In the blue painted of blue
May 25, 2008 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Once again, the Eurovision Song Festival has taken place this weekend, giving rise to the usual recriminations about political voting. However, it is worth noting that it is exactly fifty years since Italian singer Domenico Modugno managed only third place (out of ten contestants) with a charming little ditty called "Nel blu dipinto di blu", but better known as "Volare".

The next year, "Volare" won the first Grammies for Best Song and Best Record. "Volare" also won three golden records and was Billboard's best song of the year. It has also been endlessly covered ever since.
posted by Skeptic (41 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Dustin the Turkey's Irelande Douze Pointe was robbed I say
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 4:37 PM on May 25, 2008

There are reasons aside from brute politics to vote for neighboring nations. The Eurovision contestants have won internal competitions in their countries of origin, and have significant popular appeal within those countries. It makes sense that neighboring nations, who speak the same or similar languages, and have similar cultures, will also find the act appealing.

Also, and related to this, as nations are forbidden (obviously) from voting for themselves, they may choose to vote for the song from the nation they consider most like themselves, regardless of any geopolitical advantage or the quality of the song itself. A self-vote by proxy, if you like.

That said, I think Russia was pushed over the line by brute politics. Russian Owen Wilson in ice skates, a dodgy violinist and a gigolo did not, in my opinion, get their win on merit. Greece and Ukraine were good, but least a third of their points were Hot Chick Points, IMO.

My favorite wacky act was the Latvian pirate skit. From among his talented minions, Doctor Doom chose well this year. My favorite though for presentation and costume: the Azerbaijan angel/devil act. I have no idea what the story was, but the costumes were fantastic.

Sweden's representative (Charlotte Perrelli) was disturbingly reminiscent of the Bride of Wildenstein, but maybe that's due to makeup.

One the whole, a good show. This was the Year of the Diva.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:02 PM on May 25, 2008

I am bored with Eurovision entries
posted by MrMerlot at 5:05 PM on May 25, 2008

IMO, nothing beats Lordi.
posted by Vindaloo at 5:25 PM on May 25, 2008

A commenter on a different board has pointed out that we now at last see the real reason behind the break-up of the Soviet Union - elements of the Russian elite realised that with a satellite of *supposedly* independent former republics creating an unstoppable voting bloc they would seriously enhance their chances of winning Eurovison, once again striking a heavy blow against the West and All That Is Good And Right.
posted by Abiezer at 5:35 PM on May 25, 2008

I particularly liked the fake beards and moustaches on Sébastien Tellier (France's entry) backup singers.
posted by robotot at 6:04 PM on May 25, 2008

WTF Portugal?
posted by pompomtom at 6:36 PM on May 25, 2008

Nah, the best version of Volare is by Fred Lane (previously). I'd link to an mp3, but your brain would melt.
posted by scruss at 6:46 PM on May 25, 2008

My favorite wacky act was the Latvian pirate skit. From among his talented minions, Doctor Doom chose well this year.

* puts on leaf hat & toasts to the health of Doctor Doom with a glass of the finest vodka, infused with pickled herrings *
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:13 PM on May 25, 2008

Razzle Bathbone: "Dustin the Turkey's Irelande Douze Pointe was robbed I say"

Agreed. Alternative Dustin video.
posted by meehawl at 8:06 PM on May 25, 2008

In all seriousness, how widely cared about is this thing in Europe? For example, compare it to American Idol, or stuff like that.
posted by BrooklynCouch at 8:25 PM on May 25, 2008

Brooklyn Couch,

Eurovision final: 100+ million people watching
Population of Europe: 700+ million

American Idol final: 32 million people watching
Population: 300+ million

... so it looks like Eurovision is proportionately more popular. I don't think many people take it too seriously, but it is a topic of conversation.
posted by lukemeister at 9:05 PM on May 25, 2008

I will tell you that the Swedes feel pretty down about the whole thing - being beaten by "little-brother" Norway is always humiliating (long, complicated story). There is a ton of popular interest in the internal competition that appoints the national representative, and a lot of the performers are either stars already or have become household names by the time the winner is declared for the year.

In Sweden it's at least as popular as American Idol is in the US, if not more so. Most of the Nordic countries take it pretty seriously. From what I understand, it's nowhere near as important in the UK/France/Germany, for example.
posted by gemmy at 9:05 PM on May 25, 2008

In Sweden it's at least as popular as American Idol is in the US, if not more so.

