12 May 2014
A review of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest…
…including Mr Eurovision Awards!
Forget that Austria won the contest part of the Eurovision Song Contest of 2014. Forget that Netherlands won the song part of the Eurovision Song Contest of 2014. The real winner was Eurovision itself. It’s the second year straight that the spectacle showcased a high calibre range of artists and songs. This is fundamentally a result of one key decision 5 years ago to bring back the juries.
The return of the juries was only ever partly about balancing the bloc vote that was blighting the contest; they were brought back to add diversity and produce songs less reliant on gimmicks. While one might say that a woman with a beard is a gimmick, the over-riding aspect is Conchita Wurst’s song was still good, and it was performed superbly. Before the juries, Wurst might have popped up in Eurovision with a trashy, lightweight cliched pop piece that would be an embarrassment to Austria. Instead, a serious song was sought to gain respect.
Respect was something Austria earned. I mostly ignored it as a chance, writing it off as a gimmick that would ordinarily be perceived from seeing a woman with a beard. Then, as the contest progressed, momentum swung – particularly from the broader audience – to the point that this was a viable Eurovision entry and a strong contender to win. Conchita made the viewer look past the beard and engage with the song. Of course, while there would still be a strong whiff of political correctness and empathy to vote for the song, that almost certainly did materialise to help beat the Netherlands, the foundations of a good result were there to begin with.
The final stage of this egalitarianism is that a woman with a beard – or anyone of any look or persuasion – won’t have an effect either negatively or positively and a song can compete 100% on the merits of itself and the artist.
To the Dutch, the entry that truly did perform 100% on the merits of the song and the artists, an amazing result and personally is the true winner. Mostly because of the legacy it leaves for other serious artists to try Eurovision. In a sense, Calm After The Storm had its own stigma to break through, that of boring old country and western music. Despite that, the Common Linnets had me – and almost all of Europe – totally engaged. The presentation was flawless, as too the vocals, including and the tweaks of authenticity where either would linger a little on one word to further fuel the sense of engagement between the couple. Like Austria, it took the performance in the semi finals to look past the pre-conceptions, and examine the song itself. In 4 out of 5 years the Dutch would win Eurovision. This year they were unlucky to run head-on into the Conchita Express.
In terms of voting, both songs ran very close with top points. Both scored 13 lots of “douze points” and were similar with 10 points – Austria 7, Netherlands 6. It was the minor scoring that really helped Austria. Only four countries gave zero points: Armenia, Belarus, Poland and San Marino. Whereas Albania, Azerbaijan, Israel, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro and Ukraine all gave zero to the Dutch. Speaking of Israel, they gave 12 to Austria. Interesting when it comes to “equal rights” advocates choosing sides in the Middle East conflicts.
To think, up until a few years ago, Austria were regularly boycotting Eurovision and Netherlands were so frustrated with poor results that much of the stuff they sent were amateurish desperadoes needing publicity. Once the semi finals were introduced into Eurovision, the results were mired by horrendous block voting. It was common that every single Balkan nation would progress, much to the boos of the audience. Who could forget the shock of Belgium’s Kate Ryan failing in Athens? Something had to change. First was the format of two semi finals to provide more chances to progress, then came the juries.
As wounded Dutch pride slowly healed, the less they had to dig to find anyone to go. Joan Franka, in 2011, was first and with a really sweet song, only to be let down with a dreadful presentation. Anouk came last year. Austria returned with the excellent Nadine Beller in Germany, before diving with the rubbish Trackshittaz in 2012 (interestingly, these guys beat Conchita Wurst to compete), then sending the under-appreciated Natalia Kelly last year. All this because of the smart change to restore juries, and give them a 50% stake in the voting. It’s transformed Eurovision to the stunning spectacle that it has become.
Finally, what actually is a linnet? A bird. A common linnet is the species, to be precise.
Scores and Summary
10 Sweden – Flawless vocally, the song was never good enough, merely being a vessel to bring Sanna to Copenhagen to showcase her talents. Finished a worth third.
9 Russia – They sound so good together. Great harmonies and best pop song of the year. Good result to finish seventh against the the tide of anti-Russian sentiment. They could still sneak points Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine, whose juries ranked them low at 24th, 21st and 10th. The televote made up for it being ranked 2nd, 1st and 3rd, respectively. Interestingly, the taller and seemingly more dominant one, Anastasia (?), still has the strong stare that we saw at Junior ESC when she sings. Maria has the better voice.
