A Celebration Of The Wurst

My dear readers,

I am very sorry that I have been absent these past few weeks.  While abroad I have missed much, the judicial decisions in Arkansas and Idaho, the oral arguments before the 4th Circuit, the goings on in Oregon, where a decision is expected to be handed down in a matter of hours from the time of this writing.  And, as warned, I missed my Eurovision recap.

Nevertheless, I do want to write a little about things on my mind related to the Eurovision Song Contest.  Being in the audience is a completely different experience than being at a party.  It is a little like Plato’s cave.  If watching online is the shadows, and a Eurovision party is the fire, then actually attending is like seeing the light of the sun.  Everyone should do it at least once.  Most of the acts are actually designed for the stage, and television obscures all the goings on–Azerbaijan’s act with the acrobat is a good example.  The cameras can show the woman or the acrobat, but not both.  Or at least not often.   In the audience however, you can see it all.  (On the other hand, the excellent Dutch entry benefited from television because the song was free of gimmicks, and the cameras could focus on a specific musician and nothing was lost.  That however, was a rarity.)  Television also cannot show the stagecraft so well, such as the interesting way lights were used (Sweden).

But the best part of the show is the audience and watching the way the performers feed of the audience excitement.  Being in Copenhagen, Denmark’s entry got a very warm reception (as did neighbors Norway and Sweden).  But the real story of course was Conchita Wurst, the bearded Austrian drag queen who won the competition.  The largest applause of the night was for her.  You can sort of hear in the television feed the audience singing along Conchita whenever she get to the chorus, particularly the “Riiiiiiiiiiise like a phoenix” line.  I can assure you that it was much louder in the hall.  When the song ended, the cheering was so boisterous and the excitement so palpable, my partner turned to me and said, “We have a winner.”

It should come as no surprise that the live Eurovision audience is comprised largely, perhaps mostly, of gay men.  In the run up to the competition, Eurovision and Copenhagen had been doing everything possible to make gay men feel welcome (the amount of emails I got telling me to get gay-married in Copenhagen would make a Jewish mother blush).  There were practically as many pride flags at Eurovision as national flags.  This embrace was a sharp contrast to the homophobia coming out of Eastern Europe in the past year, particularly the Russian government.  After watching Russia pass laws designed to demean gay people and tear about their families, gays had the further humiliation of witnessing the world not care.  The Sochi Olympics proved exactly how little regard we are actually held in when money and diplomacy are on the line.  When members of the Russian government (and from Russia’s annoying little sibling Belarus) started attacking Conchita, a gay man when in not in drag, she became the symbol of the LGBT community’s resistance to Russia.  In Eurovision terms, Conchita won the all-important gay bloc vote, a bloc that had not come together in such solidarity since 1998 for Dana International’s win.  (The animosity toward Russia also extended to the Russian entry, the Tolmachevy twins, who received loud boos after their performance and even louder one every time they were awarded 8, 10, 0r 12 points during the voting.  They themselves did not deserve such treatment, but it underscored the anger at Russia.)  That Russian government officials completely flipped out afterwards, combined with the knowledge that Conchita came in third in the Russian televote (and that her song went to the top of Russia’s iTunes chart), only made her win that much sweeter.  Conchita has before and since been an eloquent and elegant spokesperson for the LGBT community, which is another reason for the rallying behind her.  She fended off the ugliest homophobia with grace and panache.

2014 may well  the year of the European drag queen.  Earlier this year, the Irish gay rights activist and drag queen Panti Bliss (real name Rory O’Neill) discussed homophobia in Ireland and called out certain journalists and institutions for their homophobic actions and writings.  Those who were named threatened to sue O’Neill and the broadcast network for libel.  (Ireland, like Britain, has ridiculous libel laws.)  The network settled, and in response, O’Neill, as Panti, gave a speech in response at the Abbey Theater in Dublin.  It is a remarkable speech about the events and about homophobia that deserves to be watched in its entirety.  The video has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

So to date, an Irish drag queen gave one of the best speeches in that nation’s history and an Austrian drag queen won the world’s biggest music contest.  And the year is not even half over.

Eurovision Recap Status

Every year following the Eurovision Song Contest, I like to write a recap of the competition as I saw it.  This year however, will be a little different.  This year, I will be in the audience in Copenhagen, and I will be traveling through Denmark over the following week.  No time to write a recap.  I will try to write thoughts and reflections of Eurovision when I return, but no promises.

 

Eurovision 2013: Where The Hell Was ABBA?!?

No matter who we are, we all have our special holidays.  Religious holidays (Yom Kippur, Easter, Ramadan), secular holidays (Thanksgiving), holidays of national identity (Independence Day), these are the days that add a little something extra to our year.  My holiday, my most sacred day, is the day of the Eurovision Song Contest.  For some time, Eurovision has been called “the gay Superbowl,” but that moniker is not exactly correct–Eurovision is a contest, but it is not so much about winners and losers so much as having a good time.  Nor is Eurovision like a Gay Pride Parade, a day that the gay community is most visible as a community.  Rather Eurovision is the one day of the year when most of Europe (and parts of Asia) embraces a gay sensibility, when they try to be like us rather than the other way around.  That is why it feels like such a betrayal when Eurovision is held in a homophobic hell hole like Russia, Serbia, or Azerbaijan.  Being openly gay in those places is as welcome as Christmas carolers in Mecca.  It is therefore a blatant slap in the face to the community that nourishes and cherishes Eurovision the most.

At least this is something that the gay community didn’t have to worry about this year in Malmö, Sweden.  Nor is it something we will have to worry about next year when the contest returns to Denmark.  Denmark, the heavy favorite, won for the first time since 2000.  Oddly enough, the 2000 contest was also in Sweden (Stockholm) following Charlotte Nilsson’s 1999 victory.  Apparently the new pattern is that the Swedes win first and then the Danes.  Hopefully it will not move back to Eastern Europe after that.

Last year, I went to my first Eurovision party at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC, which is not surprising given that Eurovision is not actually aired here in the US except online.  Last year was also the first time that a party like that was ever put together in the US (high-definition broadcast, big screen, food, drinks, hundreds of people, etc.).  It was a lot of fun, but in retrospect it was merely a first attempt.  This year, the House of Sweden had a whole year to plan, and they were ready.  It was one of the best parties I have ever been to.  Food, music, a trivia contest, dancing, a DJ, a drag queen,  the House of Sweden was prepared.  And also a halftime surprise, Alexander Rybak–yes, that one.

