- Songs 1-6: Romania / UK / Albania / Germany / Armenia / Bosnia & H.
- Songs 7-12: Israel / Finland / Croatia / Poland/ Iceland / Turkey
- Songs 13-18: Portugal / Latvia / Sweden / Denmark / Georgia / Ukraine
- Songs 19-25: France / Azerbaijan / Greece / Spain / Serbia / Russia / Norway
- Getting ready to vote
- Time to call it and say who I think will win
- The interval act
- The results of the televote, and who gave who douze pwah
- The final scoreboard
- The winning entry!
- Analysis: the broadcast
- Analysis: the voting
- Analysis: the contest
Following The National Lottery draws (that's Myleene Klass on the right starting the 'Thunderball' draw... were those your numbers?), it's back to Belgrade for the third and final time. As this is the main contest and will be broadcast on majority channels so we can expect that things will be bigger and bolder than the previous two semis. I'll be making lots of references back to the semi-final performances. It'll save repetitions.
But first this... Four frames of a narrated apology:
Back in the land of Eurovision:
It's the dum-dee-dee-dum people, and then finally - at last - it is Marija Ŝerifovič beginning the show with a lone vocal of Molitva. Then it is a brief routine with her singing to a pretty woman in a wedding gown, which really won't help against those who questioned her sexuality last year.
The wedding dress comes off to reveal a trouser-suit (US: pantsuit?) that is half white and half black. Actually, it is more half black trouser-suit and half white ball-gown. More backing dancers turn up dressed likewise. Makes for some interesting visuals. We won't talk about what they've done to Molitva itself. Some things are best left alone...
Molitva performed, Marija sings a song in English aided by a lot of girls wearing very little.
Our hosts for the evening arrive. As before, Željko Joksimović and Jovana Jonković. The BBC commentary is provided by Sir Terry Wogan as is customary (nay, legendary!). Apparently there was something else going on with the interactive service, but given how ugly the subtitling was when I tried in the first semi-final, I decided to stick with the normal broadcast.
What might be a nice idea is if the BBC repeat the broadcast on one of the interactive streams, perhaps the day after the contest?
This is Jovana who explains that some people in Europe kiss once. Some kiss twice. Serbs kiss three times. Nerrr! Around here, people kiss four times (but only three times in the Anjou, a mile away...). It is a bit freaky for me as a Brit, because we emotionally-repressed Brits don't do the kiss-on-meet thing as a matter of course. Only when we're playing at being 'French' which is a bit of a unintentional parody, like so many ex-pats who try to be "more French than the French" and just end up embarrassing themselves (though, astonishingly, some seem oblivious to the agape stares of actual real French people). Anyway, I guess it is nice that many Europeans are more touchy-feely. Just, you know... fluff with my hair or something. Don't try kissing unless you plan on marrying me...
Well, that accounts for eleven minutes of introduction. Time for a competition song, don't you think? ☺
In honour of this contest being simultaneously broadcast on BBC HD, each song will be accompanied by two pictures.
If you have a low-spec machine, or dial-up, panic now!
Put it like this - it reminds me of that song "Americanos" from the late '80s, where you remember Americanos, blue jeans and Chinos and, well, that's about it.
In this case, it is Even if... dah dah da-dah.
I wish and hope for at least a midway ranking as this is the best song the UK has entered in a while, but the thing is, will anybody remember it three songs down the line?
Wogan, please do not talk over the songs! Your commentary between songs is useful for filling in details that we otherwise won't know, but really, you don't need to comment on what is being acted out in front of us. If we're so dense we can't figure it out without our hands being held, we'd have been watching "Britain's Got Talent" on ITV1 instead...
Haha! I've just noticed the brides are busy knitting while all this chaos is going on.
So much was going of with the sparks and the flashing lights that I saw the video start to go blocky. You rarely see that with BBC One!
Throwaway fact: they were tenth in the first semi, they are tenth now. Will they be tenth on the scoreboard?
|A visit to the green room. Kristina (nice outfit) and Bane (I think that is said like "banner" without the 'r'?). Two extrovert oddballs. ☺|
I know that as I'm now living in France, I should support France, but... Come on! The song isn't that bad (but not my sort of song) however the performance? This might be even less understood than last year's entry!
In fact, I will go further and say that it is going to be less understood. I didn't get it at all!
In fact, what language was it in? Some bits sounded vaguely English, others...?
By the way, was that girl supposed to fall over a lot, or did they bribe her to take part with a bottle of Sangria?
'Oro' is a Serbian folk dance.
It is an interesting choice. I would have been tempted to bring out Lys Assia here, instead of in the second semi-final.
During the recap, I make a note of my picks. You can read these in the section just below.
We're back to outside in Belgrade for the excitable sweetheart; followed by a rapid snapshot of people in and around the contest, rehearsals, etc.
As the vote is decided by a televote, there is yet another recap of the songs, and then after a quick plug of the DVD/CD and website (hey! how many outfits does Jovana have?!?), we count down to zero (in Serbian) to end the televote.
I'll now call my favourites:
That's how the voting should go.
12 Russia microskating and bare feet! 10 Bosnia musical therapy for the masses 8 Serbia the power ballad 7 Croatia the soft arty one with the angry old bloke (aren't they all?) 6 Latvia it's a hei-hei-ho... 5 Albania the emotional ballad 4 Ukraine the bouncy men-in-a-box one 3 Greece more bounciness, and a pop-up-book 2 Portugal the spooky song 1 UK finally you see those two letters in my top ten, and not just as part of the word "ukraine"!
Now just forget the political bloc voting and look carefully at my list of countries. Who is old Europe in that lot? In fact, most of ex-Yugoslavia features at the top of my list.
Another brief visit to the not-very-Green Room.
The votes are given as 1-7 on screen with the announcer from each country saying their eight, ten, and twelve votes; so the voting stage actually passes pretty quickly. I think we will whip through in around fifty minutes? This might seem like a long time, but there are 43 countries to give their votes. All by live video link, across the entirety of Europe (and beyond). It's quite a miracle of modern technology.
Throwaway trivia: Carrie represented the UK as part of the group "Sweet Dreams" in 1983, and finished in 6th place. [thanks Moray!]8 to Turkey, 10 to Latvia, and 12 to Greece. The UK gave a point to Spain, ohmigod!
I have been emailed by several people asking what I meant by 'genlock'. That's the process of taking one video picture and overlaying bits of it on top of another. Look around her hair, you'll see it is frizzy so bits of the background blue screen are showing through, only it isn't blue enough for the image replacement to kick in. I don't see why they didn't sit her in front of the multi-screen thing they use for the weather forecasts on the six o'clock news, and display the actual picture behind her, it'd surely have looked better...?
Throwaway trivia: Ready? Okay... This Estonian is called Sahlene and she represented Sweden in 2002. Got that? [thanks Moray!]8 to Norway, 10 to Finland, 12 to Russia. This takes Russia into the lead position.
<spooky voice>ooooh, it's beeehiiiind yooouuuu!
At this point, we have a quick recap of the top three countries:
With that, Greece pips into three-figures with Russia a handful of points behind.
Probably a break for crappier channels to go to adverts? Whatever, we pay a quick visit to The Green Room and the hyperactive hosts who talk to the Greeks and the Russians (who sound like they are chanting lat-vi-a!) and also the Spanish.
Our top three are recapped:
A recap of the top three:
Rather pointlessly, as it is obvious who has won, with only two countries left to vote we look at the top three, which are:
They never displayed a final score chart, as far as I remember.
The 2008 scorecard.
Fireworks over Belgrade as Dima heads to the stage.
Sir Terry said "This is no longer a music contest", he'll be ruffling some feathers there. Russia's song was very good and definite winner potential - but the problem is a lot of the voting appeared to follow the accused 'bloc' pattern. Austria has already pulled out due to the voting, and this looks to be a problem that could fracture the song contest.
Dima receives the trophy from the previous winner, and Evgenie says that he has now won something else!
Now it is time to have the winning song performed once again.
The problem explained
You see, there is a very awkward problem. It looks extremely likely that the Balkans all voted for each other and the Baltics all voted for each other, and so on. What we forget, time and again, is that until very recently all of these Balkan countries were one country. I have a map book from 1990 and I can point to Skopje and just above that it says Yugoslavia and not The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It was a country reaching from Italy to Greece.
It is, therefore, quite likely that the majority of people watching and enjoying the song contest today will remember life before the demise of Yugoslavia, before the opera singers made a song for the benefit of the children of Sarajevo.
It isn't like we Brits 'understand' the Irish culture because we buy The Corrs CDs and watch Ballykissangel and Father Ted... no, this is a proper shared culture and shared heritage. And, mostly, a shared language (even if the written forms differ).
Likewise with all these little countries ending in '-ia'; Latvia, Armenia, Georgia... plus Ukraine and Azerbaijan... these places were basically Russia right up until the fall of Communism; and in some cases beyond.
How can we support the concept of political voting when Georgia awarded eight points to Russia, given that these two countries are entering into the fray of practically declaring war on each other over these last few days?
Montenegro fell out with Serbia over a boy band, and the region became autonymous (not just because of the Eurovision entry, that was one of many little problems) and now they awarded their 12 to Serbia. Not because they're sucking up, but because they're practically the same.
The (other) problem explained
But this isn't the end of the problem. It goes far deeper. You see, it appeared that Sir Terry was pitting his reputation on a good showing from the British song. Now, granted, it was one of the best British songs in recent years. But so? Come on people! The Russians brought their A-game... a well-known and experienced performer, production by Timbaland, a world-class violinist, a world-class skater. They came all guns a-blazin'. This is why I voted for Russia right from when I saw it. Not because of the hype (which, not having Internet at home, has totally missed me!). Not because the bookies liked it. Not even because of the "all the little countries will vote for it". But purely and simply because it was a good and accomplished performance which, like Molitva the year before, grew satisfyingly better in between passing the semi and letting it all out in the final. It just had the whole "we're doing this and we're walking away winners" vibe to it. Not in a smug way, but in all the right ways. The British voters didn't give one single point to Russia, so whatever Russia was tapping into was missed on them. I got it. I so totally got it, and it got 12 from me.
Who does Britain offer? An ex-binman - which is a perfectly respectable career, somebody has to do those sorts of jobs, but the point is he didn't grow up a performer - who failed to win The X-Factor. Nobody 'serious' seems to want to take part. They believe that they will score "null pwah" (or worse, about 5 points) which will ruin their career. I guess that speaks volumes about their abilities as performers.
What Britain desperately needs is not to enter talent show rejects and ex-famous people, but a genuine star who has plenty of charisma and can work a crowd. Do you think we'd be hanging around joint-last with a mere 14 points if Robbie Williams went out and did something like a mostly-acappella version of "Angels"? Of course not!
Now many Brits will be thinking "you're mad" and "Robbie would never get involved in that crap". Maybe I am mad, and I'm pretty sure he'd not be interested. And that's why next year it'll be yet another didn't-quite-win... will it be a Simon Cowell reject or an Andrew Lloyd Webber reject (actually that Irish girl Naimh (sp?) had a nice presence and offbeat perkiness)? In any case, it'll be the best effort from somebody who isn't quite good enough. And, if Sir Terry is commentating, I'm sure he'll repeat exactly the same stuff he said this year, over and over again.
And if Sir Terry is not interested in commentating, and they can't persuade Paddy and whoever to do it... my email address is
(well, it's worth a try! ☺)
In even more detail...
In essence, the crux of the matter is that Western Europe is not a shared culture. A long time ago France and Britain were intertwined. I live in Brittany as it is called in reference to when Britain owned it. And for a while the 'court' language of Britain was French (following The Norman Invasion). This was so long ago that nobody remembers it except the Swedish (what with a dead girl and the song "Waterloo")... You could say the most recent shared culture in Western Europe was the German occupation in the second world war - hardly something anybody is going to want to remember. For the most part, France has always been France. Germany has always been Germany. Spain has... you get the point. Each country, each culture, each language... all different.
Meanwhile back in 'yugoslavia', how do we know the Bosnian oddballs aren't actually well-known satirists/comedians who have a weekly programme on Serbian television? I bet a lot of stuff crosses borders. I bet also that teenage girls in Ukraine sing along to Dima Bilan songs.
Who, French (and Céline Dion doesn't count, she's actually Canadian), do English teenagers sing along to? Any Germans doing well in the British charts? Am I the only non-German to know of Jeanette Biedermann (sorry, couldn't resist!)? We might stand a better chance with Spanish-like people such as Nelly Furtado (errr! she's Portuguese-Canadian (!)) and Sara Bareilles (close but no cigar: American...). And as for French programming on British TV? Well, that would be a subtitled film or two. I bet nobody in Britain has a clue who Flavie Flament is...
Point understood? What may look like a political bloc vote may in fact be something much simpler.
Perhaps it is a good thing my Digibox is not functional - I can imagine what messages are flying around ITV's reader's letters as a result of this. Pick any or all of the following: Burn the balkans! Withdraw from the contest! Withdraw from EBU sponsorship! Plus a bunch of balls about licence fees (can I use that excuse when my favourite programmes are cancelled for some stupid football game? like... ITV, where's episode #2 of "Pushing Daisies"???)
I bet some sad-sacks are using this to promote the cause of Withdraw from the European Union, like they really believe the country is capable of going it alone; and they're too stupid to realise that the tight-ass ex-Chancellor-now-Prime Minister would probably have made moves to pull out himself (why pay the EU when it can pay Prescott for doing... uhhh... what does Prescott actually do?) if he didn't think Britain was getting back equal or more than it was putting in?
Anyway, for those who like pointless statistics:
Norway is the only Western country in the top 12, them coming in in fifth place.
It's the Baltics this year, with Russia and Ukraine in first and second place. Armenia in fourth place. Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Latvia also in the top 12.
The highest of The Big Four is, sickenly, Spain with 55 points and a 16th place position. Four Western European countries did better then that (Norway, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark) and four did worse (Sweden, France, Germany, United Kingdom).
In defence of Sir Terry's stance
This content is from Ireland's TV3 because British digital information services require a special (interactive-capable) receiver...
Sounds like a massaging of Sir Terry's ego before other people lay into him. I mean, it is okay to glow like a 20W bulb over this year's British entry, but only like a 20W bulb as it wasn't going to bring the roof down. The competition was of a very high level and I'd have been very surprised if it won.
At least after-the-fact we don't need to be embarrassed by a horrible song. Instead it is just a forgettable song that got forgotten.
I think my favourite quote is Simon Cowell's comment that the contest is a bit empty and meaningless. What, you mean there is actual meaning to all those stupid annoying talent/song shows you are involved in on both sides of the Atlantic? Come on, you might find a star lurking in <Country>'s Got Talent, but for 99% of the time it is like watching inmates in the asylum throwing peanuts at each other. Oh, wait, that was monkeys in the zoo? Same difference... Oh, and I really like the way the Britain's Got Talent show ends by interviewing somebody who then goes out and blows everybody away with their performance leading to a slow-motion standing ovation every week. It gets boring. I only watch that crap while waiting for Pushing Daisies...
Maybe, just maybe, this storm-in-a-teacup has arisen because Dima's song was up to the mark and Andy's song just wasn't? Remember, if you think Andy didn't excell, it was Sir Terry's wildcard vote in the UK National Selection programme that brought him back into the contest after the judges decided that the UK would win on the power of a shimmy (never mind a song that was horrible)...
A possible solution
Well, the voting this year has shown the same trends and patterns as in previous years, so the split semi-final might have assured a better balance of songs in the final, but nothing else has changed much. Didn't they see this coming? Maybe that's why Mr. Stockselius' cute assistant had big eyes? She was thinking "oh my God, look at those votes, I know what Wogan is going to say about this!"?
Keep the two split semi-finals and work it like this:
The winner, and the rest of the top five countries are guaranteed a position in the following year. That's their perk for achieving a high score.
Everybody else including The Big Four battle out for the remaining positions in the semi-finals (might make The Big Four concentrate more on what they actually enter).
And, also, make it mandatory for participating countries to broadcast all parts of the contest.
What matters is the music. A chance to hear songs from other countries, other cultures, far outside of the dirge that is filling the UK charts and the endless Pop Idol winners (want me to talk about exactly how overrated Leona Lewis is? how Madonna really ought to stop gyrating like a 12 year old who missed her dose of Ritalin? how Rihanna seems to slur her words together like that girl in the High School Musical films? I could go on...). The Bosnian entry was great fun. The Latvian one was certainly memorable. Azerbaijan made an impression; I'm not sure what sort of impression, but an impression nonetheless.
This is what it is all about. To get hung up on the voting, to lose sight of the taking part. That will be the biggest damage. And if the unthinkable happen and Britain should withdraw...? I could fiddle my satellite dish and receive it from another country's TV, but that isn't really the point.
The highlight of the night for me was seeing Bosnia again.
The lowlight of the night was the UK's terrible score. It wasn't going to be a winner, but joint-last? I guess that is what I mean by a song that isn't memorable. They only really remembered it in Ireland (possibly political) and San Marino (quite unexpected!).
Overall, I think this can be put down as a "good" contest. There were quite a number of memorable songs (not the UK!), I'm sure I'll MP3 some of them off the video recording.
There was also a worthy number of cute females. And by that I mean pretty-and-with-nice-eyes; it isn't a euphemism for tits&bums which isn't something that particularly interests me. A person's eyes tell a lot more than their breasts, so I'd be looking up, not down...
In terms of scoring, I'm not surprised to see Finland lurking down the bottom. Germany also, it just didn't set the stage alight.
I'm pleased Bosnia did well, just pushing into a three-figure score. It's a shame about Croatia.
Romania down near the end isn't a surprise. It would have been so much better with less shouting and if she trained her voice to be a little bit softer.
Sweden's score proves that ex-winners (even dead ones) are not guaranteed success twice in a row.
Albania deserved better.
Should I give up watching Eurovision? I really don't see the attraction of the French and Spanish entries. The fact that anybody voted for Spain is a shock; but there were more votes than just Andorra's 12.
I rather thought Latvia would have done better as a memorable novelty song. I am extremely surprised that the screaming angels did as well as they did.
Turkey... I dunno... Watched it again. It just fails to impress. I must be missing something.
And so maybe we'll meet again next May for the 54th ESC in Moscow? See you then!
PS: I correctly predicted the winner again this year. The bookies apparently called this to win as well. Some say for "political reasons". I say because it was obviously the song of the night... That's why my "I was right!" bragging is only this little postscript at the end. You can't brag about something that seemed fairly obvious!
My thoughts and comments and 'best of' awards
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