The Eurovision Song Contest 2008
The Grand Final




It's here at last! The grand final of the song contest. This will be an interesting contest to review, as of the twenty five songs in the contest, we've already seen twenty of them!

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:

If any non-British viewers watched or heard the BBC commentary (perhaps some of it has turned up on YouTube?), this will help to explain the slightly patronising attitude towards "don't vote now!" and the comments passed like "if you vote now, it won't count and I'll get fired".
Through 2007 a number of voting irregularities were discovered. I think one of the first was Ant & Dec's programme on ITV? Suddenly loads of programmes turned out to have irregularities, either by their own admission or by internal investigation. It was almost a period of karmic cleansing with all sorts of bizarre stories turning up. Try Wiki'ing for the programme Blue Peter, it might tell you about the cat...
These days broadcasters are a lot more wary of holding phone-in competitions. There are far fewer. Just the dancing, pop idol, and talent show nonsense... And, of course, the public vote for the Eurovision programming.
On the bright side, a casualty of these investigations was ITV Play. This was a late night 'live' game show (two versions, if I remember correctly?) which seemed to take over all of the ITV stations gone midnight. They got severely bollocked for asking a question like "Name something you'd find in a woman's handbag" and, from memory, the most unlikely actual answer was a claw hammer! [can anybody confirm this?] If so, this is so not a girl I'd wanna go out with! There were also questions relating to how often the studio phone rings and how many people are actually calling, so as a result a directive was made that the broadcasters had to provide on-screen an indication of the number of calls received. So while the cute female presenter is wasting three or four minutes without anybody being connected to the studio (apparently 'randomly' by a computer), it turns out that they had received four and a half thousand calls in the last fifteen minutes, which works out at around 300 a minute. Charged around 50p a call (I think?), it mounts up. I think when all this stuff was instructed to be displayed, people wised up. Now ITV shows generic programming at night... a good film would be better (why not rehash some of the stuff from the '80s? it's got to be better than Jeremy-flippin'-Kyle!?).


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!


The songs

1 Romania "Pe-O Margine De Lume" (On The Edge Of The World)

Performed by Nico & Vlad, in Romanian and Italian.

The female vocals were just as sharp this time around, but somebody must have had words with her about that awful dress. She wore a nicer silvery dress (that seems to be this year's colour). An improvement.


2 United Kingdom "Even If"

Performed by Andy Abraham, in English (duh!).

It is Andy's turn to sing for the UK. It is quite an upbeat number, the kind you'd want to get up and bop to, but having already seen the majority of the songs in this contest, I do wonder how well it will actually do.

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?


3 Albania "Zemrën E Lamë Peng" (Hearts Trapped In Time)

Performed by Olta Boka, in Albanian.

This seems to be more intense than in the semi final. Not only is she putting her all into it, it is as if the music has stepped up a gear as well. I'd better start my favourites list now as this is looking like it might be a difficult contest!


4 Germany "Disappear"

Performed by No Angels, in English.

This sounds like a manufactured pop song, like something that would turn up in (or as a result of) Pop Idol. Okayish, would have been better without the shouty blonde. I'm not sure it'll be that memorable.
And what's with the girl on the right in the picture below, the one with the Dennis the Menace hair!


5 Armenia "Qele, Qele" (Come On, Come On)

Performed by Sirusho, in English with a smattering of Armenian.

The bouncy girl was on fine form, it's just a shame her vocals were a little shouty.
It seems that passing the semi-final gives a lot of these performers a burst of enthusiasm, like chucking nitro into an engine. Look at her in the picture below, bless... the performance of her life there!


6 Bosnia & Herzegovina "Pokušaj" (Try)

Performed by Laka, in Bosnian.

Beautiful! Totally nuts. I loved it! And it seemed so much better the second time around. Perhaps because I was less "what the hell?" and more "hey, that's actually kinda cool".

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.


A brief detour

A quick peek outside by city hall...
Who was that woman, anyway?


7 Israel "The Fire In Your Eyes"

Performed by Boaz, in Hebrew and English.

A solid and powerful performance of this song. This should stand a good chance.


8 Finland "Missä Miehet Ratsastaa" (Where The Men Ride)

Performed by Teräsbetoni, in Finnish.

