Being at a birthday of family made me look at and listen to the European Song Contest for the first time since I do not know when. In the 70s I was stuck to the tv, like everyone else of my generation that grew up with two channels. We saw Vicky Leandros win, Anne-Marie David, ABBA, Teach-In, but after that it slowly becomes a blur and not much later a total no-go zone. The music was not to my taste, so why watch? In the past ten years I saw headlines complaining on the east-Europeans supporting each other to victories with horrendous show songs of no quality. Blissfully it all went past me, including the Dutch delegation that never reached finals any more. (People, as Doe Maar sang in 1982: "There's a button on your TV!) So here I am in 2013. The first birthday I was at for years also in which we watched tv. What conclusions did I arrive at?
A show is a show. The Swedish organisation knows how to make a show. The Malmö Arena was packed and the visuals were all well done. Some corny tries at humor aside, the show part was flawless. Directed well and aimed at presenting a huge party to the audience and viewers. No complaints there.
The first entry, by France, surprised me. This lady, Amadine Bourgeois, rocked pretty hard and I found myself appreciating the song to some extend. I've heard better songs like this one about hell (l'enfer), but she rocked in music and voice. Looking back this may have been my winner, although it is hard to pick out one song of 27.
Straight away I noticed a big difference with let's say 1980: the entries could have been play-backing. The huge orchestra with a national conductor per song in front of it had been let go and replaced by a tape or cd. Just singing and backing vocals, nothing else. If there were instruments on stage, some were bands, it was all playback. Another major difference was the show element. All the dancing, the gimmicks, etc.. There was a lot that had nothing to do with singing, but with show. 1800 drummer boys, small stage elevators enveloped by endlessly long dresses, Japanese drumming, a giant carrying the singer, nothing was too weird. Azerbaijan was best. The caged image to the singer was very well thought out and executed. The spider man got the girl, that was surprising. I'm sure that if the Greek Gogol Bordello-like entry had had an inflatable boat to do some crowd surfing in, it would have become second. Almost all hated this song, but I thought it pretty good. A combination of traditional Greek music with punkrock, sheer fun.
The bottom was reached with Romania. I suppose this is what people call camp, but a castrato singing opera over a modernised disco beat is what I call plain stupid, especially wearing a Dracula cape and being elevated on stage, long cape and all, in the same way as the fellow Romanians from Moldavia. The only thing I could do to save myself was scream back at the tv screen.
What I also noticed is that the countries accused of gimmicks had some real European songcontest songs. Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaidjan, Estonia, all had serious entries and what I call European Song Contest songs. What we call in the Netherlands neither fish nor meat, but well sung. There were some modern dance influenced songs, like Germany, Denmark. The last one, as we know now, won. Denmark delivered a diddle, a catchy melody, but absolutely nothing worth memorising or spending more than a second on. Some did "power ballads". The Scorpions found out that they ought to be very popular in Armenia. (Better send System of a Down next year.) In Italy the songs haven't changed in thirty years. Zucchero must be happy. Finland was still bringing political messages. This time pro gay marriage.
In the scoring was some matchfixing if I ever saw one. If things were only as obvious in football... The scoring never really got exciting. Denmark got on top and never really was in danger. Clearly it is possible to predict the winner. As my son said, they better hire these bookmakers than the current research agencies predicting political outcomes.
And Anouk? When I heard the song for the first time I thought: this will make the final. 'Birds' is a special song, a weird one, but not a good one. It is impossible to memorise, hard to sing along with and infinitesimally sad. But 'Birds' has quality and is a daring entry. The ninth place was well deserved. Anouk sang well, with a slight quiver in the second line, but after she that relaxed, seemed sure of her self and she looked happy to be there. I found that she is able to smile. Didn't know that, actually. 'Birds' stood out, but was not a winner. Anouk is more famous in Europe now, with a somewhat a-typical song for her. She looked pretty, authentic and carried this song that could be on the repertoire of someone like Frank Sinatra very well. I like some of her rock tracks a lot better.
So, you just learned of my unsuspected tv adventure. Don't expect reports in the coming years though.