Eurovision is one of my guilty pleasures, though it's not what it used to be when I could listen to Terry Wogan's commentary; Graham Norton's too snide for my taste. Still I usually tune in...
Finland gets things off to an anodyne start; one teenage kid with a guitar. Between what he's wearing and the whiny song, he's the guy who shows up at your party with a guitar and if someone doesn't strangle him in the first hour, he's just going to ruin everything. Oh, dear lord; here comes Bosnia and Herzogovina with the Finnish kid's elder brother. He's wearing a jacket he seems to have stolen off a clown that died from embarrassment. And he's got an acoustic guitar, though just like everyone else in the band he seems to be using it to keep his hands full rather than actually playing it. This is going to be just epic. And here's Denmark, with four guys who are at least pretending to play their instruments. They've got a real dirge of a song, just not fast enough for the upbeat tone they seem to have been aiming for.
Just looking at Hungary, with a song from straight out of the glory days of disco, but easily the most arresting feature is that great big blue ring she's wearing; I swear it's bigger than my fist; I don't know how it's not dragging the mike away from her mouth. And here's Ireland. We'll never again be as embarrassing as Dustin, so I can watch this pretty calmly, but I've always been amazed by Jedward. They finish each other's sentences, but their physical coordination is a thing of wonder. You'd expect twins to dance in sync, but most of the time, they're doing well if either of them has his own legs in synch with each other. It's completely counterintuitive, but somehow beguiling. They're terrible but they're having so much fun it's hard to be annoyed with them. Still can't fight the idea that the roots of their hair go as deep as the strands stick up.
And here's Sweden's boy band, who I reckon are going to get 15% of Europe's vote, if that old Kinsey percentage has any accuracy to it. They look like an off duty version of the Village People, but prettier. Whoever put together Estonia's bit hasn't watched anything but Glee boxed sets for at least a year. At first I thought they'd clubbed Lea Michele and dragged her in a box to Tallinn the way Kim Jong Il used to kidnap Japanese movie directors. And you know, that's not an entirely bad idea, so please, feel free to try it. Greece sent the guy who models for German suit commercials, but in case that was too euro-mainstream, they backed him up with a white rapper from London, which is just bananas. Yet, just think, it wasn't until Greece, the ninth act, that we have someone coming out and doing a song even partly in their own language instead of English.
And the Cold War is SO over; Russia's sent a singing Jimmy Dean; no, I'm being too kind. It's the Russian John Travolta from Grease, complete with three idiot greasers to pose behind him. Pity they forgot to steal his song as well. Meanwhile, France has brought a howitzer to the knife fight; apparently the planners thought this was still a song contest, so they sent a professional singer with an actual song. He appears to be a junior officer in the Tenor regiment, and he's going to be on a charge when he gets back to barracks and has to explain to the TenorGeneral why he appeared in public with his jacket all unbuttoned and no dress sword. But my word, he can surely sing the hell out of an actual song. He's got no business here at all.
Wow, Italy are back in the Eurovision. Now I know the world's going to end at any minute. They appear to have sent the guy who plays the piano at Berlusconi's bunga bunga parties, who after all is probably a bit short of work at the moment. Moldova must be filling in the obligatory eastern european lunatic segment; no it just got weirder. It was pretty mad with three guys wearing three foot tall furry dunce hats, but they were just warming us up for the chick who came in on a unicycle and an even taller dunce hat. Why don't they just have a special prize for this stuff?
Austria seem to have learned nothing from history; they still think that doing whatever Germany just did will be a winning strategy. So last year Germany sent a girl with an actual song and a little black dress, and guess what Austria's doing. Not always the same hands, please. Nearby Slovenia; it's possible their Eurovision invite crossed with the invite to Slutwalk 2011, but whatever happened they get the prize for the most slapperiffic girl combo so far; they look like they've snuck out to celebrate their junior certs without their mothers seeing what they were wearing.
Georgia have sent the band who play over the credits in some terrible 1980s attempt to make Tron in a garden shed. The costumes aren't quite mad enough to distract from the song, but my god, they try.
And now we get to the moment when the host country gets to show case the best of their talent. I know that the Germans didn't choose this act by having a random lottery, because a random pick would have been better. They had to pick this one out on purpose. The singer's got a whole suit inspired by the Bosnian jacket, and a schtick which was looking a bit dated when Sinatra still seemed cool to young people.
The wacky world of eurovision voting hasn't changed much; it's still the same old whirl of regional circle jerks despite an attempt to dilute phone voting with expert juries. It's fun to watch the non-regional stuff; now we know who's working on building sites in Italy, and it's fun that Poland gave Ireland a point - some of those returning construction workers must have been feeling sentimental. And someone up in Scandinavia must have picked up on my tentative offer to let our former colonial overlords in Viking land back in.
And my word, Azerbaijan won. Not a great song, but a perfectly solid one, and the one group who had a decent visual. So fair enough. And thank goodness we didn't embarrass ourselves, but we didn't win, so we don't have to worry about paying for that next year.