As much fun as watching Eurovision is, that is nothing compared to being around a bunch of people who also watch Eurovision.   It’s like we’re all in on a secret together, a glorious, camp secret full of in-jokes and a silly sophistication.  In fact, I was having so much fun, that I caught less of the actual contest than I would have had I watched it on my computer.

Eurovision themes are incredibly easy to mock given that they are usually banal, interchangeable platitudes about togetherness, harmony, and a brotherhood that the actual Europe does not feel in the least.  Sweden’s theme this year, “We Are One,” is no different, but at a Eurovision party in the United States, we really all did feel like one no matter who we supported.  I saw familiar faces such as the wonderful Danish lady from last year (who recognized me immediately), and I met new friends, three fellow homosexuals and a drag queen.  For a brief, shining moment, Sweden was home.

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Eurovision contests follow certain rules, particularly with the opening.  First, last year’s winner performs last year’s winning song and then two innocuous but inane hosts (usually one man and one woman) prattle endlessly about the contest, all the while demonstrating that they have no rapport with each other or stage personality whatsoever.  The Swedes, famous for being a people who comply to the rules unthinkingly, proved to be the absolute perfect Eurovision hosts by breaking all those rules.  First, the opening song was co-written by Benny and Björn, formerly of a certain Swedish group you may have heard of (and who, to my eternal sadness, did not reunite for the competition), and the young DJ/producer Avicii.  The song “We Write the Story” was completely unmemorable, but while a choir sang it, the participants walked out across a land bridge behind their flags a la the Opening Ceremony at the Olympics.  I liked it, even if it was clearly nicked.  Very unlike Eurovision.

The second, and more impressive change that Sweden made was to the host.  Instead of two insipid choices, the Swedes went for an inspired one: Petra Mede, a Swedish comedian and television presenter who was a joy to watch, particularly her song and dance Swedish Smörgåsbord, a song which was ineligible to win the contest, but should have anyway (if for no other reason than for Carola getting blown off the stage by her own wind machine).  Petra Mede should host every year.  Forget Terry Wogan’s Graham Norton’s commentary; we want Petra.  Coincidentally, she had the single best line of the night when she told the crowd, “I know all you devoted Eurovision fans there just haven’t met the right girl yet!”  In truth, this may have been the gay-friendliest Eurovision ever (with a gay wedding and a lesbian kiss), and Petra Mede officiated it–literally, she was dressed as a priest for the gay wedding.  (Petra also made reference to the “Dancing Queens” in the audience; we know she loves the gays.)

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It doesn’t actually matter what I think about the acts even though I took notes, which I will share (a better recap is the always amusing liveblog from the Guardian).  Please know though that 2013 is my favorite competition ever.

First a prefatory note: white seems to have become the official Eurovision color.  For the past two years now, a good portion of the contestants and/or their backup dancers have been dressed in all white.  Eurovision also seems to get more Caucasian and blonder each year.  Not coincidentally, our humble little party in DC was also incredibly white.

France and Lithuania: Being the first two performers is a thankless task.  The first two almost never win, if they ever have.   But they also usually very dull.  Neither France (first, Amandine Bourgeois, “L’enfer et moi”) or Lithuania (second, Andrius Pojavis, “Something”) broke that mold.  One of the Danish children standing in front of me very clearly said during Bourgeois’s performance, “I don’t like her.”  And I have to say, I couldn’t blame him.  Who wants to hear a lifeless French power ballad?  My notes on Lithuania say absolutely nothing of interest, so I won’t bore you with them.

Moldova:  Aliona Moon sang “O mie.”  Nice voice, boring song, all gimmick.  Her backup dancers wore white (naturally), her hair looked like Jane Jetson’s, and she stood in the middle of the stage wearing a white dress reflecting pink lighting.  Then she rose into the air as her dress got longer so she looked like a rose-colored mountain.  Then light flashed and her dress looked like a volcano.  Then the song ended and she looked like an iceberg.  The DC crowd loved it, the first time they paid attention to an act.

Finland: Krista Siegfrid sang “Marry Me.”  To understand this song, one needs to know that compared to the other Nordic countries, Finland is way behind in gay rights.  It is the only Nordic nation without marriage equality, a fact that really grates on many Finns, who are leaving their church in droves over the issue.  Through a public referendum, the Finns are forcing their parliament to debate the issue, which last year a committee refused to let go through.  Although “Marry Me” is not overtly political (it cannot be because of Eurovision rules), Krista nonetheless let it be known that she is an ardent gay rights supporter.  Her song and music video even inspired a loving gay parody (in which Krista makes a cameo appearance).  So it should not be surprising that Krista kissed one of her female dancers at the end of the song.  In DC, that moment may have gotten the loudest applause of the day.  The song was quite popular among the DC crowd, far more than with the actual voters.  Krista did not win Eurovision, but she should be a shoe-in for a GLAAD award.

Spain:  El Sueño de Morfeo sang “Contigo hasta el final.”  I kind of liked it.  Noting special, but it was a nice acoustic vibe.  On the other hand, there was a lot of yellow.  Spain’s entry last year was much better, and Spain suffered in the voting this year because neither Portugal nor Andorra entered.

Belgium: Roberto Bellarosa sang “Love Kills.”  My boyfriend loved this one, which makes me a bit nervous.  Like “Marry Me,” this one had the crowd singing and dancing.  I enjoyed it at the time, although I don’t really remember it now.  It was Belgium’s best entry (and best placement in a long time).  I appreciated that Roberto Bellarosa was so happy after his performance that he cried into his hands.

Estonia:  Birgit sang “Et uus saaks alguse.”  A lot of white in this act.  Slow, slow ballad.  Not my cup of tea, but there was a large Estonian contingent at the DC party who were over the moon.

Belarus: Alyona Lanskaya sang “Solayoh.”  This was the first (only?) “true” Eurovision song of the night, in that it was a disco-inflicted gimmicky dance number (seriously, Alyona comes out of a giant disco ball).  I was not a fan, but I haven’t been a fan of a Belarus entry since Alexandra of Alexandra and Konstantin yodeled her way through “My Galileo” in 2004.

At this point, I should probably say something about the interludes between acts.  They were nice, and I appreciate that the singers were featured in them.