According to Wikipedia, "the competition has been the most popular television programme in Sweden since 2000 [...] an estimated four million Swedes watched the final". So it's proportionally four times as popular as American Idol is in the US, or slightly more popular than Super Bowl.
posted by martinrebas at 10:52 PM on May 25, 2008

I was about to post that I'm surprised that a spin-off pitting US states against each other has never come about, but it looks like it's going to happen.
posted by Gnatcho at 11:19 PM on May 25, 2008

For the Americans reading this - imagine American idol tied up with real national pride and the hopes of a local language music industry and local tourism hopes, multiply it by 50, add in high camp entertainment value, and you might come close to understanding where it sits in the popular consciousness. It's like the Superbowl and Miss America pageant rolled into one.

I absolutely love Eurovision - we watched the semifinal voting as well as the final. This year, though, really left a bad taste in my mouth.

After all the petulant comments from the EBU about the UK's attitude towards Eurovision (high camp cheesefest) vs. the very serious attitude of the majority of Europe, in particular about Terry Wogan's commentary, I had a feeling that it's lost its sense of fun. It just seemed a bit self important for a contest that features pyrotechnics, superinflated stage design, and a contest to find either the weirdest costume or the leggiest woman in the shortest skirt to sing on a stage with gyrating dancers. The Armenian entry was gorgeous, but she didn't even dance - she just wiggled and stepped around the gyrating men on the floor at her feet. Show some effort at least!

We were wondering what was up with the Greek entry, as she wasn't Greek. She's American, with a pretty hefty Brooklyn accent and a love of Good Morning America from her conversation in the semifinal interviews shown on the BBC. If the EBU is going to get sniffly about how Eurovision brings out the best in paneuropean feeling and talent, at least have the decency to have your entry be European, or from the country they're representing?

The political voting really has gotten out of hand. How on earth Dustin the Turkey got nul points when entries like:

Bosnia (crackaddled shrieky brother & sister act dancing around a clothesline with knitting women in wedding dresses singing backup) Bosnia 2008

Croatia (weird old Croatian man scratching on a Victrola & shouting in Croatian, most likely about how the mafia singer and the dancing girl also on stage needed to get off his lawn) Croatia 2008

not only made it to the final but got a hefty chunk of votes from Balkan countries, while Finland 2008's Judas Priest tribute got a handful of votes or UK entry 2008 tied for last place is beyond me.

I think the feeling is that the UK is so dominant culturally and musically that it's OK to not give them support, even if their song is spectacular. I normally groan at the UK entry, but this year's was actually quite good. Not really my type of music, but he really did have a fantastic voice and a great song.

The Russian act was absolute rubbish. Russian winner

I'm with Wogan on this one - I think the UK and the other western European nations really need to consider if they want to keep footing the bill for this farce. We were able to call 80% of the voting based purely on political or geographical arrangements between countries. Occasionally, we were surprised, but it was a bit depressing to watch over an hour of vote results and call them based on criteria that had nothing to do with paneuropeanism or even what had been on the stage.

Wogan is saying he likely won't present next year's Eurovision for the UK, as he's that disgusted with the political voting... in which case, we also may stop watching.
posted by Grrlscout at 1:12 AM on May 26, 2008

Brooklyn Couch: Not only does Eurovision have a substantial European audience, but it has a cult like following elsewhere in the world. Here in Oz there tends to be two large groups of people who watch it - the diaspora of various countries who watch in in some degree of seriousness, and people like me, who watch it for the monumental levels of kitchy magnificence. We throw parties, go in costumes, and mercilessly critique each entry. Apparently something like 1.4 million people tune in over here, which is about 10% of the viewing public, and that's not taking into account the people that watch the live feed over the tubes via the Special Broadcasting Service website, or via the SBS's ESC blog. It's also a massive gay icon internationally, though it'll take me a lifetime to work out why.

Personally, I though the Russian win was fair enough. Last year's show was much better, and he was robbed by that Serbian K.D. Lang and her girleen minions. This year was a bit dishwater drab, so even though his entry wasn't stellar, it had the right ingredients to win - the heart-throb lead singer, some ethnic instruments, and a stage gimmick that was catchy enough that the voting audience remembered it when it came time to vote. They've had consistently good acts over the years, and it was about time they actually won it.

