Eurovision 2011: The Big Five Preview

Eurovision 2011: The Big Five Preview

If you love to hate France, they’re not going to disappoint you.

One of the great things about Eurovision is that it’s a chance for nations great and small to compete on equal footing, advancing on merit alone.

Just kidding!

The whole contest is organized (and paid for) by the European Broadcasting Union. And since a handful of large Western European countries pay the lion’s share of the dues to that organization, those five nations (aka the Big Five) go automatically to the finals, skipping the semis completely. This would seem unjust, except for the fact that those countries tend to perform terribly. Spain hasn’t won since 1969, France not since 1977, Italy not since 1990, and the UK not since 1997. Germany won last year, which is why everyone’s in Dusseldorf, but before that they hadn’t won since 1982. Whatever advantage the Big Five gain in skipping the semis is completely counteracted by bloc voting, and arguably not having their song performed earlier in the week actually hurts them.

However, this year may be different. The bookies are currently ranking France #1, with the UK and Germany in the top ten.

Amaury Vassili, “Sognu”

BELINKIE: What, France is going all artsy on us? That’s so weird, because they’re not known for being pretentious at all. That language you’re hearing is Corsican, because they want even their own people to feel condescended to. Also, I hate this guy’s hair.

I am completely fascinated that France and Ireland are supposed to be the two favorites in this competition. The difference could not be more stark.

SAMPLE LYRIC (translated out of a language that only 400,000 people speak worldwide):

I cry and I am the worse for it
I will ask the sky until I die
There among the mountains, I will confront you
To awake myself from this dream
If you die, take me

FYI, those are the final lyrics of the song. Is it wrong of me to want this guy to be crushed by a falling catwalk?

JORDAN: I dunno.  The last time a Corsican guy tried to conquer Europe on France’s behalf, I think he did all right.

Lena, “Taken By a Stranger”

MARK: Where’s the kitsch? There are so many bizarre, unconventional entries into this year’s Eurovision–like there are every year–that I’m convinced that Germany is intentionally play it safe. They’re practically holding up the Euro currency all by themselves now, and given this intense pressure, they probably don’t want to alienate anybody with a risky choice, lest they tarnish their reputation as Europe’s responsible big brother to their fiduciarily incompetent little siblings (cough Greece cough Ireland cough Spain cough Portugal cough). Sorry. Got something stuck in my throat.

BELINKIE: Lena not only won Eurovision last year, she won it by the second-largest margin of victory in history. So it’s a gutsy move to compete again. She’s got nowhere to go but down.


She’s got a knuckle in her eye
He knows her cat call
Can’t escape from telling lies
I heard her saying
Hey mind if I take this chair
Hey mind if I take this chair

Raphael Gualazzi, “Madness of Love”

BELINKIE: Italy hasn’t participated in Eurovision since 1997, so this is a big deal. (That 1997 song came in 4th, by the way, so the Italians should not be underestimated.) Right off the bat, I like how the singer is actually playing in instrument–not much of that going on at Eurovision. For a while, I thought Raphael was speaking English with such a thick Italian accent that I couldn’t understand him. It turns out he’s singing half in Italian, half in English.


Io non so piu’ chi sei
Non mi importa chi sei
I know for certain I won’t bother you with nostalgia

Wait, what? I have no idea what that means, but it sounds very Italian.

So here’s something weird: Robert Deniro shows up halfway through the music video. After some research, I learned that “Madness of Love” was actually written for the movie Madness of Love 3, which is an Italian film somehow starring Robert Deniro. Does Robert Deniro star in a lot of foreign films that never get released in the United States?

This one is actually a pretty good song too. It’s not fun enough to win, but way to stay classy, Italy.

Lucía Pérez, “They Can’t Take the Fun Away From Me”

JORDAN: There are wheels within wheels in the Spanish song, or at least wrinkles within wrinkles.  Eurovision is, among other things, a chance for Spain to define itself — to present the outside world with a coherent image of what Spanishness is.  But “Spain” is not a totally coherent concept.  No country is, really, but Spain has a few more problems in this area than most, and if the Galicians are not nearly as ornery about this sort of thing as the Basques are (or even the Catalans), the fact remains that Lucía Pérez got her start on a regional Galician TV talent show, and her most recent album was sung entirely in Galego.  Trotting her out in front of the world as the musical face of unified Spain can be seen as an attempt to appropriate and contain her revolutionary potential by erasing her specifically Galician identity.  (Mitigating this slightly, or perhaps more than slightly:  she’s represented Spain in international contests at least twice before, and they apparently use some Galician folk instruments in the song here.  So maybe I’m just jumping at shadows.)  On a more prosaic note, the title “Que me quiten lo bailao,” literally translates as something like “Now let them take the dancing away from me,” and idiomatically means something like “Consequences be damned, I had fun.”  The sentiment would be more poetic were Spain not facing a debt crisis.  Musically, this sounds a lot more Latin American than Spanish, right?

