Saturday, May 24, 2008

Prediction for Eurovision final (Saturday)

There's an episode of the 1980s sitcom Just Good Friends where Jan Francis' character repeatedly tells Paul Nicholas there's "something missing" in their relationship without specifying what, which eventually results in an exasperated Nicholas screaming "WHAT IS THIS THING?". I felt a bit like that today when trying to make sense of the reports of Jelena Tomašević's performance in the final round of rehearsals. The most frequent comment was that she was in good voice, but that there was "something" missing. WHAT IS THIS THING?

Even leaving aside this missing thing that everyone seems utterly incapable of articulating (maybe Andy Abraham's nightmare vision has already come to pass), I was always a bit sceptical that Serbia could quite pull it off. In my view, it's definitely the class song of the field, but then I thought the same about Serbia & Montenegro in 2004 (they came second) and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2006 (they came third). So my prediction for Serbia is top three, but without any embarrassing need for Zeljko Joksimovic to present the trophy to himself. ("Great song, Zelkjo." "Thanks, Zeljko, you did a great job presenting too. And I love what you've done with your hair.")

But if not Serbia, then who? The bookies seem to agree (although they've been spectacularly wrong before) that the only other countries in serious contention are Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Sweden, and possibly Armenia. Personally, I just can't see Sweden winning - Hero is slightly higher quality than their usual fare, but it's still sticking to the same basic formula that frequently delivers them fifth or sixth place but no higher. I think Greece and Armenia will similarly come up short, so that leaves a battle between Ukraine and Russia. If that's the case, I feel Russia might just sneak it, if only because it cunningly draws the ice skating and violin-loving demographic into the pool of potential televoters (I'm being flippant).

So my prediction is :

Winners - Russia
2nd - Ukraine
3rd - Serbia

Potential dark horses :

Norway (aka 'clearly the worst song in the contest', © Keith Mills 2008)

Mr Mills' musings also lead me to have an even greater interest in the fate of the UK this year. He confidently stated at a ridiculously early stage (when many songs had yet to even be selected) that Andy Abraham was 'certain' to finish in the bottom five, and was highly likely to finish last. I responded that I felt he could achieve the UK's best result since Jessica Garlick, which would mean a top fifteen placing. Unfortunately, I made that prediction before the UK received its lousy place in the draw, so I'm less confident than I was, but to be honest I'd settle for top twenty - since that would be sufficient to show up Mr Mills' "certainty" for the closed-minded nonsense it always was. Here's hoping.

My issues with this year's Eurovision contestants - no. 8

Andy Abraham of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
(just in case anyone thinks he's representing 'England')

"Even if the world stops loving
I could never stop loving you
Even if the sun stops rising
I still wanna wake up with you
Even if all words lost their meaning
You would understand I love you"

I'm not sure Andy fully appreciates the sheer horror of the picture he's painting here. For starters, many would argue that our facility for language is the one and only thing that separates us from the animals, but it seems not for much longer if 'words have lost all meaning'. Furthermore, if the sun really did stop rising, crops would fail, and we'd have a major famine in store. Which all begs the question - who exactly is this poor woman that Andy is waking up beside, and what God-awful state will she be in as she meets his 'loving' gaze? Let's face it, she'll certainly be in dire need of a square meal, and at a more basic level, given that it'll be pitch dark will she even be sure that she's woken up in the first place? Let's also not forget that she'll be going through the unimaginable emotional anguish of knowing that her dearest friends and family have utterly forsaken her, since they have, along with the rest of the entire human race (save our Andy) lost their capacity for love.

But fear not, because in spite of these rather serious misfortunes, and in spite of the fact that she'll be in the arms of a man spouting complete gibberish (words have lost all meaning, remember), she'll just somehow know what he feels for her in his sweet little heart. So that'll completely make up for global calamity, then. There's always a silver lining.

My issues with this year's Eurovision contestants - no. 7

Maria Haukaas Storeng of Norway

"Love can be hard sometimes
Yes, it can catch you off guard like bad crimes"

Hmmm, this is problematical on just all sorts of levels. First of all, Maria seems to be drawing a curious distinction here between 'bad' crimes on the one hand and, well, 'good' crimes on the other. What are all these good crimes? Perhaps I shouldn't dismiss this out of hand, after all I'm instantly conjuring up an image of Tony Benn with pipe in mouth, arms flailing about like only Rory Bremner can, saying "oooh, think of the suffragettes, they had to break the law". So, in the interests of fairness, I've taken this issue very seriously and done some painstaking research, ie. I googled it. And, indeed, it seems there are some things that are against the law which are, if not exactly 'good', then certainly relatively harmless. For instance, in Miami, it is strictly illegal to impersonate a bison, while in Missouri you could find yourself hauled before a court for shaving without a licence. So presumably these are the sorts of things Maria has in mind for her 'good' crimes, while the bad ones are obviously things like murder, rape, arson, and grievous bodily harm. But while being randomly murdered or having your house burnt down could certainly be said to "catch you off guard", does that entirely capture the gravity of the situation? I think not. On the other hand, it might just capture the lesser gravity of being the victim of an unprovoked bison impersonation, so in my view Maria should really be singing "love can catch you off guard like those not-so-bad crimes they have in Miami".