Eurovision is a pageant. It's not just about the song. You've got to have the staging, the timing, get a good place in the draw, the works. The Russians had the mix perfectly this year.

gemmy: No offence intended, but the Swedish entry was a bit scary-looking. Her very pointy face, which put me in mind of too many facelifts, the lasers and the intro where they lighted her so she looked monochromatic? Man, I'm using that device in my next horror story. She sounded kinda middle-of-the-road, but the stage elements were very unflattering.
posted by Jilder at 1:15 AM on May 26, 2008

The Polish entry has been denounced as a transvestite.
posted by ruelle at 3:12 AM on May 26, 2008

She sounded kinda middle-of-the-road

No way! Or maybe she did, I don't know. I got all swept up in the mass hysteria that is Sweden at Eurovision Song Contest time and I thought we'd win. Just like I thought last year. But no, we lost. And, as said upthread, we even lost to Norway! The home of Jan Teigen, for crying out loud! This is a blow to the national psyche which we may never recover from! At least not until next spring when we start the long haul - what is it now, six qualifiers? - towards Eurovision 2009.

But, really, they have to change the format next year. I have no idea how they should go about it, but something must be done. Eurovision is supposed to be FABULOUS, not a source of constant bickering. No, wait, scratch that, it should be a source of constant bickering - but between contestants. The Ani Lorak vs. Charlotte Perrelli fight - over a dress, allegedly - is a GREAT Eurovision moment. Geopolitical voting is not FABULOUS.

Anyway, apart from Sweden - we wuz robbed, sniff, sob - I thought Ani Lorak, Ukraine should've won. Great disco strings, hi-nrgish, silly dancing, hands in the air let's all belt out the chorus, the lots! That's how a Eurovision entry is supposed to sound, methinks.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:00 AM on May 26, 2008

Agree with Grrlscout, but not about Croatia. That one was just fine. Great Slavic melody and lyrics. Do they translate the lyrics in other countries or is just our local thing?
posted by Frankie Villon at 4:15 AM on May 26, 2008

It's not just political - since the competition been opened up to the Eastern Block there's been the diaspora effect with immegrants to other countries voting for their home country. So the UK gives votes to Poland, probably from the high number of Polish workers here.

If Wogan goes then most of the reason for watching it in the UK will be gone, and they really need to do something about the endless voting. Once it was obvious Russia was going to win I turned over, only checking back at the end.

The Russian entry was produced by Timberland, which seems to be cheating for some reason.

UK still has the stigma of the Iraqi effect... since the war we have never done well. Though year after year we enter ridiculous 'trendy' or self-consciously ironic songs that haven't got a hope ... the last time we won it was a good old fashioned bog-standard power-ballad with obvious cross-national appeal; if only we did something similar again.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:22 AM on May 26, 2008

Grrlscout, songs have often been performed by people of different nationalities to the country they're representing. I agree that getting Timberland to produce your entry might be pushing it a bit though.

For all you people complaining that it's all too political and chummy, chummy, it's always been that way: Justice for Cliff!
posted by Helga-woo at 5:08 AM on May 26, 2008

I enjoyed Sébastien Tellier's song; his voice reminds me oddly of Jarvis Cocker.

Re: countries being represented by people of different nationalities. It always seemed a little cheeky to me that Celine Dion got to represent Switzerland, but I guess she wasn't uber-famous at the time.
posted by eponymouse at 6:13 AM on May 26, 2008

Just to make sure that everybody understands. If you vote from country A, you cannot vote country A. But if you're living in country B, but identify yourself as from country A, you can vote country A, country B is blocked. This is all there is in geopolitical voting. Former Soviet States have great russian minorities each and Balkan countries and every block is basically formed by nationalities mingling in each other's countries and everybody voting 'home'. It is not more political than family of Turkish origin in Germany cheering for Turkey's success in sports.
posted by Free word order! at 6:16 AM on May 26, 2008

And Bosnia was awesome!
posted by Free word order! at 6:43 AM on May 26, 2008

Thanks martinrebas for the numbers. I knew it was popular, but as a Swede-in-exile I guess I didn't even know quite HOW popular! And yes, Jilder, I found her kind of scary too. She was not at all my favorite from the Swedish qualifiers.