SAMPLE LYRIC (translated):

Every moment together with you
The feeling is sublime
Come what may, I have no fears
I put myself in your hands
I won’t bear the cross
I enjoy everything related to you

BELINKIE: Keep in mind, this is a translation, not an actual lyric. But “I enjoy everything related to you” is kind of adorable.

United Kingdom
Blue, “I Can”

BELINKIE: So last year, the UK selected its entry via a big televised event called Eurovision: Your Country Needs You. The song that won was an absolute bomb, coming in 25 out of 25 in the Eurovision finals (remember, the UK doesn’t have to compete in the semis). So this year, the BBC realized that the British people have no taste and hand-picked Blue to represent the country. To complete the glorious circle of irony, they produced a documentary entitled Eurovision: Your Country Needs Blue.

I disapprove of this. Eurovision entries should be picked by the people, not a group of executives sitting in some conference room. I think we can all agree that Lordi was one of the greatest Eurovision moments of all time, and that never would have happened if the CEO of Finish Public Television had a say in it.

On the bright side, I think I have my favorite lyric of the competition.


It’s like rain falling down
Drops of pain hit the ground
I can’t speak, there’s no sound
When you’re gone (Yeah, come on)

You like that internal rhyme right there? I think the scheme is:


JORDAN: England’s entry is substantially improved if you cut the volume and provide your own audio (sung to a tune I think you all know).

Oh s___, get in the elevator
It’s about to go up
Everybody in the place hit the observation deck
But stand back from the motherf____ edge
We runnin this, let’s go

I’m on a roof, I’m on a roof
Everybody look at me
‘Cause I’m standing on a roof
I’m on a roof, I’m on a roof
Take a good hard look
At the mother_____ roof

I’m on a roof, mother_____ in the LDN
Straight singin’ on a roof, with three other men
We had no budget for this video, that’s the truth
At no point, do we leave the f___ing roof!

Take a picture, trick, I’m on a roof, bitch
There’s glowin’ words in the sky, in several language
I got my sunglasses, and my kheffi-fiyya
I’m holdin mics you holding your hands over yo’ ears

The guy behind the camera, doin’ zooms and s___
the camera’s trying, real hard to make this song look legit
but turds is turds, ain’t no matter how you polish it
We on the same roof, the audience won’t ever forget

I’m on a roof and, it’s going nowhere,
I got my black leather form fitting outdoor-wear
I’m the king of the world, pounding my chest like Kong
If you in the basement, then you ain’t singin’ this song
Stay the f___ up, on this roof so loooooong!

And so on.  I leave the rest of the lyrics as an exercise for the commenters.  Bonus points if you swap out Poseidon for Hestia, goddess of houses and architecture.

BELINKIE: One more thing about Blue. Not surprisingly, Eurovision is like the Woodstock of the gay community. So perhaps it’s not a coincidence that last month, the entire band posed nude in Attitude, the UK’s best-selling gay magazine. You’re my boys, Blue.

7 Comments on “Eurovision 2011: The Big Five Preview”

  1. Johann #

    I never really was very interested in the Eurovision Song Contest, but what better way to stay informed than through my favorite Pop-Culture-Scrutinizing Website! :-) Already looking forward to your coverage of the finals!

    Regarding Lena: Her victory was huge last year in Germany. It felt like we had won the Soccer World Cup. She, too, was picked “by the people” in a casting show. So does that mean that maybe we Germans actually have more taste than the British?
    The man behind the whole thing is Stefan Raab, who hosted the national casting show last year. He has a late night comedy show, and winning the ESC as a producer is I think his life success. He was in it by himself and as a producer before.
    The current song was again picked by the TV audience in a series of shows, hosted by Stefan Raab. So you can imagine it was like 2-3 shows, where we could vote for Lena against Lena. Even someone as charming and cute as here gets tiring after a while. The ratings went down fast. Not sure how they ended up with this song. I don’t think she will win again with it, it is just a little boring, I think. Maybe the success of “our” taste was a mere fluke.


  2. Marie #

    France is lucky that they got a hold of such a hot singer, because he’s about the only thing that hold attention for that sing. Germany and UK was a pleasant suprise though. They have one new singer that holds her quality while keeping it fresh, and an old group that has kept their old quality with a steady boy band song, and probably catchy enough to stay on the rdio stations for a while.

    As for the last comment, this feels very weird comming from a country that gets most of its entertainment from the US: What the hell is gay culture about outside of europe? Here it’s almost always eurovision if it isn’t gaodawful unlistenable indie techno, so how on earth do you fill up that space?


  3. SwedishFrog #

    Hum, as a French guy myself, I really feel like apologizing for the Eurovision song… It was painful to watch and is surely going to spark a few comment about how the French take themselves so bloody seriously at work.
    Also, the fact that he was singing in Corsican, not surprising at all considering the Napoleonic ways of our president at the moment. He really put Napoleon back in fashion.


Add a Comment