Friday, May 15, 2009

Free at last

Well, as threatened last week, I've cancelled my standing order with Forbidden Planet and I'm going to see how I get on with Red Hot Comics in Glasgow.

To celebrate this wonderful event, let's have a few videos from the Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals. (I'll be out on Saturday night, so I'll miss the show itself.) For the benefit of the Americans among you: the Eurovision Song Contest is an annual song contest with each country in Europe entering a different song. The quality is... well, often erratic. Some countries take it more seriously than others, although the western countries seem to be in relatively serious mode this year.

Until recently the winner has been decided by phone vote, but they're introducing a convoluted hybrid system of judging panels this year, after Russia won in 2008 and the western nations threw a collective tantrum, accusing the Eastern European countries of all voting for each other out of mutual loyalty. This was vastly overstated; it glossed over the fact that nobody voted for Poland, which last I saw was in eastern Europe too, and it completely ignored the fact that the winning Russian song was a multinational number one hit, the first single from the new album by a major Russian star, produced by Timbaland. They voted for it in eastern Europe because they genuinely liked it, a point which the British seemed to have trouble grasping.

This year, Britain is entering an Andrew Lloyd Webber song which sounds to me more like an X-Factor winner's first single. It's not brilliant, but it'll probably do better than some of the dross we've entered in recent years.

To be honest, there's a lot of rather serious ballads this year, and plaintive appeals for world peace, such as the Israeli entry.

I'm rooting for Moldova, who have taken the normally deadly approach of entering a folk dance. But it's so bouncy!

Bonus points for the completely gratuitous rapping in the bridge.

STOP PRESS! YouTube also has the official promo video. It's... got a touch of the Borats. "Hey, you know what'll sum up our glorious country? An opening shot of some sheep..."

Awesome. Go on, vote for them. Chisinau 2010.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine has opted for Europop. It's not a classic, but it does feature some quite bizarre staging. And it's called "Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl)", which makes it sound like an obscure Grant Morrison comic.

Albania has gone for the pop route too, but they've thrown in a weirdo in a green glitter suit. So odd you have to admire it, really.

Over in western Europe, here's Portugal's answer to... well, Noah and the Whale, I guess. This is growing on me. Listening to it again now, I think this actually has some genuine, real-world merit. Might be too good for Eurovision.

Norway, meanwhile, have entered something that sounds like it belongs in a musical. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The violin hook's got something.

Armenia are back for their fourth annual attempt to remind the rest of Europe that they exist. I don't know what it is with Armenia, but I keep forgetting about them. Actually, they consistently make the finals, and this year's ethnic pop effort is surprisingly decent.

The most eccentric entry of the year got screened out in the semi-finals, though. It's actually kind of growing on me after several listens, but guitar pop in 7/4 time was never going to fly at the Eurovision Song Contest. Sorry, Latvia.