The Eurovision song contest!

here’s how it works for non-europeans:
lots of countries enter a song, which is most likely absolutely dire but sometimes has some entertainment value. The UK entry is invariably the most dull song you can imagine, its only interesting property being that it is even less interesting than last year’s, and the reason it makes it into the actual competition rather than being disqualified at the (unscreened) qualifying stages is because we (along with Germany and some other places) pay for the competition. It can’t be understated how bad our recent entries have been. We always get some big pseudo-famous ‘song writer’ who comes along and says “oh yes, this year I will write the best song ever!” then it turns out to be totally nondescript pop-pop. Pop for people who think pop is too offensive. Even your gran will think it’s bland. It’s a form of cruelty to the poor sap who ends up singing it that their career is absolutely doomed and they’ll have to endure some bashing from the tabloids through no real fault of their own.

SO! After all the countries play their song, there’s a rather long voting procedure. Each country in the competition specifies their favourite 10 entries, which receive {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12} points. There are about 30 countries each of which has live telelink with the host to announce their results, so it takes a while. But you get to see some bizarre people ranging from incredibly overdressed peroxide blondes leaving little of their bosom to the imagination, to an old man in a tie, happily stumbling through heavily accented, broken English, except the French of course, who have an allergic reaction to speaking English. Some countries take this very seriously, notably all the ex soviet countries who vote for Russia to keep the oil flowing, and have a panel of judges to decide on the voting, but other countries just have a public phone-in vote.

I think generally the Eurovision is seen in Europe as an event all of its own but in the UK it’s seen as something Graham Norton narrates witty banter over the top of. Here in the UK, out on our own little island, it’s often difficult to feel that we’re truly a part of Europe, and the Eurovision does nothing to change that; we take great pride in year after year being the most unpopular country in the results table. Our all time greatest performance was a few years ago when we got precisely zero votes, but usually Ireland votes for us. Anyone else is pretty random (except France whom we can definitely rely on to not vote for us), but we have an informal “we’ll vote for you and you’ll vote for us” agreement with Ireland. Nobody else likes Ireland much either, which is a shame because unlike us they often have fairly good songs. It’s a case of nobody likes their neighbours but when you introduce someone further afield neighbours suddenly realise they have more in common with each other than this new person, so they stick together. Except France.

This year’s results reading was a ride of suspense and excitement! Ireland were first in giving their results and they gave us a few points. This was a misleading start and it is not wise to extrapolate that we continued to get a handful of points here and there: over all but the very end of the results process, while Germany was going from 0 to 246 votes, we went from 4 to 7.

At this point were second bottom, beating only Belarus who had 6. Belarus is a country nobody’s ever heard of so they were in no obvious danger of gaining any more votes, so it looked like they’d just beaten us to the best place on the scoreboard. Then Georgia comes along and announces their results and surprisingly confirms our lead over Belarus by giving us a 3 more points getting us up to a total of 10. Then the unexpected happened, Georgia gave their 12-point grand prize to none other than Belarus, catapulting them up to SECOND LAST!

So we came bottom and if I’m honest it rather makes you proud to be British.

Although for what it’s worth, the winning song was horrible. You can listen to it on youtube but I don’t know why you would.

Other highlights include audiable booing from the live audience whenever Russia gained any votes, and, for once, Eurovision presenters who don’t look like they’ve swallowed light bulbs and who didn’t have gratingly tedious pre-scripted ‘banter’.


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