This is the second part of my Eurovision re-cap. Part 1 is here on my mrtrivia.net site. We return now to the Belgrade Arena where the flags of various European countries are waving, the audience is screaming and a Scandanavian nation is about to blitz the Eurovison Song Contest (ESC) stage.
Denmark’s entry was the lyrically uninspired, but musically quite catchy ‘All Night Long’. It was sung by SIMON MATHEW and he had an actual band backing him up. They played a 1970s style number that sounded like the sort of thing Mika might do if they decided to give up their career and enter the Eurovision Song Contest. The old-timey vibe continued with the band’s apparel. They had flat caps and braces, which were the height of 1930s-style retro-chic when Gilbert O’Sullivan dressed this way, back in 1972 and sang Alone Again (Naturally). Or maybe they were knocking off Chas and Dave. Can’t say for sure.
Wogan said this of Georgia’s entry. “It’s low key and to be honest, slightly depressing. But there’s a change in the middle and that should excite you.” DIANA GURTSKAYA sang ‘Peace Will Come’. There were some pyrotechnics at the end. The crowd seemed to like it. The Georgians waved in the smoky aftermath of the pyros. “With all this smoke and flame around there’s precious little thought for health and safety,” said Wogan.
The song was ‘Shady Lady’ and was the second Shakira-like act of the evening. It was sung by ANI LORAK. “I am strangely drawn to this girl,” Wogan said. And why not? She had all of Ann-Margaret’s old moves down pat. She also had four boy-dancers who could really do it. There was good choreography, some nice acrobatic leaps and flips.
The number began with Lorak leaning against a shiny black wall – a wall that looked something like Kubrick’s 2001 monolith lying on its side (I’ll bet that’s what they said to their props-maker). She began moving and it turned out this thing was actually a neon lit box. Suddenly, one by one, the dancers were revealed in a blaze of electric light. It was all timed to the spit second. A gimmick that worked! Take that, clothesline of love!
These guys understood show business and put in the slickest and most entertaining performance of the night. It was a really big song that Lorak belted out with impressive volume.
We were now two thirds of the way through the songs but still only halfway through the coverage. Zelko and Jovana reappeared. This was their first costume change. He was now in a black suit and she in an unaccountable floral print dress. They spoke about global warming or Hemingway’s take on American masculinity or something. Not sure.
Then mercifully we were back to the action.
The Big Four Shoo-In 'arrangement' was now coming dangerously unstuck. 'Divine' was the name of SEBASTIEN TELLIER’s song and the little clipettes of same that we had seen on the previous two nights, made it seem like an amusing, deadpan pop song.
Unfortunately, by the time it hit the Belgrade Arena, 'Divine' was simply a dead pop song. Tellier has a very particular look. He is tall, thin, has long hair, a beard and often sports very big, wrap-around shades. This angular, hirsute figure is perfect for quirky music video world, but here amongst folk who believe in giving it their all for entertainment, Tellier’s slightly ironic persona didn’t cut the dijonnaise.
Tellier had five female backing singers wearing fake beards and real sunglasses. He arrived in a golf cart with an inflatable planet Earth under his arm. So far, so good.
Then nothing. He couldn’t bring it, live. It just wasn’t the act for a big arena, and so unfortunately it stiffed.
ELNUR & SAMIR were the hope of Azerbaijan. ‘Day after Day’ was their song and although I had no idea what it was about, the staging and theatrics were as over-the-top as only the best Eurovision acts can be. One of ‘em, Elnur or Samir was the Devil; dressed in black and sitting in a black throne while black-clad dancing girl-devils gyrated around him. The other dude – Elnur or Samir, one imagines, was an Angel. He had silver hair and silver contact lenses and he was accompanied by two female dancing girl-angels wearing large white furry hats.
It began with the Angel doing a long falsetto scream. Now THIS was entertainment. The Devil wore silver runners, natch! He indulged in some Axl Rose style wailing. One of the dancing devils attacked one of the angels. Suddenly, the second bananas were throwing down. Satan poured red wine from a goblet over one of his dancers. How decadent! Then suddenly, the lead Angel walked over and stripped the Devil of his black clothing and he stood up covered in shimmering white.
The Devil then began a kind of keening trill that he no doubt learnt from hours of listening to Yoko Ono’s “Why?”And then Elnur and Samir scream-sang together and fell backward onto the stage.
“It restores your faith,” Wogan said. And you know, it kinda did.
KALOMIRA was the third and final Shakira-type act of the evening with the song, 'Secret Combination'. It was more of the ethnic pop. And because her act at least superficially resembled Ani Lorak’s right down to the phalanx of male dancers, Greece would have to work it to beat the Ukraine
But if lyrics were the true test, how could Europe not vote for these?
“My secret combination is a mystery for you…use your imagination, I’m not easy but I’m true. My secret combination, boy you have to try real hard, to find the destination at the centre of my heart.”
This was the final nail in the coffin for simply ‘waving in’ the Big Four. RODOLFO CHIKILICUATRE was our man and 'Baila El Chiki Chiki' was the song.
He had a fake pompadour hairstyle. 5 dancing girls and seriously, no clue. Finally here was the act that made Bosnia & Herzegovina’s seem good by comparison. Was it too late to apologise to Laka in his blue blazer?
The lyrics were part Spanish, part English and 100% ludicrous. They were so puzzling that I was forced onto the Eurovision site to check if I could believe my ears.
Dance it with Bardem. Dance it with Banderas.Yep, I could believe my ears. Since I was on the site, I decided to discover if there was any explanation for the naffness that was being inflicted on the tele-watching millions across the planet. Was I blind, as well as aurally disbelieving?
Dance with Almodovar. Dance la Macarena.
