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The 55th Eurovision Song Contest Grand Prix was held on May 29th, 2010 in Oslo, Norway at the Telenor Arena. This was following the victory, nay, massacre, by the Norwegian entry at last year's event, the eminently punchable Alexander Rybak, with the highest ever score and the highest ever winning marging by any entrant, ever.

Thirty-nine countries participated in this affair. The Big Four, being Britain, France, Spain, and Germany, and the host, Norway, all pre-qualified. The other thirty-four were thrown into two preliminary rounds, one on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 and the other on Thursday, May 27th, 2010. I actually watched these thanks to the magic of the BBC iPlayer, however, the results of same are beyond the scope of this writeup. What I will say, though, is that the Dutch should have qualified with "Sha-La-Lie," a prime slab of Eurovision silliness involving a life-size carillion, and also the Slovaks deserved to get through, for their entry, "Horehronie," had the singer and four blokes dressed as dryads for no real reason. And the Poles, with a song involving apples. Other than that, there was very little of note in the preliminary rounds. Although beforehand, the Turks attempted to have the Armenian entry drummed out, because they claimed its lyrics referenced the Armenian Genocide in breach of the no-political-lyrics rule. This was unsuccessful - and anyhow, the Armenian entry was actuall about apricots, literal ones, not metaphorical ones.

Themes this year? Wings, definitely. And fruit. Also lots of dark-haired vaguely Middle Eastern women with long hair and long legs and big voices. Also, entries this year seemed to be a lot more understated that previous years. Less silliness on average by far. Though everyone did see fit to make up the numbers to the maximum of six people on stage by having backing singers just to fill out the stage.

The "official" theme to the contest, though, was "Share the Moment," and a filmed introduction had little pink bubbles, each representing a moment, floating up into the stratosphere and making a cloud of moments all shared, with "Share the Moment" embedded into it. For some reason, to me it looked like cocaine, which isn't exactly the sort of moment I'd want to be sharing with anybody.

So, on the day of the competition, I printed off some scorecards from the BBC website and, with a panel of judges, one of whom was me, we scored each entrant out of 30 - 10 for song quality, 10 for performance, and 10 for alarming costumes - and averaged them out. If it scored under 15, then publicly admitting to liking it is probably as good an idea as munching on a frankfurter in the midst of an extremist animal rights gathering.


1. Azerbaijan.

Artist: Safura.
Song: "Drip Drop"
Comments: Reportedly, this was the favourite. With a gal who looked awfully like River Tam from "Firefly," a very high podium, and some bloke in a red tie interpretatively dancing to the song, this had a lot of expectations to live up to. Indeed, the Azeris had spend vast sums on getting this song to win, including hiring the person behind Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" video to do the choreography. Unfortunately we were all left, at the end, wanting to advise her to call a plumber, as it was a bit of a dribble of a song. Though fifth place isn't bad, bear in mind that "Hobbits On My Mind" from last year came third...
Our Panel Says: 15/30
Final Position: 145 points, 5th place.

2. Spain.

Artist: Daniel Diges.
Song: "Algo Pequenito"
Comments: The song name means "something tiny." Oo-er missus. I can only imagine that the tiny thing was this chap's talent, because it was DIRE. However, while he was warbling about his tiny thing, these gymnasts dressed as toys (doll, soldier, etc) flounced around an ran into each other. Then along came a chap in a pirate hat and a black T-shirt who ran onto the stage. Even he couldn't save it. And then it was revealed that this bloke was, in fact, a stage invader. But we all thought it was part of the act. As such, he got the opportunity to attempt his song again at the end but by then nobody cared.
Our Panel Says: 9/30
Final Position: 68 points, 15th place.

3. Norway.

Artist: Didrik Solli-Tangen.
Song: "My Heart is Yours"
Comments: Clearly the Norwegians couldn't afford to stage another one next year, as their entry this year was awful, depressing, and off-key. NEXT.
Our Panel Says: 4/30
Final Position: 35 points, 20th place.