Malta: Gianluca sang “Tomorrow.”  But not that “Tomorrow.”  Gianluca is actually a medical doctor and part-time singer.  He’s also a very attractive guy, which makes me think I am being persuaded by something other than my musical taste when I say that I liked his song.  It’s a very happy song, and the fact that he went into the crowd only added to that.  This song is like a cute puppy.  You just feel that you have to pick it up and hug it.  Given Gianluca’s top 10 finish and Malta’s propensity to recycle singers, one has to assume he will be back.  And one day I hope to see Malta win this contest.

Russia:  Dina Garipova sang “What If.”  You can tell when Russia wants to win because the song is in English.  You also know that because of the former Soviet bloc, Russia is almost virtually guaranteed a top 5 finish every year.  The surprise this year was that the song was a happy, hippy, let’s all get along type of ballad with people holding hands.  In other words, completely not Russia.

Germany: There were a lot of Germans in the DC party, so there was a lot of excitement for Cascada’s “Glorious.”  Or someone else’s “Glorious.”  Here’s the problem with this song and with Cascada.  It’s practically a carbon copy of last year’s winner “Euphoria.”  Seriously, it almost got disqualified because of that (the song was cleared).  Listen to the two side-by-side, and you will hear how similar they are (not least the “or-ee-ah” sounds in the title words).  Except that “Euphoria” is a far superior song by a far superior singer.  Germany usually copies its own success, which is fine, but copying another nation’s success, that is bad form.  Cascada suffered in the voting for that troubling lack of judgment.

Armenia: Dorians sang “Lonely Planet”.  Don’t ask me about this act, I have no idea.  There was fire but no desire.

At this point there was an intermission that I did not pay attention to at all.  Fortunately, through the magic of YouTube, I got to see Sarah Dawn Finer do her “Lynda Woodruff” act, which is really funny.  Major props to the Swedes for not being afraid to mock  their completely humorless image.  Coincidentally, Lynda Woodruff is also a very unsubtle and hilarious swipe at the English.  (Finer would later come back sans Lynda Woodruff drag to perform ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All.”)

The Netherlands: Anouk sang “Birds.”  This is my boyfriend’s favorite song.  He’s been singing it for a month now.  This is a very non-Eurovision song by an established singer in the Netherlands.  It is also extremely depressing, and the music video, which features a ballerina who kills herself, is enough to send a Mormon to the bottle.  The wonderful Danish lady friend loved the song, but seemed way too happy to know anything about it.  No one else seemed to like it at all.  (I think it was the strongest song of the bunch musicaly.)  For the Netherlands, which hasn’t gotten to the finals of Eurovision since the Ice Age, Anouk’s 9th place finish was quite a gift.

Romania:  Oh my.  Just oh my.  Cezar sang “It’s My Life,” but as one of my companions pointed out, it should have been called “Falsetto Dracula.”  The crowd (including me) loved it because, like most Romanian entries, it is entirely a gimmick song.  In addition to the falsetto vampire who sang the song in a long black robe which (like his less creepy Moldovan counterpart) grew and he became taller due to the miracle of technology, there were the dancers.  Three male acrobats appear from the floor dancing around in pink body paint.  Then one of them disappears and a woman in gold body paint takes his place in a spontaneous dancer sex change.  I don’t actually remember the song, but I do remember Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.”

United Kingdom:  The interlude prior to Bonnie Tyler’s appearance on stage was of Bonnie Tyler showing off her gold records, and reminding her audience that if they grew up in the 80’s they are now old.  But (in the words of a non-Bonnie Tyler song written by her famed collaborator Jim Steinman), tonight is what it means to be young.  Her song was called “Believe in Me,” which in retrospect is quite ironic.  While Bonnie was being held out as a hero, she was totally eclipsed in our hearts; therefore she lost in Sweden, and it’s a heartache.  (Thus end the gratuitous Bonnie Tyler jokes because I love her dearly, and she gave a mediocre song real gravity simply by being Bonnie Tyler.)  Given that last year’s entry was Englebert Humperdink, one wonders about the future of British entries.  Are George Michael and Boy George going to try for the British spot next year?  Who will be the entries in 20 or 30 years?  Lily Allen?  Adele?  One Direction?

Sweden:  Robin Stjernberg sang “You.”  Robin looks like Adam Lambert without makeup.  Clearly he was very popular in the venue (and at the DC party, where there was lots of dancing to his song), but all I remember was his extended “Yoooooooou”s, which were very fun to sing along with.  He didn’t place well, but Sweden didn’t really want to host it next year anyway.

Hungary:  ByeAlex sang “Kedvesem.”  This is the story of a hipster boy (complete with knit cap) and his guitar.  It was one of my boyfriend’s favorites of the evening.  It was good if you like that kind of thing I guess.  Given that Germany gave ByeAlex 12 points, I guess Germans like that kind of thing.

Denmark:  Emmelie de Forest sang “Only Teardrops.”  This is why I am bad at selecting Eurovision winners; I first saw this entry and thought, “Wow, Denmark picked a terrible song; it will never win.”  My boyfriend loved it, but I thought he was just biased in favor of Denmark.  Then he told me that this was the favorite, and I still dismissed it.  It was just so… generic (not that this has ever stopped a Eurovision song from winning).  I was wrong, and this is also why I hate that Eurovision entrants are released so early.  I form my best opinions at the contest itself.  I never have a good opinions of the eventual winners when I see them ahead of time, even “Euphoria” and “Satellite,” both of which I love–and “Only Teardrops” is not as good as either.  However, when I saw four adorable blond Danish children singing all the words to this song, I changed my mind.  (My recollection of the lyrics is: “How many times can you dah dah dah?  How many times can you dah dah dah between us?  Only teardrops.”)  Granted I was flying a Danish flag all night, so I might have been sending mixed messages.  So I guess it won me over, but not completely (please let me in your country, Denmark.)  The best part of the performance is the way the 20-year-old Emmelie stares at her fife player with what is supposed to be seductive, intensive eyes and what I can only assume is the implication of oral sex.  (After she won, during the repeat to end the broadcast, Emmelie’s intensive look was replaced with a happier, less suggestive, more child-friendly one.)

