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The 52nd Eurovision Song Contest Grand Prix was held on May 12, 2007 at the Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, Finland, who became hosts after the victory of the metal band Lordi in Athens in 2006. As has become SOP over the past decade or so, it took place in two rounds, the main event, to which this writeup refers mainly, and the preliminary round held two days beforehand. Individual countries qualified for the final round in one of three ways - either by placing the top 10 in the previous year's event, or by winning one of the ten qualifying places in the preliminary round, or by being Britain, France, Germany, or Spain, who give so much money to the EBU that they are catapulted directly into the final.

Now normally the first round is of little to no importance, but with a record 42 entrants this year, some of which aren't really in Europe, if you ask me, this meant that there were several good performers that were booted, or at least, that I'd have wanted to see in the final round. These included the Swiss entry, one DJ Bobo, who performed an upbeat dance-pop jobbie about vampires while his backing performers had the most incredible hair ever (think four-foot mohawks), and the Andorran entry, which was honest-to-goodness emo - after all, we need target practice. And the Israeli entry, "Push the Button" by a band calling themselves Teapacks caused minor drama since to some it seemed like it was advocating nuclear war and was almost disqualified for breach of the rule banning political content in entries.

2007's event was also notable in that the only Western European countries in the final round were the above-mentioned Big Four, Ireland, and a few Scandinavian nations; Italy haven't entered since 1997, Belgium and Holland were eliminated, as were Norway. Probably this is because of political voting achieving the same stranglehold on the first round as it does on the final; in the latter I could predict with a near 100% accuracy who would vote for whom. Seriously, something needs to be done about this.

But I digress. In the words of the two exceptionally shouty hosts (is this an essential quality nowadays for Eurovision emcees?), "Let's DO IT!!!"

In General

Well, production values were on the up, and for once the "idents" before each song made me giggle a bit, although this was most likely because I demolished a six-pack of Grimbergen during the proceedings. The other thing about the idents was that everyone in them had a Nokia mobile phone and used it extensively. The hosts were suitably shouty and irritating, and after the fifth song or thereabouts a Finnish stand up comedian, well, allegedly, appeared and started irritating the shit out of us by acting like the bastard offspring of Paris Hilton and the Tooth Fairy. Many were the occasions that when she appeared I mimed stabbing her through the skull with the ballpoint pen I was using to keep a score and write notes on the songs (you may now call me an ugly sad act.)

Thankfully, though, the shouty hosts and the Tooth Fairy were kept to a minimum of exposure due to the commentators. I was watching this year's event on France 3 here in Paris and the French commentators talked over everyone, especially when they were speaking in English, in which case they attempted to translate what was being said, and when people were speaking in French who were not French, they applauded sarcastically and suchlike. As has become de rigueur, the previous years' winners reprised their winning song as part of the opening act, in this case, complete with a very slick music video involving Lordi's Uruk-Hai frontman transforming into a wolf, fire, explosions, forests, snowy mountainous vistas, adventure, and Really Wild Things. This segued into the entrance of the hosts, and then things began in earnest. As before, I kept score, but alas, only on my own, since nobody else I knew in Paris wanted to sully their television with what one former French Minister of Culture referred to as "a monument to drivel." That being said, my fellow Englanders here in Paris also had to suffer the indignity of being represented by Scooch, but that'll be further explained later.

The Final Round Entries

Before I dive straight in to an exposé of each song, a few words about how I rated them. I generated a table, with marks out of 20 for song quality, artist talent, presentation, and clobber, which were all weighted equally and averaged out to leave one score out of 20. On this scale, a score of 10 or over means that I'd not hide in shame if I was caught watching the performance by a mate, girlfriend, prospective girlfriend or close family relation outside the Eurovision Song Contest - and from someone who has Ruslana Lyzhicko's "Wild Dances" and Dana International's "Viva La Diva" on my laptop, I know whereof I speak on this. I also scribbled a few words on each entry which should help to clarify why I came to the conclusion I did.

