enough Siegel for sure, that man needs to give it a rest. By the look of it he can surely use it.

2 points: Russia – Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine

Another entry I did not expect to see in my final top ten, and I’m still slightly flabbergasted I like it as much as I do. Cause let’s face it, there’s a number of things wrong with this entry: the build-up is hardly exciting, the verses are simply boring, the lyrics quite horrendous and the production is never surprising. Which on the other hand might be the key to it coming across all so innocent as it doesn’t shock or offend anyone and thus fits the performers perfectly. I do like the sixties thwang in the chorus, which vaguely reminds me of a couple of Amy Winehouse tracks (I said vaguely, calm down now) and is perfect for the Eurovision setting as it filled the hall with ease. The performance itself is slightly ridonculous, with the seesaw and the hair and the rising sun and the nightgowns, but gives you plenty of reasons to comment on it (and thus leads to bonus points, of course) – and the twins clearly have been given instructions to open their eyes a bit more in the Final performance. So it’s all a bit of a carcrash, yes. BUT THOSE VOICES!! And I’m not just talking about the twins, who admittedly do a very adequate job, but the entire vocal performance – those backings just save the whole damn thing.

3 points: Norway – Carl Espen – Silent Storm

One of my favorites beforehand and as I feared it got a bit trampled come Copenhagen. Not that Carl Espen had anything to do with it, he was his adorable vulnerable little (well…) self and the way he kept the emotions flowing through the performance was nothing short of beautiful. Too bad the setting did the entry very little good, as the intimacy of the lyrics and the piano got a bit lost in the giant staging. Plus, as I said before the Contest, they should have kept it very small – the addition of those four violin players is highly questionnable, for various reasons: not only do they add very little to the atmosphere, they kinda break the fragile vibe that’s being built during the first verse and chorus. And those Sonja Lumme jackets (or Secret Garden, if you want to keep it Norwegian) didn’t work in their favor. So it ended up coming across as a rather standard ballad (genre My Heart Is Yours) rather than the beautiful little gem it secrety is. Pity pity.

4 points: Finland – SoftEngine – Something Better

As far as the song goes this is nothing shocking. It sounds like One Direction, Bastille and Coldplay have been thrown into a blender together and this came out – nothing to be ashamed of, as those are bands with quite a bit of credibility to their name (well, to some extent anyway), but not highly original in sound either. But in this rather beige playing field I welcome this rocky ditty with open arms, as this year was in desperate need of something that could enter the charts around Europe. The chorus is very infectious, even with those wobbly high notes, and is sold very well with that impressive light show. When it comes to the band I would have preferred to see them perform in younger/less official outfits as to underline their high energy a bit more (though the keyboard player and the drummer simply seem unstoppable anyway), and vocally I do feel the occasional cringe but the impressive punk screams at the very end do keep the balance swaying towards the positive end. Finland and rock, it does seem like a scoring combination in my book!

5 points: Italy – Emma – La Mia Citta

Surprise! Now, I know there’s all kinds of wrong with this entry but somehow I do not seem to care at all as it’s ALL about the song here for me. I LOVE the rocky vibe here, in combination with the poppy build-up and Emma‘s Attitude this is very reminiscent of P!NK to me. Too bad it doesn’t come across that professional – or slick rather, as I don’t think Emma is that sloppy. Her performance is simply not tailored for Eurovision: she seems to think she’s at an actual rock festival (the ropy vocals in the verses, the ‘fuck you’ attitude) and it simply does not come across. The camera work doesn’t help her, mind you – I absolutely hate the bits on the catwalk, where she comes across rather clumsy. And even though shit has been poring over her when it comes to the outfit I have to say I loved it, as only Italians can get away with a statement as dramatic as this. Pity she didn’t keep the cape on a bit longer. All in all there are a lot of missed opportunities here, but at least it manages to seperate itself from the masses and in the end it comes all down to the fantastic chorus for me – so 5 points it is.

6 points: Switzerland – SEBalter – Hunter Of Stars

We have reached the point where my inner 17 year old teenage girl completely takes over and wants to yell all kinds of flirty things. Seriously, how CUTE is that man? Marry me, SEBalter, marry me tomorrow! Today! He kinda seems into me too, I believe, as he promises to hunt me down and eat me up tonight (a promise is a promise, now) and confesses he’s so wet he’s dirty (tell me more, tell me more!). Naughty! But all teenage dreams aside, this is a very enjoyable entry to listen to as well: it sounds like spring has arrived, with the jumping banjo and the happy whistling. I wish the performance would have been a bit more lively but it’s spontaneous enough to keep me interested, and it’s a real shame his English is so awful. But this makes me smile for various reasons. Now call me, SEBalter, so we can work out what time you’ll be eating me up tonight.

7 points: Hungary – András Kállay-Saunders – Running

Domestic violence as a topic for a Eurovision entry? That’s…different enough, yes. Not the happiest of themes, but they managed to wrap it in such a way that it doesn’t depress the hell out of you: the drum’nbass layer in the chorus is a very nifty idea as it gives this entry the haunting atmosphere it needs without going overboard ànd adds a dynamic vibe to linger on in the audience’s memory. The performance is one of the few this year where the dancers and the choreography actually add something to, rather than distract from, the song – especially when Andràs gets involved right at the end. Andràs himself does a very good job vocally, though he sounds a tad fragile at times. And he’s so lost in pulling faces (and eyebrows) to get the feeling of the lyrics across that he forgets to puts some actual feelings into his singing at times. Which is a pity, as this is an entry that you need to feel in order to love it. But high quality stuff from Hungary yet again, surely we must be heading for Budapest sooner rather than later? If he hadn’t worn that cardigan in the Final it might have even been in 2015!

