I watched this year’s competition with no pre-conceived ideas or notions about any of the songs including the UK’s entry. I didn’t participate in viewing the TV show which determined our Eurovision song, or watch either of the two semi-finals that occurred before the finale on Saturday 10th May in Copenhagen. Having boycotted last year’s event because of the Englebert Humperdinck humiliation in 2011, I didn’t even expect to be watching this year either. But my husband Rob had clearly got over his grumpiness from last year when he said ;( to my surprise); it would be essential viewing. And as soon as the Charpentier Te Deum Prelude music began I realised I had missed it, not surprising considering Eurovision has been a near constant companion since I was two years old.
Rob interactively commented on the evening’s proceedings via Twitter, but I didn’t go near my phone at all so there was no external influence. I wanted to just concentrate on the show and see what my “gut instincts” told me. So this is what I thought as I watched & heard some of the 2014 Eurovision entries for the first time.
My Top 5 Countries
Malta: Coming Home by Firelight: UK TV host Graham Norton described this group act as a mix between Mumford & Sons and Gary Barlow!! Well I didn’t get the Gary feel but I certainly understood the Mumford reference. This act had a fresh modern quirky sound, great vocals from the woman pianist and guy lead singer, and some unusual instrumentation taking place (double bass was there). Malta has had a few close calls in winning the contest in the past, and I would have loved to see them succeed. Points 32: Place 23 of 26.
Spain: The familiar face of Ruth Lorenzo (UK X-Factor) sang in her native Spanish and English a self composed song Dancing in the Rain. The power in her vocals was quite something, she looked stunning (if somewhat wet), and I felt that this was the strongest song out of the “big five” in Eurovision. For those who are not aware who the big five are: Germany, France, Italy, Spain & the United Kingdom. These nations put the most money into the Eurovision franchise. Alas, although Molly tried her best for the UK with Children of the Universe, I didn’t think her vocals were anywhere near as strong as Ruth’s or the eventual winner Austria. Points 74: Place 10 of 26
Finland: Something Better by Softengine: A modern, fun and energetic boy-band with the looks, sound and attitude to do well given half a chance. Points 72: Place 11 of 26
Russia: The Tolmachevy Sisters (17 year old twins) sung beautifully Shine, a really nice sounding song with comprehensible lyrics and great harmonies. The setting for their performance was simple and elegant as were their outfits. It was unfortunate that these girls as Russian representatives had to endure the audience hostility toward their home nation. POLITICS SHOULD NOT COME INTO A SONG CONTEST EVER. Unfortunately Eurovision has suffered from partisan voting and political back-slapping for as long as I can remember, although I think it has got more pronounced over the last 20 years. Points 89: Place 7 of 26
Azerbaijan: “Start the Fire” by Dilara Kazimova: I thought this quite a sweet and nicely sung piece. Points 33: Place 22 of 26.
Unusual & Quirky
Ukraine started the competition with a man appearing to be running inside a hamster wheel? The Belarus boy-band didn’t want to be anyone’s cheesecake!! Iceland’s entry No Prejudice by Pollaponk made me think of a mix between The Jam and Showaddywaddy (just swap the multi-colour teddy-boy outfits for a more modern cut suit). Montenegro had an ice-skater performing in the background. Greece could start a new Gangnam-style craze by using trampolines. Poland’s scantily-clad “girls” Donatan & Cleo in folk dress definitely put the spice back into girl-power. Slovenia had a flute playing singer, and more than once whistling featured in the proceedings too. The wooden spoon went to France who came last with two points, but I wasn’t surprised. Moustache performed by TWIN TWIN just made me wonder if their performance was a kind of stage manifestation of “a bad trip”. I remember when I was very ill in hospital being weaned off morphine, and the funny (in hindsight) but terrifying visions I had then, and the French entry just made me think of that time.
Netherlands: Calm After the Storm by The Common Linnets: Graham Norton described this as a song in the country & western style and wondered if it had a real place in the competition. He admitted it had “caught-on” though and by the end of the evening it was second with 238 points. I’m not at all surprised about this because country & western style music is hugely popular throughout the world, with lyrics that are very meaningful and a sound that is easy and inoffensive on the ear. The folk-like quality would be very appealing to the more eastern-bloc nations as well. The Dutch entry was sung very well, both vocalists matched each other’s guitar play and the setting was very simple. There was nothing to detract from the quality and beauty of a good song. Listening to it for the first time I was immediately struck by its similarity to the sound and feel of Every Breath You Take by The Police.
Austria: You probably couldn’t get more unusual or quirky with this entry. Drag act Conchita Wurst (real name Tom Neuwirth) won the 59th Eurovision Song Contest with her song Rise Like a Phoenix scoring 290 points. All I knew before Conchita took to the stage was the catch-phrase “the bearded-lady”. When she appeared on stage I gasped and as the song began I couldn’t quite believe my ears. The vocals were stunning, clear as a bell, powerful and heart-felt and with the orchestration background I immediately thought “James Bond movie-theme”. Rise Like a Phoenix had that Bond like essence about it, and I could well imagine Dame Shirley Bassey singing it. The long-limbed slender frame of Conchita Wurst dressed in a figure hugging full-length sequined dress looked amazing, very much reminiscent of the Dame Shirley look. But as I looked at the chiselled dark haired features of Conchita I was reminded of another singer, Freddie Mercury. I always thought that the Queen front man had a very attractive, distinctive look with cheekbones many would pay good money to have. Of course he also had an incredible voice and a wonderful stage presence. So with these associations in my thoughts as I watched Conchita perform, I wasn’t at all surprised that Austria won for the first time in 48 years. After all, James Bond, Dame Shirley Bassey and Freddie Mercury are not bad company to keep.