Well, it wasn’t THAT bad, in the end, was it? Not quite, yet, Eurogeddon: that’s always threatening, of course, and seldom more so than last night, with hosts Austria, and their cloyingly sweet theme of “Building Bridges” – Vienna even changed its pedestrian traffic-lights to feature same-sex couples – threatening to turn every over-saccharined Eurocitizen into an instant and justifiably rabid xenophobe.
But that doesn’t really have to happen, does it, not with the current situation in Russia.
Seldom can the gulf between promotional dream-message and blunt-trauma reality have been more fully realised in the history of Eurovision than the slow realisation that everyone was voting for Russia. Sure, Polina Gagarina had a nice song. Ish. And she genuinely cried, at the end. A Million Voices, yadda yadda. Niceish tune disguising toxic international hypocrisy, hurrah!
It was, as that Mr Wogan said so rightly so many years ago (though his prediction that Olivia Newton-John’s career could “only go downhill from here” was a twitch wide of the mark), not about the music but the politics. The music last night – for that, let me remind everyone, was nominally what we were all there for – was again, with lovely but very rare exceptions, turbid. Graham Norton, Mr Wogan’s natural successor, had it nailed. “We’ve had some great songs at the start, and we’re looking forward to some great ones at the end, but for the moment it is a … a … lull. Full of big female ballads.” The BBC’s subtitles mistranscribed this rightly as “with dull female ballads”. Sub-The Voice ballads, more than likely featuring a silly sweeping ball dress and Lady Gaga “ee-aye-ee-aye-oh” vocals. Spain and Malta, I’m looking at you in particular.
Elsewhere we were woefully ill-served with regard to fun. No Polish udder-swinging milkmaids, no Russian dancing grannies. True, the ever-reinventive George Galloway, fresh from his defeat in Bradford West, did appear on stage for Montenegro. And Romania’s song, including the immortal lyric “But if a strong wind hits me and I turn to dust … You will be the reason to start again” (what, from dust?) was sublimely silly, and, despite its having been written for a charity to support abandoned Romanian children (good cause, tick box) the singer’s breathy last gasp – “don’t leave the children behind” would have necessitated a heart of stone not to leave one rolling in the aisles.
The UK possibly – it’s all yet to be analysed – did even worse than our home judges performed in the year Abba won with Waterloo, when we begrudgingly gave them no points at all: count them, none. It was actually a very good song: for shame, Europe. Nigella did well, triffic actually, but I think that the UK’s preview film, which ended up featuring actual drones, might have facilitated some odd memories.
Poland, they of the erstwhile milkmaids, went the other way and featured a lovely girl, Monika, in a wheelchair. Never has such a chair, nor such a woman, graced a larger stage: all white billows and kingfisher beauty. Never has a duller song been written.
Although Latvia’s came close.
Norton correctly described it as the worst title in the contest, and, sure enough, “Love Injected” sounds like a particularly dodgy Lib Dem DVD, as if there’s any other kind.
As the vote closed, Russia lost, whew, but so did Australia, grr, who had the best song of the night (actually, I also rather liked Cyprus), featuring, as it did, harmonies, rhythm, bounce, nuance, memory. Way too many audience reactions were, as ever, facilitated by simply moving up a third on the scale or suddenly turning the lights up loud. Woo!
So we’re back to Sweden as hosts again, which is nice, and at least they can afford it. They won with a song apparently themed on a sub-literate interpretation of Game of Thrones. “We are the heroes of our time. But we’re dancing with the demons in our mind.” I may have missed something in the translation. But, actually, it was sung in English, which may be the UK’s only gift from now on to Eurovision.
The hilariously ravishing three Austrian hostesses performed in about as many languages, as did Nigella, and got it mostly right throughout the evening. Even when they didn’t, there was always Mr Norton to nudge them along with a dry-as-dust “oops. That’s got to be awkward.” But, during the international vote, a technical glitch meant that Marija was forced to utter the words “Oops, we’ve lost Estonia.” Here’s hoping the EU doesn’t have to repeat her words.
For all that, it was, as ever, great, camp fun. My favourite moment had actually come in the semi-finals earlier in the week, with the Slovenians, and the voiceover informing us that “They’re a couple. And they never, ever take their headphones off. That’s their gimmick.” Excellent. So I can’t be heard, even if I shout a word about how bad their song is.