The most embarrassing part of the broadcast wasn't just Sweden doing so poorly, but the disaster that was the announcer of the Swedish votes. Who WAS that guy, and why did he sound like he made up the votes on the spot, and had no idea of how to pronounce any of the country names?

I thought the music was nowhere near as good as last year. I liked the Ukraine entry (although it was no Lasha Tumbai!), and the Armenian entry was a fun eurodisco song. Russia was kind of blah. And there were no really colorful characters this year either, with the exception of the Turkey, but he just made me sad...
posted by gemmy at 6:57 AM on May 26, 2008

Eurovision is like bacon.
posted by grounded at 7:20 AM on May 26, 2008

Who WAS that guy

Björn Gustavsson, a stand up comic. He did some routines at the qualifiers and became very, very, very popular.

And I agree with you, he was an embarassment.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 7:20 AM on May 26, 2008

...oops, Gustafsson. Colour my cheeks red.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 7:31 AM on May 26, 2008

Finland disappointed me this year with their entry. If you're going to send metal, might as well send something more powerful.

Ireland did have an amazing song, and I suspect that Dustin could've won if the lyrics weren't self-referential and pleading.
posted by LSK at 8:30 AM on May 26, 2008

I'm happy Russia won, it netted me £12 in our Eurovision sweepstakes! I thought it had no chance based on the actual song but what do I know... our Euro party was just happy that Greece didn't win since she was blatantly miming.
My favourites were actually Bosnia&H (possibly the best overall), Finland (brilliant lyrics), and Latvia (can't go wrong with pirates).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:03 AM on May 26, 2008

posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:05 AM on May 26, 2008

I don't understand the comments complaining about people's accents. If you're going to sing in a foreign language, an accent just adds to the charm of it.

My favorites are the non-English language ones. Inability to understand the words adds to my enjoyment of pop songs.

Anyone know anyplace that broadcasts Eurovision contests in San Francisco? Meet up 2009?
posted by small_ruminant at 9:12 AM on May 26, 2008

Also, does it seem incongruous to anyone else to see biologically female women in these acts? They are SO cut out for drag queen acts.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:16 AM on May 26, 2008

I loathe Eurovision... it's a bit like Marmite: since I didn't grow up with it, all I can taste is a thick, nauseating, pitch-black coating of yeast. When I'm exposed to even a few seconds of Eurovision, I curl up into the foetal position and nearly go into a coma. Only vast amounts of Gillian Welch, Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt can revive me.

It's just awful. Utter shit; the worst music ever conceived; songs to be executed by. I can't even see anything remotely humourous about it.

[Don't bother trying to explain it to me. It's like when some rabid fan tries to explain the appeal of cricket... it's a complete waste of time. Any game that takes three days is just. too. fucking. slow.]

Eurovision is like the European equivalent of a Monster Truck Rally.
posted by chuckdarwin at 9:43 AM on May 26, 2008

I can taste is a thick, nauseating, pitch-black coating of yeast.

Actually, I grew up with Eurovision, and that's exactly how I see it. But "the European equivalent of a Monster Truck Rally" is also appropriate: it may be sort of embarrassing to admit, but watching the wreckage never fails to provide a good evening's worth of entertainment.

Anyway, my FPP was supposed to be about "Volare", not Eurovision, but somehow I seem to have managed to derail a thread from the FPP. Must be a record, or something...
posted by Skeptic at 9:51 AM on May 26, 2008

I thought the Daft Punk produced Sebastien Tellier coming on stage in a fucking golf cart was tremendous fun. The song is a really catchy wee ditty too even if it the album version sounds much better than it did at EV.

I though the golf cart and beards stunt was much more impressive than Owen Wilson ice skating on a coffee table round the Russian guy.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 11:07 AM on May 26, 2008

Oh aye, and Tellier's helium filled globe nonsense was good too.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 11:09 AM on May 26, 2008

This blog entry about visualization of the network of connections between the countries voting record shows the bias fairly unequivocally.
posted by sammyo at 7:18 PM on May 26, 2008

The Greek prime minister included winning the 2004 Eurovision contest in the list of his government's accomplishments.

posted by ersatz at 12:14 PM on May 27, 2008

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