Gothic rock from Finland, where the guitars are suitably larger than life. This performance was better than the semi-final, but I'm not entirely certain if they are solid rock heros (in their minds, at least) or if they're subversively mocking the whole ethos.

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!


9 Croatia "Romanca" (Romance)

Performed by Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents, in Croatian.

Arty weirdness. Just as good as in the semi, but I am thinking it may lose out to their more interesting neighbours in Bosnia.


10 Poland "For Life"

Performed by Isis Gee, in English.

A confident performance, but SHOUTING isn't singing! And my-oh-my, is that a fake tan I can see?

Throwaway fact: they were tenth in the first semi, they are tenth now. Will they be tenth on the scoreboard?


11 Iceland "This Is My Life"

Performed by Euroband, in English.

A strong performance of a pop song in the early '90s tradition - do you remember that one about "how can we dance when our beds are burning"? What was that, London Beat or somesuch? Anyway, the feeling is a bit like that. In any case, it has grown on me since the semi-final.


12 Turkey "Deli" (Crazy)

Performed by Mor Ve Ötesi, in Turkish.

Rocking out, but I'm not sure I'll ever get the attraction of this one.


Another brief detour

A visit to the green room. Kristina (nice outfit) and Bane (I think that is said like "banner" without the 'r'?). Two extrovert oddballs. ☺


13 Portugal "Senhora Do Mar (Negras Águas)" (Lady Of The Sea / Black Water)

Performed by Vânia Fernandez, in Portuguese.

This song is almost spooky, isn't it? I wonder if it is based upon a mariner's tale?


14 Latvia "Wolves Of The Sea"

Performed by Pirates Of The Sea, in English.

Whoo-hoo, there's a sort of dance routine to this one too! With the right sort of marketing, this could be The Ketchup Song of 2008 (aka "that annoying summer song"). Think about it, this would be great for holiday kareoke on a late night when everybody is half cut and nobody can remember the words.


15 Sweden "Hero"

Performed by Charlotte Perrelli, in English.

Sir Terry introduced "A shimmering delight, but ever so slightly frightening". Yup, the living dead girl (is she even human?) is back to blind us with lasers...
I believe this has been hyped but somewhat overshadowed by the return of Dima? Rightly so, this one is overrated.


16 Denmark "All Night Long"

Performed by Simon Mathew, in English.

Oh look, it's Gary Jules. Well, almost... It's a fairly catchy song, but is it particularly memorable? Way too repetitive for my liking.


17 Georgia "Peace Will Come"

Performed by Diana Gurstkaya, in English.

Ah, it's the blind girl. Okay, so how do they do the costume change? No, still can't figure it out. I just realised, actually, how depressing this one is! Quite a sad song...


18 Ukraine "Shady Lady"

Performed by Ani Lorak (which is "Karolina" backwards), in English.

Yup. The bounciness of Tina Karol and the sassiness of Ruslana. Amusing and flirty performance. This will do well.


19 France "Divine"

Performed by Sébastien Tellier, in <spit>English</spit>.

What the ....?
While I appreciate arty stuff, this was just really really weird. The backing singers (look like male and female) are dressed in a sort of Jesus-meets-TeenWolf hair and beard. Sébastien drives in on a golf buggy. Partway through he appears to take some helium from a balloon of the world (not that it really works). The whole vibe is aging hippy entering into premature dementia...

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!


20 Azerbaijan "Day After Day"

Performed by Elnur & Samir, in English.

The heaven/hell screechfest from Azerbaijan. Dramatic, for certain... but what's it all about?

In fact, what language was it in? Some bits sounded vaguely English, others...?


21 Greece "Secret Combination"

Performed by Kalomira, in English.

A fun song, but probably not a winner. Won't do badly, there are worse...
Mmmm, doesn't she look like Eliza Dushku crossed with Lindsay Lohan?


22 Spain "Baila El Chiki Chiki" (Dance The Chiki Chiki)

Performed by Rodolfo Chikilicuatre, in Spanish.

One of my email friends pointed out that I've always been a little hard on the Spanish entries, oft comparing the songs to The Ketchup Girls, probably because of that fairly generic "spanish sound"...
Well. I won't this year! Instead, I'd really like to hear him defend this horrible insult to music. I'm struggling to think of a song with less merit than this one. Is this the worst entry of this decade?
Get the feeling I absolutely hated this? I had so hoped to have a lovely entry from Spain that I could talk nicely about. Perhaps in 2009...

