Picture the scene. I’m in a lecture theatre in the London Transport Museum, with my beloved, long suffering spouse, and two lovely New Zealanders called Aaron and Bridget.
The Eurovision bunting is out. Curry and drink have been taken. I’ve just given Bridget a comprehensive overview of the history of Eurovision with particular reference to the waning fortunes of the United Kingdom since the 1990s.
She looked at me curiously. “You’re a real fan, eh?” She said. I nodded. In comparison with the Eurovision spods on the internet, my interest is but a passing fancy. But I have been diligently watching the Contest since 1981, when Bucks Fizz ripped off their skirts to secure Eurosong gold for a grateful nation.
Every year since, I have never yet turned down an opportunity to laugh my socks off at some boom-bang-a-bang Euro nonsense, and fingers crossed I never will.
With a world weary eye, spouse turned to the screen and clicked the link on the first song of the first semifinal: Armenia. I held my breath as Bridget heard her first ever Eurosong…
1) Armenia – Aram Mp3 singing Not Alone
“Is this about a bunk up in a mini?” Bridget asked.
“Why is that man brooding in a bullet riddled shed?” Said spouse.
“Ooh this doesn’t look like a very balanced relationship – oh it’s ok – she’s got the means to get home independently.” said Aaron.
These were the most sensible things we could find to say about the runaway favourite act to win the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. I took a deep breath. We were plainly in for a bumpy year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChkJpnOgIwQ&feature=player_embedded
In a word: inauspicious.
2) Latvia Aarzemnieki singing Cake To Bake
It is said if you have an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters you will eventually end up with Hamlet. Not so. You end up with the song ‘Cake to Bake.’ In this video, a suspiciously happy looking Latvian sits with friends around a camp fire, playing guitar and spouting random English words.
“I don’t know if I’m disgusted or if I want to sing along,” mused Aaron. Aaron was right. This song definitely has a happy clappy singalong quality which sucks you in despite the asinine lyric.
The chorus focuses on the business of cake manufacture. He’s going wrong here on several counts. First, you can’t make cake on a camp fire – at best you’re looking at a drop scone. Second, just mixing dough and adding love isn’t how you make cakes. Third, unless love is Latvian for vanilla extract, I’m not risking anything this man produces in the kitchen.
For the avoidance of doubt, here’s a link to Delia Smith’s guide to making a Victoria Sponge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-jJxA53SFI
And here is the entirely unhelpful advice on the same matter from Latvia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7CL8anA1hQ&list=PLmWYEDTNOGUKmWVFgawRdQBeexOP2U688
In a word: inaccurate
3) Estonia – Tanja singing “Amazing”
The video began. “This is the light display of a dance number,” said spouse.
“Yes,” said I. “But look at that fallen arch. She shouldn’t be doing all that hopping about without some kind of foot support.” Tanja (Estonia’s hope for Euro glory) then pulled off a host of moves more suited to an Olympic gymnastics final.
Eight eyebrows raised in symphony. “Ooh! She’s lithe!” I cooed, all thoughts of her absent footwear forgotten.
The real star of this video is Tanja’s simply astonishing washboard stomach. Hewn out of endless macrobiotic meals and sit-ups, even on those rare occasions when it was covered the six-pack seemed to twinkle like a baby oil covered gem. The song is entirely bog standard euro pap, accessorised with a false ending, fireworks and synchronised gymnastics. “Pretty poppy,” intoned Aaron, fast becoming the voice of Eurovision wisdom. “It’s not awful.”
In a word: pneumatic
4) Sweden: Sanna singing ‘Undo’
Ah Sweden. Truly Eurovision royalty, they are one of the few Euronations who have fielded a winner every decade of the Contest.
All the distinguishing features of a Swedish act were here. The perfect diction of the Scandawegian, the beautiful skin and features of a woman raised on pure fjord water and herring, the key change… Absolutely textbook stuff. This song is currently second in the betting to win, and the betting has a point. Yes, it’s a power ballad, but manages not to sound like Heart, just a good song, well sung by a nation which continues to be the benchmark for modern public services. Go Sweden.
In a word: (my) favourite
Tomorrow: Iceland, Albania, Russia and Azerbaijan…
Incidentally, if you are enjoying these reviews, why not make a small donation to MacMillan Cancer Support – its a great charity which helped us out when we needed it. Or consider running a Eurovision sweepstake in your workplace and raise some money for MacMillan at the same time. Let me know and I’ll send you some materials to help.