As expected, Sweden hosted a fabulous Eurovision contest. It began with a video package featuring a caterpillar touring around Europe that we all know would then transform into the butterfly logo representing this year’s contest. Then, we get to listen to a choir singing a solemn hymn that I confirmed later was composed by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus with electro-dance musician Avicii, and a parade of nations with the 26 finalists marching behind their respective flags. I hope the song becomes like an anthem to be sung in subsequent Eurovision finals and I hope the parade of nations ritual becomes a permanent fixture.
I have to give major compliments to the host of the proceedings, Petra Mede. You might assume from her poised demeanor that she’s just a conventional host, but she has a killer droll wit (one line she uttered about the rabid, flamboyant, campy fans in the front-rows: “You just have not found the right girl, yet”). It turns out she is like Sweden’s version of Kathy Griffin, a more sophisticated, upper-class version of that famous US comedienne (she even physically resempbles her).
In one of the intervals before the results are announced, Petra performed a funny number that skewers and pays tributes to the stereotypes, products, and people that made her nation famous. Not only was she as hilarious as Kathy Griffin, she has the performance chops of a Neil Patrick Harris at the Tonys. Check out her “Swedish Smorgasbord” number:
Carola made a cameo in this number singing the title line of the English version of her 1991 Eurovision winning song, “Fångad av en stormvind [Captured by a Lovestorm]” before falling off the stage–a nice gag and she still looks and sounds terrific. For complete lyrics of this witty number, check out the article from the U.K.’s Daily Mirror.
Petra also narrated a humorous history of Eurovision song contest, interspersing herself in some moments (like as a phone operator in the early 1960s, or as ABBA’s Anni-Frid Lyngstad in their “Waterloo” performance) or providing cheeky comments like Johnny Logan’s three Eurovision wins, the last one supposedly in drag as Linda Martin (actually Johnny wrote the winning song; his first two wins he performed the songs). It was a comic treat.
Besides the comedy number, another major highlight for me was last year’s champion Loreen’s performance–it’s a medley of her current single “We’ve Got the Power”, and previous hits “My Heart is Refusing Me” and “Euphoria”. I love th fact that she finally gets to fly onstage, and she looked resplendent in a huge robe as she sang Euphoria as the stage rose underneath her.
The entries that ended up in the Top Six were amongst the expected favorites. My personal favorites were the numbers from Azerbaijan and Ukraine, and I was not surprised that they ended up in the Top Three. Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov mastered the art of seducing the camera via close-up, while I was riveted by his male back-up dancer who seemed to represent the singer’s inner soul (that is why he was encased in a plastic box). Yes, I ended up swooning like a fangirl over him. It was not surprising why 10 countries gave this entry douze (12) points.
Meanwhile, I can’t help but swoon over the transcendent Oxana-Fedorova-meets-Shania-Twain beauty of Zlata Ognevich, with her terrific Basia-esque singing voice. I want to hear Zlata sing Basia’s “Time and Tide” (or at least Basia’s cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back to Me”). It’s an off-the-hook performance for me.
Denmark‘s win has been bandied about by the press for several days prior and I have no serious objections over its win as it’s a consistently strong entry anyway. Even if it got less douze point votes than Azerbaijan (8 compared to Azerbaijan’s 10), it garnered points from every participating country with the exception of Latvia. Let’s see how Copenhagen can top Malmö’s hosting this year.
Norway‘s 4th place is a tribute to its strong songcraft, and well Russia‘s 5th place finish is also expected. Greece deservingly fared well for top-notch showmanship alone (but not the song as the song is actually crap).
Italy is the sole “Big Five” entry to land in the Top 10, ranking seventh, as only former X-Factor champion Marco Mengoni delivered a solid (though imperfect) vocal. The “Big Five” entries turned out to be disappointing, delivering mostly rough and pitchy performances. Spain was off-key (though the ending line translating the song title into English was a nice touch), Germany fell off the favorites’ perch with pitchiness, and though Bonnie Tyler remains a well-regarded legend, she also sounded rough in her performance representing the United Kingdom. I actually found France‘s performance solid, with Amandine Bourgeois evoking both Tina Turner and Courtney Love, but that number needed a trussed up hunk to make more serious inroads.
Malta‘s eighth place finish was a pleasant surprise, as it is indeed a refreshingly likeable feel-good song. I’m glad for the support Netherlands has received that it earned it strong ninth place finish after a nine-year absence in the finals.
I’m still mystified by Hungary‘s strong 10th place showing–sure we can tag it as “refreshingly” different, but Malta has beaten that to the punch. Also mystifying are the people voting for Romania‘s crappy number (it landed a respectable 13th place)–at least Moldova and Belgium fared decently at an 11th place tie, and Moldova did not automatically award its douze points to its neighbor (as a courtesy it still awarded it 10 points) but to Ukraine instead.
I’m saddened by Ireland‘s last place finish in the finals, as it was better than the entries by Hungary and Romania, by the very least. I think it bubbled under in various countries overall but unfortunately that wouldn’t count as you only earn points if you rank in a country’s overall Top 10.
I have a couple of notes for two other finalists:
* Some of my peers I chatted with noted that Belarus’ Alyona Lonskaya looks like Paraguay’s Miss Universe 2012 representative and Miss World 2010 semifinalist Egni Eckert. Anyway, I like her glittery fringed dress in her performance, though her singing was pitchy that is why it didn’t get to rank higher.
* Estonia’s Birgit Oigemeel’s pregnancy led her to wear a loose fitting empire-waist gown as she performed her ballad. Many pageant fans and pundits realize she is wearing the gown sported by Russia’s Vera Krasova when she competed in the evening gown finals of Miss Universe 2008.
* I didn’t know Finland featured a gender-bending costume change gimmick for its number–observe how the groomsmen changed into bridesmaids 2/3 into the song. There is also the girl-on-girl kiss, too. So Katy Perry, isn’t it?
I’ve got seven of my Top 10 prediction correct, with one bubbling under making it. An improvement over last year’s weak prediction. Anyway, congratulations to Denmark on its victory. Hope to see a grander Eurovision with stronger entries next year.