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?


23 Serbia "Oro" (no translation)

Performed by Jelena Thomašević featuring Bora Dugić, in Serbian.

Having won with Molitva, Serbia puts it out there with the power ballad of the night. It really goes without saying that it went down well in the auditorium!
'Oro' is a Serbian folk dance.


24 Russia "Believe"

Performed by Dima Bilan, in English.

They throw themselves into this and do their country proud. Even on a rink the size of a postage stamp, Plushenko hurls himself around with such abandom, it shows why he has many Gold medals to his name...
Everybody excels. This will win it.


25 Norway "Hold On Be Strong"

Performed by Maria, in English.

A gentle little song by some Scandanavian beauties. Way prettier than the Swedish girls. Being alive probably helps. ☺
A nice way to close the competing songs.


Getting ready to vote...

Time to start the voting. They bring out a basketball legend (who is huge) to throw a ball into the audience. That starts the 15 minute voting time.

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.

How quickly 15 minutes flies!


Call it!

Wow. What a night!

I'll now call my favourites:

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"!
That's how the voting should go.
If I am to get my wish, swap Russia and Bosnia. ☺ But let's face it, Dima can pull this off.

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.


Interval act

The interval act is "the weddings and funerals" band. A slice of Serbian culture? Bring back Marija! Meanwhile Wogan is yacking on and on about Eurovision parties and demon drink and his producer retiring. I'd be inclined to think that was rather boring to listen to, but then what was this interval act?
Somewhere along the way the red and blue people turn up.
They have stuff like this in France when small towns get together for a fête (around here they use the Breton expression "fest-noz"). The French are big on dancing and somebody always has an accordion. That's just like this interval act and it is okay 'live', but I'm not sure it is something that exactly works on TV. Maybe this is why the interval act was omitted in the BBC broadcast of both semi-finals?

Another brief visit to the not-very-Green Room.


The results come in...

Mr. Stockselius (and Svante's Little Helper, with big eyes today - was the voting that bad?) is ready, so let's do it!

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.


United Kingdom

The UK is the first country to give votes, presented by a woman with vivid red hair - Carrie Grant, one of the judges on the UK National Selection programme? Oh BBC... you could have genlocked better than that!
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...?

FYR Macedonia

A guy hitting on the female host...
8 to Azerbaijan, 10 to Serbia, 12 to Albania. Sir Terry says this is "solid Balkan voting". Strange, I could have sworn Azerbaijan wasn't anywhere near!


A woman with a rather peculiar dress.
8 to Georgia, 10 to Azerbaijan, 12 to Russia.


Wearing wings not for the Azerbaijan song, but as an obscure reference to their own song by No Angels - surely then he shouldn't be wearing wings? Maybe a comedy Christmas Party headband with red horns on it?
8 to Serbia, 10 to Turkey, 12 to Greece.


Interesting backdrop, the sun hasn't set in Estonia!
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.

Bosnia & Herzegovina

It's a woman standing beside a lake on which the ghostly apparition of a cathedral floats... Well, that's sort of what it looks like! <spooky voice>ooooh, it's beeehiiiind yooouuuu!
8 to Turkey, 10 to Croatia, 12 to Serbia. You can guess Sir Terry's comments on this!


It's a bloke that needs to smile more. Is he on loan from Poland?!?
8 to Ukraine, 10 to Turkey, 12 to Greece (Sir Terry called Russia, nerr! it wasn't!). Another point for Spain!


The nutters of the night perhaps? They gave Spain four points, and only three to Russia!
8 to Greece, 10 to Turkey, 12 to Armenia.

San Marino

The first points of the night to the UK, they give six.
8 to Armenia, 10 to Israel, 12 to Greece.


Sir Terry calls it as "this will go Baltic"... and he will go ballistic?
8 to Georgia, 10 to Ukraine, 12 to Russia.

At this point, we have a quick recap of the top three countries:

  1. Greece
  2. Russia
  3. Turkey


A smiley Bulgarian presents the votes. Sir Terry wondered "Turkey gonna get the 12, or Russia?". Is he losing his marbles? It said, clear as day, that both Turkey and Russia had already been allocated points (5 and 6 respectively)!
8 to Armenia, 10 to Greece, 12 to Germany. Wow, there's a surprise! They had nothing until then!