The standard of entries, in terms of general goodness, was better this year than before, but political voting had got worse and worse. There were few to no songs that I found totally uninspiring or useless, mainly thanks to previous years' winners busting the field right open. But that being said, I still don't think that the right song won. The Russians punched far above their tAtu-level weight once more, mainly because the former Eastern bloc would have woke the next morning to T-90s on the horizon if they didn't vote for them, and the Former Yugoslavia all voted for each other anyhow. Most disappointingly, we Brits didn't nul-point as by rights we should have. Damn you Malta for giving us twelve. Damn you.

So, here, in order of their appearance on the show, are the Eurovision 2007 entries:

1. Bosnia & Herzegovina

Artist: Marija
Song: Rijeka Bez Imena
Score: 10/20
How they qualified: Top Ten in 2006.
Comments: We opened this year with a folksy jobbie reminiscent of far too many other Balkan countries' entries in recent ESCs to be worth commenting on. Except this year the girlies who sang it had leaves on their heads and one of them had a colossal fake emerald ring as well - think Elvira's ring but twice as big and green. Other than that, it was pretty average and so I gave it 10.
Position: 11th, 106 points.

2. Spain

Artist: D'Nash
Song: I Love You Mi Vida
Score: 9.5/20
How they qualified: Big Four country.
Comments: Spain seem incapable at the moment of entering any song truly worthy of comment and this one was like having your living room invaded by five Ricky Martin clones who sang a song whose lyrics were, according to the French commentators, "very deep." </sarcasm> In other words, it was a Spanish boy band singing a vaguely Latin love song. Meh.
Position: 20th, 43 points.

3. Belarus

Artist: Dmitry Koldun
Song: Work Your Magic
Score: 10.75/20
How they qualified: Through the preliminary round.
Comments: Another Eastern bloc sex symbol, apparently, Dmitry Koldun's song was pretty average but I liked the incomprehensible stage show which involved backing dancers walking along with walls behind them all wandering along next to them. This was interesting at least for the three minutes it took for him to belt out this song. Shouldn't have done as well as it did, but the rest of the former Warsaw Pact all voted for them, so...
Position: 6th, 145 points.

4. Ireland

Artist: Dervish
Song: They Can't Stop the Spring
Score: 6.5/20
How they qualified: Top Ten in 2006.
Comments: OWCH! GET HER OFF! SHE'S COMPLETELY TUNELESS!!!! Seriously, this song would have had Johnny Logan in paroxysms of ungovernable rage if he'd heard it. It was only the singer's utter inability to sing that saved the UK from coming last. And this from the country that dominated in the 1990s? How the mighty have fallen.
Position: Last, 5 points.

5. Finland

Artist: Hanna Pakarinen
Song: Leave Me Alone
Score: 10.5/20
How they qualified: As the host nation.
Comments: Someone wishes they were Tarja Turunen of Nightwish, don't they, Hanna? Except firstly, Tarja can a) sing and b) write good songs. This woman can't. I added a point on though because there wasn't much in the way of vaguely rock/metal stuff this year. And she was fairly nice looking. And had a sort of Elvira haircut, except not as overblown.
Position: 17th, 53 points.

6. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Artist: Karolina
Song: Mojot Svet
Score: 11/20
How they qualified: Preliminary round.
Comments: WickedPedia tells me that she actually has entered for the FYROM before, in 2002, and this year she sang what in retrospect was a pretty forgettable song but which got points for the stageshow, which had dry ice and ballet dancers and other odd stuff. Oh, and when I heard the opening to this I stood up and clapped, for a true "Na na na" song as was popular in the 1960s is one of the defining moments of Eurovision. So I added points for that.
Position: 14th, 73 points.

7. Slovenia

Artist: Alenka Gotar
Song: Cvet z juga
Score: 12/20
How they qualified: Preliminary round.
Comments: Jaysis H. Christ, this woman had a pair of lungs on her. I half expected her to finish a particularly loud and high note to find that there was half a pint of Grimbergen all over my lap. She also had a get-up that looked like the bastard child of a little black dress and a Spiderman outfit. The song wasn't bad, even if it set my teeth on edge a little.
Position: 15th, 66 points.

