Tonight was Eurovision night, which used to be one of my favourite nights of the year. It was the one night when I could enjoy the strange delights that only Eurovision can deliver - weird costumes, out-of-tune singers, politically strategic voting, presenters apparently made of cheese and lyrics so bizarre that they made you gape open-mouthed. The BBC kindly provides a simultaneous translation on teletext and it's a hidden joy of the competition. My favourite this year was Severina’s song Moja Stikla (My High Heel) for Croatia. It started well with:
‘For the grass has not yet sprouted where my high heel has trodden
Come, come, come, come, hop, hop, hop, hop, come on, my chicken’
and got better and better with such lines as:
‘Tick-tock 'round half past two, you will nibble me, but no one will see,
Golden ring, thin moustache, I know well guys like you’
and the amazing middle eight:
’Zoomb, zoomba, hay, straw, cheese, salami, risi-bisi, bowl,
Red beet, red teet, Africa, paprika, sije, sete,
Sije oto, sije nove, sije mine, come on, come on!’
The worthy winners this year were Finnish Goth weirdoes Lordi with their anthem Hard Rock Hallelujah! And they – Mr Lordi, Amen, Kita, Awa and Ox - made a real effort to dress up … as monsters, zombies, skeletons and some kind of demonic Roy Wood look-alike complete with glaring red eyes, horns, 24 inch platform boots and an enormous chopper. That’s the spirit of Eurovision.
Finland, we who are about to guffaw salute you!
But Lordi were the exception rather than the rule. On the whole, the show was awful. I never thought I'd say this but ... Eurovision is losing its lustre.
Eurovision has become very knowing in its old age. As you know, people are at their funniest when they are unintentionally bad - that's why the auditions for X Factor and American Idol are far more popular than the actual contest. Eurovision's campiness, bizarre lyrics and obscure untalented stars were what made the contest compulsive viewing. But countries are trying too hard now.
In recent years, Germany (of all places) has tried to put on deliberately comedic acts ... Russia has used lesbian sexiness with Tatu ... Ruslana's Xena Warrior Princess attire was calculated to woo lusty viewers away from the rotten song she was singing ... and Israel fielded a glamorous transexual. Most of the acts now sing in English, robbing us of the charm that comes with translation. And the voting ... well, it now makes the contest pointless. Eurovision was created to unify Europe. All it now does is demonstrate partisan politics and xenophobia.
In 2003, the UK entry Jemini polled no points whatsoever. Admittedly it was never a winner (nor even an also-ran) but it was hugely evident that the voting was indicative of Europe's opinion of the UK supporting America's war in Iraq. And, with the introduction of 'new' Eastern European countries in 2005, the voting system achieved a new low. With all of these countries voting for their nearest neighbours, the so-called 'Big 4' (Spain, United Kingdom, France, and Germany - the biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union, who stage the contest (and therefore automatically qualify)) all occupied the bottom four places on the scoreboard.
So maybe it's time for Eurovision to have an extreme makeover. Or maybe we should just kill the beastie off. Whatever the answer is, it needs doing soon before everyone loses interest in it.
I know I have.