4. Moldova.

Artist: Sunstroke Project & Olia Tira.
Song: "Run Away"
Comments: This Lady Gaga-esque song will no doubt find itself on every playlist in every gay disco in Chisinau. Why? Because of the saxophonist. He was a bleached-blonde type with sunglasses and tight trousers and a leather waistcoat who, when called on to play his saxophone, would pelvic-thrust in time to the music in centre stage. Unfortunately the rest of Europe actually did run away, as can be evidenced from their final placing.
Our Panel Says: 17/30
Final Position: 27 points, 22nd place.

5. Cyprus.

Artist: Jon Lilygreen and The Islanders.
Song: "Life Looks Better in Spring"
Comments: This group was put together on the internet. And like lots of things found on the internet, it was fairly rubbish. And I can't remember anything else about it.
Our Panel Says: 12/30
Final Position: 27 points, 21st place.

6. Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Artist: Vukašin Brajić.
Song: "Thunder & Lightning"
Comments: This slightly rockish number I didn't care for too much because it couldn't decide what it wanted to be. It was scrappy and had parts ripped off from Britpop and parts with epic sound effects and a slightly noodly solo, and seemed disjointed. I wasn't a fan, and neither were many other folks. BORE-RING.
Our Panel Says: 11/30
Final Position: 51 points, 17th place.

7. Belgium.

Artist: Tom Dice.
Song: "Me and My Guitar"
Comments: The Europeans liked this acoustic number which literally was him and his guitar. I didn't. I thought it was duller than watching paint dry. Duller than James Blunt. I described it at the time as "music for dead people." Unfortunately this sort of thing has a lot of fans and it was Belgium's best performance for years. Ugh.
Our Panel Says: 7/30
Final Position: 143 points, 6th place.

8. Serbia.

Artist: Milan Stanković.
Song: "Ovo je Balkan"
Comments: The name of this song means "This is the Balkans." I bloody hope they weren't serious, as if they were, it means they're full of off-key-singing chaps in tight blue trousers with godawful haircuts emerging from pods a la Spinal Tap. Quite upbeat if totally silly. But that hair! That hair! It made him look like a spastic egg!
Our Panel Says: 17/30
Final Position: 72 points, 13th place.

9. Belarus.

Artist: 3+2 feat. Robert Wells.
Song: "Butterflies"
Comments: The only remarkable thing about this song was the womens' dresses, which sprouted butterfly wings at the end of the song. They might have looked like butterflies, but they sounded like moths, and second last was the best place for them.
Our Panel Says: 8/30
Final Position: 18 points, 24th place.

10. Ireland.

Artist: Niamh Kavanagh.
Song: "It's for You"
Comments: She might have won this before in 1993, but she failed to repeat that performance. It might have been for them, but the Eurovisioneers didn't want it. And neither did I or the panel, quite frankly. The only plus point was that the ginger girl with the recorder was quite tasty.
Our Panel Says: 10/30
Final Position: 25 points, 23rd place.

11. Greece.

Artist: Giorgos Alkoios and Friends.
Song: "Opa!"
Comments: Hot off the heels of Sakis Rouvas's giant stapler from last year, this bouncy number was certainly worth it. It had a Greek folksy vibe to it and well-built wammickers shouting, "OPA!" at the tops of their voices and banging on drums. It was reminiscent of "SAGAPO" from 2002, except with more well-build folks stomping about and tight trousers. I don't know what "OPA!" means. But it sounds amusing. And were the friends just friends, or were they friends with benefits? I think we should be told. But anyhow. Probably one of the best songs of the competition. OPA!
Our Panel Says: 22/30
Final Position: 140 points, 8th place.

12. United Kingdom.

Artist: Josh du Bovie.
Song: "That Sounds Good To Me"
Comments: It didn't sound good to anyone else, because the three scantily clad backing singers atop these light boxes in front of a wind machine were all off key - and really loud. That, coupled with the fact that our man had almost no charisma or stage presence or anything to make him stand out, and the fact that our song was written by Pete Waterman and was a sub-Never Gonna Give You Up heap of dross. Mediocre beyond belief.
Our Panel Says: 15/30
Final Position: 10 points, dead last.