8. Hungary

Artist: Magdi Rúsza
Song: Unsubstantial Blues
Score: 11.5/20
How they qualified: Preliminary round.
Comments: Nice bluesy number with some tasty guitar licks. Stage props included a suitcase, on which she sat, and a bus stop, which she serenaded. This song got points off me for having some tasty guitar licks in it and so wasn't just about the singer taking all the attention. Should have done a bit better actually, but in these dark days of endless political voting... yano.
Position: 9th, 128 points.

9. Lithuania

Artist: 4Fun
Song: Love Or Leave
Score: 8.5/20
How they qualified: Top Ten in 2006.
Comments: I can't remember anything about this song other than the fact that only the singer was visible and the other musicians all appeared as shadows in front of a strong white light. I wasn't too impressed. About the right place for it, actually, and it says something when even your fellow Baltic States are hesitant to douze-point you.
Position: 21st, 28 points.

10. Greece

Artist: Sarbel
Song: Yassou Maria
Score: 11/20
How they qualified: Top Ten in 2006.
Comments: Belly dancing! Yay! Also the singer name-dropped the Cheeky Girls, for some utterly inexplicable reason. The song was a bit, well, similar, to the Turkish entry in that both featured belly dancers and similar such things. The singer had a bit of a speech impediment but gave it plenty of welly anyhow and this was, to my mind, one of the better entries this year.
Position: 7th, 139 points.

11. Georgia

Artist: Sopho
Song: Visionary Dream
Score: 11/20
How they qualified: Prelimiary round.
Comments: If you're anything like me, you'll be wondering, "what's Georgia doing here, they aren't in Europe, are they?" Well, apparently the EBU has let them in for the first time this year and apparently is contemplating the addition of Azerbaijan next year, which is definitively in Asia. Still... there were worse entries. The commentators claimed some similarity to the great Ruslana Lyzhicko who won in 2004 for the Ukraine, but I didn't see that much. I will say that they might have put lots of effort into the entry but the song was a bit uninspiring. Georgia's presense in the ESC also meant that Russia had another country who would give it 12 points or be faced with a line of T-90s the next morning.
Position: 12th, 97 points.

12. Sweden

Artist: The Ark
Song: The Worrying Kind
Score: 13/20
How they qualified: Top Ten in 2006.
Comments: About time the Swedes decided to enter a song that wasn't an Abba clone, but alas and alack, it was still stuck in the 1970s. I'm certain that it was, erm, inspired, heavily by some other song but I can't exactly place it. Still one of the better songs though. Also, the stage show, which involved black and white stripes and the singer lying down on a rotating disc for no apparent reason during an instrumental break was worthy of points just for the oddness of it. The rest of Europe didn't think so though...
Position: 18th, 51 points.

13. France

Artist: Les Fatals Picards
Song: L'Amour A La Française
Score: 13.5/20
How they qualified: As a Big Four country.
Comments: This deserved to do a lot better than it did. It was a genuinely good song and for once wasn't the same traditional French chanteuse type entry that the French have indulged in near-constantly since they won multiple times with same in the 1970s. It was energetic, memorable, half in English (which by rights should have been grounds for complaint or even going on strike), and highly amusing. They got extra bonus points for having not only the balls to wear matching bright pink Jean-Paul Gaultier suits, but also to run around on stage in circles while wearing this ill-advised clobber. But... no cigar.
Position: Equal 22nd, 19 points.

14. Latvia

Artist: Bonaparte IV
Song: Questa Notte
Score: 9/20
How they qualified: Preliminary round.
Comments: This one's in Italian, which is an odd choice, especially considering Italy pulled out the ESC in disgust after 1997. It wasn't a particularly good song either, consisting as it did as several male opera singers going on about last night and some girl they were ogling and as such was neither original nor good. I personally think it deserved to do somewhat worse.
Position: 16th, 54 points.