It's the cute Serbian from the outside party!
8 to Greece, 10 to Russia, 12 to Bosnia. Sir Terry calls Bosnia "possibly the biggest load of old rubbish that we've seen, apart from the Spanish entry..."; this just shows how two-faced the old twit is, because he cut into the Bosnian song to say "This is it! This is the Eurovision!"


A woman standing on a road junction?
8 to Armenia, 10 to Ukraine, 12 to Russia.


Another smiley presenter (sadly not smiling in this picture); and four points to Spain!
8 to Russia, 10 to Armenia, 12 to... go on, you can guess this!

With that, Greece pips into three-figures with Russia a handful of points behind.


A bloke that looks like he got his fashion ideas from Avril Lavigne offers an apple, but only a single point for Serbia.
8 to Azerbaijan, 10 to Russia, 12 to Romania.


8 to France (!!!), 10 to Norway, 12 to ... Sir Terry calls Denmark, and Denmark it is!


The host wishes a happy mother's day to mothers across France (fête du mères). France gives five points to Spain's monstrosity and only one to Russia.
8 to Portugal, 10 to Turkey, 12 to Armenia.


Another smiley person.
8 to Turkey, 10 to Russia, 12 to Greece.


A smiley woman wishes to say hello to all the friends she made last year in Finland. Ahhh, sweet!
A bit of frenetic clicky-clicky here and... yup, this looks like it could be Sabrina, last year's Portuguese entrant.
8 to Latvia, 10 to Spain (!), 12 to Ukraine.


8 to Iceland, 10 to Bosnia (Sir Terry said "you must be kidding"), 12 to Denmark.
Sir Terry says "they didn't give Sweden anything, there'll be holy murder over that". Actually... it was right there on the screen, top of the 1-7 list, they gave Sweden seven points...


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.

The presenters here talk about what a party it is, and Sir Terry, cheerful as always, says "it looks like the kind of party I wouldn't go to if I was on my death bed" ... probably because he wouldn't be invited, even out of pity.
Given that he's in the same building as all of these people, I am kinda hoping some random person smacks him in the face between his leaving and his flight home... I mean, there's sarcasm and then there's just downright rudeness.

Our top three are recapped:

  1. Russia
  2. Greece
  3. Armenia
A good showing by kelly-kelly of Armenia, but I think this is going to come down to Russia versus Greece.


Smile dear!
8 to Greece, 10 to Russia, 12 to Azerbaijan (!).


Sir Terry suggests "there might be a vote for Spain here".
8 to Greece, 10 to Portugal, 12 to Spain.


Hey! Where's the non-smiling guy? Or did last year's smile mean he knew it was his final year? ☺ Yeah, he must have gone to present the Albanian vote...
8 to Norway, 10 to Ukraine, 12 to Armenia.


8 to Croatia, 10 to Bosnia, 12 to Serbia.


Her name is "ra-choo-ee", she said they spelled it wrongly. I've written it sort-of-phonetically as I've no idea have I would spell that. [I've been informed it is "Hrachuhi", yes, that would have been my nth guess... ☺] It's another point for Spain.
8 to Greece, 10 to Georgia, 12 to Russia.

Czech Republic

She's cute. Nice disposition, nicer smile.
8 to Ukraine, 10 to Azerbaijan, 12 to Armenia.
She makes a mistake in giving 10 to Armenia, but they pick up on it quickly.


Interesting haircut, and remarkably still considering she's floating about five metres off the ground...
8 to Portugal, 10 to Armenia, 12 to Romania.

The Netherlands

8 to Serbia, 10 to Turkey, 12 to Armenia.


They give three points to Spain.
8 to Ukraine, 10 to Armenia, 12 to Azerbaijan.


It looks a grainy video, is it an analogue uplink?
I wonder what the significance to her badge is? It looks like it says "FbF" with a red line through it, like those "not permitted" road signs.
8 to Russia, 10 to Ukraine, 12 to Sweden. Perhaps dead-girl's only top score?

A recap of the top three:

  1. Russia
  2. Greece
  3. Ukraine
Sir Terry is yacking about the political voting. Third place has swapped yet again. It is looking more likely that Russia will win, but they are still catchable as we're around two thirds of the way through the voting. It could still be Greece...


