Twelve Points – Douze Points for the effort

I wasn’t going to watch this year, but in the end I caved in and watched the Eurovision Song Contest anyway.

It’s like that every year, you swear you’re not going to bother, because the songs are crap anyway and the winner will be some obscure East European country that didn’t even exist twenty years ago. And then you put on a DVD or fire up the DVR recorder and watch something else (because there never is anything watchable on TV on Eurovision night, the Eurovision Song Contest being the 1000 pound gorilla of European TV). But once whatever you’ve been watching is over, you inevitably switch over “just to see how our song is doing” and end up watching till the bitter end. That is, if you didn’t tune in before putting on the DVD “just to catch a glimpse of the presenters and maybe a song or two” and end up watching “just one more song” until you’ve watched all twenty-five.

It went pretty much like that tonight. I’d been visiting my Mom, who’s alone at the moment, because my Dad isn’t home, and we watched an episode of Spooks, because my Mom enjoys Spooks and can’t normally watch it, because German TV broadcasts it at two in the morning or so. Then we switched over “just to see how Lena was doing” and ended up watching the last two hours or so.

Since Lena Meyer-Landrut won last year’s contest in Oslo, Germany hosted this year’s contest in Düsseldorf. I still think that Hamburg should have been the host city, because Hamburg always puts on Germany’s and probably Europe’s biggest open air Eurovision party on the Reeperbahn (you can always see it in the background when the German votes are transmitted). But Düsseldorf probably had the better facilities and airport access. At any rate, I’m glad that Berlin didn’t host, because foreigners usually reduce Germany to Berlin anyway, even though there are so many other worthy cities.

I missed the intro (apparently Stefan Raab and Anke Engelke performing last year’s winning song “Satellite” together with 43 Lena doubles) and most of the early performances. That said, the show itself was very impressive and very professional, particularly compared to Germany’s previous hosting effort back in 1983, which was positively cringeworthy. Even at the age of ten, I knew how utterly awful that show was.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this clip of Germany’s 1983 contest entry, “Rücksicht” by Hoffmann & Hoffmann and prepare to be horrified. As a bonus, you also get a glimpse of Marlene Charell, the 1983 host. And yes, it was just as painful to watch back then.

If that’s the becnhmark to beat, then Düsseldorf could only win. And indeed, this year’s hosting trio of Stefan Raab, Anke Egelke and Judith Rakers were a vast improvement on Marlene Charell, even if Anke Engelke’s outfits were even worse than Marlene Charell’s. The three hosts are actually well known faces on German TV. Judith Rakers is one of the anchors of the Tagesschau, still Germany’s most watched news program. I suspect she was picked as a co-host, because she speaks English and French, is pleasant to look at and actually works for ARD, the public TV station hosting the contest, while both Stefan Raab and Anke Engelke were on loan from private TV. Anke Engelke, the lady who did the flirting and vote repetition bit, is a comedian, actress and briefly host of her own late night show. I was a bit worried about her, because while she can certainly be charming, I also remembered her utterly cringeworthy red carpet interviewing stint at the Oscars a few years ago. Luckily, we got charming Anke tonight.

Finally, Stefan Raab. Non-Germans were probably wondering what an overweight, balding man was doing on stage. This Guardian liveblog compares Stefan Raab alternately to the Swedish chef from The Muppets and Simon Pegg. Both comparisons are surprisingly apt. So, for all non-Germans, Stefan Raab is a comedian, host of his late night show and various variety programs, singer and musician, the mastermind behind various German top-10 singles since the mid 1990s and, last but not least, pretty much single-handedly responsible not just for Germany’s Eurovision win last year but also for the revival of interest in the Eurovision Song Contest in Germany since the late 1990s. Stefan Raab has competed once in the Eurovision Song Contest (in 2000), composed three German entries (in 1998, 2000 and 2004), conducted the live orchestra (1998) and discovered 2004 contestant Max Mutzke and last year’s winner Lena. All entries with which Raab was involved have placed in the top 10. And now, he has also hosted the contest. So if anyone belonged on that stage, it’s Stefan Raab. Though on the downside, regular viewers of his late night show will probably have to miss out on Stefan Raab mocking the Eurovision contestants on Monday, because that would probably be a conflict of interest not to mention bad taste. On the other hand, this is Stefan Raab we’re talking about and part of his reputation was built on bad taste.

