ESC Countdown 7Days: The Wild and Wacky

Cheat Sheet for American Viewers of Eurovision

The multitudes of gay Eurovision fans around the world are of course in love with the glamour, big hair, choreography, involved sets and bizarre costumes in each year’s new edition of the Contest. But they share another appreciation with the kids, grannies, bar patrons and everyday viewers that make up the worldwide viewership, and that is for the circus spectacle of wild, over-the-top and frequently hilarious entries that spice up the annual broadcasts.
rumania

This year doesn’t disappoint. Where else but Eurovision can you revel in such antics as a rapping paean to yodeling (from Romania), a reggae tune from Moldova with a backup dance chorus of brides and an overenthusastic Epic Sax Guy, or a pop/opera hybrid featuring one plump singer doing two voices as a duet with himself? Welcome to this year’s crop of wacky and ridiculous attentiongetters vying to rake in the votes.

Montenegro has had a tough time getting noticed and voted into the finals in the past, and this year’s approach seems to be centered on appealing to a campy homoerotic sensibility. Slavko is outfitted with a huge braided ponytail that he whips around madly while projections of hunky male dancers strut and pose to make sure no one forgets their dancey “Space”:

Croatia has a highly regarded history in Eurovision, and rarely goes out on a limb to present a thick slab of Eurovision cheese.  Until this year. Jacques Houdek’s “My Friend” has the portly singer emoting as a light pop tenor and a barrel-chested operatic baritone on the Kyiv stage.  Well-performed, and Croatia have thrown in everything including fireworks showers to make this cheesefest unforgettable. Here’s the official video, but you’ll have to wait to catch the OTT stage presentation:

Moldova has a long history of adding crazy fun to the ESC mix, including a group called the Sunstroke Project and their Epic Sax Guy that took the internet by storm several years ago. Now they are back for another crack at the competition, and the press is salivating at their antics onstage (first rehearsal snippet):

Romania is another Balkan powerhouse that has never shied away from presenting such refined entertainment as flaming pianos and a preening Dracula-like countertenor swirling around stage in a gigantic cloak.  This year they’ve brought us a yodeling duet that should mop up telephone votes (and might scare off jury professionals).

Azerbaijan is one of the most successful recent additions to ESC, having consistently placed near the top of the board and winning the whole shebang in 2012.  This year they’ve gone arty and weird, with the extremely theatrical Dihaj singing about her personal “skeletons” while being glared at by a menacing man with a horse head from the top of an onstage ladder:

And to top it off, the big favorite to win this year is Italy’s Francesco Gabbani with his satire on Westerners’ search for Eastern sprituality, “Occidentali’s Karma”.  His final chorus finds him dancing a kooky duet with a man in a gorilla costume.  If it’s musical, big and wacky on your tv, it must be time for Eurovision again.

Too Much of a Great Thing!?

One of the not inconsiderable problems of Sweden organizing Eurovision this year in their gorgeous capital city is that Stockholm has an overwhelmingly great music scene at any time.  Add in Eurovision and your senses go on overload and you have to pace yourself or risk burning out.

From yesterday to the end of this week, the schedule is packed TOO full with great events and free concerts.  At any given hour I could happily be at three different venues enjoying a spectacular concert, and every night after the Eurovision show ends at 11:30 or so, there are other options just warming up for the night. Happily, my days of staying out till 5 or 6am at a club are long past, so I can stifle a little regret and tuck in for the night around 1 or 1:30. The next couple of days I have to make a point to slow down and enjoy the other fine things this city has to offer, otherwise I will leave Monday without getting out of the Eurovision and Swedish pop music bubble.

I just got home from a big party/concert organized by the fan website Wiwibloggs, which looked great on paper.  Seventeen Swedish and Eurovision star acts are on, and the show will go on for the next three or four hours. Unfortunately the sound at Hard Rock Cafe was appallingly bad, and I had to beat a hasty exit before my ears started bleeding from the overamplified, distorted sound near the stage.isa

Isa, the assured 17-year old new face of Swedish pop, had the right idea when she stopped midsong and said she would start over when they got the speakers fixed.  It got slightly better and she did her song.  At least I didn’t feel bad tearing myself away after her set, knowing that the performers I would normally give my eye teeth to see and hear would be performing under really subpar circumstances.

Now off to the jury show of the second group of semifinalists.

Guess You Have to Enter to Win

Last week I noticed that ESCtoday was having an Instagram contest to win a pair of tickets to see brilliant and hilarious Icelandic diva Hera Bjork perform her show “The Queen of Effing Everything” at the Playhouse theatre here. I had nothing to lose, and gave it a shot.