5 points to Russia push them over the 200 boundary, Greece lagging behind with 183 points.
8 to the United Kingdom (tell me that's not a tad 'political'?), 10 to Poland, 12 to Latvia (Lithuania didn't pass the semi).


Another four points to Spain...
8 to Albania, 10 to Portugal, 12 to Serbia.


She is called Leila (or something like that).
8 to Russia, 10 to Ukraine, 12 to Turkey.


It's the regular Greek guy.
8 to Spain (I can't believe it!), 10 to Albania, 12 to Armenia.


Recognise him? He was last year's host.
8 to Israel, 10 to Russia, 12 to Norway.


8 to Albania, 10 to Serbia, 12 to Bosnia.


Bjorn (Bjørn?) sounded like his English wasn't so good, or was it his memory wasn't so good? A rather odd person, Sir Terry asked "are you related to the director general of Swedish television?".
8 to Iceland, 10 to Bosnia, 12 to Norway.


The second pink dress of the night.
8 to Azerbaijan, 10 to Ukraine, 12 to Russia. I think with Russia on 244 and Greece on 202, with the results of... what is this, 38 of 43? Anyway, I think we can probably call it.


8 to France, 10 to Latvia, another 12 to Russia.


Nice hat. I think her name is Roxana? Sir Terry was less complimentary asking "are you dressing like that for a bet?". I think it looks quite good. Eccentric, yes, but I nominally gave ten points to Bosnia so I can do eccentric! ☺
8 to Ukraine, 10 to Azerbaijan, 12 to Armenia.
Sir Terry said "I missed something with that Azerbaijan song", I must say I agree with him on this, I didn't expect them to get as many high-scores as they are.


Nina in Podgorica with a slightly wobbly bridge behind her (the video wasn't entirely in sync, so the bridge appeared to 'wobble').
8 to Russia, 10 to Bosnia, 12 to Serbia.

Rather pointlessly, as it is obvious who has won, with only two countries left to vote we look at the top three, which are:

  1. Russia
  2. Ukraine
  3. Greece
Who will be second? Greece? Ukraine? There's only two points in it...


Dika in "beautiful Georgia" (her words, and her voice was oddly modulated, like it was being squeezed through a really low bandwidth digital link (imagine making an MP3 at, like, 32kbit or something equally naff)).
8 to Russia, 10 to Ukraine, 12 to Armenia (which she sings!).


Maria from Denmark gives the final votes. Are we sure that isn't Goldie Hawn's daughter there? The final point for Spain, giving them a total of 55 points.
8 to Sweden, 10 to Norway, 12 to Iceland.


The final scoreboard

Bosnia & Herzegovina110Finland35
  United Kingdom14

They never displayed a final score chart, as far as I remember.

The 2008 scorecard.


The winners - Russia

And it is time to call it for proper. Russia.

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.


Analysis - the broadcast

There were all sorts of stories. Rumours. Rhetoric. Militant hard-liners will take to the stage during the contest to protest Kosovo and so on.
If it has shown nothing else, the song contest has proven that even countries in political turmoil (The Ukraine having had a revolution six months prior, and now Serbia having had a 'snap' election about a week prior (!)) are capable of putting on their best show to the entire world. Things may be more peaceful in the country due to their electing a moderate government, however there wasn't a hint of any of this political stuff in the contest.
And we must not forget that Serbia was the first to host a three-nighter. A smidgen over seven hours of live television on three nights in a five-day period. That's an incredible amount of planning and logistics. The end result? A smooth trouble-free contest where the only controversies will be out of Serbia's hands. That'll be the usual whinge: the voting...


Analysis - the voting

Terry's opinion
Sir Terry is calling an end to the participation of West Europe. Although Austria has already departed the contest apparently because of this, it may be a bit dramatic to start saying things like "we'll have to think carefully about whether we want to be in it next year" (paraphrased).

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 heyrick1973 at yahoo dot co dot uk. Get in touch! You lay on the transport, food (I don't drink any alcohol any more so don't worry about me raiding the minibar!), and lodgings... and I'll do the commentary. And I promise never to talk over the performances!
(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.

Other opinions
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.


Analysis - the contest

To be honest, I'm not a fan of the song contest for the winners and losers. I liked the Russian song, but to be brutally honest I pick my own winner and top ten and who actually wins is of a lot less importance.

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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Copyright © 2008 Rick Murray
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