This year’s German entry was performed once again by last year’s winner, Lena Meyer-Landrut, who lost the two surnames somewhere along the way and is billed only as Lena now. I didn’t agree with the idea (pushed by Stefan Raab) to have Lena compete again this year, particularly since there wasn’t even anything approaching a national competition. Lena was always set as this year’s performer, TV viewers only got to vote on which song she would perform. As for the song itself, it certainly wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t memorable either. And Lena trying to vamp it up didn’t really work all that well. Still, she finished in tenth place, which is definitely a respectable showing.

The Italian entry, a piano jazz number, which finished in second place was pretty good and would probably have been a more deserving winner than the actual winner. The much publicized Irish twins of Jedward and the UK entry Blue weren’t bad, but not as good as they had been made out before the contest. Though part of me wanted to see the UK win, if only because we might have had John Barrowman hosting next year. But of course, we’d probably have ended up with Graham Norton or Jonathan Ross or even Russell Brand – shudder.

My favourite was actually the French contestant, who sung a pseudo-operatic song in Corsican. Beautiful voice, cute singer and a minority language at the Eurovision Song Contest – what’s not to love? Actually, the contest has gotten more boring from a linguistic POV, since they changed the rules and almost everybody is singing in English. Though the ways some contestants mangle the English language is interesting. The last song, a really weirdly dressed gothic band from Georgia (We called them “Georgian cyberpunk vampires”), was a good example. The band came on, we marveled at the horribleness of their outfits (a lot of the contestants have a horrible dress sense, but this bunch was a special brand of awfulness) and then I looked to my Mom and said, “Well, the song isn’t too bad. And it’s brave that they’re singing in their own language.” A bit later, “Oh crap, I think that’s actually supposed to be English.”

In the end, the winner was Azerbaidjan with a ballad that wasn’t bad, but wasn’t particularly memorable either. I don’t think I’ll even recognize that song when I hear it on the radio two weeks from now. Provided I ever actually hear it on the radio again. Because plenty of Eurovision winners, particularly those from Eastern Europe, are never heard from again, at least here in Germany.

However, even if their song wasn’t that great, the reaction of the Azerbaidjani duo upon winning was a joy to behold. The guy clutched the trophy and wouldn’t put it down again, not even when reprising the song. I now have a vision of him at Düsseldorf airport going through security while still refusing to relinquish his trophy. And on the plane home to Baku, still clutching that trophy. Also neat: The female singer waving a Turkish flag, which she had probably grabbed in the confusion. But then Turkey did give Azerbaidjan twelve points, so it was only fair.

Anyway, next year’s contest in Baku will be interesting, to say the least. When it was clear that Azerbaidjan would win, my Mom turned to me and said, “I bet their cabinet is having an emergency meeting right now, discussing how to pay for the bloody thing.”

Finally, I give you what is probably my favourite Eurovision song of all time, “Dschingis Khan”, the German entry for 1979. Unfortunately, it lost out to “Hallelujah”, which is a pretty damn good song in itself.

It also turns out that today’s Doctor Who episode is actually the Neil Gaiman episode, so I will have to watch it.

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12 Responses to Twelve Points – Douze Points for the effort

  1. Pingback: Max Mutzke News

  2. Estara says:

    Thanks for watching for me ^^. I haven’t watched them regularly since the 80s. Did you know that one of the guys from Hoffmann & Hoffman committed suicide after the disappointment with Rücksicht? Personally I thought they were trying to get another Ein bißchen Frieden vibe.

    I did watch the Gildo Horn contest and an excerpt of the one that Stefan Raab performed at, just to see what Wadde hadde duddennda would look like on stage. And when they told me Germany had won last year, I watched a clip of Lena winning – but otherwise I lost interest.