8 points: Armenia – Aram MP3 – Not Alone

What an absolute kick in the nuts this was when it opened the first semi. The way this came across, with the overwhelming visuals on screen (and the stage floor!), was absolutely breathtaking. It does get a bit lost performing mid field in the Final somehow, or maybe I was too impressed by the production when it opened the first semi, but I still LOVE how this entry gently builds up and then explodes with a Giant Bang. Dear Aram isn’t at his best in the soft part of the song (he even goes overboard a couple of times, with those highly questionnable floating notes) but is nothing short of impressive once he gets to the screaming bits. The atmosphere is simply to die for if you ask me and I was extremely pleased to see this doing as well as it did, as I never even once thought it might actually do as well as the bookies said (but who believes them anyway). Ow, and “why do dreams make people scream” is a nice one – think it over.

10 points: The Netherlands – The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm

How I feared this would drown in the Eurovision storm. How I hoped it would not. And how I underestimated the professional approach the Dutchies took on this performance. Much like Norway, this needed an intimate performance to get this entry across and unlike Norway they did a splendid job. I’ve been talking about keeping things simple on this blog and this, ladies and gentleladies, is what I’m talking about. This entry has been brought right to the esssence and it managed to make people fall in love with it. The directing and camerawork is highly effective (LOVE the trick with the looking into the camera and then switching to the partner across when the camera passes behind said partner) even though it is very uncomplicated. It all makes you feel like they’re in a studio, rather than a huge venue, and it simply touches you in a way very few Eurovision entries have managed to in those 58 previous editions. Lines like “I could say I’m sorry but I don’t wanna lie” and “I just wanna know if staying is better than goodbye” might contribute to that feeling of course. The blending of the voices is heavenly as well – I have always adored Ilse Delange‘s sound and Waylon counterbalances her very nicely. I’m so chuffed this got to second place, I can’t even begin to explain. Very curious to see what the Dutchies will pull out of their hats next year.

12 points: Austria – Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix

When Conchita was announced as Austria’s representative for ESC ’14 I simply shrugged my shoulders. When her entry was made public, I got interested – it sounded like something that had been given quite a lot of effort, with the impressive usical approach, the vintage Bond vibe and the layered lyrics. Quite unlike her effort to make ESC ’12, exactly. Then I saw her live performance on the Austrian version of Strictly Come Dancing, which impressed me as the entire idea worked extremely well. So when Eurovision week was upon us, RLAP had already climbed up in my personal ranking but I still had doubts as to whether Europe would be able to look past the beard. I needn’t worry. Conchita is simply a very smart girl and manages to turn hate into love without having to pull her smile off of her face and that’s what gives this entry a multitude of layers – listen to those lyrics, you’ll hear it. She was even smart enough to get the song, voice and performance so right that nobody could even think of claiming that she just won because of the controversy – she deliverd quality all across the board. She would have never won if she’d pulled a Verka. It’s just a bonus to see Europe’s overwhelming positive reaction to this entry: freedom to be who you want to be has always been one of Eurovision’s levers, and it was ever so swell to see it coming to life in such an inspiring way. And on top of that, it’s fucking Austria! I don’t know about you, but I never thought I’d see them win ever again – nor would I have thought it likely to award them my own douze points. But I’m ever so happy it did actually happen.

Imagine 4 out of your personal top 5 making the actual top 5. Now imagine silver and gold being the actual silver and gold. Impossible, you say? It happened to me on May 10th and I will cherish it for a long time. Which makes up for the beige feeling this year has given me for such a long time.

So, over to the all time top 25 where a couple of remarkable things happen as Hungary enters at the cost of Cyprus, Austria jumps three places to number 18 and Italy climbs to number 6 at the cost of sweden and Germany. And Netherlands sneak closer and closer to the top again. Curious to see how long it’ll last before they screw up (again)! See you in 2015 for the Diamond edition of Lady Eurovision, y’all!

1             France 231 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
2             Netherlands 213 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3             Finland 188 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989 – 2006 – 2007)
4             Belgium 173 (1968 – 1983 – 1986 – 1990 – 2003)
5             Norway 173 (1966 – 1982 – 2000 – 2013)
6             Italy 164 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
7             Sweden 163 (1974 – 2012)
8             Germany 161 (1959 – 1975 – 2011)
9             Portugal 157 (1972 – 1998)
10           United Kingdom  132 (1961 – 1965)
11           Spain 130 (1973)
12           Ireland 126 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
13           Israel 118 (1976)
14           Turkey 105
15           Switzerland 96
16           Denmark 92 (1957 – 1963 – 2001)
17           Greece 87 (1981)
18           Austria 71 (2014)
19           Bosnia-Herzegovina 66
20          Iceland 63 (1987)
21           Russia 61 (1994)
22           Slovenia 58
23           Estonia 49 (1999)
24           Croatia 49
25           Hungary 44

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