Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision 2008: Predictable as always!

I get a lot of slack from my European friends for being a huge fan of Eurovision. I admit that it’s incredibly cheesy, but there’s something about Eurovision that keeps me coming back every year. And this was by far the best edition I’ve seen yet. There were some good songs that a person may actually want to listen to after the contest -- has that happened since ABBA won with Waterloo in 1974???

Russia was the big winner for Eurovision 2008, beating out Ukraine – for me, the only real surprise of the night. About 30 seconds into Ukraine’s performance, I had declared them the winner. I thought they had all the right Eurovision ingredients: a female singer with a pretty face, sexy body, and revealing outfit; a catchy song in English; a performance slot towards the end of the competition; and plenty of neighbors to vote for them. I felt even more confident as the men in the bar – who were otherwise silent unless Spain was performing or receiving points – starting chanting “¡Ukrania! Ukrania!” midway through the performance.

But in the end it was Russia with 272 points to Ukraine’s 230 points. Who knew that the combination of a slick male singer with a waxed chest, a violin player, and a figure skater could beat out a sexy girl in a sparkly minidress? (By the way, third place and fourth place also went to sexy girls in short dresses who sang catchy songs in English – Greece and Armenia.)

But of course Eurovision is not just about sex appeal or song appeal. All of the Eastern European countries have a decided advantage over countries like Portugal, for example, which had quite a good performance this year but suffers from a lack of neighbors and little presence in other countries. And this is where Eurovision is so predictable. Most voting countries give their highest points to neighbors, political allies, etc. There’s also the dynamic of immigrants from one country calling from their new home to vote for their native land. That’s why it was no surprise whatsoever that Spain’s 12 points (the highest mark) went to Romania, given the huge number of Romanians living in Spain.

This begs the question whether a non-Eastern European country will ever be able to win Eurovision again. A few years ago Finland won with a fantastic performance by a heavy metal band in elaborate monster-esque costumes. They were just bizarre enough to win people over and overcome the standard political/historical/geographical alliances that make Eastern Europe countries so hard to beat nowadays. If you take away all of the alliances, the real winner this year was probably Greece.

The British commentator Sir Terry Wogan, who has covered the Eurovision contest in Britain for years, is thinking of stepping down from his Eurovision post, saying, “Indeed, western European participants have to decide whether they want to take part from here on in because their prospects are poor…. It's very easy to pick a country that's going to give another country 12 points. It's sad, it's really, really sad.”

I, for one, will keep watching. I don’t have much stake in it, of course, since I’m not from a European country. And for me, the predictability of it all is just part of the fun.


Barbara said...

I myself was bitterly disappointed that the entry from..can't remember the name of the country, but it was an Eastern bloc one..featuring a man dressed as an angel, with worrying blue eyes, who sang snatches of cod opera, while another guy practised a spot of sado-masochism with some 'scantily-clad lovelies' in what was clearly meant to be the pit of Hell - did not win. It seemed pretty obvious that France and Spain were no longer taking the contest seriously, and why was there not more of a general sympathy vote for the blind do-gooder representing Georgia. I was, however, thrilled even to be able to watch the ever-entertaining event from my current location in the Great Sandpit, where they have their own regional singing contest, and the voting is apparently just as political.

eslhell said...

Yeah, I liked the angel, too! That was Azerbaijan -- first time in the competition, and they had a good showing.

I think they need to do something like Eurovision in the States. Why should everyone else have all the fun?

Barbara said...

I don't see why the U.S. shouldn't join Eurovision - it is not much further away than Israel! You could keep the U.K. company in its now-customary last position!