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The Russian grannies – they sing, they bake, they didn’t win. A travesty.You might have noticed it was the Eurovision song contest last weekend. Fever failed entirely to grip the country as Finland’s entry failed to progress into the grand final. Since 1961 Finland has entered the Eurovision song contest 45 times, and as you probably know finally won the competition in 2006 thanks to weird rock band Lordi and their comedy pantomime entry Hard Rock Hallelujah. Before that victory we were considered to be the perennial underachievers of the competition, having placed last eight times and received the dreaded ‘nul points’ three times. This never stopped the public from getting excited about the contest itself, it just gave the Swedes another excuse to snigger at their lowly neighbours. In Sweden the competition to select the country’s entry is practically bigger than the Eurovision final itself, with huge crowds of screaming blondes working themselves into a frenzy over the latest in Nordic Euro-pap.

This ridiculous enthusiasm might be explained by the fact that they keep winning the competition, as they did this year with the absolutely terrible euro-pop-trance track Euphoria sung by Loreen. Her victory proves that either the rest of Europe has no taste or the competition has nothing to do with music at all. Possibly both, in fact, as the quality of entrants provided our ‘European’ brethren such as host nation Azerbaijan was uniformly low and yet the most awful compositions you could imagine were happily handed the maximum 12 points by their political allies and friendly neighbours, like always. This explains Finland’s lack of success this year, as apparently no-one cares about us.

The show itself made for decent enough watching though, as long as you were accompanied by several bottles of wine and a healthy dose of scepticism. The best act of the night was obviously the group of Russian grannies, Buranovskiye Babushki, who finished second. The only act in Eurovision history to feature a revolving oven on stage, their failure to win the competition was a travesty of natural justice. Perhaps it was their shameless appeal to the wild’n’wacky vote (as pioneered by Lordi) that lost it for them. Ireland’s identical-twin entry Jedward, looking like failed extras from the Thor movie, finished their act by jumping in a fountain. A symbolic act of cleansing, or a naff stunt? I suspect the latter. One might even suspect that the Irish enthusiasm for this double act – they’ve been selected two years in a row now – has something to do with the fact that they can’t afford to win it.

Bad music aside, the whole event was tinged with rumblings of discontent in Baku. The running of Azerbaijan from the capital has come under fire from human rights organisations, and the US compared it to “the feudalism found in Europe during the middle ages” in a diplomatic cable. All TV stations and most newspapers are controlled by the state or the president’s family. The huge amounts of oil money that have flowed into the country have not reached the countryside where many live in abject poverty. Still, what better way to put on a smiling face to the world than by hosting Eurovision? Cheese!

Nick Barlow
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The writer knows the art of channel surfing.