Hello again, gentle reader. Well normally, I don’t write a post-final blog, because usually it’s all wrapped up and done and dusted by now. The excitement withers on the vine, people go back to work, summer holidays are considered and life goes back to normal. Raking over the coals at this stage normally feels a bit redundant to me. But this year – no. Conchita Wurst’s victory for Austria was – for me at least – so unexpected because of perceived eastern European prejudices. So this needs a bit more consideration. This was also a year where a lot of the general rules about Eurovision were proved right. I’m going to work my way up the table and see where it takes us.
France – last place. We spent the Eurovision weekend at a Mansion party in North Wales with seventeen other like-minded people, and one of our activities was to draw a country at random, then go into Ladbrokes in Llangollen and put a £2 bet on it – any bet we wished. Whilst she was there Mrs Chrisparkle decided to go off-piste and put a fiver on any country getting nul points. 5-1 odds; not bad. So as Saturday night’s contest was proceeding and fewer and fewer countries were left with nul points, France was looking like her only hope for cash beyond the dreams of avarice. Cruelly she was dealt a blow when Finland gave them a point, and then later on Sweden did too. Two measly points. I’ve been an advocate of the French song for months now. I didn’t like it at all on first hearing, and Twin Twin’s performance when it was chosen in the National Final was a bit merde. But I loved the video and still think the lyrics are really clever. Have a read if you’ve haven’t already. But on the night it was very messy, very manic, very rushed and really amateur. It came over as a thoroughly joke entry – and although Eurovision is known by many for its joke entries, they rarely do well. So Rule 1 proved – joke entries never win.
Slovenia – 25th, a pretty harsh result for a pretty good tune. Eight of their nine points came from Montenegro, the ninth coming from Macedonia, so if it hadn’t been for neighbourly voting, they would have been bottom of the heap. San Marino – 24th, Valentina might have hoped for better than that, and she certainly did herself proud with her performances. In a long show, people get a bit tired by the end, so performing in 25th place probably didn’t do her any favours. Malta – 23rd, very unexpectedly low result for a much-fancied song. The UK awarded Malta ten points, it being the UK jury’s favourite entry, but the UK always has a bit of a bromance with Malta. It obviously didn’t do much for the rest of the continent. Azerbaijan – 22nd, far and away Azerbaijan’s worst ever result, their previous worst being 8th in 2008. 22 of their 33 points came from a top placing by San Marino and a dix points from Russia. For what it’s worth, this is the first time the UK have finished higher than Azerbaijan. But then, it was a jazz tune, like “Heute in Jerusalem” or “die Welt dreht sich verkehrt”, and who remembers them? Rule 2 proved – jazz entries never win.
Italy – 21st place; also with 33 points, and also receiving a douze points (from Malta, neighbourly voting) and a ten from Albania. Emma’s song unfortunately car-crashed; certainly everyone sitting near me at our party couldn’t believe how dreadful it was. Greece – 20th. Big shock as far as I was concerned, and one of Mrs C’s favourites too. It’s a great feel-good song – simple yes, and a bit repetitive, but enormous fun. However: Mistake No 1, the guys did not make good eye contact with the camera, so didn’t communicate with audience at home; Mistake No 2, they over-gimmicked it with the trampoline, which resulted in Mistake No 3, choreography has to be slick, not wobbly. But above all, it proved Rule 3 – rap entries never win.
Montenegro – 19th, surprisingly low for a song that puts one in mind of Lane Moje (even though it’s nowhere near as good). With more Balkan countries participating this would probably have climbed at least another six or seven places; as it is, only four countries voted for Montenegro, all of them from the south east corner of the continent. 24 of their 37 points came from two douze-points, from Armenia and Macedonia. Sergej’s voice was stunning but when we saw him perform in London we were amazed how dull he was on stage, and I think that may have affected his votes on Saturday, and proved Rule 4 – singers with no charisma never win.
Germany – 18th, a better result than I thought the song deserved. United Kingdom – 17th, a disappointing result for Molly. Whilst I never really rated the song that highly, and also thought that Molly was something of an under-performer, I took comfort from the fact that she was a relatively safe pair of hands and wasn’t going to do a Gemini/Bonnie/Blue/etc with the vocals. She also suffered from being last up in the running order. By the time you get to this stage of the show you’ve already decided who you are going to vote for and you stop listening. Look at the surprise last place for Ireland last year. Molly proved Rule 5 – since televoting was introduced, the songs performed last never win.
Belarus – 16th, a mid-table-ish score for a mid-table-ish song, twelve points from Russia and no points from any country further west than Montenegro. Iceland – 15th, reasonable result for the colourful Icelandic guys, but the title, “No Prejudice”, like “No Dream Impossible” and “No One” proves Rule 6 – no song with “No” in the title ever wins.
Poland – 14th , No 1 with the UK televoters and No 25 with the UK jury. Talk about polarising Poles. More smutty than sexy. Switzerland – 13th, the first of this year’s songs that we can say ended on the left hand side of the scoreboard. I really warmed to this song and performance over the past few weeks. It received votes from both Ireland and Armenia, evidence that it had continent-wide appeal. Romania – 12th, for some reason, according to my scorecard, my favourite song of the night; not sure how that happened. Considerably less successful than when Paula and Ovi sang Playing with Fire, but then it’s a considerably worse song. Finland – 11th, second favourite with the UK jury; fair result for a fair song. Spain – 10th, highest placing for one of the big 5 countries; much lower than I was expecting but they only received one twelve points – from Albania. Their Portuguese friends, who could normally be relied on for support, didn’t score them at all. Denmark – 9th, so glad this didn’t get higher as those silly lyrics get my goat. That big flag unfurling to reveal the word “love” made my stomach turn. It also proved Rule 7 – no songs revealing a flag with a word on it ever win.