Iceland: Eythor Ingi sang “Ég á líf,” which, in retrospect, may be my favorite song of the night.  It was the favorite of one of my gay companions of the evening who referred to Eythor Ingi as “Nordic Jesus,” which seems about right.  Iceland, like Malta, is a tiny nation that produces a surprising amount of good Eurovision songs, none of which will ever win.  Iceland does not need your stupid song contest, Europe; Iceland produced Björk.  Bow to her genius, puny mortals!

Azerbaijan: Farid Mammadov sang “Hold Me.”  The mother of all gimmicks. I can’t do this performance justice.  Just watch it.  Really.  (None of this is to say the song is any good, but the performance was quite spectacular.  It went over really well in DC.)

Greece: Koza Mostra featuring Agathonas Iakovidis sang “Alcohol is Free.”  This was the favorite of Guardian liveblog by a mile.  I hate to admit this, but for the first time since Antique, I liked a Greek entry.  Granted this is a sort of protest song about Greece and Euro debt crisis and whatnot.  It was a ridiculous, high intensity song with crazy dancing, and it must be watched.  One can safely assume that the Greeks (and the rest of Europe) are thrilled they don’t have to host next year.

Ukraine:  Zlata Ognevych singing “Gravity.”  Like Russia, Ukraine always places highly because of the former Soviet bloc.  She was carried on stage by a giant viking, which had nothing to do with her song, but whatever.  A pretty Ukrainian girl with a Shania Twain vibe and a boring ballad-y type song are good for a top place finish but not for a memorable performance.

Italy: Marco Mengoni sang “L’essenziale.”  This is your stereotype entry right here.  Seedy-looking Italian guy singing a “Volare” type song in an expensive Italian suit.  Way to live in the present, Italy.  (On the other hand, Italy was the highest placing non-Nordic Western European nation, so what do I know?)

Norway: Margaret Berger (blond, pale, and all in white) sang “I Feed You My Love.”  I clearly have a dirty, dirty mind, because I giggle every time I hear this song.  This was the favorite of another of the gay companions.  I cannot accurately judge this song because I really cannot get past the title without laughing like a 12-year-old.

At this point I realize I have not seen any awkward green room interviews to interrupt the broadcast, and I am thankful.  This is the best Eurovision ever.

Georgia: Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani sang “Waterfall.”  This is a carbon copy of the Azerbaijan winner from two years ago, and I refuse to acknowledge it any further, as I dislike both that song and this one.  (My boyfriend called this one “the sleeping pill.”  I disagree.  It’s more like two wailing cats keeping you awake at night.)

Ireland: Ryan Dolan sang “Only Love Survives.”  Wait a second, didn’t love kill us already this evening?  I don’t know.  There were lots of Celtic symbols, drums, and lean, hot, Celtic-tattooed drummers (Ryan Dolan knows his audience).  But this song was dead on arrival and came in last place.  Which means Ryan Dolan has the unfortunate distinction of being less popular than Jedward.  Poor Ryan Dolan.  (Also, this song too sounded a lot like “Euphoria.”)

So that’s it.  Hopefully next year, I will be watching this live from Copenhagen (please God, not Herning).  Until then, Europe, thank you for the lovely evening.  And Sweden, the next time you host, please find a way to reunite ABBA.

Get Ready For Singing!

Eurovision is almost upon us (this Saturday).  For any confused American who is new to the Eurovision experience, I humbly submit my previous Guide to the Perplexed.  A warning, some of the links may have content that has been removed, but I imagine it is very easy to find any of that removed content in another place on YouTube.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

and my report on previous Eurovisions: 2011 and 2012

It’s That Time Again!

Eurovision fever has broken.  Continuing the tradition of sending in faded stars, the UK’s entry this year will be… Bonnie Tyler.  Yes, get out your bad jokes and puns now.

It’s actually not a great song (definitely not on the level of Israel’s awesome entry), but… BONNIE TYLER!!!!!!!!!

Eurovision 2012: One For The Geriatric Crowd

Yes, the Eurovision Song Contest has left us for another year, and yes, this post is late , but I was at a party, and could not post my thoughts in live time.  I want to share with you, dear readers, my thoughts on this year’s Eurovision. 

Hello Baku, this is Washington DC calling.

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that even a bad Eurovision Song Contest can be turned into a great experience by attending a Eurovision party.

That was what happened to me this year.  Going in, I was thoroughly unimpressed with this year’s crop of never-to-be-heard-from-again pop stars* and their songs.  Yet after attending the party hosted at the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC (apparently the first live broadcast of the competition in America), I came away thinking that this was one of the best Eurovisions that I had ever seen.  Granted there was nothing like “Satellite” or “Volare” and there was certainly nothing to compare with ABBA, but the charms of Eurovision 2012 cannot be denied.

Before I can talk about the good and the ugly, both of which were in abundance at the competition, I have to talk about the bad: the host Azerbaijan.  As a gay man, even an American gay man, I feel that Eurovision is my rightful property and I resent seeing it appropriated by homophobic countries that tread on human rights.  This is Azerbaijan (and Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, etc.), whose homophobia was, exacerbated because of a pissing match it had gotten into with Iran over the last few months.  Azerbaijan repeatedly insisted that the nation hated gays and they were not welcome.  No doubt that is true, but to all those countries in the European Broadcasting Union that hate the gays, I have a message for you: stay the hell out of our competition.  (I cannot imagine how hard it must be to be a homosexual in Azerbaijan, and my brothers and sisters there truly have my sympathy.)

Azerbaijan also has an atrocious record on human rights in general, and leading up to the competition there were protests to try and focus the world’s attention on that records rather than on the government’s stated goal of attracting more tourism.  Alas, I fear the protesters were as successful as the Argentine protesters of the 1978 World Cup.  I saw in the Daily Telegraph‘s liveblog of the event that there was violence, but I have not yet determined that for myself beyond the blog’s single Twitter message.

The Crystal Hall was very nice and the fact that it lit up in the colors of each nation’s flag prior to the performance was charming.  It does not negate a lack of freedom and liberty.

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Every Eurovision is influenced by the previous year’s winner in some way.  I was positive that this year would be chock-full of male/female duets like last year’s ear-bleeding atrocity “Running Scared,” a song performed by Ell & Nikki (formerly Eldar & Nigar), two utterly lifeless individuals who screeched at each other, all the while looking like they just met prior to taking the stage.  Fortunately, a lack of chemistry was not  the lesson learned.  No, this year’s also-rans imitated the Azerbaijan couple by wearing all-white.  White costumes was a recurring theme, and fortunately a rather innocuous one.  And like with every year, the winner was someone who deviated from the previous year in every way possible.  Loreen was decked out in black.