    I enjoy some of Stefan Raab’s music to sing and dance along to (Hier kommt die Maus, Space Taxi), but mostly I’m interested in him because my younger cousin used to be his girlfriend when they were both in school. I think he’s the one who opened the doors to her becoming a TV assistant at RTL. They’re still friends (he came to the church when she married her husband), at least as far as I know – I haven’t seen in her in a few years. (She was a close friend of my brother and when he married, she made some really unfortunate observations about the family and he basically cut her out off his life. So now my mum and dad occasionally hear from her on the telephone, and that’s it.)

    • Cora says:

      Yeah, I remembered that one of the Hoffmann guys had killed himself, when I saw that clip. Seems like a very excessive reaction, besides 5th place wasn’t that bad, not even in the greatly reduced pre-1990s contests. But then maybe he had other problems as well. As for the Rücksicht song, there is a very 1980s earnestness about it that hasn’t dated well. Of course, Ein bißchen Frieden, which I liked, has the same 1980s earnestness, but while I could identify with the desire for peace, the Rücksicht couple discussing the problems in their relationship was utterly incomprehensible to me. And would it have killed Hoffmann 1 to wear something else than a track suit?

      BTW, I just noticed that the gender of the Rücksicht couple is never mentioned. Which gives the song a whole new unintentionally slashy dimension, particularly if you didn’t know that the Hoffmanns were brothers.

      I stopped watching sometime in the late 1980s, when the songs got too cheesy for my evolving musical tastes. I also came back for Guildo Horn and then Wadde hadde duddeda, though I missed a lot of the intermediate contests with soppy Ralph Siegel songs. Although I watched the one with Corinna May (the blind singer), because she is from Bremen, and also last year’s contest with Lena.

      That’s very cool about your cousin and Stefan Raab.

  3. Laran says:

    Thanks for your perspective on the ESC including its wider context – I enjoyed reading it a lot, not only because none of my colleagues has seen it and all my hopes of an informed exchange of opinions at coffee break were crushed to very tiny pieces: it turned out that people either haven’t been interested enough to actually watch it or opposed the spectacle by throwing anti-ESC parties like our student research assistants. One of the parties involved watching the Simpsons all night and having a barbecue, well, not so much to envy there, I suppose, but it seemed like the thing students nowadays to to reassure their sense of academic prowess. Lucky me not to be a student anymore, so I didn’t feel the need to engage into their contest of good taste vs. bad taste….

    … btw, I liked the Georgians’s costumes a lot, they were certainly a change to all the short dresses and semi-opaque glittering thingies, black suits and pseudo-cool ties displayed by others… but I have to admit: the Georgians would have been even better if they had donned some of the pointed hats of the Moldavians…

    (I came here via your link to Sherwood’s recent Book View Cafe post. I hope you don’t mind.)

    • Cora says:

      Ah yes, the “more superior than thou” attitude of certain students – that’s one thing I don’t miss about university at all. Though in my university days, it would have been a Buffy or Bollywood marathon rather than The Simpsons. BTW, didn’t Pro7 actually broadcast twenty Simpsons episodes or so in a row on Saturday?

      The Georgians were certainly different and – unlike the various glittery and semi-opaque dresses – they were actually memorable. Though the Tron meets goth look wasn’t quite as successful as they probably hoped. And the pointy hats of the Moldavians were definitely memorable.

      And no, I don’t mind comments at all. It’s why I have a blog after all.

      • Laran says:

        Yes, there actually was a Simpsons marathon by one of the commercial broadcasters they used. Times are changing: when I was a student you wouldn’t admit ever watching one of those channels.

        It seems one of the privileges of being a couple of years older that you don’t have to engage in contests of intellectual superiority by proving how very sophisticated your tastes are and how individualistic your fun. — Round it goes: by thinking this I can feel pretty superior myself… it seems eternal.

        • Cora says:

          Yeah, judging by the number of students who claimed to watch only arte and 3sat and maybe ARD and ZDF once in a while for the news or football, the ratings of arte and 3sat should have been triple of what they really are.

  4. Pingback: Eurovision goes political and Mad Men goes SF | Cora Buhlert

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