Norway – 8th; I know we were meant to gain some deep-seated satisfaction that a big manly chap can reveal his inner vulnerability by singing a tender song about mental anguish; but all our party could say to this was “oh purrrlease….” Russia – 7th. There are a number of people, myself not included, who think it is never justified to boo, as it is discourteous to the performer. Whilst I would only advocate booing a performer if they have done a really lousy performance – and I mean really really lousy – and you’ve paid a lot of money to witness it (yes it’s happened a couple of times), I see no reason not to take the opportunity, with 180 million people watching, to let the rest of the world know that you disapprove of their political regime. I don’t think any boos were reserved for the performance of the Tolmachevy Sisters, and that’s quite right. But yes, boo at the mention of the word Russia, why the hell not. It delightfully proved Rule 8 – no countries who have invaded another country within the last twelve months ever win.
Ukraine – 6th, getting a higher position than Russia with mildly rewarding one-upmanship. Paper-thin song rescued by sexy girl singer (if you fancy girls) and sexy boy hamster (if you fancy boys. Or hamsters.) Doubtless this benefited also from some sympathy votes. With 113 points this was the highest placing of any song not to receive any douze points. It may be pretty obvious, but it has to be said: it proves Rule 9 – no song featuring a hamster wheel ever wins.
Top Five: Hungary – 5th. Great song that came over so well on stage; its subject matter is challenging if you want to consider the lyrics, or rather elegantly danced through if you want to consider the stage show. For me Hungary is THE most consistently brilliant contributor to our beloved contest this decade. Given that Hungary have no “natural allies” in the ESC this was a superb result. Armenia – 4th, the big betting favourite still managed a good result despite ropey performances in both the semi and the final and offering us what is basically a dully repetitive song. Sweden – 3rd; fantastic performance from fan fave Sanna, did more than justice to what I still think is quite a tedious song. The Netherlands – 2nd; their best result since Ding-a-dong, 39 years ago. No one noticed this song until its semi when suddenly I-Tunes went red hot over Europe with Common Linnet downloads. If they’d sung the first verse more in tune on Saturday night, maybe it was theirs for the taking. The duo was named after a Dutch songbird. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you. Rule 10 – no singer or performer named after a bird ever wins.
Which takes us to: Austria – 1st. An utterly extraordinary achievement on the part of Conchita Wurst. Whilst it was not my favourite song of the year (I find it a little dated) it’s certainly classy and anthemic. Nearly everyone has likened it to a Bond theme, and you could certainly imagine it on the silver screen with the iconic 007 credits. Visually it was a stunning light show, that really reflected the lyrics and the performer, and left a superb final impact. But it’s Fräulein Wurst to whom we have to pay most attention. I was amazed that she garnered so many votes from east of the Oder-Neisse line. With petitions from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine not to show her song lest it corrupt their youth, and stories of transmission blackouts when she was on, I really expected her support to collapse in the old eastern bloc. But the Russian televoters put her third, as did the Ukrainian jury, and the Belarussian public voted her in fourth place (despite the fact that the state-obedient jury members individually had her finishing no higher than 20th). We know that it’s governments who wage war, not people; maybe in the same way, it’s governments who peddle in prejudice, rather than their citizens. Certainly, the public in these countries did not shy away from voting for Austria – just as some westerners chose to boo Russia to show their disapproval of its regime, it appears that many Russians and their neighbours also chose to go against the party line. Whatever, the result was a complete slap in the face of prejudice, and a tacit approval of living life your way, because it’s your life.
I have to come clean here, as there’s no point my not being honest. When I first encountered the phenomenon that is Conchita Wurst two years ago, when she was seeking the Austrian ticket with the song “That’s What I Am”, I found her appearance simply too challenging. I’m not particularly forgiving if I perceive prejudice in others, and I always try to be as unprejudiced myself as possible. But Conchita just proved a beard too far for me. I could not reconcile that beautiful face and elegant, sexy, appearance, with ten days’ growth. It freaked me out – I could not look at her. It took a conversation with a friend who is also an ESC fan, when I admitted that I couldn’t accept her appearance, for him to point out the prejudice I was displaying.
“But her beard”, I stuttered, “it’s almost over-visible. It’s blacker and more striking than any other guy’s beard”. “And do you think that’s a coincidence?” he asked, “of course it’s striking. It’s the most deliberately striking-looking beard in the world.” The penny started to drop. “You mean he’s proving a point?” I responded lamely. “Now you’re getting it” he replied. And at that point I realised that Conchita’s appearance is not an awkward, distasteful combination of two very contrasting looks, but a deliberately assertive and positive visual statement that you can be what or who you want. I’ve discovered since then that Tom Neuwirth’s original attempts to get on a TV reality show were scuppered when he was told at the auditions that he had an amazing voice but that it was far too feminine for a man. So he came back the following year dressed as a glamorous woman, but with this splendid jet-black beard, as if to say, “here I am, the woman you want me to be, but inside I know I am a man, and here’s the proof”. And that’s a totally splendid position to take.
But back to this year’s result – and ignoring all the side issues, Conchita Wurst has been the only performer I think this year to have delivered consistently faultless vocals through all the rehearsals, the pre-show concerts, and on the main shows. When we saw her at the London Preview Party she had more charisma than almost all the other contestants put together. You cannot take your eyes off her when she is performing. I’m one of the few people I know who haven’t met her – you probably have – but by all accounts she’s one of the nicest blokes you could meet.
Now – I really can’t decide, next year whether we should go to Austria, Vienna presumably, to see the contest in the flesh, or stay in the UK. Not been to the contest in person since Birmingham in 1997, as we normally like to hold or attend parties. But it will be the 60th show, and I reckon that’s going to be something special. Advice welcomed!