Eurovision 2015 Review – Diamond in the rough

Posted: 03/06/2015 in Eurovision 2015, Eurovision Song Contest Reviews

In a reversal of fortune, after last year’s raving comments post-ESC, this year’s Diamond Edition (60 years, y’all!!) seemed to have left everyone (read: the fan community) rather disappointed slash underwhelmed. Mainly due to the show apparently, and less because of the songs. Question marks are floating their way above my head, as I wonder how this came to be – did I see another show? Let’s find out!

Granted, that running time of the final could (and should) have been waaaay shorter – why not have the country/flag parade during the intro song, like the past two years? Twenty minutes into the show when we get to the first song: way to chase away the average viewer! And speaking of which: what on earth was with that interval act? Almost made me scream for the likes of Guy Tell (1989, look it up and be amazed…or not). Hashtag back to the80s, much? But the entire show didn’t bother me that much, actually. Sure, having 3 presenters (why is Conchita never included in this sum, I wonder?) is simply too much, but that is not exactly brand new information (as 2010, 2011 & 2014 have clearly proven). I’d have scratched Curly and ShortSkirts (some clever framework by ORF at times to keep it familyfriendly, there!) and stuck with a combo of the Blonde One & Conchita. Cause, look into your hearts now, Conchita rocked it. Sure, it all was a bit Conchitacentric in the green room, but let’s not all pretend those interviews aren’t (badly) scripted anyway. At least she put a nice spin to it. (Gosh, I’m using a lot of brackets this year!)
The production was quite lovely I have to say: the sound was on point, the stage looked magnificent (loving the tube effect) and the entire vibe was endearingly positive – insuline, 911! The only thing I didn’t care for in the production was the, at times, rather shoddy camerawork – especially during the semis, when those pesky flags ruined nearly every shot. What, haven’t you watched the Contest the past decade? Don’t film one meter above the audience, you’ll never get the artist decently framed. And why do people desperately need to wave the Armenian flag while Poland is on? Color me confused. But, all in all: a rather enjoyable show.

Too bad we got served such a yawninducing bunch of songs. Seriously, what was with all those generic ballads? Did someone set free a virus of mediocrity?
And the bad thing is that my wooden spoon is one of the few up-tempo songs in the field! Why? Because UK, that’s why! Seriously, someone give Auntie Beeb the facepunch she deserves. This was so under par (or is it over par, if you want to gravely insult?) on ALL levels: the stairs and the costumes and the lacklustre stage presence and the costumes and the Jungle Book King Louie intervention and those fracking glowing costumes! Has Hungary 2011 taught you nothing?! Please, BBC, stop mocking us!
Not that there weren’t others who tried to dampen the mood. The rather uncomfortable attempt at self-therapy from Poland for example (fabric softener commercial, anyone?), or the nails on a chalkboard from Albania (thàts The Voice Of Italy?!). And speaking of Italy: 3rd??? Really??? I’ll be happy to never hear that big pile of pastiche ever again. Grande Amore, tiny imagination. No imagination either from the Mediterranean Sisters (for once not exchanging twelves, ring the alarm!) Cyprus (accountant sings Europe to sleep) & Greece (Mariah can’t breathe).  Or from Armenia (political & dramatical chaos). Or that out of breath Golden Boy from Israel. Or, last but not least in the Flunky Bunch, the Russian handpuppet. Even though they did a rather splendid job at selling this…thing…visually & vocally, I still stand by all I said in my (p)reviews: it’s too much of propaganda to be healthy, and to me even Polina’s emotions felt rather scripted/staged. Don’t know, I didn’t trust it for one bit. Soooo happy they didn’t win.

Hmz, that’s already one third of the field covered, woops! Luckily the middle field provides some comfort. Starting with Austria, which came across surprisingly sterile – or perhaps nobody noticed the song, as we were all wondering whèn exactly the singer’s eyebrows would catch fire (like the mockingale he is). And right alongside it is its stylistic brother from Romania, forcing us to do some soulsearching through sad looks, randomly placed suitcases (I’ll have the white one on the far left, thanks) and black’nwhite pictures of suffering people. Emo is good, but when it’s…eum…that in your face it quickly leads to overkill… Speaking of overkill: hello, France calling! Those drummers were absolutely hilarious (in a bad way), but at least managed to drag us back from drifting away during that Oldskool Nothing of a song (cue Ironic Songtitle). The ’70s called, they want their lost ballad back. You can, of course, always try to undersell your entry, like the duo from Norway. What on earth did they do to that quite lovely ballad? What’s with the cold atmosphere? And that uncomfortable and rather idiotic strolling in the bridge? Needed a better art director, me thinks… Perhaps they should have mingled with the team from Lithuania some more, where we got colors, vivaciousness and happiness aplenty. A bit too much at one point, as those lips were locked a tad too long to be justified/healthy. But who can blame Kylie’s lookalike for wanting to kiss That Tall Godlike Creature for a few seconds longer? Songwise it was…cute, much like the rest of the package. Hmmm, package!