Of course we were still subjected to Ell & Nikki (again in white) as they screeched “Running Scared” to each other again one last time (please God!).  A year had passed and they still completely lacked chemistry.  Then Ell put on a tuxedo and joined two women to present the competition.  Nikki, who lives in London, was shunted away until she presented the winner’s trophy.  Probably she was being beaten for leaving the country.

Now I have a confession to make: despite fanatically watching Eurovision for the past eight years (trust me Europeans, that puts me in the 99.999th percentile among Americans), I had never been to a Eurovision party before.  I had no idea what to expect, although I did suspect it would be fun.  And it was.  There was a lovely Danish woman who waved German and Danish flags throughout the afternoon.  She was kind enough to paint a German flag on my arm.  Danish lady (whose name I never found out) got crazier and crazier as the contest went on, and was already dancing around with wild abandon well before the Danish entry appeared.  I loved her and her utter recklessness, a stark contrast to her stoic German friends.

The other important person in the Embassy that day was my boyfriend, whose comments and judgments I valued enough to write them down and will even share a few.

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The opening show was quite spectacular, perhaps the most spectacular ever, although with the exception of Greece from 2006, I tend not to remember the opening ceremonies.  This number alternated between faux ethno-music and flying acrobats in glow-in-the-dark white outfits.  It was impressive though; my boyfriend turned to me and said, “I would hate to be Armenia right now.”

Azerbaijan is apparently the land of fire, and fire was very much abundant on the stage during the opening number and many of the entries.  The contest’s slogan this year was “light your fire,” which I suppose is meant to be inspirational, but it really only served to remind me that Jim Morrison and the Doors, whatever their flaws, would never do Eurovision.

And speaking of old musical acts with deep flaws, the first entrant was Englebert Humperdinck for the UK, but before we get to the Hump, I did want to point out that the hosts this were generally not as annoying as in previous years.  Which is not to say I enjoyed them, but they were serviceable.  Perhaps I just didn’t hear them well enough.  And in that stubborn Eurovision tradition, the hosts still repeated everything in French despite the fact that only one country and parts of two others in this year’s competition actually use French as an official language.  Quelle charmant.**  We also got to see a video of the Crystal Hall built in 60 seconds, and all I could think is that this is what happens when you don’t have unions.

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Englebert Humperdinck sang a power ballad called “Love Will Set You Free” on behalf of the UK.  The Hump is an odd entry into Eurovision.  Usually the UK votes on who to send, but the BBC opted not to let the same public that chose DJ Daz, Scooch, and of course, Jemini have any say whatsoever in this year’s entrant.  In theory this was a smart move, but the BBC seemed to forget that (1) as good a singer as Englebert Humperdinck may be, when your last hit came just after the Stone Age, people tend to forget you; and (2) the rest of Europe really hates the UK (okay, well England really), and Eurovision is when they can prove it.  The Hump’s song was decent enough, and he sang it well.  There was also a key change, a dancing couple in the background, and a waterfall effect of pale orange light. Standard Eurovision fare.  The song was also incredibly dull, and the DC audience was pretty sedate throughout the whole thing.  This despite the fact that (1) we know who Englebert Humperdinck is in this country; and (2) we kind of like the UK over here in America.  It was no surprise that he came in second to last.  I bet every British person is secretly weeping inside.

The second entry was from Hungary, “Songs of Our Heart” by Compact Disco.  I was offended by his voice; he was like a Hungarian version of the douche rock epitomized by the posers of Nickelback.  My boyfriend agreed but added “with 80’s synth.”  The liveblogs of both The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph compared Compact Disco to Savage Garden.  Welcome to the 80’s, Hungary.

Yet even the pain from Hungary could not compare with the sheer agony inflicted by Rona Nishliu of Albania.  If you ever wanted to know how Azerbaijan tortures its political prisoners, I suspect it’s by making those poor souls listen to Nishliu sing.  It wasn’t just awful, she actually sucked the enjoyment from the room.  Her song “Suus” was completely unmemorable so she had to make sure we remembered her somehow.  Ergo, she shrieked her way through it.  Seriously.  She shrieked into a key change.  And then she just abandoned the concept of key altogether like some unholy mixture of Eurovision and Arnold Schoenberg’s nightmares.  But there was more to her than just ear-murdering singing.  She also wore what appeared to be a basket on her head with a long braid that resembled a snake lying across her chest.  The DC crowd was openly hostile to her.  Unfortunately the DC crowd was not the European voters.  How this did not come in last place, how this even made the finals is a mystery to me that I can only assume has to do with bloc voting.  Instead it was in the top 5.  I weep for Europe.

Next up was Donny Montell of Lithuania whose real name is Donatas Montvydas.  He sang a song called “Love is Blind” and as Lithuanians apparently do not understand metaphor, he came out wearing a sequined blindfold.  It was a typical sappy Euro-ballad, but then he ripped the blindfold off and started doing some pretty nifty break dancing/gymnastics moves.  There were also pole dancers in a background display.  Don’t ask.  In any case, the DC audience loved it, wildly applauding and cheering.  It was the first song that they got into, and really it was the first song that truly showed what Eurovision was about.  This is not necessarily a compliment.

Bosnia’s entry, Maya Sar took the stage to sing her song “Korake ti znam.”  Bosnia was clearly going for class, but quite possibly at the expense of pitch.  I can only describe her outfit as “sparkle armor.”  She played the piano and sang, and then she left the piano and sang.  That’s about it.  There was little life to the performance, but it did mark the first appearance of the wind machine.  The DC audience was not into this one.

They were however into the Russian Grannies (not their actual stage name but how they will be eternally known) who took the stage next with their song “Party for Everybody.”  I wrote about them already, so I don’t want to spend too much more time on them, but I will say that everybody loved them in DC (with the lone exception of my boyfriend who despised them).   The DC audience was clapping and singing along with them.  I’ll say it again, the Grannies are a gimmick act, but it’s an original gimmick and a cute one.  The Grannies eventually finished second, but it was a very odd thing.  Almost every nation awarded them some points, but only Belarus gave them the full 12 points.  Has any second place team every finished with so few 12 points?  Make of that what you will.  I hope they made enough to build their church.