13. Georgia.

Artist: Sopho Nizharadze.
Song: "Shine"
Comments:This song was a bit boring and mediocre, however, they had some extremely athletic dancers leaping and flipping like a fish behind her. That's about all I can remember about it to be fair. I suspect it did well due to block voting from its neighbours in the Caucasus.
Our Panel Says: 14/30
Final Position: 136 points, 9th place.

14. Turkey.

Artist: maNga.
Song: "We Could Be The Same"
Comments:Okay, now THIS industrial rock number was the best song of the night, though only just (though our panel preferred "OPA!" as set out above.) It was reminiscent, in parts, of German power-metallers Warlock. And the intro reminded me a bit of "Libertango" by Astor Piazzolla. And it had a woman dressed as a Terminator who got her kit off down to just some latex odds and ends. And it had a brief angle-grinder show in it. And pyros. And explosions. And really wild things. Yeah. A worthy runner up that, in my mind, should have won.
Our Panel Says: 21/30
Final Position: 170 points, 2nd place.

15. Albania.

Artist: Juliana Pasha.
Song: "It's All About You"
Comments:Another Lady Gaga-alike performed by someone who seemed to be attempting to impersonate Madonna and had a rather... alkaline voice, if that makes. Other than that, I'm having to hit up YouTube to find out what this was like. Mediocre again. Apart from the violin shredding.
Our Panel Says: 13/30
Final Position: 62 points, 16th place.

16. Iceland.

Artist: Hera Bjork.
Song: "Je Ne Sais Quoi"
Comments:I don't know why anyone could have thought this was a good idea. Not content with buggering up our savings and our planes, the Icelandics saw fit to have a mountainous woman belt out this number. I wasn't convinced. More mediocrity. Incidentally, she's no relation to the other Bjork. Thankfully.
Our Panel Says: 16/30
Final Position: 136 points, 9th place.

17. Ukraine.

Artist: Alyosha.
Song: "Sweet People"
Comments:A message song sung by a really scary Ukrainian girl. She was scary in that she had big eyes and looked stoned and looked like she was looking into your soul and was out for revenge. The song was all about how we're treating the planet like an arsewipe - indeed, Wikipedo tells me that the video for this song was filmed in Pripyat and proceeds from it go to some green charity. If you don't hate this number already, then let me tell you it was also the second most depressing thing in the contest.
Our Panel Says: 6/30
Final Position: 108 points, 10th place.

18. France.

Artist: Jessy Matador.
Song: "Allez, ola, olé!"
Comments: This should have done a lot better than it did. The French decided not to enter another Édith Piaf-alike and instead entered this slab of prime Europop with lyrics (in French, of course) about shaking one's arse, and had a stage show involving arses being slapped a lot. But arse is what this wasn't. It was probably the best entry the French have had since Les Fatals Picards in 2007. Incidentally, it's also the French official World Cup anthem.
Our Panel Says: 21/30
Final Position: 82 points, 12th place.

19. Romania.

Artist: Paula Seling & Ovi.
Song: "Playing With Fire"
Comments: I quite liked this actually. They had a giant perspex double-ended piano on stage that they were both plinking on and on which the keys were lighting up when they played a note. That, and some extremely tight leather kit. Energetic and amusing, although there was something about her voice that worried me a wee bit. It came third overall but shouldn't have, France, Greece ("OPA!"), and Moldova were all better methinks.
Our Panel Says: 16/30
Final Position: 162 points, 3rd place.

20. Russia.

Artist: Peter Nalitch.
Song: "Lost And Forgotten"
Comments: Worst song ever. Seriously. This song was so bad that whenever, during the voting, someone gave it points (and they probably had to or the gas would be turned off), the entire live audience would boo. It was the sort of dirge you'd expect to hear from some drunkie caterwauling in a doorway at about 4.00 am near a seedy bar in St Petersburg. The low point was when he sang about how he was looking at this woman's photo, and the camera panned round behind it to reveal that it was a crap old line drawing. Someone make it stop! No! Argh!
Our Panel Says: 3/30
Final Position: 90 points, 11th place.

