Dad turned 65 yesterday and officially became a grumpy old man, something he’s been practising for a while now. The day before, his brother turned 70. Obviously, this gives us the perfect excuse to have a ‘family do’. Of the various tasks Mum handed out to us, mine was to “sort some music”. I panicked, briefly, on account of me not owning a single CD, or having anything in my digital library that anyone would know. Thankfully, my friend Will rifled through his infinite collection of tunes (think Rob in High Fidelity) and compiled three magical CDs of 60s stuff that at least ‘the olds’ will recognise, even if I don’t. But then I realised that there was something even more glorious happening in the music world, the same night, and my task had actually been easier than anybody could possibly have imagined.
Because tonight is Eurovision! Yay!
And that’s a serious ‘yay!’ because, as anyone who knows me is more than aware, I LOVE Eurovision. Always have, always will. It’s a childhood thing, something that makes me feel safe and secure, a comfort blanket that never wears out. Just like collecting Panini stickers as a kid, and being able to reel off all the stats, spending hours sat cross-legged in the playground with the boys, chanting “got…got…neeeeeed!!”. Or waiting for magical Saturdays, with a whole day of football, the new edition of Look-In, and Robin of Sherwood on ITV at 5.35pm…
Today, Eurovision is known as the biggest fix since Jose Maria Ortiz de Mendibil rigged our European Cup semi-final against Inter Milan in 1965. But the fixing only started in the early 90s, with all the upheaval in Eastern Europe. Political alliances in the Eurovision Song Contest, supposedly did more to stabilise peace in that fractious area of the world, than a thousand UN summits. Unfortunately, since then, it has remained little more than a continental soap box, from which individual countries can protest at the way other nations conduct themselves.
The United Kingdom last won the contest in 1997, and Katrina, from The Waves, wasn’t even British. It’s a bit like Britain’s Got No Talent, which should be called Just Come Over To Britain And Show Us You Still Have No Talent. It’s the same in Eurovision. If you’re as sad as I am, you’ll know that lots of the acts representing ‘their’ country, come from other countries. In recent years, we’ve had Russians representing Bosnia & Herzegovina, Americans representing Belgium, and the French representing Italy. And who can forget Celine Dion ‘doing’ Switzerland in 1988? She’s never even been there. But at least there’s no denying that Jedward are actually Irish.
The rot started when acts were allowed to sing in English, and not their native language. It was fun listening to the Germans trying to sound all romantic in the most unromantic language in the world. It was also great not having a clue what any of them were singing about because, that way, they knew they had to rely on body language, with plenty of cheesy winks and smiles to the camera or, worse, dancing, to communicate what the song was about. This was the joy.
These days, nearly all the acts sing in English, which is just wrong. Also, there seems to be an additional rule that at least 90% of the acts have to be fronted by near-naked women who can’t sing a note (Ruslana wasn’t bad though, and she did win). Just bare the flesh, and get the votes. What they don’t seem to have picked up on, is that the majority of those who actually pick up the phone and vote (for the record, I don’t…I never have any credit), are women, who will purposely not vote for the scantily clad woman, purely for that reason. For the record, the number of naked women who have won in the last 20 years is…6. Which isn’t a great return. Not that it matters, as all the voting is tactical.
Outrageously, for the last two years, the voting lines were open from the very start of the show. People thought this was unfair, as obviously the earlier acts might get more votes. Because you’re not going to vote for an act you haven’t seen yet, right? Wrong. The purpose of opening the voting lines early, was so that countries like Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Latvia etc, could vote for their neighbours, before they all went to bed. Don’t forget, Russia is three hours ahead. No way are they staying up until 1am just so they can vote for Estonia. Doesn’t matter what the song’s like, just gotta get that vote in before they’re too tired to press the buttons. Greece could put a singing donkey up on stage, Cyprus will still give them 12 points, just to avoid civil war. We could steal Vanessa Paradis from the French and make her sing a song about taxis, they’ll still never, ever vote for us. Ditto Germany, Italy and the rest of Europe. Because the United Kingdom is evil and despotic and is solely responsible for the European recession and war around the world (not untrue). Along with the United States. But they’re not in Eurovision (yet), so they can’t ‘not be voted for’.
Thankfully, the silly early voting has been kicked into touch, because it was plainly barmy. If a contest is going to be rigged, let’s try not making it so obvious. So, this year, we’re back to the 50% public vote/50% jury system. What they don’t tell you, is who sits on each country’s jury, and that the 50% actually means 99%. Nicolas Sarkozy needs a job, so he’s heading up France’s Euro jury. Spain have Jose Maria Ortiz de Mendibil and Russia have Roman Abramovich on microphone duty. Peter Andre is sitting on Cyprus’s couch, though, so we might get 1 point from someone. In the past, acts who have been blatantly robbed of Eurovision glory because they weren’t involved in a revolution at the time, include Friends – Listen To Your Heartbeat (Sweden, 2001), Chiara – Angel (Malta, 2005) and my personal favourite by a country mile, the glorious Sakis Rouvas – Shake It (Greece, 2004), who missed out again in 2008.
Greece might actually do well this year. They’ll get a sympathy vote for being even poorer than I am, and they also have the scantily clad woman, too. Apparently Sakis wanted to go for third time lucky, but they couldn’t afford him. Best to go with the naked woman. Shame no-one thought to do a naked Sakis. I’d have bought credit for that.
If the contest was judged purely on the music, the Top 5 tonight should be:
1. Denmark (good song, likeable singer)
2. United Kingdom (come on, it’s a lovely song)
3. Hungary (my personal favourite)
4. Ireland (it’s genius, get over it…)
5. Cyprus (already a Euro classic)
But because this is Eurovision, my expert assessment predicts this:
1. Sweden (going for the sultry vote)
2. Russia (the Grannies – not sure how it can’t win, really)
3. Ireland (see above. Surely it’s about time Jedward won something?)
4. Greece (naked woman, again – we wanted naked Sakis. Europe will vote for them in sympathy for being poor)
5. Serbia (they have violins. Always good.)
But whatever happens, our family party starts at 4pm, so we’re all going to be blind drunk by the time the contest comes around. The day will be made even more special by the fact that my equally Eurovision-obsessed brother will be here, too, so the joy is neverending. And, after ten bottles of wine and some Vienetta, we might even end up voting.
STOP PRESS! – The Hump has been drawn FIRST to perform. We are doomed….