Guess what? I woke up this morning to an Instagram message on my phone that I was selected as one of 6 winners, so I know what I am doing tonight. My ESC traveling friend Phideaux hasn’t arrived yet, and my Danish friend Christian is busy in the press centre all day and evening, so I think he is connecting me with a friend of his to come along.

Can’t wait to see and hear fantastic Hera, and will try to get pictures at the show tonight.

HeraQOEE

Jedward release official “Waterline” video

The Irish twins with the sky-high hair just can’t stay out of the Eurovision news. Though it seems mostly like a nice chance for them to walk around Tokyo and dance in their underwear, the new official video of Jedward’s 2012 entry “Waterline” has just been released. They look good in the hairdos they are styling (more mature and yet younger at the same time). Good luck to John and Edward, and I am sure you will make Baku a lot more fun!

A funny thing happened on my way to the blog…

This morning I was struck by any interesting idea for a post, search Google for a fan so passionate about Eurovision that he or she got a tattoo to show for it. When I got home and did the search, I found that JEDWARD had done just that, taken the plunge and each got a Eurovision tattoo to demonstrate their love for the Contest. Great minds think alike, eh?

Edward gets his back tattooed for Eurovision

Edward gets his back tattooed for Eurovision

Ahead of representing Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest in May, Jedward have shown just how douze points hardcore they are by getting Eurovision tattoos. Sean Venter from Dublin tattoo studio Zulu tattooed John on his lower arm and Edward on his upper back – two of the most painful places to be tattooed – with MUZU.TV there to witness the inking. John said: “My tattoo really hurt but Edward and I did it for Eurovision as we so want to win the competition for Ireland.” Edward added: “Having a tattoo with John is really cool. It’s always going to be a special memory for us in 2012, especially if we win Eurovision.” — rte.ie, 30 March 2012

Great Years of Eurovision: 2006

Some years the Song Contest is good, others just ok.  But a few times a decade it really comes through on all fronts and rises to the LEGENDARY level.

In 2006 I ordered TV Espana on satellite because it was the only international channel that was cheap and easily available without installing a custom dish that carried the semifinal and final shows of Eurovision Song Contest.  Back then I had high-speed (haha to that claim!) DSL from AT&T, but the internet feed was still not too reliable and was prone to breakups and buffering.  So armed with a strong television feed (with Spanish announcer) and the weaker internet stream from eurovision.tv, I watched and was totally mesmerized!

The plotlines the various entries added to the mix were worthy of a screenplay.  The prime battle appeared to be the war of the Eurovision comeback divas between host country Greece’s Anna Vissi and Sweden’s former ESC winner Carola, who both had strong songs with clear winner potential. Meanwhile Romania was hot off a third place showing in 2005, and presented a modern international dance club stomper that threatened to climb the podium. The mighty former Yugoslav republics had a top winner candidate in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s “Lejla”, written by Balkan heartthrob Zeljko Joksimovic (who had just been a Eurovision runnerup in 2004).

Another “young gun” came out of nowhere and into the top rank of contenders.  Dima Bilan was a well-known pop star in Russia, but had not yet broken out into international stardom.  His goofy mulleted quiff attracted attention, and his number was definitely a Eurovision classic “too much is never enough” moment (especially when a ballerina rises out of the onstage grand piano). Dima stormed into second place and then came back in 2008 to win the whole contest!

Then into this heavyweight championship mix strode one of the oddest and most beloved entries seen on the ESC stage in many years.  Finland’s monster metal band Lordi were an UTTER dark horse going into the contest.  They charmed the crowd in Athens by never being seen out of their monster costumes and makeup the entire competition week, and by the final night people were just starting to ask, “Is Europe ready for THIS as the song of the year!?” When the scores were counted and Lordi achieved a crushing victory, that question was answered!

Too Much Is Never Enough — Ukraine 2009

Some countries think the way to Eurovision success is a classy entry in perfect taste, with a subtle chanteuse and a spotlight. That sometimes pays off (think classic French ballad entries). Then there are the countries who know that their song for ESC is not that strong in and of itself, so they throw everything including the kitchen sink into the staging. Whether it works or not, these numbers are usually a lot more fun to watch!

Ukraine has one of the best records of any country in recent years. Among their entries we’ve seen Ruslana’s Xena-in-a-loincloth tribal stomper, Verka Seduchka’s disco drag queen in a foil trench and star headdress, Ani Lorak’s hot Bond Girl writhing on silhouetted light boxes, and especially this highlight of maximal production. It took place at the especially gaudy finals ESC held in Moscow 2009, and even there was a standout of laying it on THICK! Viewers were treated to a giant mechanical set piece studded with hunky Roman gladiators, while the leading lady got tumbled head over heels and dragged across the stage during a random drum break! Take a look at Svetlana Loboda’s Anti-Crisis Girl, “Be My Valentine”!