Eurovision wrapped up last Saturday, with a 3+ hour bonanza live from Dusseldorf that featured 25 performances from 25 different nations.
Aside from the 20 qualifying countries that emerged from the previous week, some of the heavy-hitters (read: best bribers) received an automatic berth in the finale. The Big Five of Spain, Italy, Germany, UK, and France were all given a pass for some reason. I'm sure there was a good one - I just am Eurovisioned out, so you may need to look it up yourself.
What followed was an anti-climax of Eurovisionary proportions. The 20 qualifiers all repeated the exact same song that got them there, and the Big 5 failed to connect with the audience.
Noteworthy by its absence is a live blog of the event here, similar to the festivities earlier in the week. This was mainly due to A) the presence of friends at our place, where it would be pretty antisocial to be glued to a laptop for three hours and B) the fear that there wouldn't be much new to say.
So... fast forward to the end, which turns out to be the most dramatic part of all as people from all over Europe call in (the phone lines open even before the first song is sung) and award their collective points to their favourite countries. It's also the most politicized contest in the world, as it turns out. The IOC seems squeaky clean by comparison.
Blocs of countries located near each other reward the most points to - well, each other. A total of 43 countries get to vote (including those that didn't make it to the finals), and each one has a celebrity from his/her home announce the point allotment. (12 being the maximum, 10 to their second fave, and so on).
Bored? Confused? Me too. Suffice to say that going through 43 countries takes some time. 42 individuals all spoke English, with the notable exception of France who felt it was their right to speak their own language. Quelles douches.
While my vote would have handed the title back to Germany - their winner from last year, Lena, sang this cool little tune. Understated, unlike 95% of the performances. A little White Stripes-ish even.
So who won??? Well, after being elbowed in the ribs to wake up, I rubbed my eyes long enough to see....Azerbaijan. Wha the? With a pleasant but tepid pop duet, they weren't in anyone's top 5 in at least one Amsterdam household.
My friend James (who studiously took notes throughout the event, to ensure he chose wisely at the end of the marathon) immediately suggested an oil-soaked conspiracy from the petrol-plentiful nation. The idea being that - as the winning country does get to host the event the next year, garnering huge exposure and tourist money - the Azerbaijanis somehow (oil) rigged the votes.
My outrage at this was fully tempered by my apathy; at this point, each pop song blurred into the other. Azerbaijan blurred into Slovenia which morphed into Greece. My ears longed for silence.
I can safely go back to my normal, non-Eurovision life at last. Jedward from Ireland, the Moldovan madmen, the Isreali he-she, and all the others can all go home now, firmly embedded into my mind.
As for any predictions about who might become known to North American audiences, I would predict Eric Saade from Sweden and maybe the aforementioned Lena. It's unlikely that Azerbaijan will crack the Billboard charts.
But I now know that Europe can match North America - in some cases, far exceed it - in terms of both talent and total cheese.