9 Finland – Showed how energetic rock should be performed
9 Greece – Superb presentation made this average song
8 Netherlands – Gained lustre the more it was seen. Superb.
8 Hungary – Lost a smidgen of lustre second time. Still excellent and worthy in fifth place.
8 Slovenia – Hypnotic chorus and great presentation
8 Spain – Probably too generic in the broader scheme. Still excellent.
8 United Kingdom – Too eclectic and slow to build to really excel
8 Romania – Idiotic round piano destroyed their credibility
8 San Marino – Adorable, soft vocals. Song probably a bit tame.
8 Montenegro – Excellent Balkan ballad not as impressive second viewing
7 Poland – A good mix of ethnic rhythm, strong melody and “appropriate” performance.
7 Ukraine – Made the very best of just a reasonable song. A good update to the arrangement. Sixth an amazing result.
7 Austria – Strong song and performance. Tone of the voice its weakness for me.
7 Italy – A mess of a performance. Outfit, vocals, presentation. What happened?
6 Switzerland – The surprise of the entire contest. Fourth in semi; 13th in final.
6 Iceland – Not as fun the second time. Was the blue nail polish new for the final?
6 Norway – Nice voice, song a touch insipid
6 Belarus – The only cheesecake I like. I dug it a bit more second time.
6 Denmark – Too cliche, too repetitive
5 Armenia – I tried to find something to like. It’s boring. Fourth place an over achievement.
5 France – Couldn’t produce fun of song on stage
5 Azerbaijan – Always a dull song and lost impact on second viewing
5 Malta – Back to whiny again. The girl on piano sounded good.
3 Germany – Boring and repetitive
Average score 7. That makes it the highest rating final ever. The previous best was Malmo at 6.7. This year’s SF1 rated 7.2 to make it the highest rating show ever. Note: I’ve only kept official ratings for a few years now. Some older Eurovisions like 2003 and 2009 still have a very high regard.
United Kingdom 40
San Marino 14
The organisers released full the split of results between jury and televote and the main difference was with regard to Poland. Televote loved it, jury hated it. Conversely, the jury were all over Austria, as you’d expect from the often politically correct elite in the music industry. This difference with Poland was most graphic in UK and Ireland. According to Britain’s “The Independent”, both countries rated Poland first on televote, last on jury, which enabled Austria to win the overall vote for each country. Other countries that had Poland first on televote were Norway and Ukraine, while Netherlands and Iceland had them second, and Austria, FYR Macedonia, France, Germany and Sweden had them third. What does this say? Boobs trump beards on a woman. See, who says Eurovision can’t prove a scientific theory? It also says that you need both juries and televote in the voting process. Otherwise Austria would have stormed away with the contest on jury only, while using just the televote would have launched Poland into fifth. Knocking Poland down was the only influence the jury made on the top 5.
Semi Final 1
San Marino 40
We learn it was Portugal and Estonia that just missed out, with San Marino scraping in. Time to quit while ahead, Valentina. The top 6 all replicated produced a good result in the final and proving that SF1 was the much stronger semi.
Semi Final 2
Romania second here and just twelfth in the final. Norway improved greatly from 6th in the semi to be second best of that semi in the final. Georgia got 15 more points than expected.
Mr Eurovision Awards
Netherlands – I’ll always watch this come future views and I still won’t like country and western music! Russia next with its addictive melody, tight production and mischievous lyrics like “telling the world to show some love”. Estonia third. It needed a more classical arrangement to show its best.
Greece – Every year they manage to get the best out of often average songs. Ukraine is another that excels in this area. Russia shined with their effort, especially the lighting. Finland’s stand there and perform, it stood out for simplicity and effect.
Sweden – Sanna has been exception for years and was long overdue to be on the Eurovision stage. She didn’t disappoint and will be ecstatic with third. A close second was Spain. Estonia had the sexiest tone.
Hungary – In a landslide. A perfect match for the song. Understated while also effective.