(Phew, I thought I'd never get to the end of that paragraph).

To be fair to Maria, though, she offers a far more robust and convincing argument later on in the song -

"If it ain't right, it is wrong"

Let's face it, the girl's got a point. Which is more than anyone's ever said about John Barrowman.

My issues with this year's Eurovision contestants - no. 6

Teräsbetoni of Finland

"Missä miehet ratsastaa
Siellä lampaat ei voi laiduntaa"

"Where the men ride
There the sheep can't pasture"

This is undeniably informative, but does such commendable attention to detail really lend itself to a situation where you're got just three minutes to impress the whole of Europe? Maybe it does, and if Finland win tomorrow, I'll seriously consider entering a song next year that takes regular detours to ponder the latest fascinating evidence on the causes of peat-bog erosion in eighteenth century Kazakhstan.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Do you know, I actually found myself punching the air when Portugal were named as the final qualifier. I had to remind myself I've never even been to Portugal, but it was my second-favourite song of the night, and I would have been heartbroken if it hadn't made it through. When there was only one spot in the final remaining, I honestly believed it was going to Malta.

And as for my favourite Albania - well I'm obviously rubbish at predictions, but on the plus side there is some justice in this world after all! My dream result for Saturday would now be a Serbian victory, with Portugal and Albania also in the top ten. And a top fifteen finish for Andy Abraham and the UK, if only for the pleasure of watching the sainted Keith Mills being forced to eat his words - again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Prediction for second Eurovision semi-final (Thursday)

I probably should quit while I'm ahead on the prediction front, but here goes nothing (as my Mum would say). In no particular order, here are the ten countries I think will qualify for the final tomorrow night -

Macedonia (or FYROM if you're Greek)

The first thing that may leap out at you is that I've omitted one of the frontrunners for the Eurovision crown this year, in the shape of Switzerland. It's strange to find myself doing that, because I think it's a fantastic song, but it seems to have been completely drained of its dynamism in the two rehearsals I've seen. I'm still a little unsure about its prospects, however, because I haven't seen today's dress rehearsal, and frustratingly the reports of how Paolo got on are somewhat contradictory. Belarus probably wouldn't feature in my list on the merit of the song alone, but it's there because a) the choreography and visual impact of the performance is superb, and b) even with the new rules Belarus will still have one or two natural allies to boost its points tally.

The other point of uncertainty is what you might call the Kate Ryan factor - how many times have we seen a western European country with a superb song, well performed, yet inexplicably failing to qualify? It's not too difficult to imagine that scenario playing out again for, say, Iceland or Malta - especially since the Maltese entry is penned by the same Borg/Vella combination that came a cropper with Olivia Lewis last year. However, my instinct is that both countries will sneak through - perhaps assisted by the new jury vote.

And who will I be voting for? Call me peculiar, but it's definitely Albania for me. As I mentioned the other night, I only vote for songs performed exclusively in a language other than English, but even if I didn't follow that rule I'd do the same thing anyway. It's incredible to think it was way back at Christmas that I first had the chance to fall in love with Olta Boka's beautiful song. I've tried not to let my personal regard for it cloud my judgement in terms of its prospects tomorrow, but if there's any justice at all in this world...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dustin's Demise is Down to his Diabolical Diction

The TV commentary box isn't necessarily always the first port of call for incisive analysis on the Eurovision Song Contest, but its occupants did make one telling point last night, right after Dustin the Turkey posed the poignant question "did I win?". Caroline Flack observed "I didn't understand a word of that", to which Paddy O'Connell replied "well, I heard something about a wig." This was surely the rather fundamental flaw in Ireland's approach from the word go - what's the use of a joke entry if hardly anyone can actually make out the jokes? Thinking back to when I first heard the track two months ago, I had to resort to the text of the lyrics before I could understand about two-thirds of what Dustin was saying - and I'm a Scot. What chance has your average Azerbaijani got?