No one would seriously want to follow that, and that unenviable task fell to Gréta Salóme & Jónsi with their song “Never Forget,” which I have already disobeyed.  I do recall that they seemed like a creepy, Icelandic version of Secret Garden.  They got a good reception from the DC audience, but that was because there was an Icelandic family with small, cute, blond children at the front of the room waving their national flag.  One of my favorite Eurovision songs ever, Selma’s “All Out of Luck” was from Iceland, as is of course the genius that is Bjork.  Iceland actually does understand music, so this entry baffled me.  Next year I think they should send their volcano with the unpronounceable name.  I can’t imagine it would be worse.

After Iceland’s completely forgettable ballad, we got the first completely forgettable shake-it song of the night, Cyprus’s Ivi Adamou singing (in the finest Eurovision tradition of quality lyrics) “La La Love.”  She appeared to be dancing on Greek ruins alongside some very leggy and limber female back-up dancers.  This song got a fairly big response from the DC audience which surprised me because I did not think that the DC audience was the Greek voters in disguise.  (Yes, they got 12 points from Greece.)

La France.  I actually liked Anggun’s song “Echo (You and I)” when I saw it on YouTube.  Anggun has a beautiful voice, and to my shock there was actually some English in the song.  The song is tailor-made for gay bars and clubs all over Europe, and bonus! at the competition, Anggun was accompanied by hot, shirtless male gymnasts.  Anggun is a stunningly beautiful woman with a good stage presence.  The problem, and this is a big one that could not be overcome, is that her voice, while very pretty, was not big enough for the song. Given the production and the venue (and the wind machine), the song required someone with a huge Merman-like voice, and Anggun’s is very subtle.  Too subtle.  That was a fatal disconnect.  Also she represented France.

When I first caught a glimpse of Italy’s singer Nina Zilli, I thought she was Fran Drescher.  When I saw her on stage though, it was clear that she trying to be the late, great Amy Winehouse.  Big mistake.  Amy Winehouse was one of the great vocalists of the past decade; she employed a thoroughly unique sound married to a retro vibe.  Nina Zilli is none of those things.  What the hell was she thinking?  And by that point the DC audience was restless and I could not actually distinguish any song lyrics anymore.

Ott Lepland took the stage to sing “Kuulu.”  It was a nice enough, generic power ballad that was completely boring and not special in the least.  The boyfriend said that is was actually Sarah Brightman’s “There For Me.”  Stealing other people’s songs, another fine Eurovision tradition.

I hated Norway’s entry “Stay.”  But I am also very conflicted because I love Norway’s singer Tooji.  Tooji may very well be one of the most beautiful men on the planet.  He’s also a trained social worker, which means he is either a really decent human being or an incredibly messed up one.  I really wish Tooji had not been saddled with such a hideous song.  It was so awful it hurt my feelings.  Apparently Europe agreed with me as Norway came in last place.  Again.  They hold the record.  Last place is something that Tooji did not deserve given the Albanian entry in this competition (happy birthday, Tooji).  My boyfriend tried to tell me the song was not as bad as I thought it was, but eventually even he admitted that yes, it was horrible.  Poor Tooji.

At this point we got our first look at the Green Room, which as my boyfriend pointed out, was neither green nor a room.  The presenter spoke to Englebert Humperdinck.  I always tune out the Green Room segments, because they are inane, and I don’t care.

Next up is the host nation.  On behalf of Azerbaijan, Sabina Babayeva (wearing all white) sang “When the Music Dies,” and the joke just writes itself.  Nevertheless, I will try (a la Daniel Tosh) to get in as many different jokes as I can.  When the music dies?  It was a mercy killing.  When the music dies?  By this point, the music is a zombie.  When the music dies?  After the Albanian entry.  When the music dies?  Every year at Eurovision.  Thank you; I also do Bar Mitzvahs.

Romanian entries are always the clear beneficiaries of bloc voting.  They are never good, but always fulls of of bells and whistles.  Every Eurovision gimmick imaginable (except for a decent song) has been tried by Romania.  They are always near the top though because the surrounding countries always give Romania high marks.  This year’s gimmicks included fire shooting from the stage, a moonwalking bagpipe player, and two female violinists who bent down backwards so far I thought they were doing a limbo competition.  I don’t actually recall the song “Zaleilah” because the band Mandinga was drowned out by all the percussion.  In DC, cute children were dancing to it, and the audience applauded, although by this point the alcohol was probably setting in.  The lovely Danish lady was dancing wildly.  Her waving flags threatened to put out the eyes of anyone who didn’t also enjoy the song.

The next song got the lovely Danish lady even more exited because it was her home nation’s entry.  “Should’ve Known Better” sung by Soluna Samay, or as I call her “Julie the Cruise Director.”  Julie wore a sailor’s hat and a jacket that looked like it belonged to a cruise ship captain who loved nothing more than giant shoulder pads.  Both the jacket and the hat were covered in soot and appeared to have been purchased from a Greek fire sale.  (Take that, Terry Wogan.  I can insult a Danish entry better than you can.)  The performance was like something on a cruise ship too.  My boyfriend, who loved Denmark (the country), also went crazy alongside the lovely Danish lady.  For my part I was not sure there was much to go crazy about.

It is well-known that Cyprus and Greece always give each other maximum points, which of course happened this year too.  It was less well known that this year they would share the exact same song.  Or that both the Greek and Cypriot entries were rereleases of every Greek Eurovision entry ever (except for Antique).  The Greek singer, Eleftheria Eleftheriou, was actually born in Cyprus.  She called her song “Aphrodisiac,” but really let’s just call it “Standard Greek Entry.”  Given the way Greece decimated the European Union’s economy, Ms. Eleftheriou is very lucky that this year’s competition was actually held in Asia.

Sweden.  Yes, this was the song that won.  Yes, this song was the odds-on favorite to win.  Yes, the Swedes are now tied for second place for most Eurovision wins with the UK, France, and Luxembourg(?!?) and are the likeliest to move into a solo second place in a future competition.  And yes, Loreen now stands proudly with her predecessors ABBA, Charlotte Nilsson, Carola, and the Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley boys (Herreys).  But none of that explains why “Euphoria” won.  Like the Russian Grannies, Loreen got the entire DC audience actively involved (not just the Swedes in the audience), clapping and dancing and cheering.  I was not a fan before the contest, but her performance was completely awesome, and it made me a convert.

