This is one of my favourite weeks of the year: the Eurovision Song Contest week. For my non-European readers, imagine American Idol with 45 different countries competing. Then add xenophobia, bad blood, neighbourly love, dubious ethnic costumes, weird instruments, and mangled lyrics. The combination is oddly compelling. The first semi-finale took place yesterday with the second one happening tomorrow and the finale is on Saturday. Here are some selected highlights:
- Armenia delivered an astonishingly bad, yet classic Eurovision performance in the first semi. It did not progress past the first stage. It was a bit of an upset for a nation that has done very well in recent years.
- Despite myself, I actually like Ireland's song although it features the dreadful Jedward twins (to spare you googling, just watch this clip and weep for humanity). I feel dirty.
- Georgia was one of my personal favourites in the first semi-final which tells you a bit about the level of talent. It is not a classic year.
- Meanwhile Russia's "Alex Sparrow" and Sweden's Eric Saade are fighting it out for the Cute Twink Singing Club Anthem award. I actually prefer Saade's 2010 effort which didn't make it past national finals.
- Iceland has a very strong song with a big sob-story background. I expect this to do very, very, very well.
- Germany won last year. Unusually the winner has chosen to defend her title and she has opted for a seriously cool, dark little song. Go, go Germany! Israel has also sent a former winner. I don't think Israel will do well this time around.
- Finally, my two "home countries" which are both doing well with the bookmakers. Blue's "I Can" is the strongest UK entry for over a decade and this is the sort of stuff the UK should be entering every year*. Denmark's also being hailed as a potential winner. I loved the song when Andreas Johnson sang it in the Swedish 2006 finals. Bad boy Denmark for ripping off a Swedish song.
Just to finish off, some of my recent ESC favourites: Turkey 2008, Bosnia & Herzegovia 2008 (which included knitting ladies!), Romania 2006 and France 2007. For sheer WTF-ness, try Azerbaijan 2008. For cuddliness, try Norway 2009 (which won).
And Sweden 1983 which spawned a life-long Eurovision love.