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4:11pm on Sunday, 21st May, 2006:
It was the Eurovision Song Contest last night, and as usual we spent a joyous 3 hours mocking the competition, counting the sings with key changes and grumbling at the 3 or 4 countries that declined to sing in English. Britian used to stand a pretty good chance of winning when it was done on song quality, but now it's done on phone voting we're stuffed. We can't rely on block votes, as those from the Balkans, former USSR, former Yugoslavia or Nordic countries can, and there's no guaranteed 10 or 12 like Greece always gets from Cyprus or Turkey always gets from Germany (because there are lots of Turks working in Germany). We can guarantee that even if our entry is brilliant, we still won't get anything from Eire, but that doesn't really help.
In Britain and Germany, we take the whole contest as a complete joke. Other countries, particularly those in Eastern Europe, are deadly serious about it, though, and will put on their best professional singers to try and win. Yesterday's eventual victors were Finland, mainly riding on some kind of post-Lord of the Rings orc nostalgia; they were OK as a heavy metal sound, but they wouldn't have won if they'd had traditional heavy metal costumes. They got the the 12 points from the UK, with the 10 points going to Lithuania's wonderful We are the Winners (of Eurovision), which is the one that the Bartle household voted for. I liked the Romanian entry, because even though the singer was some little squirt with unnecessary eye make-up, the man could sing. The German country & Western entry was surprisingly bouncy, too, although it was never going to win because Germany, like the UK, isn't in a voting block (unless Austria counts). Then again, like the UK, Germany is guaranteed not to have to qualify for the competition even if they come last, because they stump up so much money for it, so they don't really care so long as they have a good time.
I was surprised at the UK entry this year because it was actually pretty damned good despite its being rap. I am not a great fan of "rap with a capital C", but this one really worked. It had quality written all over it; some of the other countries had discerning enough tastes to give us a few votes, but we ended well in the bottom half. I can see our entry doing well in the UK charts, though.
Could I hum you the winning song? No. I couldn't hum you any of the others, either, except the Irish one, which owed rather a lot to The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomand. I could probably do the chorus for Romania's entry, too, although I've no idea what the words "toe neigh roe" he seemed to be singing mean.
I can, however, remember very well the tunes from some entries in previous years where they didn't win and I thought they were head and shoulders above the rest. Two in particular rankle, both of which have "star" in the title: I See a Star, the Dutch entry that should have beaten Abba's Waterloo in 1974 but came third instead; My Star, the 2000 Latvian entry that also came third (Denmark won). I'd download both these songs for my iPod if I had an iPod. And if iTunes had the Dutch one.
No countries got 0 points this year, but other than that it was very entertaining. Given that a group wearing strange costumes won, there's the question of whether next year's entrants will take the same route (we're still getting Irish influences rippling through from their 4 wins in 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996). It would be great if they did!
I look forward to the 2007 extravaganza from Helsinki with interest.
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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (firstname.lastname@example.org).