After Sweden we got a brief interlude to remind that us Lys Assia, the first Eurovision winner, is alive and well, was in Crystal Hall, and has nothing else to do other than attend Eurovision every year.

Like following the Grannies, following Loreen was always going to be difficult.  Unlike Iceland who followed the Grannies, Turkey has a built in voting bloc so position mattered very little.  The DC audience loved Turkey’s entry, probably because the backup dancers formed a human boat with their capes (the song was called “Love Me Back” but there was a nautical theme, I think.  I don’t know.  Turkish entries are always bad.)  The band was called Can Bonomo.  Imagine someone put bats, the Village People, pirates, and Goths in a blender.  That was Can Bonomo.

My boyfriend was not a fan of the Spanish entry before Eurovision, but after Pastora Soler sang her song “Quédate conmigo” it became his favorite entry (he still says it should have won.)***  And I will second that it was an awesome song.  Soler has a gorgeous big voice and she commanded the stage.  The DC audience was rapt and gave her wild applause.  But it was also a fait accompli that she would not win because (1) the powers that be at Spain told her they can’t afford to host next year’s competition, which Soler repeated to anyone who would listen; (2) Spain has few natural allies; and (3) she sang in Spanish, and songs that are sung in English are far more likely to win the competition (which is why Ireland and the UK cleaned up in the years when nations could only enter songs in an official national language–and why neither Ireland or the UK has won since the rule was abandoned.)

Next up, Germany.  As there were lots of Germans in the DC audience (again, held in the Austrian Embassy), Germany would always be popular at the Eurovision party.  While German pop music may seem like an oxymoron, since I have been watching regularly Germany has produced the highest overall quality of entrants.  Texas Lightning, Roger Cicero, and of course Lena have all represented Germany with varying degrees of success, but providing universally high enjoyment.  I almost always dislike the German entry prior to the contest, but once I see it on stage it usually ranks among my favorite entries.  This year a very cute, scruffy boy named Roman Lob wore a silly, woolen hat and sang a very nice song called “Standing Still.”  He ended up placing better than Lena did last year, but obviously not as well as she did the year before.

Malta got a surprisingly loud reception from the DC audience for reasons that I still cannot figure out.  I can only guess there are a lot of Maltese people who live in DC, but I did not see a single Malta flag.  It was a fun song, a very good Eurodance song that had people dancing and singing at the Embassy.  The singer was Kurt Calleja and the song was “This is the Night,” but to me he was a “not-Chiara” singer who sang a “not-Chiara” song.  One of these days I hope to see Malta host Eurovision.  Please make it happen, Europe; you gave it to Azerbaijan.

I refuse to put F.Y.R. in front of Macedonia as Eurovision insists on doing.  F.Y.R. stands for “Former Yugoslav Republic of” and it’s there because the Greeks get pissed off when they are reminded that Macedonia is not just the ancient Greek kingdom that gave us Alexander the Great.  Really though, after this year does anyone care about hurting Greece’s feelings anymore?  I bring this up because this is the only interesting thing about Macedonia.  The song,”Crno i belo” (sung by Kaliopi) began nicely enough, but got progressively worse.  Apparently Kaliopi is a big star in the Balkans, which would account for why she placed as well as she did.  Also, bloc voting.  Macedonia is always the bathroom break song.

Ah, Jedward, the bane of my existence.  Well, maybe that’s a little harsh… but just a little.  Jedward are a particularly no-talent pair of twins that Ireland sent last year and then sent again for reasons that probably have to do with not wanting to win Eurovision for an eighth time.  Jedward look like Justin Timberlake clones cross-bred with alien mutants from a Hollywood B-movie, and their space-age outfits only solidified that impression.  The DC audience went wild for Jedward for reasons that I cannot fathom.  For my own part, I wanted to boo them.  It’s the only entry I wanted to boo, and I had to suffer through Albania.  The song was called “Waterline” and it included a water fountain, which is an ironic touch for the land of fire.  At one point they made a heart with their hands, but given that they have made a big deal about how they have never kissed a girl, I can only assume that heart was a way to tell the world they love each other, much like those creepy Czech twins who did porn movies for Bel Ami.  At the end of the number, they stood in the middle of the fountain as it dripped water on them, giving us visual proof that Jedward is all wet.

Serbia.  Željko Joksimović tried to win the elusive Eurovision title that he just missed out on in 2004 (he came in second).  This time he sang a drippy ballad in his native language: “Nije ljubav stvar” which translates into the nonsensical title “Love is not an object.”  Joksimović came in third this year.  He was doing really well while Balkan states were voting, but once they were finished he fell behind the Russian Grannies.  I cannot remember the song for the life of me, although in my notes I wrote that there was a key change and some pyrotechnics.  Also the lovely Danish lady (who my boyfriend swears was not actually drunk, just Danish) was slow dancing by herself to the song, which was quite a feat. The audience liked it, but there was a definite Serbian contingent which skewed the balance.

Ukraine, much like Greece, always send the same song reworked.  It’s always a solitary woman singer (or a drag queen) singing a big song with a big voice about something completely incomprehensible.  This year they got Gaitana, a half-Ukrainian half-Congolese singer (and yes, it caused a stir in racist Ukraine) who has an amazing set of pipes much like the great Martha Wash.  She is also a drop-dead gorgeous woman.  The song is called “Be My Guest” and it is probably a good thing Gaitana did not win because Disney is a very litigious corporation.  If there is any fairness, Gaitana will get a contract to record in a country that would truly appreciate her voice and her talents.  We in America could use another soulful voice now that Donna Summer has left us.

Finally the last entry was Romania’s second chance from Moldova.  By this time I was completely bored.  Moldova, like Macedonia, is always uninteresting but get votes because it has many neighbors.  Pasha Parfeny sang “Lăutar.”  I have notes from this entry, but for the life of me I cannot remember why I wrote what I did.  Something about a guy with a small voice singing around female dancers in vinyl dresses.

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Instead of the half time show, which I cared absolutely nothing about, I wanted to tell you all the wonderful things in Azerbaijan which were shown to the audience in those clips that came on the screen in between acts so that the stage hands could set up for the next song.  According to this official propaganda Azerbaijan has the following things: art, tradition, polo (apparently played with golf clubs), cars and roads, horses, dancers, a boardwalk, swimming and canoeing, food (always a good thing), rugs, flames, buildings, bikes, folk theater, tea, mausoleums, oil rigs, horse racing, arm wrestling, camp fires, and homosexuals.  Okay, that last one was not intentionally featured in the clips.  You know what else wasn’t featured?  Human rights.  Also Armenia.

