Eurovision Song Contest 2005I have known for many years about this contest. I knew that Abba won for Sweden in 1974 with 'Waterloo". I knew that Celine Dion won singing for Switzerland in the late 1980s. I knew that pretty well nobody else of international note had ever won. You can learn much more here.
I now subscribe on Rogers cable to German TV. To my enormous surprise and delight they were doing a broadcast of this year's competition last Saturday, albeit delayed (though I had little difficulty not finding out the outcome before watching the broadcast). My wife and I started watching around 9pm, expecting to fall asleep early in the show. Were we surprised! - it was captivating.
Not entirely because of the great songs. In fact, the performances were surprising and curious. Almost every one of them featured music that was a strange combination of the basics of Euro-pop (synthesizers on fairly basic rhythms and smooth sounds), small regional variations, and, rather amazingly to me, dance moves that seemed to be based on 'Thriller', but performed uniformly much less competently. Most performances featured very beautiful women, attired in a way that made watching thoroughly delightful. But they were not very good at doing what likely hundred of American groups do dancing - and yet seemed to be trying hard.
There were a couple of exceptions - Malta featured a ballad, Latvia had two apparently teenage boys singing sappy lyrics, Croatia had some guy sort of growling through his song. But generally it was a great evening of women (and occasional men) jumping around, sort of singing, and shouting to a background of somewhat synchronized dancers apparently inspired by MTV.
But the structure of the show was captivating. First, all the teams that made the final performed. (Sadly, my wife's country was eliminated the day before. And I was unfair earlier - they actually contributed one truly competent winner - Udo Juergens in 1966, after several cracks at it - and he was worthy - if you wonder find a way to hear his 'Griechischer Wein' and I would hope you would be very impressed.)
And then came the voting. It turned out this was structured like American political conventions, back when you did not know the result before they started. One by one, the voting countries made their votes. And it was fascinating to see how it went. I was cheering for Croatia and terribly against Norway (where my mother was born - but their group was a bad AC/DC imitation - I should have mentioned them as off the mark too).
Each country as it comes in has 10 votes it can cast in order with scores of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-10-12; as these come in the rankings jump around. With 39 countries voting, it kept us locked awake for a good couple of hours.
The voting was very interesting. In each country it seems you dialled in on your cellphone to cast a ballot. The Balkan countries, engaged not long ago in vicious wars against one another, tended to vote for one another. In fact geographical proximity, however much animosity one might expect, seemed a major determininat of votes, with few exceptions. Everyone in Europe, where anti-Semitism is manifestly showing a large presence, was willing to vote for Israel (who finished very well). Another theme was that a country that hosted many guest workers from another country tended to cast votes for the home country of the guest workers. The countries that got the fewest votes were Germany and France. Neither of their performers were wildly worse than most of the others. I could not figure out what made the Greek performer better than the others. They all looked hot and sang about the same. (Well, with the European lip-synching commitment, one really has no idea how they sing.)
It left me wondering whether this was a subject that had been analyzed. And lo and behold - the glory of the blogosphere - Michael Stastny had an answer for me - it has been! Go read.
Right now I desperately hope GermanTV will survive on local cable. I need to see a couple more of these song contests.
And I have come to depend terribly on the German Krimis for entertainment (a later post, I hope).