About four years ago, my friend, Kip, an American who lives in Great Britain, introduced me to the wonderfulness that is the Eurovision Song Contest. I had heard of it before, since folks like ABBA and Celine Dion had won in past years, and the 2006 winner was this crazypants hard rock group from Finland, who I’m pretty sure is made up of Skeletor’s minions. But since Eurovision is not an event that gets paid attention to by American media or is aired on American television, I had never watched it.
For weeks leading up to the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest, Kip talked it up to me. She encouraged me to seek out clips on YouTube of past years’ contests so that I could see what I had been missing. She told me to watch clips of the current contestants so that I could be familiar with them before the first semi-final round began. She explained to me how the voting works so that I wouldn’t be completely confused.
The day of the first semi-final, I still wasn’t 100% sure what I was in for, but I was ready. I excitedly logged into the Eurovision website and began watching the archived stream of the round, since it finished by the time I got home from work, Europe being many hours ahead of Ohio. (Note: the semi-finals typically happen on weekdays, with the final happening on Saturday).
Oh my goodness. It was amazing. And by amazing I mean batshit crazy. I was mesmerized by the spectacle and the so-bad-they’re-great performances (not that all the performers were bad — some are talented, just lacking in spectacle, which is the best part of Eurovision). Where had this thing — this magical, wonderful thing — been my whole life?
I IM’d Kip immediately after I finished watching and we giddily discussed the performances. She told me she knew that I would love it and that she wished I could be in England to watch the show with her (this is a wish we both repeat every year and some day, I’m going to make it happen).
Since then, I have eagerly anticipated each year’s contest. About a month before, I typically visit the Eurovision website to familiarize myself with all of the contestants so that I can make a list of my favorites — and by favorites I mean the ones that are the most ridiculous and over-the-top.
However it’s hard to really judge who you’re going to root for until you see their performances. For example, I had not anticipated just from listening to their song that Azerbaijan’s Elnur and Samir would give my favorite — and by favorite I mean CRAZY — performance of the 2008 contest (even better, this was the country’s first time ever competing). Take a look and see what I mean:
So, yes, I enjoy Eurovision because of the spectacle and the ridiculous factor. If you don’t use half-naked Roman soldiers as your back-up dancers, employ a bemulleted Olympic figure skater as your back-up dancer, or have a double lucite piano and fire as a part of your act, then I am less likely to root for you.
Another thing I love about Eurovision is the voting process. It is kind of convoluted, very politcal and somewhat predictable. I’m not even going to try to explain it. Just read this and you’ll see what I mean.
Now that I’ve given you a little background of my love of this magical event, let’s talk about this year’s contest. As you can tell from the lovely artwork above, it is being held in Düsseldorf — Germany won last year’s contest and the country who wins gets the privilege of hosting the next year.
The first semi-final round, featuring 19 of the 43 competing countries, is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10. The second semi-final, which happens on Thursday, May 12, will have another 19 competitors. And the Saturday, May 14 final will contain the countries that made it past the semi-finals, plus the five countries that are not required to compete in the semis (France, Germany, Spain, Italy, U.K.).
If you live in the U.S., you probably won’t be able to watch this happen live on TV (I’m very disappointed that BBC America doesn’t air Eurovision with Graham Norton’s snarky commentary). So, you’ll have to watch via the Eurovision website and provide your own snark.
As I said, I like to suss out the performers before I watch the contest to see who I think is going to be the most ridiculous, have the best chance of winning or have a song I might actually like. Below are my favorites, in alphabetical order by country. I’m going to let you guess my commentary for each. Also, I’m going to tell you straight out that my guilty pleasure this year is the song from Armenia.
If you don’t want to have to listen to the Eurovision theme song over and over, start each clip somewhere around the 6 to 12 second mark.
Armenia: Emmy, “Boom Boom”
Belarus: Anastasiya Vinnikova, “I Love Belarus”
Bosnia/Herzegovina: Dino Merlin, “Love in Rewind”
Bulgaria: Poli Genova, “Na Inat”
Croatia: Daria, “Celebrate”
Estonia: Getter Jaani, “Rockefeller Street”
Georgia, Eldrine, “One More Day”
Greece: Loucas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike, “Watch My Dance”
Hungary: Kati Wolf, “What About My Dreams?”
Ireland: Jedward, “Lipstick”
Malta: Glen Vella, “One Life”
Portugal: Homens Da Luta, “Luta É Alegria”
Russia: Alexej Vorobjov, “Get You”
Serbia: Nina, “Čaroban”
Sweden: Eric Saade, “Popular”