The voting was kind of dull.  Loreen took the lead after the second country and never let go.  Once the voting got out of the former Soviet and Balkans blocs, Loreen only increased her lead.  She won with 372 points.  The best part of the voting was seeing Mr. Lordi in full monster regalia present Finland’s scores.  (He wasn’t very good at it, but it was amusing and in DC we appreciated the nostalgia and the subtle Finnish humor of having him present.)  The real battle was for second, and in the end the Grannies, the other favorite, edged out Serbia’s ballad.  18 of the 42 nations gave Loreen top marks.  Compare that to the next highest, a tie between Serbia, Albania, and Azerbaijan, who got douze points from only four countries.  Loreen completely dominated the voting.  By country number 37 or so, it was mathematically impossible to catch her.  Nikki from Ell & Nikki presented Loreen with an ugly crystal microphone trophy as the Swede star tried to compose herself so that she could sing the traditional reprise of her song.

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My final thoughts are about the nature of the contest itself.  Eurovision, despite its camp and love of the gays (from the West anyway) is perhaps the most conservative institution in Europe.  To wit, Eurovision has been around since 1956.  It has seen the rise of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Rufus Wainwright, the Ronettes, and the Ramones, disco, Dolly, Dusty, Dylan, Patti, punk, Aretha, Annie, Etta, soul, nu soul, Philly soul, blue-eyed soul, Northern soul, Sleater-Kinney, Sade, synth, house, heavy metal, hair bands, hair metal, hip-hop, Hendrix, hard rock, soft rock, arena rock, Gaye, glam, trance, techno, Tina Turner, Tropicália, Tapestry, folk, funk, Fela Kuti, Cash, Cohen, Karen Carpenter, Nico and Neko, Nina Simone, nueva canción, Motown, Madonna, Miriam Makeba, Michael Jackson, Jobim, Joplin, Bruce, Brill (Building), Brown, Bono, Bowie, Bjork, Bossa Nova, and a zillion other artists, innovations, innovators, and styles.  Eurovision steadfastly refuses to acknowledge innovation.  Even when those innovations are seemingly incorporated (such as Lordi), those songs still miss the forest for the trees.  They are all ultimately cheesy pop songs designed, like the modern American record industry, to be pleasing and inoffensive to the largest number of people possible.  One act alone was able to transcend that seemingly insurmountable handicap of being Euro-cheese, which is why ABBA is Eurovision’s lone gift to the world.

That is the real reason why, as much as I enjoy Eurovision as a spectacle, I am glad it is only once a year.  Sugar is tasty, but too much of it rots your teeth.

Footnotes: 

*  Like with almost everything about Eurovision, please assume that there are invisible quotation marks around pop stars–or in fact around anything that is complimentary of the songs (such as calling them songs).  Eurovision, is perhaps the purest distillation of Susan Sontag’s definition of camp from her famous essay in which she wrote the following:

Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It’s not a lamp, but a “lamp”; not a woman, but a “woman.” To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater.

** I actually have no idea if that is proper French or not.  I don’t really care either.

***  He just watched Spain’s entry again and is furious that Soler didn’t win.  His exact quote: “They should have just stopped the contest right there and sent everyone else home.  Russia came in second? Come on.  Take away the oven and the outfits and just have the six women singing on stage then no one would have voted for it.  If Spain performed on a giant tortilla and had people dressed as tomatoes doing back flips it would have scored higher.  Europe is ridiculous.”

Why I Love Eurovision

I admit it; I had not been looking forward to the annual spectacle/train wreck that is the Eurovision Song Contest.  Last year’s win by Azerbaijan depressed me, and all the 2012 entries that I saw either bored me to tears or caused me to shake my fist in rage.  We get it, Ireland; you don’t want to win.  Please don’t send Jedward anymore.  You know something is wrong when you start thinking Englebert Humperdinck is the best entry.

But then I saw this:

This is Russia’s 2012 entry, a group called Buranovskiye Babushki, and yes, they are old women (the name means Buranova Grannies according to Wikipedia).  The song, if we are kind enough to think of it as a song, is called “Party for Everybody” and it is sung not in Russian as one might expect, but in English (gasp!) and Udmurt, the Uralic language of the Russian republic from where the Grannies originate.  Whatever money the Grannies win will go toward building a church for their town.  And most likely we will never hear of them again.

Like the great “Wild Dances,” Ruslana’s winning entry from 2004, “Party for Everybody” has to be seen to be believed.  There’s something so unbelievably odd and endearing about it.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s all gimmick.  The Grannies stand in front of a smaller version of a traditional Russian oven (which I believe is called a pech) and bake muffins for the duration of their song.  The Grannies themselves are like the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir (better known as Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares) except that the Bulgarians are actually talented and sing beautifully weird and complex songs while the Grannies poorly sing a barely disguised Eurodance number with hints of the music from Tetris.  I don’t think the Grannies are worried about breaking into the American market.  And I am certain that the American market will not get Granny-fever.

And yet there is something so absolutely endearing about the Grannies.  First of all that they are old village women singing in the world’s biggest, showiest, tackiest song contest.  The disconnect is too marvelous.  Second that they are just so darn adorable.  How can you not root for old ladies in peasant garb?  And third and most important, at least for me, to get to Eurovision they beat a duet between Dima Bilan and a former member of t.a.T.u.  (I cannot say enough how much I dislike Dima and his horrible, wretched, ear-offending, winning song.)

In a year with a good (or at least better) song selection, I may not have had this much affection for a gimmick act that is stubbornly non-musical.  Nevertheless, we are stuck with what each country enters.  As of right now the Grannies are my favorite. Having said that, I reserve the right to change my mind.  Not that it matters; living in the US, I cannot vote.

And now for my shameless plug.  Any Americans who are thinking of watching Eurovision for the first time but have no idea what is going on, here is my guide:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

And my thoughts from last year’s contest.

Eurovision is the opposite side of the coin of European football.  Whereas the latter tears people apart and promotes tribalism (despite what Sepp Blatter wants us to believe), Eurovision is the real way of bringing everyone together for a night of good cheer and harmony.  At least until Greece and Cyprus give each other 12 points.  Again.