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Thoughts on the Eurovision 2008 second semi-final

The second Eurovision 2008 semi-final was somewhat disappointing after the first one. It got off to a reasonable start with Iceland’s stock Eurovision entry and, after the inexplicably popular Swedish entry, seemed to be getting strong with Turkey’s very good contemporary guitar-based indy nonsense, and Ukraine’s very entertaining men in boxes. However, it was downhill from there: Lithuania got the man from the IT Crowd who lives in a cupboard to sing theirs, which seemed to promise much, but there were no ridiculously gothic dancers to back it up, no actual guitarist to put his hair in the way of the ubiquitous wind machine during the guitar solo, and no explosions of unnecessary fireworks to accompany the last chorus. Shame.

After that, Albania was just plain disappointing: the 16 year-old clearly came from the Christina Aguilera school, but not a in a particularly good way (I expect she gets on well with the Greek entry (who was better)). Switzerland’s song “Era stupendo” (“It was wonderful”) was flatly not wonderful. Nothing much to report after that really. The only bright spot was Malta, and that wasn’t too bright as spots go.

Even the Latvian entry was a complete missed opportunity: all dressed as pirates singing an entertainingly piratish song:

We are robbing you blind,
We hope you don’t mind.

This was promising but it was just rubbish: the song was rubbish, and they could have done so many more piraty things than hire costumes and put a ship’s driving wheel (whatever it’s called) on stage: where were the parrots, hooks for arms, treasure chests with scantily-clad backing singers leaping out? If you want to see this done properly, watch the Lazytown pirate song: the song itself is stronger and the visuals are more entertaining, and do remember how irritating Lazytown is.

One temporarily bright moment was Hungary’s entry: Hungary had a (dismal) song called, in English, “Candles”. So, they put candles on stage, which is only fitting, except that they all went out. Ha ha! I blame the wind machine.

We voted, vainly as it turned out, for Malta, partly on grounds of quality, and partly on realising the need to engage in political voting ourselves: Malta are always nice to us, so we should do the same. Somehow, though, the dreadful Georgian and Portuguese entries made it through instead. Tellingly, given the above comments, the first six, not including Lithuania, went through.

I predicted last year’s result correctly, so the pressure’s on again. I think Ukraine will win: they have good block-voting credentials, have done well in recent years, and have a moderately good song and stage presence. I think Finland will also do well: Scandinavia is a not often talked-about bloc, but one which is important, and Finland stand in the middle of the Scandinavian and Eastern blocs, which is partly why I think they did so well with Lordi. This song isn’t as good, nor is their stage presence, but it is not bad. I’ve probably written some “diva” off, like Sweden, but I really can’t see it, except perhaps for Portugal, which seemed strangely popular and has some passing similarities to last year’s winner.

I hope Finland or Azerbaijan win, preferably the latter as I think they worked harder on all the blood and everything, although I would really like to hear the songs again properly.

Thoughts on the Eurovision 2008 first semi-final

Some thoughts on last night’s Eurovision 2008 first semi-final in Belgrade which was, generally, very interesting.

The outfits made a fairly strong showing, especially with leather worn in a scantily-clad style, although Slovenia decided to be more chaste with all-over leather, with ropes to ensure the dancers couldn’t escape and be naughty. Or something. That was the first half anyway; the second half seemed to favour almost elegant dresses or traditional ridiculously short skirts. Ireland, of course, had a turkey with a man up its arse; we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if Turkey have a man with an island up his arse. Or something. More encouraging were Israel’s demons, Azerbaijan’s angels and demons (if I write Dan Brown Dan Brown Dan Brown I might get some inadvertent hits), the Polish lady’s fake (God, I hope so) tan, and Bosnia&c’s four meringuèd brides.

The quality of the songs wasn’t bad either, I thought. I am usually a fan of the traditional Eurovision song, but there were a number of attempts that I did think were a little too boring: e.g. Slovenia again, or Armenia’s shouty entry (which somehow got through); the Netherlands was OK; Greece, however, did it very well. Finland did metal again: although it wasn’t up to the standards, either of song or costume, of Lordi, it was certainly one of the best songs on the night. What is weird about both these Finnish metal entries is that despite the genre and the obvious gimmick they are both comparatively strong songs in terms of the competition. However, they were certainly out-gothed this time with the operatic, metal-ish, over-costumed brilliance of Azerbaijan, which had blood and everything.

Two entries stood out for originality: 1) Belgium, mainly because they made up a language (Ishtarian: sadly no Wikipedia page as yet) to sing in, which neatly side-steps the political aspects of which language to perform in. They also had an original, very slightly bizarre, but thoroughly charming and floaty sound, with no drums and little in the way of backing. Sadly, they didn’t make it to the final. 2) Bosnia&c, who also had a quirky though more upbeat song. It would have been a good song anyway, if you could concentrate over the aforementioned quartet of brides, the washing line, “strawberry” dress, and the strange strange poses of the lead singer. Luckily, this one got through.

A further note on the Irish entry. It was shit. It should and could have been funny, but it was, instead, shit. The lyrics were well put together but the song was just chanting interspersed with a few dance beats. And there was a hoarse turkey (not a horse turkey) on the stage. I’m all for novelty, me. But this was shit.

Oh, and they didn’t show the episode of Top Gear where Richard Hammond mated with a hobbit, but it must of happened because the result was singing for San Marino.

My favourites (with 4/5 points) were Azerbaijan, and Finland, both of which you can see on Saturday. My next favourites (3/5, but not all so scoring) were Belgium (out), Bosnia&c (in), and Greece (in). However, how Poland, Moldova, Armenia, and Romania got through I don’t know. Although some non-Eastern bloc countries got to the final this year, thanks to the revised semi-final voting, it is noticeable that the poorer entries that got through are Eastern bloc: both the Netherlands and Belgium deserved to beat any of those four by far.