Many surprising things occurred in Saturday night’s Eurovision. A decent song won for Portugal’s Salvador Sobral. The UK’s Lucie Jones sang well and garnered many votes, in defiance of Theresa May’s focus-grouped pussy-footing. The night managed to, as advertised, celebrate diversity, despite its three hosts being resolutely male and white. Nobody missed Russia.
And Graham Norton was oddly subdued, lacking in his normal vim-tongue. He tried as early as entry two… “her brother will be fiddling with her on stage tonight” but, given that Poland’s entries have recently featured churning butter on stage, and that Kasia Mos has appeared on the cover of Polish Playboy, you could tell his heart wasn’t really in it. He had also been ordered, by someone who should be shot, to give endless dull “shout-outs” to Twitter viewers doing the most banal things at home, rather than getting on with his witty job.
Austria’s entry channelled Ed Sheeran, but on a big sparkly moon with pink clouds. There were hopes for the “epic sax guy” of Moldova, but they were doomed. I had thought the semi-finals earlier last week were expressly designed, surely, to winnow out la chaff de la chaff, but unaccountably the Armenian and Dutch entries both followed, having sadly elbowed out the chap from Montenegro with the metre-long detachable hair braid and the lass from Iceland who “likes to bathe in unicorn tears”.
There was something of a hiatus at this stage. Norton was reduced to muttering, “I should tell you the union jack just fell off the wall in the commentary room… hope it’s not an omen.”
Suddenly, things perked. Hungary, with their lovely mix of hip-hop and Gypsy, and their delightfully blood-soaked lyrics. “God spoke to me when I was four years old/He put a real gun in my hand…/ I curse you for ever.”
Italy’s had references to Desmond Morris’s naked ape, though slightly subverted its own lyrical subtleties by having a huge bloody gorilla, dancing.
Norton subverted even that by observing that the ape suit resembled a couple of car-seat covers stitched together, but the stakes had been raised regardless. First, Denmark, with an Aussie who’s still learning the language, and then, sublimely, Portugal, nicely described by Norton, back on form, as “just a boy in his bedroom singing a song written by his sister”. It was immensely, stoppingly surprising, and reminds us that Portuguese is quite possibly the loveliest language in which to sing soft, good, songs.
Yet Eurovision was not yet over. We needed madness. We needed Azerbaijan. They delivered. “Now I’m into daydreams, amazed by thorn jeans/ Have my skeletons/ I can only trick you once, bad boy”. So many high mad hopes. But as soon as the chorus began it became clear it was simply a dreadful rip-off of Adele, a mélange of Skyfall and similar tawdry wails.
A few more, and then Lucie Jones, who got her revenge on X Factor Jedward by being infuriatingly good with a middling-bearable song, coming soon to a Disney multiplex near you. Well done, Britain: thanks, Europe.
Romania raced out of the stocks with a phenomenal mix of yodelling meets rap. When I’d looked at the lyrics – “Gonna act really crazy/ Yodele yodeleioo/ Wanna Hear This Now?” I had thought “absolutely not, go away” and many much worse words, but it was brilliant, and by mid-evening became my second-string outsider bet (44-1).
There was then a relatively gentle run-out to the voting. Germany, who had arrived with a sweet but unmemorable piece of leggy chaw; hosts Ukraine, who gyrated around a giant heavy-metal head with every aesthetic delight that might conjure, but forgot to include any chords, melody, harmony or interest.
Bulgaria’s Kristian was born in Moscow, so may have a diasporic vote. France has been busy politically, so understandably offered a negligible squib. Yet all in all, a far better beast than the last few years: the music was far less ballad-waily dull than of old. Oddly, as the continent fractures, there’s hope for Eurovision. The first Eurovision in the past five years I’m actually glad I watched. And not just because I won north of 80 quid.
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