21. Armenia.

Artist: Eva Rivas.
Song: "Apricot Stone"
Comments: Despite the Turks' representations about how it was really about the Armenian Genocide, this song is actually about apricots. There's a giant apricot stone on stage and a dancer with a big pot of water that he dances onto this giant apricot stone that causes flowers to come up out of it. One of the better entries. The other thing of note was that one of her backing musicians, playing the duduk, was, at 83 years of age, the oldest person ever to appear on the Eurovision stage, ever. I quite liked this one to be fair, despite Eva's giant hair extensions.
Our Panel Says: 19/30
Final Position: 141 points, 7th place.

22. Germany.

Artist: Lena.
Song: "Satellite"
Comments: Taking a leaf out of our book from last year, and from the Eastern Europeans' books for many years before that, Lena and her folks put this earwormish yet not annoying song, reminiscent a bit of Lily Allen or Pink, about all across Europe on a huge promotional tour. And it paid off, they won by a country mile. Maybe it wasn't to our tastes (not overdone enough), but it did have its fans, even if Lena was attempting to affect an Australian accent and was genuinely, genuinely stunned to win with it at the end - she actually was speechless.
Our Panel Says: 16/30
Final Position: 246 points, winner.

23. Portugal.

Artist: Filipa Azevedo.
Song: "Ha Diaz Assím"
Comments: I can't remember anything about this one other than "warbling" which I've written in my notes next to it. By the scores I gave it it wasn't really very worthy of note, so I'm not going to write any more about it.
Our Panel Says: 8/30
Final Position: 43 points, 18th place.

24. Israel.

Artist: Harel Skaat.
Song: "Milim"
Comments: Another slow acoustic number. See my comments on Belgium above, although this was also in Hebrew, so I have no idea what it means at all. Next.
Our Panel Says: 6/30
Final Position: 71 points, 14th place.

25. Denmark.

Artist: Chanée and N'evergreen.
Song: "In a Moment Like This"
Comments: A power ballad. If I remember correctly, the stage show featured a glass wall that the two performers were each side of, and the song was an almost carbon copy of "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. A bit mediocre, again. Sorry.
Our Panel Says: 13/30
Final Position: 149 points, 4th place.


It's All Over Bar The Screaming

Then we had the half-time show, which consisted of a series of recordings of flash mobs to a song by some Norwegian rappers round the world. This was supposed to exemplify the theme of "Share the Moment" in some respect. To be fair it was clever in and of itself, but I preferred the bouncing budgies and the man bursting from the balloon and similar silliness that we're used to from the half time shows.

Voting was part-jury and part-televote, like last year. Political voting was under control although, surprise surprise, Greece still gave 12 points to Cyprus and vice versa, ditto Spain and Portugal, and ditto Romania and Moldova, and Russia hoovered up a lot of points from the former Warsaw Pact.

Thankfully, while the votes were being presented, nobody saw fit to flirt with the hosts (Paul de Leeuw should be very embarrassed if he is reading this), but the Estonian correspondent did sing his results live on air. It was a traumatic experience, especially considering his black and white spotty jacket.

When it was all over, Germany was the winner by a sizeable margin, although it was a close race for the first third of the voting before Lena's satellite hit escape velocity. Britain stayed in the bottom three before the final country to vote gave Ireland and Belarus some points, at which point we dropped right to stone dead last. A widely cited statistic in the next day's newspapers was that in the past eight years, we've been bottom in three of those - the appallingly off-key Jemini in 2003, the singing binman Andy Abrahams in 2008, and this. However, they failed to mention that in 2002 Jessica Garlick came third, and Jade Ewen (who is now a Sugababe) came fifth in 2009.

As I have said before, unless and until we enter Bolt Thrower or Lawnmower Deth we will continue to be hopeless.

And as Lena took to the stage for a reprise of her winning entry, "Satellite," the credits rolled. She was clearly not expecting to win and thoroughly over the moon to do so, despite the Great Violinist and Eminently Smackable Alexander Rybak, last year's winner, trying to persuade her into some tonsil hockey with him.

So Germany next year then. To be fair, I'm thinking that I might try and go and see it live next year.


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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