Moving on with the peace plea from Hungary, where those fantabulous backings save a snooze of a lullaby and the almost frozen-to-the-floor meets rabbit-in-the-headlights girl that is Boggie. I do wonder how she’d be at tackling Boggie..eum..Boogie Wonderland. And landing right outside the top ten are two gentlemen with two rather classy entries. I’m a sucker for the strange vibes Montenegro usually brings to the table, but they made a good move in Zjelkofying it all up. The total package worked, with the colorchange and the dancers and the kinda weird backdrop – even Knez’s Madonna-tight face almost felt natural in these surroundings. A thing he has in common with Eldur from Azerbaijan – the complete package, not the face, silly! Even though those dancers pulled some weird moves (the hopping move at the start by the she-wolf is simply to die for), it still felt like a complete performance. Loving the backdrop & loving the rather casual styling on Eldur. Pity he didn’t deliver vocally on Saturday as he did on Thursday, and pity that song was a tad too bleak and gospel to do more.

So, not all roses, sunshine and lollypops – but we’ve got ten more to go! So without further ado:
Here are the points of the Dimivision jury!

1 point: Serbia – Bojana Stamenov – Beauty Never Lies

One of the songs I’d have never expected in my top ten beforehand, as I thought (and I still do) the song is too much all over the place and the message is too ‘in your face’. It did transform on stage, in spite of the dreadful styling and the fidgeting with flags. (No rainbow flag here though, they were presumably all handed out to the audience for Russia’s performance.) The things that did get me from the dark to the light side are the vocals & the attitude. The way the backing vocals came through in the slower part really created a mood, and of course Bojana herself splendidly gave it her all – especially in the upbeat part where she completely rocked the house down. Borderline overboard, yes, but that was exactly what the doctor prescribed to lift this to the next level. Bojana’s attitude didn’t linger behind either as she took to the stage and really filled it (really, no pun intended). Extra points for the ‘mirror’ move there. Still, 1 point is about the max she could squeeze out of me – the song remains the main weak feature. Not a surprise, in this edition.

2 points: Spain – Edurne – Amanecer

Did not see this coming. I watched the Contest a couple of times and this always manages to sneak into my top 10. How did this happen? Well, perhaps I’m too misguided by the fact that they managed to get the presentation (almost) right. Not that it was brilliant, but at least we didn’t get your typical showdance-icecapades-LoveBoat chaos we usually get (hello, 2009 & 2011 (and some more from further back)). It was almost too toned down, somehow – even with the red cape and the sandals and what not. Loved the trick with the light, where Edurne controls the direction of the spots like the sorceress she really is. Or perhaps I’m misguided by the vocals, which were surprisingly on point (bar those last 2 seconds, shame). In other words: I half expected a carcrash and she managed to get it in one piece to the finishline. But I actually think it’s all down to the atmosphere of the song, which kept my attention for the full three minutes – not a lot of songs this year can claim that. Just one question: what’s with the boobmassage mid-song? Seriously, get your mammogram over and done with in another time and (private) place, girl.

3 points: Sweden – Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes

Ow Måns. You’re so dreamy. And so is Little Måns. (The projection, you filthy minds.) I much prefer the baret to the pointy hat, by the way – makes much more sense that way. The projection thingy still works, but it also still feels like a cover-up for what is actually not that swell of a song. Guetta-references aside, this is one of those songs that just pass me by. It doesn’t bring anything exciting to the table – on the contrary, I find those low verses strangely off-putting. But I do dig the projection, in the same way I enjoyed Ukraine’s sandlady in 2011. It gives an umph, which makes it even more strange they didn’t use it for the chorus. Hashtag ego, perhaps? Which leads me to the projection close-up thingy in the bridge: no. Just no. Didn’t really mind it winning (especially above the likes of Russia & Italy), but not a vintage winner by a long shot.

4 points: Georgia – Nina Sublatti – Warrior

Yes dear, it seemed you were quite oxymated (I reserve the right to interpret things). What the hell was going on with that mist? There are at least four camerashots where you can hardly see anything, let alone poor Nina who’s out there somewhere, probably feeling like Diane Fossey – stranded in Westeros, obviously. Girlfriend got herself some wings, and flew her way into my top ten. Nina’s ballsy attitude is simply delicious, and those verses and the chorus compliment each other nicely. Pity the chorus gets repeated two times too many, to the verge of stuffing it down our throats. I  wonder whether a more elaborate stage set-up would have provided more appropriate distraction. Still, easily Georgia’s best since their debut in 2007.

5 points: Australia – Guy Sebastian – Tonight Again

Surprise! The world is such a tiny place that Australia’s suddenly competing in this birthday edition of a competition that’s become increasingly popular Down Under. So why not? BECAUSE KYLIE MINOGUE, THAT’S WHY! Should. Have. Been. Her. But all pink frustration aside, they did appear to have done their homework. Thank goodness, as that interval act last year wasn’t all that promising, quite frankly. So it was up to Guy Sebastian to defend the home of Priscilla. He went down the Road Of Basim, picking a Bruno Mars-like song that is very radiofriendly. A bit too slick perhaps, but boy did Guy sell the proverbal ass of that song. Boyfriend can sing! Was to be expected, with his talent competition background and all, but still: amazeballs. The act however left me a bit puzzled. The staging with the streetlights did take some getting used to, but it all made sense in the end. But what was going on with the styling?! Netherlands 2003, 911! A big nono. A stain on an otherwise almost stainless entry. I don’t expect this to be the last we’ve seen from Australia in this competition, and as a debut this is certainly one of the better ones we’ve had over the past decade.

