On Saturday, the finals of Eurovision 2008 will take place in Belgrade. This mother of all talent shows has been organized by the European Broadcasting Union every year since 1956. Each European nation gets to send one singer or band, to perform one original song. Over 100 million people watch the show, and everyone gets to vote for the winner via phone (but you CAN’T vote for your own country).
Okay, let me take you back a couple years, get you up to speed.
In 2006, Finland’s Eurovision competitor was Lordi, a hard rock band that performs in totally sweet monster makeup. The choice was controversial, but it turned out Finland knew what it was doing – Lordi not only won Eurovision, it won with more points than any group ever.
But believe it or not, Lordi wasn’t my favorite competitor that year. I was fairly smitten with Iceland’s singer, Sylvia Night. Sylvia is sort of a fictional creation – she’s an over-the-top caricature of American pop stars, played by a comedian (basically, Iceland’s Ali G). And not only is she very funny, her music is better than a lot of the stuff she’s making fun of. Here’s the highly-recommended video for Sylvia’s Eurovision entry:
My favorite part is two-thirds of the way through, where she stops singing to take a call on a solid gold phone. “Hello, God?” she says. “What’s up dog?!” It’s somewhat tragic she didn’t even make the finals.
By the way, most competitors seem to perform in English, regardless of their own nationality. A big exception was last year’s winner, Marija Serifovic, a Serbian who is probably a woman, but I’m not completely sure:
Her (?) entry, “Molitva,” was the first song not in English to win since 1998. I feel like the general earnestness of the number should be interpreted as the entire European population apologizing for crowning Lordi the year before.
Despite the fact that the European Union has only 27 members, the 2008 edition of Eurovision includes 43 countries. However, Austria decided to sit this one out. The head of their national television station, ORF, declared, “As long as the Song Contest is a political parade ground and not an international entertainment programme, ORF has no desire to send more talent out of Austria to a competition where they have no chances.”
You may wonder how a contest where voting is completely open to the public can be a “political parade ground.” Well, it turns out that, while people can’t vote for their own county, they do tend to vote for countries with which they are politically aligned. This was proven in an Oxford University physics paper which is full of very complicated equations. But the combination of Eurovision and political intrigue is a time-honored tradition. It was recently revealed that in 1968, Francisco Franco rigged the competition so Spain would win.
Anyway, back to the current competition. In a semi-final earlier this week, the Albanian performer was viciously booed by the Serbian crowd (the contest is hosted by the previous year’s winner). Naturally, sympathetic viewers from all over Europe voted the Albanian girl into the final round. So that’s a nice Cinderella story, but according to British bookies, the favorite to win it all this year is the Russian singer Dima Bilan. (Which seems a little strange, because I’m pretty sure Russia isn’t in Europe.) His song, “Believing,” is too lame to embed here, but here’s a link, if you must see what the fuss is about.
Personally, I’m going to root for Greece. The song, “Secret Combination,” isn’t actually that good. It sounds kind of like “Genie in a Bottle,” with a bouzouki. But the girl is hot:
Special fun fact: the hot girl, Kalomoira, is actually from Long Island. Represent, Nassau County!
You can watch Eurovision 2008 go down live, this Saturday at “21:00 CET.” Whenever that is.