We watched the Eurovision final on Saturday. If I were taking this seriously, I suppose we'd have watched both semi-finals, and then lived-blogged our way through the final. But to take Eurovision seriously is to miss the point.
I did consider live-blogging the final, but couldn't bring myself to do it. If I had, it might have kept me awake, at least until the end of the competition. As it was, I nodded off somewhere in the last few songs: looking at the running order, I don't remember anything after Belgium, so that must be when I fell asleep (sorry, Belgium) and woke up as we launched into the mid-way entertainment, wondering "When do we get to France?"
Since we are living in the future, I hadn't missed my chance forever, and caught up not only with France's entry as performed during the show, with spectacular lighting
but also with the official video
, a stronger performance of the song but with the distraction of a couple dancing - or appearing to dance - all over various Parisian landmarks. Usually you can count on France singing in French (or at a pinch, Breton, but in any case, not English) which always wins points from me. Requiem
was half-French, half-English, despite which I rather liked the song; I could still remember phrases of it ten minutes later, and that's unusual for Eurovision. I don't know why it didn't score higher. Was it too blatant a bid for the sympathy vote, with the lyric:
On pleure mais on survit quand même
C'est la beauté du requiem
and the visuals playing on the idea of Paris, city of lights?
Another deep and meaningful entry was Italy's Occidentalis Karma
- it seems there was a reason for the man in the gorilla suit
. Only in Eurovision would you decide - quite late in the proceedings, apparently - to underline the serious message of your song by bringing on a man in a (not very good) gorilla suit. So perhaps there was a reason for Azerbaijan's staging
: the blackboard with key words I sort of understand, because you'd need help to remember the lyrics, which seem to have been rendered from the Azeri by Google translate. But why is the man with the horse's head standing on a stepladder? Or, if you prefer, why is the man on the stepladder wearing a horse's head? You might as well ask why Belarus's duo, channeling the young Sonny and Cher (or perhaps Esther and Abi Ofarim) were in a small boat? Still, they sang in Belorussian, which is a first, so top marks for that!
The slogan of Eurovision 2017 was "Celebrate Diversity". This was achieved by having three presenters, all white men - all youngish, able-bodied white men - wearing dinner jackets each of which had a different design of sparkly decoration. You think I'm just being snarky? Here's the official video explanation of the brand
: the image is based on a traditional Ukrainian necklace, a string of beads of different sizes. The European nations are like the beads of that necklace, all different but alike enough to make a harmonious whole - no, that's my interpretation.
And, to be fair, the winning entry was the one which was most unlike any of the others. By which I don't mean Hungary's operatic blend of Gypsy drama and rap
(one man and his milkchurn, a woman in white to express adoration in dance and a woman in black to play the fiddle) though politically this was a remarkable piece of ethnic diversity. I don't mean Romania's blend of rap and yodelling
, though musically that's pretty WTF even by Eurovision standards. No, I'm talking about Portugal's decision not to play the Eurovision game of bigger means better, more staging, more lights, more dancers and special effects, and to present instead what BBC commentator Graham Norton described as "just a boy in his bedroom singing a song written by his sister". Which, allowing for the lights which have transformed that bedroom into a magic forest, happens to be true, but it is a very pretty song
- none of this is my kind of music, and this particular kind of 'LaLa Land' nostalgia less than most, but it was the bookies' favourite and it won, giving Portugal its first ever Eurovision victory.
It has happened before that the winning song has been a rejection of the razzmatazz and hype. I'm thinking of 1994, when Ireland won with Rock 'n' Roll Kids
, a male fuo, two older-than-the-average-contestants singing about being middle aged, without a big band, accompanying themselves on piano and guitar. It was Ireland's third consecutive win, and there was a rumour (though Wikipedia denies it
) that it was deliberately designed not to win, not to incur the expense of hosting the contest yet again. I'll end with a reminder of what Eurovision used to be like, back in a quieter age, with Terry Wogan in the commentary box: