The Eurovision Song Contest
UK National Selection 2008
It's that time again. Time for the viewing public of the United Kingdom to choose who will represent the country in the song contest to take place in May. As is usual, the competitors are a group of semi-celebrities who I'd be surprised if many people have actually heard of.
The contest was hosted by Sir Terry Wogan and Claudia Winkleman (interesting symmetrical dress; and doesn't she look tiny compared to him - is he really that size or has he not yet realised shoulder pads are so eighties?).
The assistant judges this time are, again, John Barrowman (aka Torchwood's "Captain Jack") and a woman who I could have sworn gave her name as Cary (Cary? Karrie? Carrie?) Grant - wasn't he an actor back in the heyday of cinema? Maybe it's a bit of a gender-confused name, like Hayden or Leslie or Robin...? Whatever, it wasn't Mel Giedroyc.
Without much waffle, we are straight into the first round. Here's how it goes. There are three 'rounds' (i.e. "girl group") and of those rounds the judges will pick who they want to go into the final with Terry having the deciding vote if the judges don't agree. There will be four finalists (whittled down from six) and the forth will be decided by Terry's wildcard vote.
The girl groups #1 - LoveShy "Mr. Gorgeous"
So here we go. It's the battle of the girl groups. "LoveShy" versus "The Revelations".
After a brief introduction by the group, we launch into their song - "Mr. Gorgeous".
This is a noisy '80s style pop song. What has the cute blonde done to her hair? She looks like that scary Swedish rock-chick. This song might have made it to the charts back in the days of David (Kid) Jensen (am I giving my age away?), but to the Eurovision?
The girl groups #2 - The Revelations "It's you"
Next we're introduced to The Revelations who are a pan-European group (I wasn't paying much attention to the interview - I think one is a Brit, one is Portuguese, and one is Finnish - or something like that). They perform their song "It's you".
Better dressed, a modern song with a healthy dollop of the sixties thrown in (quite ironic, as I watched Austin Powers last night...). I'm not sure these three have the vocal presence of LoveShy. They also stood behind their microphones and boogied on the spot, there was no other movement. Their dance reminded me of Cher's "The shoop-shoop song". This seems to me to be a more Eurovision song, and perhaps technically better if weaker on lead vocals. This could perhaps be resolved by dispersing the song so everybody leads on a part, like a verse apiece?
I noticed that both judges pull up The Revelations on the weakness of the lead vocals.
Both of the judges picked The Revelations, and Terry abstained from saying who was his favourite, the wuss.
Wasting time - some reminiscense
We got to see some old performances, but nothing can really top Wogan's hair back in the dark days of monsters and dinosaurs. We also saw a clip of Katie Price's 2005 entry where she singularly managed to miss every note she was supposed to sing. The image caption tells her final ranking which could go some way to explaining why the UK has for so long sucked at Eurovision. Okay, so Katie & Peter feed ITV with programming material for the celebrity-obsessed no-hopers (aka the British public) what with a wedding diary, a baby diary, and a chat show that makes Jonathan Ross seem decidedly top-drawer stuff. Maybe the entire British public knows that Katie and 'Jordan' are the same person. Question is, how many people in the rest of Europe know that, and how many might think it is Pamela Anderson on a really bad day. You simply can't vote for people on the basis of their so-called celebrity status, it won't work.
The section title "ALWTSC" stands for "Andrew Lloyd Webber Talent Search Competitions", as this is where the next two came from. Our first contender, "Rob McVeigh" was in the search to find a "Joseph" (the many-coloured dreamcoat), and the second contender "Simona Armstrong" was in "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" (some example Marias on the right, Simona being one of them).
ALWTSC #1 - Rob McVeigh "I Owe It All To You"
Rob McVeigh (looking like that bloke on "Little Britain") gives us the introduction and then performs his song "I Owe It All To You", which opens nicely, however his vocals are not very strong. Perhaps just as well, the title sounds like the song would be full of vomit-inducing soppy sentimentalistic nonsense.
ALWTSC #2 - Simona Armstrong "Changes"
Looking a lot like that girl from "Ginger Snaps" (a movie), the Romanian Simona Armstrong and her bizarre outfit sing a pop number called "Changes".
At least I can understand her English, which is more than I could say for The Cheeky Girls. I liked this one, mad as it was. A better performance and something more likely to win.
The judges both voted unanimously for Simona, and again Terry kept quiet.
Wasting time - The Terrys
The Terrys are awards given for... in this case best pair of lungs (and they didn't mention little Tina Karol!) and for the most outlandish dress (and again, they missed plenty of good ones).
At least we got to see the original Eurovision title.
Finally, the turn of the professional singers. We have Andy Abraham (who came second in The X-Factor, apparently, I've never heard of him), and Michelle Gayle who has had six top-20 singles. Again, who? I guess we will have to see what her song is like...
Professional singers #1 - Andy Abraham "Even If"
Following the obligatory introduction, we're into his song entitled "Even If".
What can I say? Finally somebody who has a voice worthy of an international contest, somebody who could do Britain proud. We're back to the '80s again for the song. Who does this remind me of? I can think of the song and picture the performer, but I'm not sure I ever knew the names of either. Think of the era of <cough>Milli Vanilli</> and Richard Marx (remember them?).
Professional singers #2 - Michelle Gayle "Woo (U Make Me)"
An introduction. Nope, don't know her. She then begins performing her entry called "Woo (U Make Me)".
My first complaint, of many, is spelling "you" as "U". Such illiteracy is no longer 'cool', it is actually rather dated and only belongs these days on the side of trucks marked "U-Haul".
My second complaint is that horrible horrible dress. It makes her breasts look like a giant marshmallow with a straw skirt stuffed into it somehow. Perhaps a more subtle dress, like the backing dancers are wearing, would have been better.
You'll notice I'm not talking much about the song. There was loads of repetition (a good song for the intellectually challenged) and to be honest the vocals grated on the ear. Granted, it was nowhere near as bad as Brian Harvey, but for me this was definitely the weakest performance of the night.
Oh dear. The female judge (Cary? Karrie? Carrie?) loved Michelle's shimmying. John exclaimed in some degree of ecstasy "that's eurovision! eurovision! eurovision!" and both judges obviously picked the "frocky horror show" over somebody who could actually sing, thus going some way to explaining why the United Kingdom are inclined to reside at the bottom of the score tables.
Perhaps Michelle would have been a good Eurovision number a few years ago. Wake up and smell the coffee, more and more countries are starting to take it seriously. Isn't it about time we did too?
There was this interesting moment as Michelle's name was called by both judges...
What was going on? And who's got their hand on Claudia's boob?
Terry's wildcard vote
Thankfully Sir Terry (looking like he is thoroughly enjoying the show) exercised some degree of sanity by using his "wildcard" vote to bring Andy Abraham back into the competition. Do we forgive Terry his offences of talking over songs in the past? Well, no, not really. It was a bit of a no-brainer, and totally irresponsible of the judges to choose a shimmy over a voice. Which part of "Eurovision Song Contest" did they not understand?
Time for the public to vote
And the nominees are...
I am stuck. I like Andy's song Even If but I really like Simona's oddball song Changes. I think both should do well in the contest, Simona won't be a winner but it ought to be memorable. Andy? Potential winner.
The problem? The studio audience, if they are at all indicative of the general public, would vote for Michelle's repetitive nonsense. If indeed Eurovision is represented by Michelle, then I'm afraid it will be a 16th place with 56 points result for us [should I update my 'generic prediction' to be 24th place with 8 points?].
With Simona, we should score better. And with Andy (thank you Terry for saving him, now please don't cock it up by yacking over the songs this year!) we may indeed have a chance at a winning song. He has the presence, the ability...
Okay, I am going to back both Andy and Simona. This is because one is going to pass into the final round, the other isn't. To be honest, I'd be happy with and would fully support either of them.
Unfortunately, I have a horrible suspicion it will be Michelle, what with John Barrowman exclaiming that her song is "Eurovision! Eurovision! Eurovision!" in such an ecstatic manner, pictured right.
Didn't he say the same thing about Scooch last year, and didn't the public finally choose Scooch (the "Eurovision" act) over Cyndi (the serious she-could-sing act)? Look where that got us...
Okay then: The final two will be Andy and Michelle, with Michelle winning. That's my prediction, but not my hope.
After Casualty and Love Soup, we are back to the final of the national competition.
Claudia has changed her dress. Terry has changed his shirt and tie (and possibly his jacket) but it is harder to tell as... while the girls get to put on some nice (and sometimes not-so-nice) outfits, we guys all end up looking like walking adverts for Linux...
And the winner is?
After a brief recap, the winners of this elimination stage are called "in no particular order".
It is really no surprise that the two professional singers - Andy Abraham and Michelle Gayle - are the two going to the final sing-off. Pictured below are the moment they heard their names.
Both performers will treat us to their songs again. There's no need for pictures as it was much the same as last time, with Andy managing somehow to squeeze even more charisma into the video camera. If he doesn't walk this, the viewing public are nuts. Immediately following the song, Claudia talks to Andy (with an obviously happy audience member smiling there in the background).
Afterwards we have Michelle's song inflicted upon our ears, and a quick chat after. Can we really be represented by a performer where the end of her song is "You make me woo, yeah, oh!" half a dozen times (if not more)?
Wasting time again
In order to take up some time as the public get to vote, again, for the final winner, we are treated to some of the songs we'll be up against. My personal favourite is Dustin the Turkey (Ireland) which won't win because it is a bit too controversial and also with that atrocious cor-blimey Dick Van Dyke accent is unlikely to be widely understood. However, it may well be the first time a singing rubber puppet has been entered into the song contest. What next? That singing lobster? ☺
Then we are treated to a look at past winning entries. Five in fifty years. Here they are, for your enjoyment. How many do you remember?
Sandie showing how the sixties are supposed to go.
Lulu, now in colour, showing that England in the late sixties was a happening place.
Brotherhood of Man reminding us why, on the whole, the seventies were a gigantic embarrassment. Remember this is Bee Gee era.
As if by some dose of magic it all changed a few years later as Buck's Fizz brought the eighties to life (check out the colours and the hair) and did the inimitable whipping-off-the-dress which caused a stir at the time and has been shamelessly copied ever since. In fact, the title of their song "Making Your Mind Up" has also been shamelessly copied for this very national selection programme on numerous occasions.
One could suggest that things like this were Eurovision's finest hour. I wouldn't disagree, but I revel in nostalgia when The Vault does its '80s night with T'Pau, The Bangles, Bananarama, A-Ha, and a host of New Romantics groups. That was music. That was also twenty seven years ago. It's no good thinking of Eurovision as a festival of Buck's Fizz because, well, because we all giggle at the Abba tribute acts that turn up from time to time. Tastes and styles have moved on.
Katrina - "Love Shine A Light"
After a brief look at the fifth British winner, Katrina and the Waves (back in 1997), as she was then:
She performs a disappointingly sexed-up version, this time with shorter hair and a trench coat to make her look like a cross between The Terminator and Anne Robinson.
Her female backing dancers look like something from the early eighties Paris scene. If they weren't Brits, and too young, I'd bet they'd have known the words to Voyage voyage...
Another Terrys award to waste some time and afterwards a brief chat with Andy's wife (pictured) and Michelle's uncle.
And the winner finally! is...
The judges are asked to pick a winner, and predictably they both vote for Michelle.
They don't trust Terry with an earpiece, so they go for a good old-fashioned envelope. And here it is, with everybody in the audience calling for Michelle, the moment of truth arrives.
IT IS ANDY!
Yes! Finally the British public ignore the judges and go for the guy that can sing. The guy that might bring Eurovision home from some place in Eastern Europe.
I feel that this competition was to a higher standard than last year. Only one act I didn't like, as opposed to practically only two I did like in 2007.
There is a tiny twinge of regret that Simona didn't do better, but nevermind, we have the makings of a winner in Andy. A good choice, and best of luck for the final.
It looks as if the BBC will be broadcasting both semi-finals - well done guys, but note that we can only vote in the second semi-final.
I think they said the semis will be on the 20th (Tue) and 22nd (Thur) May with the final on May 24th (Sat).
So, I guess you'll hear more from me then!
Text copyright © 2008 Rick Murray
Images copyright © 2008 BBC (calendar from Windows XP)