This time last year my wife and I were approaching the impending final with child like abandon and optimism tinged with the sadness of creeping frustration.. In other words, some (most) of the songs we liked had not made the Final. Why should this year be any different? Until last night, my biggest regret had been that Dustin the Turkey had not got to the big show in 2008. He is replaced now by the best song never to be Eurovision winner... Holland's /Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-la-lie), /The natural successor to Ding a Dong in the annals of classic Eurovision novelty shlock. Even now the song is transporting me to another time when Abba was king and Nanna Mouskouri sang about her lover under the eucalyptis tree. Ok so maybe that last one was Benny Hill. I'm sure/ /Tingalingaloo would have won given half a chance.
My problems with the last few Years of Eurovision are worth explaining.
As you may have guessed, I'm not just out of grammar school, while some of you snigger at bell bottoms, I had to wear them. While some of you wonder what a TV dinner is, I had to eat them. And I'd do it all again if it meant seeing Doctor Who for the first time or listening to music that doesn't sound like everybody is trying to be Rihana or Beyonce. Britain, and great parts of Europe seem for the last few years to have forgotten where they came from . It's been english lyrics to an American pop/diva belter/warbler in a sexy outfit. Some of them frankly don't even have a clue about the words they are singing . One act this year, I'll remember it later, was so bad , I had to be told it was english. Europe produced some great synth , europop, rock, dance, house and classic jazz as well as folk standards. Yet all you seemed to hear and see were pale euro fakes of American pop R&B and disco.
This year, while not perfect, is an improvement on the past. I'm Polish, a Slav, my blood pumps when I hear things like fiddles and gypsy beats. I can understand the stuff coming out of Slovenia, Serbia, Russia and Croatia. I love how they have married the traditional sounds and lyrics to modern beats and styles. It does things to me that make me wander off to youtube and listen to Slovenian house music for an hour. While I may bemoan the lack of trannies ( not one this year ), gays and circus freaks, the quality of music coming from some of the nations is light years ahead of last year even. I know most of you won't understand a word of the lyrics, but you will be grabbed by the throat by the songs and find yourself dancing despite yourself.
Here is my list of countries to watch in the final ...
Greece: OPA! is every greek party wedding and bar fight ever. Gay, straight, male or female, you WILL want to party with these guys.
France: Allez Olla Ole Is the coup de Boule song from after the last World cup with changed words. It's fun, infectious and possibly the least traditional sounding song in Eurovision. The song is a signal that the next generation of immigrants to Europe are finally at home and belong. And in a World Cup year, it certainly fits in.
Serbia: Ovo Je Balkan mixes slavic beats and themes with house. Do try to get the translation of the lyrics, it's as haunting and heart tugging as Home Newcastle. Milan Stankovic has a voice and presence that draws you in and caresses you. He is also,as far as I know, the only gay left standing. The only other two acts that were even more openly gay did not make the cut. A bit sad for a show known for drag acts and fag acts.
Germany: Satellite sung by Lena, a genuine top 40 act who has a single sweeping Europe in blitzkrieg like fashion. What a novel idea, an established star fronting her country with a hit in the charts. I wonder if that will work?
Turkey: Manga sung by a hard rock group complete with the Stig's sister in glitter gear. These guys are a sign that secular Turkey is not about to disappear any time soon. As a card carrying metal head, I can say they are as good as any band out of Sheffield.
I feel the need to at least mention the unworthy victims of the finals who won't be entertaining us on Saturday.
Holland : Shala Lie (see above)
Lithuania: Eastern European Funk. Truly fun and and entertaining song, designed to make you dance not think too hard.
Switzerland: Il Pleut de L'Or or it's raining gold. Realy nice song in french by a singer who rises above his gold Python suit and silly ears to make you listen.
Finland: Työlki Ellää , perfomed by a folk group that will get any person with any Celtic blood in them entranced.
Slovakia: Horehronie The green anthem of the year done in stunning costumes and traditional Central European style.
Serious bit from Health and safety: I have received a memo from the NHS advising us all to be responsible in our use of glitter and silly hats at the weekend. Pace yourselves, don't get all excited when a good song falls behind in the count to some rubbish like the wrist slitting Russian entry. It's not about being good, it's about voting for your neighbours, unless of course your neighbour has a Josh in the contest. I boldly predict Britain will place at least a few spots above the drop zone, with maybe 20 points.
See you all next Monday, enjoy the week end, it's just a bit of fun, nothing else.