My issues with this year's Eurovision contestants - no. 5

Morena of Malta

"Spy One to Spy Four
I’ve deciphered the code, yeah…
Vodka – that’s the secret word
Vodka – and they want it so bad
Vodka – I’ve deciphered the code"

That's a tremendous achievement, Morena, congratulations. Just one small thing though - and brace yourself for some grim news at this point - you've just won a destination in the centre of our resident enigma's heart.

Weakest joke of the evening from the Eurovision hosts

I imagined myself being here all night trying to work that one out, but then Zeljko and Jovana came up with this, which I think is without question in a league all of its own -

"Give me five."
(She gives him high-five)
"No, I meant five envelopes."

And what on earth was Jovana wittering on about when she told Novak Djokovic that he was facing brighter lights in the hall than he would in Paris? Did no-one think to point out to her that they tend to play the French Open in daylight hours?

I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but...

Since Keith Mills is, with his customary humility, busily awarding himself a royal pat on the back for correctly predicting all ten qualifiers tonight, I may as well point out that I achieved the same feat. Actually, I think my own accuracy should count for more, if only because at no point in the last two months have I ever made the (now demonstrably bizarre) claim that Norway is "clearly the worst song in the contest"! Keith really can't be let off the hook about that, because while Maria's performance has undoubtedly become more polished over the course of the rehearsals, at the end of the day it's still exactly the same 'appalling' song she started out with. As Keith has noted himself in previous years "you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear", so I think that stands as pretty conclusive proof that Norway never had a sow's ear to begin with. Face it, Keith, your radar was way off, however much you've tried to row back in recent days - and I've noticed a few signs of you trying to do the same with Andy Abraham. Now there's a "slight chance" that he won't finish last, apparently. Such generosity. Doubtless if he finishes in the top ten, Keith will somehow trumpet that as yet another "correct prediction".

OK, rant over. For now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prediction for first Eurovision semi-final (Tuesday)

In no particular order, here are the ten countries I think will qualify for the final tomorrow night -


I've based this partly on the songs, partly on what I've seen and heard of the rehearsals, and partly on the familiar political voting patterns that I still expect to have a huge impact in spite of the new format. Probably the biggest call I've made is that I don't think Ireland's temptingly edible representative will quite make the cut, but that may prove to be more wishful thinking than anything else.

And the question I don't hear you all asking - who would I vote for? (This is hypothetical, because living in the UK I don't get a vote until Thursday). You might assume Norway, given the way I've been championing Maria over the last few days, but unfortunately I have my own personal rule that I only vote for countries that sing entirely in a language other than English. I suspect that would lead me to vote for San Marino - more in hope than expectation, as you can see from the list above!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A post about Macedon...well, you know, that country Skopje is the capital city of

You know you've got an international dispute of some seriousness on your hands when even the lyrics of a novelty pop song form part of the battlefield. Ireland's Eurovision entry Dustin the Turkey has been forced to drop all mention of what I can only describe as 'a certain country in the Balkans', because he inexcusably referred to it as Macedonia, a name Greece does not recognise. Dustin tried to smoothe things over by pointing out that geography wasn't his strong point, and that he hadn't set out to offend any "Greeks or Macedonians". But surely the sensibilities of any right-thinking Greek will have been even more outraged by this calculated insult disguised as an apology? He singularly failed to say he didn't mean to offend any "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonians".

Couldn't they have yodelled for Scotland?

Having had a few days to reflect on the riot in Manchester on Wednesday, it strikes me that this is genuinely the first time in my life that I've ever felt a little bit ashamed to be Scottish. Wouldn't it be nice for the country to get a swift opportunity to present a more positive image of itself to the rest of Europe, and what better arena to do that than the carnival of fun, colour and refreshingly non-violent skulduggery that is the Eurovision Song Contest? Sadly, though, we've never been allowed to compete in our own right, and there's no sign of that situation changing any time soon. Personally, I've always sensed that if the BBC were willing to trade their 'Big 4' status in exchange for separate representation for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, that would be likely to gain some traction from other countries, but to date they've shown no sign of putting that case forward. That being the position, it's about time Scottish songwriters and artists at least started getting a fair crack of the whip for the UK at Eurovision - it's been a full two decades since a Scot last represented the country (Scott Fitzgerald). And, correct me if I'm wrong, but in the whole time since then it seems to me there have only been two Scottish acts in the UK national selection - City Chix with All About You a couple of years ago, and the unforgettably-titled Yodel in the Canyon of Love that almost upset the apple-cart for Katrina and the Waves in 1997. With 9% of the UK population, two songs in two decades is not exactly generous representation, is it?

This, ladies and gentlemen, has been an insight into the trials and tribulations of being a Eurovision fan and a Scottish nationalist all at the same time. I've suffered from the affliction for years...