15. Russia

Artist: Serebro
Song: Song #1
Score: 7.25/20
How they qualified: Top 10 in 2006.
Comments: The French commentators perved over these rather young-looking Russian girls who had produced what to me was more suited as the backing music to a L'Oreal advert than anything else. It was like the people charged with determining who should represent them at Eurovision wanted to create a t.A.T.u clone band but the girls they picked up on refused to snog each other on stage. In short, a gimmick band without the gimmick. But all the former Soviet countries voted for them or they'd probably end up with polonium-210 in their morning tea.
Position: 3rd, 207 points.

16. Germany

Artist: Roger Cicero
Song: Frauen Regier'n die Welt
Score: 12.25/20
How they qualified: As one of the Big Four.
Comments: Although their singer looked like he had just come off shift from the meat counter at Edeka or Kaufland or wherever, this was a nice little jazz ensemble and was like a clean patch in the open sewer that was some of this years' entries. For fun and profit, the German correspondent when doing the votes was dressed similarly, which was a repeat of last year, in that respect. But once again, a low score due to political voting. They deserved to do a lot better than 19th.
Position: 19th, 49 points.

17. Serbia

Artist: Marija Serifovic
Song: Molitva
Score: 9.5/20
How they qualified: Through the preliminary round
Comments: E2 user Amnesiac, in the catbox here on E2, referred to this entry as "a fat lesbo and panpipes." That seems fair, after a fashion, and most certainly wasn't the most politically incorrect way that Serbia's victory was expressed in the hours immediately following the contest. It was a pretty dull song actually but it raked in the votes like there was no tomorrow. Mainly from the rest of the former Yugoslavia, and also from Montenegro, who are now independent and who gave Serbia 12 points. Which is a bit naughty, really, because they are effectively voting for themselves. There were many entries this year FAR more worthy of the title.
Position: Winner, albeit exceptionally undeserving, 268 points.

18. Ukraine

Artist: Verka Seduchka
Song: Dancing Lasha Tumbai
Score: 14/20
How they qualified: Top 10 in 2006.
Comments: Now these are who really ought to have won. They consisted of an exceptionally silly and exceptionally catchy song which reminded me of a cross between Korpiklaani and Laibach performed by Ukrainian transvestites in glittery costumes. If they had won it would have been a triumph of lunacy over common sense - and indeed, they were within sight of Serbia right until the penultimate votes came in, when Serbia pulled ahead definitively. Indeed, a look at the full voting grid shows that the Ukraine got more points from countries further afield than just its main neighbours; the only obviously neighbouring vote was by Poland, whereas Serbia had the might of the rest of the Balkan Block to back them, and Russian, in 3rd place, got votes off most of the rest of the former Warsaw Pact.
Position: 2nd, but they was robbed, 235 points.

19. United Kingdom

Artist: Scooch
Song: Flying the Flag
Score: 5/20
How they qualified: As one of the Big Four.
Comments: None. I refuse to waste breath, synapses, or typing fingers on this heap of turdage that calls itself "music." The French commentators referred to it as "musical comedy." Seriously. Britain is the country that spawned the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, the Stone Roses, Oasis, the Spice Girls, the Who, Led Zeppelin, and Lawnmower Deth. Surely we can do better than a bunch of washed-up bubblegum pop idiots who make limp innuendos about salted nuts and prance around dressed as air hostesses. But no, not only did we enter this lot but some people admitted to liking their performance, which, in my book, is akin to saying you enjoy sheep shagging. And worst of all, it didn't even have the decency to nul-point like it ought to.
Position: 22nd equal, 19 points.

20. Romania

Artist: Todomondo
Song: Liubi Liubi, I Love You
Score: 10/20
How they qualified: Top 10 in 2006.
Comments: Distinctly average, it was a sappy love song with a folksy vibe that I can't really remember too much about other than it didn't want to make me claw my ears off like the previous entry did. They were also dressed as a variety of things which seemed to have little to no relation to each other - a gyspy, a bank manager, and suchlike.
Position: 13th, 84 points.

