The final is on the 16th - Yay! All very exciting. One of the ironies is that while the ESC is the gayest event on the planet, the largely homophobic Eastern Europeans take it very seriously as a matter of macho national pride. Moscow especially is a very gay-intolerant city, and local activists have scheduled their pride event to run concurrently with the ESC. I'm feeling this could all end in tears. I hope the Russian authorities are mature about this.
Competitiion-wise, Hungary's Zoli Ádok's first rehearsal is worth watching. Zoli gets my douze points for his dance routine alone.
His official video has better sound, but I reckon his live routine is much better than the video. Keep that shirt off, Zoli.
Ok so who else? Sweden always seems to do a power-diva dinosaur-disco made-for-ESC number - this year's no different. Malena Ernman: Camp attack! The Swedish committee is definitely stuck in a bit of a rut. Nice dress, looks like they've left the wind machine behind this year though. Like the UK, Sweden actually has fantastic pop credibility which doesn't seem to exend as far as the ESC.
The favourites at this stage appear to be Norway's Alexander Ryback and Turkey's Hadise.
Norway's song is rubbish but Alexander is alarmingly cute and a good performer - he may just wing it on personal charm. It's funny how many of the acts this year have picked up on the violin action in 2008's winner Dima Bilan's performance. People: lightning doesn't strike in the same way twice! (However, Alex's cuteness is definitely more of a threat, AND he plays his own violin.)
Turkey's entry is attempting to buck the homoerotic tide with Hadise's sexy routine. She's undeniably gorgeous, and the song is fun, cute and utterly harmless. I hope she does well.
Finland's entry Lose Control by Waldo's People is pretty good too.
And us? What about the UK? Sadly, I just can't find the patriotism to get behind Andrew Lloyd Webber's terribly dreary dirge "It's My Time". When Lloyd Webber is bad he is truly awful. Poor Jade Ewen, a lovely girl and a good singer, tries her best to carry this crud but the task is simply impossible.
Props to the UK for trying a different approach, and Andrew Lloyd Webber has magnificent balls to put himself at such risk of embarrassing failure - especially in a contest as corrupt and political as ESC. I don't like the way he gracelessly dissed our previous entries: he's definitely riding for a fall.
Let's face it, when you look at the crap that wins we're at the bottom due to political factors:
1) It is very clear Europeans like voting for their neighbours regardless of the song's quality;
2) Europe has not forgiven us for Iraq;
3) The UK's music scene is the best in the world. It's obvious people will want to take us down a peg or two;
4) The four countries which pay for Eurovision get into the finals automatically. To ordinary voters in other European countries which have to compete at all levels, this must look unfair and therefore they vote against us: none of the big four do well, ever.
5) The vast majority of UK music acts prefer not to run the risk of looking bad, so we tend to send second-tier stuff and worse, stuff that we think will do well in Eurovision.
6) None of this really matters; win or lose the UK is only here for the laughs anyway. The Europeans can sense that and don't like being laughed at! - and vote accordingly. Terry Wogan, although utterly brilliant, really dragged us down voting-wise. It was probably worth it, though.
I don't think the ESC plan to bring back jury voting will work: it didn't before, so why now?
A total rethink of the entire competition is in order. I think we should run the competition like the Football: countries go into a draw for various groups; each group then has its own winner (perhaps voted by countries outside of that group), with the group winners going forward to the finals, voted by everyone. That should help disrupt political voting at least. We can but dream.
"Isn't Eurovision about like dancing turkeys and transexuals dressed as pirates?"
- Youtube commenter
[EDIT] Update - just noticed (14/5/09) a spelling error - Alexander's name is spelled "Alexander Rybak" - I'm leaving it uncorrected above because I'm getting hits on the misspelling! Mustn't miss those!
[EDIT] BBC CHARTBLOG: "OMG you will not believe this, right, but according to a TV show I watched over the weekend, 'Fairytale' is officially the best song in the whole of Europe."