Italy – I’m still in shock and was left with a hollow feeling for a good hour after Emma Marrone’s performance. It was one of the most anticipated songs to see and, quite simply, Emma wrecked it. She seemed strangely confused or distracted at the start. Was her earpiece not functioning? Did she not recover from the inactive microphone that it seemed at the start when her greeting was barely audible? Then she was off key, seemingly out of sync during the bridge, like she was lip-syncing. Was the mic dead and therefore an emergency plan enacted by the producers to pipe through a recording from rehearsals? She did seem to regain her composure by the end. Still, that’s no excuse for the terrible costume, she didn’t seem to be wearing a bra (unprofessional), and the skirt was too short. Also, choreography was a joke. Simply walking around and then on all fours like a cat. Better to stay central with the band and just deliver some roaring vocals.
A close second in disappointment would be Estonia. Tanja failed to close the stage down and the choreography looked stunted and over-rehearsed. In fact, almost all of the higher energy songs – like Israel, FYRM and France – failed to deal with the giant stage. That effectively killed the energy of the songs, making them seem weak and lifeless.
Ireland – Casey was always cute and really nailed it with that sultry, Celtic Warrior look. Next is Ruth from Spain, Mariya from Ukraine, Cleo from Poland and Paula from Romania.
Belarus – He had the dance moves going, gave us a kiss and kicked over the camera. You can’t ask for more than that. Nice to see other countries follow from Loreen’s Euphoria and use the camera in constructive ways, like Greece’s slow-mo on the trampolinist and France’s selfie.
Poland – Cleo had a really nice and stylish white t-shirt. Sweden was great for simplicity and style. Of the more extravagant, Slovenia was a winner with its stunning blue.
Best Flag Creation
Estonia easily with the shipping containers. Next was France with the bicycle smoke. Switzerland’s use of dominoes was effective if hardly imaginative.
The Australian Coverage
We all know Australia suffers with a heavy delay in telecast. There’s a stronger groundswell from fans to have that rectified. In this day and age of social media, it’s a necessity. Of course, with a bearded woman winning the contest, that would have been splashed all over locals news, including news-breaks during the day. Heck, even a football morning talk show, a panelist decided to mention Eurovision. I change channel quick enough that all I heard was Jessica Mauboy. Who knows about his next words. There’s just no reason not to show a live broadcast. It’s on at 4am Australian time so will only ever have a marginal effect on viewership in the traditional evening slot that is padded with interviews.
Ignoring the crisis about broadcast times, the commentators of Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang were strangely adequate this year. Zemiro shocked when she declared right at the start of the final that there were no clear favourites. That’s in contrast to the first semi where she blurted out Armenia as a hot favourite. In the final, she later mentioned Netherlands as one of the new favourites. I’ve been complaining to SBS since their first use of Zemiro in 2009 where she went as far as talking over the introduction of Norway’s Fairytale to tell viewers they were witnessing the hottest of hot favourites. The main problem with this not spoiling the result, it’s spoiling the experience of the song. You watch it differently, and knowing it’s favourite affects your appraisal at the end.
SBS managed to restrain themselves with idle chatter and interference for the most, with one great exception: they decided it would be funny to talk over the green room interviews in the final to insert their own insipid jokes, meaning half the time you could not hear the interview. Worst than that, Zemiro decided to cut the sound towards the end of Emmelie de Forest’s rendition of Only Teardrops during the interval and sing the last few lines herself. Are you out of your mind?
The SBS commentators saved their coup de gras at the end. Instead of seeing Conchita march onto the stage amid all the congratulations and celebration, we saw two idiots in a commentary box bidding a farewell to the Australian TV audience. It’s madness. Those two clowns might have reached a point that they thought they were bigger than Eurovision, because many of the back-stage interviews were self indulgent drivel too. We learnt nothing about most of the artists. Australia needs to be pegged down and, really, pretend they don’t exist. For all intents and purposes for Eurovision, they don’t exist.
Unfortunately, this behaviour is standard as part of the Australian psyche. We love to announce ourselves on the big stage and show off, without ever realising we’re stepping over the line or worn out our welcome. We often don’t apply the same principles on ourselves that we expect of ourselves. Arrogance is the immediate word that comes to mind. Boorish and uncouth are two others.
With Austria’s mesmerising history in classical music, the biggest intrigue about next year’s Eurovision will be the fusion of the likes of Mozart, Schubert, Stolz and Strauss into the often craziness and eccentricity of Eurovision. Right now, I need some time off and a holiday. It’s been one hectic week.