Oy. It's been far too long, and I know it. But things have been happening, and by 'things' I mean EUROVISION!!!!1!!!111!!!!
I drafted Caitlin to join me (for her first Eurovision!) in front of my laptop for the archived SBS feed. I had hoped to LiveBlog it but I didn't get my ish together in time, so I took copious notes of our conversation. Here's the best of our discussions of gender confusion, Serial Pests and my travel plans for the arse end of Europe, complete with links to the performances should you want to relive the magic. Strap in, kids!
Azerbaijan: Julia Zemiro kicks off by noting that Safura has 'a touch of the Holly Valances about her'. I have to agree, and am bothered by the fact that this is the third reference to Holly Valance I've made or heard in a week. Safura is one of the favourites but pulled a shitty position, so I reckon she's out from the word go. Mind you, she may also have been overrated: Caitlin and I are alarmed to learn that they got Beyoncé's choreographer from the 'Single Ladies' video, to no obvious end. Surely Azerbaijan has other things it needs to spending money on right now.
Elena: 'Lots of stair work.'
Caitlin: 'Maybe he wasn't working with a Beyoncé-calibre talent.'
Spain: Daniel Diges and his hair decided on a Leo Sayer look for the event, resplendent in what may be the shiniest suit of the evening. The rest of the performers are wearing wacky circus costumes, possibly to try to normalise Daniel's hair.
And then, quel scandal! A crasher! Mind you, it takes everyone a sec to work out what happened because the random guy is no weirder than anything else that's currently happening on the stage. An excellent side-effect of the invasion was that when the Jonah Hill to Daniel's Seth Rogen appeared a few moments later as a back-up singer, there was audible wondering about whether or not he too was a Serial Pest.
Norway: Didrik Solli-Tangen has the unenviable task of representing the host nation. General consensus is that he's not up to the standards of last year's prize-winning Norwegian, which is... harsh, really. Caitlin notes that the performers must be able to tell which camera has the feed at any given time, because they seem to be able to turn to face the correct one with an almost uncanny accuracy.
Elena: 'He has the cold, dead eyes of a killer.'
Caitlin: 'He must have put some kind of spell on [the camera operators] with those cold, dead eyes.'
Moldova: Sunstroke Project and Olia Tira are channelling several different '80s moments, with various degrees of success. The saxophone player has made a particularly fine effort, coming off as a natty cross between Miami Vice and That Guy From Madness.
Caitlin: 'I couldn't work out what the fuck a "saxOFFonist" was.'
Cyprus: Jon Lillygreen and the Islanders are my favourite story of this year's event: they're a Welsh band who were - unbeknownst to the band themselves - entered into the Cypriot Eurovision competition. And won. That'll teach us all to underestimate the Welsh/Cypriot powerbloc.
Caitlin: 'His haircut makes me a little uncomfortable.'
Elena: 'I keep thinking he's going to say "slapped me in the crotch".'
Bosnia & Herzegovina: In preparing Caitlin for the Eurovision experience, I told her that the Eastern European countries tend to send us either insane trashtastic doof-doof with big hair and small costumes or maudlin love-as-a-metaphor-for-cross-border-conflict Guitar Numbers, depending on where they currently fall in the war/peace cycle. Vukasin Brajic took the second option, dressed it up in 'Les Miserables' outfits, and crapped it out on an international stage. Cheers, Vukasin. Good on ya.
Caitlin: 'You see, it's about a couple reconciling after a fight? But it's ALSO about ethnic groups reconciling after a war. You see? LEVELS.'
SBS Break/Interstitial 1: As we start playing the second file, the video ident information pops up on the screen. Caitlin, unaccustomed to the high quality of Australian tele, murmurs, 'Wow, you're really showing us how the sausage is made.'
Belgium: Tom Dice, the Belgian Ben Lee. He was... pleasant. Short-panted.
Elena: 'Come on, Oslo! Rock out with me in a very cute, non-threatening, acoustic way!'
Caitlin: 'Why is everyone wearing vests? I mean, they're all very distinct vests....'
Elena: 'I feel like there's a bow-tie there, but there isn't.'
Caitlin: 'There's a suggestion of a bow-tie. An implied bow-tie.'
