Andy Gill: It didn't sound good to me – so thank God for infamy
Monday 31 May 2010
I'm sure I can't have been the only British viewer who sprang to their feet and punched the air in triumph when, late on in the Eurovision Song Contest voting, some clearly tone-deaf national jury – Portugal's, or maybe Israel's – took pity on the Belarussian entry and awarded it douze points, shunting "our own" Josh Dubovie to the bottom of the pile. Yesss! At the eleventh hour, true notoriety was grasped from the jaws of mere ignominy. What a relief!
It was always an irresistible hostage to fortune entering with a song called "That Sounds Good to Me", and the rest of the continent needed no second invitation to demonstrate how inappropriate a title had been chosen by Messrs Stock and Waterman. Even the Maltese, usually such staunch supporters, turned their backs on us this year. Meanwhile, the standard back-scratching was predictably rife. For the once-warring factions of the former Yugoslavia, Eurovision clearly continues to serve as the Balkan equivalent of a Truth & Reconciliation Commission; and the former Soviet republics likewise enjoyed a high level of mutual patronage, although for some reason any points awarded to Mother Russia were roundly booed by sections of the 18,000 audience.
By contrast, Germany was fawned over extraordinarily on the way to its runaway victory, with both Denmark and Slovakia gushingly referring to "our friends in Germany" as they joined the rush of countries desperate to award maximum points to a distinctly average slice of sassy girl pop. Needless to say, Israel was not among them. Nor were Greece and Turkey eager to support each other, though Greece's generosity towards Albania will doubtless have pleased Europe's poorest country. All in all, then, a pretty average Eurovision Song Contest, saved only by the UK's proud outsider performance.
The late Clash singer, Joe Strummer, once confessed to feeling a guilty blush of national pride when watching news footage of English football fans having it large in foreign cities, and I sort of understood what he meant during the mass dance segment involving hundreds of people in various European cities – until the UK's complement swept into view, an utter rabble more akin to anti-capitalist rioters storming the Square Mile than formation dancers. One's heart swelled, it really did.
It had all started so badly, too. Our host, Graham Norton, lacking Terry Wogan's confidence that moments worthy of ironic deflation would inevitably arise during the evening, began with a desperate plea for the pointless public email involvement that seems such a mandatory part of most television coverage these days. He then claimed that last year's winner, Alexander Rybak, was "the most successful Eurovision winner of all time", confirming that sometimes it's better to ignore the PR tripe that someone's given you to read out, and instead just check out the "Abba" section of iTunes.
As for the music, there were the usual varieties of Eurovision stylistic Esperanto, from R&B to power ballads and pop, with a substantial tranche of clodhopping electroclash from the likes of Greece, Albania, Moldova and other places where it probably still sounds like the future. As for the hapless Belarussian quintet, their take on the classic Bucks Fizz costume gimmick was to have their three lady singers magically transform into butterflies at the song's climax. The two gents, sadly, remained hairy caterpillars.
The evening's sole unscripted moment came when an interloper joined Spain's Leo Sayer lookalike and his troupe of toy-doll dancers – though I had no idea it was a stage invader until afterwards. The Spanish, rather than counting their blessings and leaving it at that, demanded to sing their song again, an unwise move given the song in question.
The show was, however, most instructive for future prospective entrants. The Germans won with a song which, it transpired, had already been a hit across the continent, thus ensuring it had already wormed its way into the minds of millions. Substantial success was also secured elsewhere by the simple expedient of copying something familiar: Belgium was represented by a singer doing an impression of James Blunt, right down to the irritating vocal tic, while the Danes raked in the votes by using a riff as close as this to the Police's "Every Breath You Take". Accordingly, my strategy for winning next year's Eurovision Song Contest is simple: don't waste time writing a new song, just have Amy Winehouse perform "Rehab" and be done with it. That'll show 'em.
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