I almost forgot this was on and spent the first half of the evening watching something else, but while channel flipping during a commercial break, I suddenly realized that the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest was on tonight, broadcast live from Malmö, since Sweden won last year. For those interested in my previous impressions of Europe’s biggest TV event, go here.
In the end, I managed to watch about half the contestants (with some gaps switching back to finish the film I’d started to watch) as well as the break intermezzo and the voting. My overall verdict is that this year was surprisingly strong for Eurovision. There were no downright horrible songs in the final (probably got weeded out during the semi-finals) and quite a few above average entries. Unfortunately, this year’s top three winners were among the weaker songs of the evening.
Runner-up Azerbaijan was probably the best of the top three with a cute guy singing a decent ballad, while another cute guy was dancing in a glass cage and a woman in a red dress with a really long train strutted around on stage. I actually liked Azerbaijan’s entry, though it wasn’t a personal favourite. As for hot guys, this was a really good year for attractive male singers. All three Caucasus countries (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) put hot guys on stage and the contestants from Lithuania, Italy and Iceland as well as the background dancers/drummers for the Irish guy all provided eye-candy.
Ukraine in third place, however, was just silly though. A rather forgettable ballad (but then, I went to the loo, while this song was on, so maybe it got better) sung by a pretty woman in a white dress who was carried on stage by a giant viking. Yes, really, Miss Ukraine was carried on stage by a 2.4 meter guy dressed in a viking costume. Why? Well, it’s Eurovision, so who needs a reason for blatant silliness on stage?
Talking of random vikings, there were quite a few of those in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. But then hey, it is Sweden. In fact, halfway through the show – more precisely while Iceland was singing – I thought, “Crap, this isn’t the Eurovision Song Contest at all. This is Thor II and it’s a musical.” Because the Icelandic contestant was a deadringer for the Mighty Thor, only that he sung about love and loss in Icelandic. Shortly thereafter, we got the giant viking from Ukraine, a Daenerys Targaryen lookalike from Norway (Game of Thrones – the Musical?) and a couple of other contestants, including last year’s winner Loreen, who’d look more at home in Asgard than on the Eurovision stage. Once I’d embarked on that train of thought, I kept waiting for Loki to show up. The cute Azerbaijani dancer in the glass cage was probably the closest Loki analogue. In fact, the Guardian draws the Loki comparison in their liveblog as well.
We didn’t just have vikings on stage, though. There also was a Romanian countertenor vampire named Cesar, whose performance was accompanied by several nearly naked dancers whose contortions looked very slashy indeed. In fact, I wouldn’t have been at all disappointed if this guy had won, because how can you not love the sheer camp value of a Romanian countertenor pretending to be a vampire, while accompanied by naked dancers which gave off rather homoerotic vibes? And talking of homoerotic vibes, I was thrilled to see the otherwise silly Finnish entry “Ding Dong – Marry Me” end with two women, one of them in a wedding dress, kissing, while the break show included a scene of a female priest marrying a gay couple. Two pro same-sex marriage performances at the Eurovision Song Contest, now that’s something to celebrate.
Though my favourite was the Netherlands with a woman singing a great ballad about dead birds falling from the sky. Okay, so it was a song about dead birds falling from the sky – which is sort of reminiscent of the British supernatural teen series The Fades (The Fades – The Musical?) – but it was a good piece of music and the singer had a great voice. Plus, it was pleasantly free of vikings or half-naked women doing contortions in the background.
I’ve also got a soft spot for Greece with a weird folkloristic ska song called “Alcohol is free”, performed by young men in skirts and an elderly man playing a sort of mini-lute. Among all the power ballads, this performance was unique, to say the least. Given Greece’s precarious financial situation, it’s probably just as well that they didn’t win, though they finished in a well deserved fourth place.
However, in the end, the winner was Denmark with a waif-like singer called Emmelie de Forest. Apparently, willowy Emmelie was the favourite to win among bookmakers everywhere. However, I originally missed her performance and the bits I saw during the repeats were not all that impressive, particularly considering the strong showing this year. When she finally repeated her number, flitting on stage barefooted and in a white dress, she seemed rather reminiscent of all of those waif-like heroines of the gothic novels of the 1960s who were inevitably pictured running from sinister mansions while dressed in white nightgowns. Coincidentally, Emmelie de Forest was also a deadringer for the zombie/ghost bad girl from the UK show The Fades, the one who was the girlfriend of the guy who plays Gendry on Game of Thrones. So yup, definitely, The Fades – The Musical. The song itself, however, was forgettable. The drummers/pipe players in the beginning weren’t bad, but the singer itself came across just as waif-like on stage as she had in the green room. During the voting, I had started calling the sacrificial virgin (the trashy adventure film I’d watched before had involved a thwarted virgin sacrifice), because in her artistically tattered white gown she looked just like every sacrifical virgin ever. When she finally won, I thought, “Hey, Denmark, you’re supposed to sacrifice the virgin, not let her sing.”
Germany’s entry, a dance project called Cascada that apparently had a top-ten hit in Britain approx. ten years ago, landed in a well-deserved 21st place. No, actually that’s wrong. Cascada’s 21st place was not deserved, because there were several better songs that placed even lower. Abnd talking of low-placed, I really liked Bonnie Tyler’s song for the UK. That one certainly deserved to do much better than it did.
Now the German commentator Peter Urban seemed disappointed by Cascada’s poor showing, though he really shouldn’t have been, because the song was bad and a blatant copy of last year’s winning song (which wasn’t all that great either), the rather plump singer was dressed horribly (a skin-tight glittering mini-dress is not a good outfit for a full-figured woman) and her nomination was controversial even in Germany, because during the German preliminary voting, both the TV viewers and radio listeners had voted for the Bavarian folkloristic pop band La BrassBanda, but the “expert jury” gave them no points at all, so Cascada was nominated in the end. Personally, I think La BrassBanda would have been a much better choice, if only because they were different from the norm (and Greece, whose song was closest in style to La BrassBanda’s brand of folklore pop finished in fourth place).
Talking of German embarrassments, 2010 winner Lena Meyer-Landrut managed to bungle the German voting results, which she was supposed to report, when she got Denmark and Norway mixed up. Yes, they’re both Scandinavian countries and both had forgettable songs, but come on, Lena, there’s still a difference. BTW, Germany gave 12 points to Hungary of all countries, whose entry was a stereotypical hipster with a guitar, the sort you’d expect to find performing outside a Starbuck’s in Portland, Oregon. No idea why, since there were better acoustic guitar songs like e.g. Malta’s, but the Hungarian hipster really seems to have struck a chord with the German voters.
Finally, I was really impressed by host Petra Mede. Eurovision hosts are mostly forgettable, but this woman was not just funny (loved her half-time performance about things foreigners associate with Sweden) but also looked great with her beehive hairdo and Jean Paul Gaultier designed gowns.
All in all a good show. Pity about the underwhelming winner.