Turned out that Baila El Chiki Chiki was a regaetton. (a form of urban music which became popular with Latin American youth during the early 90's) And Baila El Chiki Chiki was also a generational hymn. “The daring lyrics of the song reflected the social awareness and concerns of the author. Audiences rapidly connected with this reggaeton theme because of the innovative sense of metrics and rhythm.”
Yeah, metrics and rhythm. It sounded just plain bad to me, but I obviously didn’t get it about the metrics and the rhythm. As Rodolfo observed up there on the stage:
Uno: El brikindansAs Wogan said, “Even Franco’s Secret Service couldn’t help this one.”
Dos: El cruisaito
Tres: El maiquelyason
Quatro: El robocop
‘Oro’ was Serbia’s song. Surprisingly, this was written by our host Zelko the accordionist. So he was a man of hidden talents. Jelena Tomašević and Bora Dugic were the talents who sang Zelko’s big ballad. Predicatably, 'Oro' went down a storm with the hometown crowd in the Belgrade Arena.
DIMA BALAN were a three man act and their song for Europe was 'Believe'. The act was odd, but well staged. The singer began by lying flat out on the ground. He eventually got up on his knees and behind him we spied a violinist, also on his knees. “Just believe and I believe in me,” the song went. And then the singer and violinist were both on their feet. Then a roller skater appeared with lots of superfluous arm gestures. These guys were fully committed. The skater executed a long spin. The violin guy’s bow arm was practically a blur. The singer sang his lungs out.
Then suddenly all three of them were side by side and back down on their knees. Big finish. More arm gestures. End. The house came down.
Maria was the singer. 'Hold On Be Strong' was the song. “Love can be hard sometimes it can catch you off guard like bad crimes” was the opening line. It was bad R&B and a bit of a letdown for the final song. It didn’t seem like a contender.
And then Zelko and Jovana were back centre-stage with their second costume change of the evening. They were also accompanied by Vlade Divac, Serbian Basketball Legend. Zelko showed Vlade how he could spin a basketball on his index finger. He was actually quite good. By now, all of Europe had him pegged as a song-writing, accordion-playing, ball-spinning Renaissance Man. Divac took the ball and hurled it into the crowd. This was the signal to tell Europe that for the next 15 minutes, Eurovision voting lines were open.
We cut back to the Belgrade City Hall and the girl in gold, “European dreams of music and friendship are at their peak,” she yelled. Party on, Belgrade…
After some obligatory folk music to fill in the time, we returned to Jovana and Zelko. She said that we all needed to hear from Mr Stockselius. But not yet. First she needed to acknowledge the commentators in their Skyboxes. She mentioned “The BBC’s Sir Terry Wogan. She also mentioned France’s Jean-Paul Gaultier, then others. “Never mind the others,” Wogan said, “It’s just me and Jean-Paul.”
We cut to the Green Room. Wogan believed that the eventual sighting of Mr Stockselius was the sign that vote-counting could begin. And thus Sir Terry was becoming even more impatient and curmudgeonly than usual. “Why is it that these Green Room things are such an unmitigated disaster – everyone shouting and trying so hard?” Difficult to say.
We cut back to the main arena. Wogan: “Oh well joy is unconfined there…for heaven’s sake!” He really wanted Mr Stockselius to show his face. “Make yourself known,” he said. And finally there he was, a fortyish man with headphones, glasses and microphone. Svante Stockselius. The Wikipedia tells me he is the Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest.
And then the voting began. 43 countries had to chime in with their votes and points. In previous years this was a two-hour orgy of numbers being read out in two languages. In recent years this has become rather truncated. Only the 8, 10 and 12 points getters are announced. And as always, no country can vote for itself.
This leads to what Wogan called ‘Political Voting’. In other words, countries voting for the countries that they had the most in common with geographically, culturally or ethnically. Sir Terry became more and more string-lipped as he noted how many former Soviet Republics and other Eastern European nations had voted for Russia.
When Ukraine voted for the boys from Dima Balin, Wogan pointed out that all their oil and power lines ran through Russia. And later as Dima Balin attained an apparently unassailable lead, “You see Latvia, Estonia, they know where their bread is buttered…” Political Voting was really getting up Sir Terry’s nose. But Laka from Bosnia Herzegovina got 12 points from Serbia, for an act that could only have scanned well in the Balkan states, so maybe Wogan had a point.
Finally, we had a winner. It WAS Russia. The Ukraine was second and Greece was third. It would have been nice if the Ukraine had won it, what with their showmanship, neon monolith and all, but they still fared better than I had imagined they would.
Sir Terry was having a meltdown in his Skybox. “Tremendously disappointing from the point of view of the UK. We’ve come joint last,” he grumbled. As the fireworks cracked over Belgrade he said, “You’d have to say this is no longer a musical contest.”
He then said a goodbye to his long time BBC colleague Kevin Bishop who was leaving. “What he and I have to decide is whether we want to do this again…” It was really hitting him hard, but he had a little bit more to get out. “Indeed Western Europe participants have to decide whether they want to participate from here on in, because their prospects are poor.”
This might have been a bridge too far. Sure, Russia’s entry wasn’t better than Ukraine’s, but it was still quite entertaining. Not all of those former Soviet Republics were giving Russia the premium 12 points because they could see Putin standing there with his booted foot on their oil, gas and wind pipes. Were they?
Western Europe and in particular the Big Four didn’t exactly ace it with their musical choices. UK’s song was quite good, but Spain, France and Germany did themselves no favours with theirs. None of these was better than Russia’s song.
In the dying moments of the contest, Wogan, decided to put a brave face on it as Dima Balin went from the Green Room and took the stage to reprise their winning song. “This is the winner - let’s not take away from them,” Wogan said after at least two minutes of doing exactly that, “Next year in Moscow.”