I've just been having a peek at Esctoday.com for the first time in many months (for the uninitiated, it's the biggest independent website devoted to the Eurovision Song Contest). I was hoping to find out a little more about the scandal I vaguely heard about a week or two back, concerning a few dozen Azerbaijanis who were tracked down by the authorities and questioned...about why they had picked up the phone and voted for Armenia in the contest in May. Apparently there was nothing unusual or untoward in the request for an explanation. I note that Freedom House currently rates Azerbaijan as 'Not Free' - but surely the country should get special dispensation for only interfering in their citizens' lives on the grounds of dubious musical taste?
Anyway, no obvious sign of that controversy on Esctoday's main page (I'm sure it's there in the archive somewhere), but what I did find instead was a poll to decide the best Eurovision song of the decade, which has now been narrowed down to a grand final of 24. Rather refreshingly to my eyes, it's not a million miles away from a shortlist I might have drawn up myself - the two big omissions being Once in a Lifetime by Ines (Estonia 2000) and the brilliant If I Had Your Love by Selma (Iceland 2005). The absence of the former can probably be put down to the passage of time, and the latter perhaps never had a chance due to the ropey live performance which saw the song crash out unexpectedly at the semi-final stage. However, another song that met the same fate, Je t'adore by Kate Ryan (Belgium 2006) does make the cut. I'm delighted because it's one of my two all-time favourites - the other being the enchanting Icelandic ballad, Is it True?, that finished second in Moscow this year. So who to vote for? Looks like I've still got time to ponder that one.
Although I do wonder what a certain Irish Eurovision enthusiast, a man with no little pride in his unerring judgement, makes of the list. How on earth did Hold On, Be Strong go from being "clearly the worst song in the contest" in 2008 to being in the running for best song of the decade?