Serbia: Milan Stakovic trained as a doctor, but gave that up for... this. He's been heavily profiled in the lead-up, but seemingly less for his song than for his hair. His hair is... oh, words fail me. Just watch the video. Keep an eye on his very committed dancers too.
Caitlin: 'Oh, it's that guy... guy? Hey, it's that ladyman!'
Elena: 'It's like a mullet, without the party anywhere.'
Belarus: 3 + 2 is made up of the top five finalists in Belarus Idol (three women, two men). Caitlin and I tried to work out who was the winner, but resigned, baffled. The song was called 'Butterflies', and the costume reveal associated with it shocked exactly no one. It would have been better if the wings came out of the guys' suits instead of the girls' dresses, but whatever. This song is going nowhere, wings or no.
Caitlin: 'That guy at the piano has Metal Hair and an embroidered coat!'
Elena: 'That's a guy?'
Caitlin: 'Yeah... he has a beard.'
Ireland: Niamh Kavanagh performed at Eurovision during Ireland's heydey of the '90s. I don't remember if she won her year, but it doesn't matter: she's not winning this year. She's elegant and has a great voice, and it's a classy arrangement: she has brought a lovely, antique silver table knife to a gun fight. Mind you, she also brought a wind machine, so she's not entirely immune to the excesses of the night.
Elena: 'Those are some huge hands on that lady.'
Caitlin: 'And by "lady", we mean "guy".'
Greece: Giorgos Alkaios & Friends bring us the first big get-up-and-dance song of the night, a cheery little number called 'Opa!' Because here at Eurovision, we deal exclusively in national stereotypes. I'm amazed they weren't breaking plates on stage. Still, there's no denying that it's good fun, and definitely my favourite so far.
Elena: 'Every one of those back-up dancers is named Nico.'
U.K.: Josh Dubovie is cursed with performing this year's U.K. entry. There was lots of hope as it was penned by Stock and Waterman of the famous Stock Aitken Waterman collective who wrote pretty much every English #1 of the mid-'80s; unfortunately, 'It Sure Sounds Good to Me' only proves that the U.K. has cornered the international market on irony, and that Aitken was the one with all the talent. Josh wasn't helped by the back-up singers, at least one of whom was so glaringly out of key that large portions of the song were painful to listen to, or by the choreography, which involved a staircase with semi-clothed male and female dancers posing on it while Josh flounced by.
Caitlin: 'What is that dance, "Last Night at the Gay Bar"?'
Elena: '"I'm just going to keep walking, ladies. Clearly, I'm not interested in you."'
SBS Break/Interstitial 2: Julia Zemiro is talking with Giorgos & his Friends. Caitlin: 'I bet they'd be fun to go drinking with.'
Georgia: Sofia Nizharadze's performance is completely unmemorable, apart from the back-up dancers who make Josh Dubovie look like the manliest man who ever manned.
Elena: 'The Gayest Sailors in the Navy!'
Caitlin: 'The Spray-Tannedest Sailors in the Navy!... Oh, and there's the wink!' [She's learning fast, folks.]
Turkey: Turkey usually goes with a dyed-blonde trashy pop tart type who fake-belly-dances (from a country full of actual belly dancers), so I'm surprised to see maNga, a group who appears to be My Chemical Romance having a good time. There's lots of vinyl and a slightly terrifying gimp-robot-stripper girl and some very Matrix-lite visuals, but overall I come down in favour of it.
Elena: 'What does "how different you are" have to do with "dancing like a star"? And am I overthinking this?'
Caitlin: '...It's possible.'
Albania: I have to say, I really thought Albania was in with a chance with this one: good production values; catchy electropop song that showed a surprising awareness of modern music trends; attractive vocalist trained at the Allison Goldfrapp Academy of Singing That Way She Does. I am particularly hopeful because I believe that an Albanian-hosted Eurovision would be a very, very special thing indeed. I mention that seeing Eurovision in person is one of my dreams, and Caitlin suggests that I go the year that Albania hosts. It is decided.
Caitlin: 'Ooh, he has Depeche Mode hair.'
