Apologies, first of all, for not having blogged anything since New Year. It’s been a busy few months, and the last few weeks in particular have got very busy indeed with election activity. So now, with things at their most hectic and the local elections only a week away, I’ve naturally chosen this juncture to start my preview of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The Contest this year comes from Baku in Azerbaijan. Their win last year was perhaps inevitable, given that they’d been going all out to win since their first entry in 2008 – plus, with its oil reserves, Azerbaijan is one of the few countries that can actually afford to host Eurovision.
It’s also a country whose democratic standing is somewhat dubious, and whose bitter history with Armenia informed the latter country’s decision that it might be safest for them not to send a delegation to this year’s Contest. So there’s darkness lurking not far behind the usual Eurovision facade of glitz and gloss. Arguably only Spain in 1969 (still under Franco) and Russia in 2009 (where gay activists were, and remain, ruthlessly suppressed, a cruel irony given that the openly gay Dima Bilan had won the Contest for Russia the previous year) have been more morally difficult venues for Eurovision fans.
As for the preview itself, well this year I’m going to be doing three countries a go, and as usual I’ll be working through the two semi-finals in order of performance, and then finishing up with the hosts and the “Big Five”: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, represented this year by Engelbert Humperdinck, who would have been the oldest-ever performer in Eurovision until Russia selected their entry. But more of that anon. First of all we welcome back to the fold Montenegro, who’ve been absent since 2009, and now return with the hope of making the final for the first time. Whether they will with this extremely oddball entry is questionable, but it undoubtedly wins marks for rhyming “hermetic” and “cosmetic”. Here’s Rambo Amadeus with Euro Neuro:
Fans apparently compare him with Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart – he’s certainly just as much of an acquired taste. Still, it’s nice to see him modelling knitted headgear last seen musically on a regular basis adorning Badly Drawn Boy.
Next up, with some more woollens, are Iceland. This year they have the frankly hot pairing of Gréta Salóme & Jónsi, modelling some fabulous knitwear in some gorgeous landscapes. The song itself is called Never Forget, which has nothing to do with the Take That song of the same name, and is instead reminiscent of Evanescence with a bit of Rybak-style fiddle thrown in:
Jónsi will be hoping to do rather better than last time he entered Eurovision, when he only finished 19th in 2004. It’ll need really strong performances though to carry it through the semis and get a decent finish in the final, as there’s nothing particularly remarkable going on musically.
Last up in this initial trio is Greece, who in terms of being financially equipped to host Eurovision are probably at the exact opposite end of the spectrum from Azerbaijan. Having got political last year, the Greeks this time round are playing it conventional, sending Eleftheria Eleftheriou with the song Aphrodisiac. There’s lots of hairography going on here:
Copper-bottomed ethnic Eurovision pop that could have appeared in pretty much any Contest in the last 6-7 years. Given this, and the fact that Greece seem to have had a pretty much permanent Top 10 berth in recent times, it’s hard to see this not doing well.
So, that’s the first tranche of hopefuls. Next time there’ll be Latvia, Albania and Romania. See you then!