Monday, May 28, 2012

Eurovision 2012

Last night was a big night here at my place.  It was Eurovision night!  Now, for the Americans reading this, you probably have no frickin’ idea what I’m talking about.  But, brace yourselves.  I’m about to blow your mind.

“Eurovision” refers to the Eurovision Song Contest – an annual contest held every May since 1956.  Created by the European Broadcasting Union as a way to help unify post-war Europe, the contest is hugely popular in Europe and beyond and has remained a constant for over five decades.  Basically, the contest is sort of an American Idol style event, except that instead of having young hopefuls from Podunk towns across America singing for a record deal, each country in Europe submits a song for a chance to win the opportunity to host next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.  I’ll take the record deal.  And instead of having really talented, fresh singers belting out proven songs, it has a mix of mediocre singers and really bad singers ranging in age from fetus to nearly dead trying their best to sing original lyrics that have been poorly translated into a language that they don’t speak.

All of this makes it completely fantastic!

Ok, so I’m exaggerating – some of the songs and acts are actually quite good, and occasionally someone famous comes off the show.  For example, ABBA was launched to stardom after winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with their hit Waterloo, and Celine Dion was propelled to fame after winning the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest.  ABBA represented their home country of Sweden, and Celine Dion represented Switzerland, which makes no sense because she’s French Canadian, but I don’t make the rules.  This year saw a really good blend of one or two fantastic singers, quite a few really catchy songs, and our fair share of eye candy.  Take Pastora Soler from Spain, for example.  Her power ballad starts off slow, but fires up toward the end and she delivers some amazing notes:

Then there’s Cyprus.  Ivi Adamou was a contestant on the Greek X Factor (which includes Cyprus).  Sure, her singing isn’t all that great, but the song is totally catchy and there are fun dance moves!

And then there’s the eye candy:  Tooji from Norway.  Originally from Iran, Tooji moved to Norway at a very young age where he grew up to be totally gorgeous, quite a good singer, and most likely gay.  He’s a social worker when he’s not singing, so I’m going to make the somewhat safe assumption that he is actually gay and that he wants me bad.  Right.

Aside from those, there was also an adorable pair of twins from Ireland (Go Jedward!), a man with gorgeous eyes from Germany, a multi-platinum French singer with her topless male backup dancers, a Romanian band singing in Spanish with a Cuban sound (it actually worked!), and the Italian version of Amy Winehouse.

Now, all of this sounds like a recipe for success.  And it sounds like something that the gays would totally be into (come on, how many good-looking men did I just mention?)  And you know what:  the gays are totally into it.  Eurovision is totally gay – and fabulous.  All across Europe and beyond, the gays flock to Eurovision and Eurovision parties every year.  It’s become like the next biggest thing to the gay pride parade.

Now, aside from the handful of really good voices, catchy tunes, and gorgeous men, there’s also the bad stuff.  And yes, it’s bad, but it’s often times really camp.  And that just brings the gays in more.  It’s the really bad stuff that makes it all really entertaining.  Just to name a few, this year’s contest featured a song about Facebook from the tiny country of San Marino, an Albanian woman screaming in agony, a rap duo from Austria called “Trackshittaz” (note:  Austrians cannot rap), a very confused man with a giant donkey from Montenegro, a decent song by Dutch girl which was completely ruined by the Native American headdress she was wearing (WTF?), a skank from Greece singing about absolutely nothing, and a song from Turkey which I’m pretty sure was about a pirate.  But the biggest train wreck of the contest actually turned out to be quite fantastic:  Buranovskiye Babushki.  Representing Russia, this group of grandmothers from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere won Russia’s qualifying round and came to the contest with a song called Party for Everybody.  While the title and very short chorus are in English, everything else is in the grandmothers’ native language:  Udmurt.  Not even Russian.  Udmurt.  Lyrics, when translated into English, include “And my cat is happy, and my dog is happy!  And my cat is happy, and my dog is happy!”  Good thing they sang the lyrics in a language we couldn’t understand…

Now, you have to admit:  the song is fairly catchy, and the Russian grandmothers are quite adorable.  Really adorable.  Super adorable.  So adorable… that they got enough votes to put them into second place.  Crazy!

After each country performs, the public votes by calling or texting, just like on American Idol.  The public vote is then balanced out with the votes of a jury of music experts from each country, and then points are assigned to each country.  It’d be like having the American Idol judges voting and then averaging their vote and the public’s vote to determine the winner.  Each country’s votes are given equal weight regardless of their size.  For example, whichever country wins Russia’s vote gets the maximum 12 points from Russia, and whichever country wins San Marino’s vote gets the maximum 12 points from San Marino, regardless of the fact that Russia’s population is over 143,000,000 and San Marino has a meager 32,000.  The top ten vote getters from each country get points.  One of the biggest criticisms is that voting often times seems political:  Portugal and Spain always vote for each other, Greece and Cyprus always vote for each other, Turkey and Azerbaijan always vote for each other, and the former Soviet republics stick together, as do the former Yugoslav countries (despite the fact that they hated each other a decade or so ago).  The Western European countries seem to be a bit fairer.  But even with the politics of the vote, this year all countries had one thing in common:  they all loved Sweden.  The song Euphoria by Loreen took home the gold and the prestige of hosting next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.  The song was good, but there are at least ten that I thought were better.  Oh well.  At least Turkey’s pirate song didn’t win (it came 7th… again, WTF?)

And as for my beautiful Tooji from Norway:  he advanced from the 42 country semi-final round but did not do so well in the final.  He came in last of 26, which I think is totally bullshit because the song is good and he’s a pretty good singer.  Ugh.

He’s probably sad.

I should fly to Oslo to comfort him.

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