Iceland: Julia Zemiro has a bit of a thing for Miss Hera Bjork (it's like Smith over there), a majestic figure in an unflattering burgundy tent. She certainly has an excellent voice, and in any other year this song would have been a gimme but it didn't fit the mood this time. Nevertheless, I confidently predict that it'll be a big hit in the gay clubs of Europe this summer, and Hera will be the Martha Wash of GlacierLand.
Elena: 'Sorry, I was just instinctively reaching for the lasers.'
Ukraine: We stop talking about Iceland just long enough to note that the singer looks naked.
France: I love it! Zemiro hates it, which makes me love it more! I'm convinced that if this had been in English it would have won handily, but France always makes a deal of asserting French as one of the Official Languages of Eurovision, so no way that was going to happen.
Elena: 'Hey, black folks! There's a thought!'
Romania: Paula Seling & Ovi are giving us an extravagant performance featuring a clear Lucite double-piano, except that it's more like two Casios. Because all of Romania's money went into Paula's outfit.
Elena: 'You and me, can't you see we're playing with camel toe!'
Caitlin: 'I like how many of these have the classic Soul, Girl-Group back-up singers.'
Russia: Peter Nalitch & Friends have the following exchange:
'Vhat are you doing?'
'I am looking at her photo.' [except that it's a bad pencil sketch]
'Throw it into the fire!'
I cannot improve upon that.
Caitlin: 'Oh, it's the Scarf Guy!'
Elena: 'Ah, and there's some excellent prop action. In addition to The Scarf, I mean.'
Armenia: Eva Rivas presents a tribute to Armenia called 'Apricot Stone' - apparently apricots are the symbol of Armenia? I don't know. It's quite a production. Caitlin notes that there's an entire village on stage with her, including a cistern and an old man sitting on a boulder. Eva also entreats us to 'keep [her] cherished fruit', which just sounds dirty.
Caitlin: 'She's the lost Kardashian sister!'
Germany: Oy, this fucking song. Lena is apparently the favourite, but god almighty this is awful... though I will admit that if she didn't have that weird, Missy Higgins-ish pronunciation thing I might like it. It's certainly catchy as hell, but the lyrics are awful and her affected Cockney accent is even more annoying that you'd think.
Elena: 'Oi deed it jahst thee othah dae!'
Caitlin: 'She's taking the Eliza Doolittle approach.'
Elena: 'That's not how Germans speak English.'
Caitlin: 'No, no it is not.'
Portugal: I take Sam Pang's suggestion and made tea.
Israel: Another fucking power ballad - this time with phlegm. Now we drink tea.
Denmark: It's a duet, there's an opaque glass screen, it's all been going on too long.
Elena: '"Nevergreen and Sharnay"? Is that what they said?'
Caitlin: 'Sounds like it.'
Elena: 'Ah, excuse me: it's Chanée and n'evergreen. N-apostrophe.'
Caitlin: 'Oh, it's a contraction.'
Caitlin: 'That's a rough haircut that guy has.'
Elena: 'That's true. Mind you, that's a horrible weave she's got.'
Caitlin: 'Oh, I've seen way worse weaves than that. You clearly don't watch much "America's Next Top Model".'
I'm not recapping Spain's second performance. It was better with the Serial Pest. I will say that I loved Norway's interval acts, with the groups all over Europe doing the dance. It was surprisingly affecting. I love the idea of all of these strangers having a big goofy dance together across the continent. Not to get all highfalutin', but I reckon we could do with more of that sort of thing.
Voting, random comments:
Caitlin, on the introduction of Svante Stockselius: 'The Man. The Myth. The Executive.'
Svante: 'Nadia, let the excitement begin!'
Elena: 'Because it sure as hell ain't starting with me!'
Elena: 'I might move to Portugal.'
Caitlin: 'Yeah, Portugal? Why?'
Elena: 'I don't know. They seem like nice people. And they have a good way with a sausage.'
Caitlin: 'Switzerland's neutral - their points can go anywhere!'
Elena: 'They're storing them in a Nazi vault.'
Thoughts on the winner, Lena (Germany):
Caitlin: 'She's very off-putting.'
Elena: 'Why the hell is she talking! Stop her talking! STOP!!'
So, there you have it. As is usual with Eurovision, it ended not with a bang, but with a whimper emitted by a nitwit. Thanks for indulging me, and a big, big thank you to Caitlin for going on this journey with me. I will never throw you into the fire.