6 points: Germany – Ann-Sophie – Black Smoke

Work it, girl! The prize for the longest ass-moment in history, but apparently that’s all Eurovision had in store for poor Ann-Sophie. Girlfriend worked that bumper, and commanded that performance. On top of that, she totally nailed that vocal perfomance which was way more controlled than in the German final. Better styling as well, so all in all this is a pretty package. The song is a style excercise in a genre that doesn’t set the Eurovision stage on fire, however – which is a pity, as I do like my portion of sistah-gonna-tell-you-like-it-is girl power soulfulness. But the donut? Totally undeserved in my book. I mean, the UK finished higher than this. Escandulo!

7 points: Slovenia – Maaraya – Here For You

My pre-contest fave made the final for once (huzzah!) but expectations weren’t running high after having seen the semi 2 performance. The set-up that worked in the small Slovenian venue totally drowned on the Eurovision stage, which was always gonna be the slippery slope. I would have gone for a different stage set-up, with Raay at a DJ booth and multiple airviolinists and/or other airstrings. Should have provided more animo than what we got, sadly. The double wink in the semi luckily got deduced to one in the final (still one too many). The big problem was the adding of the windmachine, though: Marjetka didn’t look comfortable at all, and neither did her hairsprayed coiffure. But it IS a cool song, and the way she sings it is simply delicious. I don’t mind the headphones or the dress – it’s a style thing. Good one, Slovenia – keep up the track record.

8 points: Estonia – Stig & Elina – Goodbye To Yesterday

Now we get to the songs I really ADORE. This one is so LOVELY, on every front. I’m simply in love with the storytelling, both lyrically and visually. The lyrics are highly recognizable and rather emotional, the visual performance is an excellent mix between playing with special effects and actual acting by the singers (however minimalistic it may have been at times). Vocally, Stig (aka Louis from 1D in about 15 years) was floating away in the first bit (as he always has) but remained his charming (eum…) little self, falling into perfect vocal harmony with Elina. She was more feisty than I’d expected, which is a good thing. The eyes, the eyes! They burn! The shadow trick was brilliant, and the bit at the ending as unexpected as it was genius. Yup, I’m a sucker for this one. And for my boycrush of the year. (Call me, Stig.)

10 points: Belgium – Loïc Nottet – Rhythm Inside

Speaking of expecting things – we got to 4th place! Y to the AY! Our Loïc was one of my faves beforehand and he did not disappoint. Respect! He didn’t do a lot of promo, but now we know why: man, is he focused! He had a hand in everything, from costumes to performance and he’s just a brilliant young man. Love the Alice In Nightmareland performance – didn’t necessarily get the lying on the floor thing (except for the obvious overhead shot) but the grabbing of the face and the wheeze and the marching and the pointing & turning: marvellous, simply marvellous. If only we’d send something well crafted and boundary shaking like this every year.

12 points: Latvia – Aminata – Love Injected

All the praise above notwithstanding, THIS one just conquered my heart. I had a sneaking suspicion this would do better than most expected or predicted, and Aminata is the main reason for that. She just ripped that song to shreds – the soft verses versus the soaring chorus, the fantastic chanting towards the end: shivers down my spine. Everything else is just so on the money: the backdrop, the armography, the dress, the nifty camerashots to the beat at the start of the song. Very, VERY cool and I’m ever so happy she ended up 6th. Should have been higher, but hey. And it’s LATVIA. Exceptions to every rule!

So, again a mix of feelings – which makes this Diamond Edition a bit of a diamond in the rough.
And back to Sweden it is… Let’s hope for a better edition than 2013. But Petra Mede can stay.

So, over to the all time top 25 where Germany trades places with Italy again (reversing the move from last year), Spains comes closer to pushing UK out of the top 10 and Russia is being pushed back by both Slovenia & Estonia, who are both on the rise. France has only scored one set of points since their douze in 2009, by the way. Well, Christmas is officially over, read y’all in 2016!

1             France 231 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
2             Netherlands 213 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3             Finland 188 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989 – 2006 – 2007)
4             Belgium 183 (1968 – 1983 – 1986 – 1990 – 2003)
5             Norway 173 (1966 – 1982 – 2000 – 2013)
6             Germany 167 (1959 – 1975 – 2011)
7             Sweden 166 (1974 – 2012)
8             Italy 164 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
9             Portugal 157 (1972 – 1998)
10           United Kingdom  132 (1961 – 1965)
11            Spain 132 (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          Slovenia 65
21           Estonia 63 (1999)
22           Iceland 63 (1987)
23           Russia 61 (1994)
24           Croatia 49
25           Hungary 44

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