The fragmented alliance of nation-states that calls itself Europe united once again in tacky splendour at Moscow for Eurovision 2009. I wont go too much into the controversies, although this year there oodles, from the homophobic Moscovian mayor to subtle protests by the presenters of certain countries. Instead I will focus on the entertainment.
The most apparent trend in this years contest is that Western Europe is actually trying hard to win Eurovision, for the first time in about a decade. Eastern Europe has been winning it for most of this decade, but only this year has Western Europe finally shaken off its deep sense of being above it all and actually made an effort, elthough quite a try-hard one in many cases.
The UK somehow managed to get Andrew Lloyd Webber on stage to really emphasize the point that their mediocre ballad was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It got them a respectable top 10 place, mostly I think because there are many fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber across Europe.
Germanys effort was even more desperate with a meaningless cameo by Dita von Tease. I wonder how much they paid her for that 30 seconds, and whether she wasnt on stage any longer because her corset is too painful. Unfortunately for them the effort did not pay when the votes came in and it was Deutschland under alles.
France tried hard too, rolling out an established star in the form of Patricia Kaas and her husky Piafesque voice. As Julia Zemiro commented for the Age, this would have worked quite well 30 years ago. Indeed, although Western Europe is finally trying, they dont seem to realize that Eurovision has changed in the last 20 years.
Most recent winners realize you need to try something different to win, not to be afraid to experiment, often combining the old with the new. Acts which completely take the piss never win - there are too many serious fans out there. And there are so many countries now you need to stick out somehow, not just with costumes but the style of music as well.
The efforts to stick out ranged from ridiculous to bizarre, but I have to say it was musically eclectic. Sweden had a go at pop opera, Russia tried a dark and brooding ballad with a film showing the singer artificially ageing in the background. Germany had a man with blindingly shiny pants, Albania had what looked like a dancing toothpaste and Iceland had the perennial toilet roll doily dress that turns up every year for some country.
My favourite was Armenia, their velvet blue gypsy costumes were truly spectacular and I thought they did something special. The winning act from Norway was classic Eurovision - very catchy on the first listen but annoying thereafter.