21. Bulgaria

Artist: Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankoulov
Song: Water
Score: 10/20
How they qualified: Preliminary round.
Comments: This entry worried me a bit. It had a man and a woman, of whom the latter looked like Erszebet Bathory on speed, banging on drums and yelping with some Slavic folksy stuff in the background. It was certainly original but at the end of the day it just didn't really stick and maybe if it had the opportunity to be a bit longer rather than the three minutes Eurovision limits everyone to, it would have been better. I can see why it did well though.
Position: 5th, 157 points.

22. Turkey

Artist: Kenan Dogulu
Song: Shake It Up Shekerim
Score: 11/20
How they qualified: Preliminary round.
Comments: Like the singer and his jacket, but the song, despite being catchy, was more like a collision between Beyoncé Knowles and a busload of belly dancers and as such was remarkably similar to the Greek entry. In fact, the Beyoncé connection became even more apparent when you realise that the ostensible belly dancers spent most of the time, well, arse dancing more than anything. Still, it wasn't bad.
Position: 4th, 163 points.

23. Armenia

Artist: Hayko
Song: Any Time You Need
Score: 8.5/20
How they qualified: Top ten in 2006.
Comments: Ergh, I wasn't really impressed by this exceptionally weak song but the stage show was okay and had a background that looked like a forest. This was Armenia's second entry and already I suspect they've decided not to bother too much as it was such a step down from their rather nice 2006 entry with its giant rubber bands attached to the back of the performers' trousers. This song was, in a word, forgettable, since I've forgotten practically everything about it. Shouldn't have done so well and probably got a bit of a boost as it was quite near the end.
Position: 8th, 138 points.

24. Moldova

Artist: Nathalia Barbu
Song: Fight
Score: 12.5/20
How they qualified: Preliminary round.
Comments: This was another one of the better songs in this year's contest. It was a bit metal-like after a fashion, in the vein of Doro Pesch but with more of a pop vein to it. Speaking of which, Ms. Barbu was dressed in a vaguely similar way, what with the fingerless gloves and chains in her hair. The stage show was rather nice with what could only be described as "sheet dancing" if you will. It should have done better, but that wasn't going to happen, given the political voting this year.
Position: 10th, 109 points.

Counting the Votes

The half time show was suitably trippy. It featured headbanging cellists, extremely flexible dancers with bright red hair, and someone bursting out of a giant balloon, which, according to the French commentators, represented birth. It then went on to include people dangling from the ceiling, which are kinda obligatory in Eurovision interval acts, and a man on a bicycle cycling through the air, which was pretty random, much like the "budgies" from 2006. I can't see headbanging cellists and flying bicycles getting onto the same level as Riverdance, but you can't have everything.

They also had a really irritating woman during the vote-counting who was, according to Kizor who I asked about this afterwards, allegedly a "comedian" who was in a pink dress and looked like the Tooth Fairy, but thankfully the French commentators talked over this individual. I would have. I would also have done other things over her, like laid a patio, if it had been up to me.

Thankfully also, the Dutch representative and "national cuddly homosexual" in the words of Sloebertje, one Paul de Leeuw, didn't constantly pester the Finnish host or try to flirt with him or hand out his mobile number, as he had in 2006, which caused Terry Wogan to question "what this eedjit's doing" at the time. And as usual, the French correspondant only gave the votes in French, and so forth. Nothing new there. Political voting was exceptionally pronounced this year, though, a topic about which the French commentators engaged in extensive bellyaching, though mainly because they failed to outdo the Anglo-Saxons.

Speaking of political voting in the Eurovision, something actually needs to be done about it and done in short order. My proposal would be to bring back juries and have a split jury/public vote, with each accounting for 50% of the vote of that country, and, furthermore, to restrict voting only to countries that actually participated in that round, so countries not in the final round can't vote there, and countries already qualified can't vote in the preliminary round. This would help to break up some of the voting blocks that dominate the Eurovision today. Needless to say, with a potential 50 countries entering the 2008 event, something has to be done between now and Belgrade in May 2008 just to keep it all workable.

Still, time will tell.


Sources:
www.eurovision.tv
The Diggiloo Thrush, at www.diggiloo.net
This is Sweden Calling: Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About the Eurovision Song Contest but were Laughing Too Hard to Ask, Des Mangan, 2003

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