A continental travesty in two parts

Part 1: Eurovision 2011 semifinal 1.

Again it’s time for the annual unilateral surrender of music to people who shouldn’t really be allowed to listen to it, let alone play. Ne’e’rtheless, Eurovision exists, it’s happening and we might as well have some sarcastic fun with it.

The slightly sad thing about recent contests is the increase in the use of Autotune to turn bad singers into less-bad singers. The most striking example from last year was winner Lena Meyer-Landrut, whose studio track sounded rather peppy and nice, but sounded completely tone-deaf when singing it live. Odds are good that most people who vote for Eurovision entries don’t even listen to the music though. After all, Ireland has sent freak-clone twins Jedward to this year’s event.

The Dusseldorf hall is big enough to hold a giant political rally. Now I know what you’re thinking. But I’m sure Angela Merkel draws a crowd of thousands when she turns up to talk about fiscal rectitude and financial responsibility. Probably as large as the former Irish queues for buying apartments based on plans sketched with crayons on toilet paper.

Like last year, there are three hosts for the competition in 2011:

Judith Rakers is tall, blonde and says that looks don’t matter. She would say that though, wouldn’t she.

Stefan Raab describes himself as a German entertainer. Which could make him a porn star, who knows. Scott Mills describes him as the German Vernon Kaye. Which probably means he’ll diddle one of his co-presenters by the end of the night. Knowing Vernon Kaye, probably the blonde one who says that looks don’t matter.

Anke Engelke is a “German comedian”. She’s probably the only German comedian. Unfortunately, she isn’t funny. She bounces up and down in a continuous curtsey though. Perhaps that’s funny in Berlin. She describes the voting as “so easy even a man can understand it”. Which presumably makes her the female German Jimmy Tarbuck. Hilarious. In the 1970s maybe.

Enough! To the lifeboats! Or, well, the performances…

Poland‘s entry is a Steps knockoff band. The song features lines like “Everyday you try to conquer me anew”, making it the perfect anthem for mountain climbers. Or people with short-term memory loss. They’re dressed totally in white, with two of them wearing swimsuits. Presumably to deal with the water from the “tears your world is turning around me”. And there’s a sixth chap standing on the edge of the stage so that no-one falls off. They simulate sex with the floor anyway. That’s how they got through the Polish rounds I expect. It certainly wasn’t for song quality.

Norway has sent Stella Mwangl singing a song called “Haba Haba”. That’s Swahili by the way. The song’s in English though. Stella Mwangl oozes hotness and has probably stopped trains. Haba haba indeed. Unfortunately her voice doesn’t ooze anything more than flatness. A limited range means that she’s straining even to sing the verses. The entire chorus is “Haba haba kujaza kibaba” (“little by little, fill up the measure”). This song should be awarded zero points, the songwriter neds to be strangled with his own intestines and we all need to listen to more a-ha as a reminder that not all Norwegians are tone deaf.

Albania‘s song is called “Feel the passion”. The singer follows the Eurovision tradition of singing out of tune and out of time to the backing music. Someone should tell her that doing your best to combine the look of Annie Lennox and Lene Nystrom is well and good but if you can’t sing, don’t bother. She’d be marvellous in Eastenders as the new manager of the Queen Vic.

Armenia has sent Emmy, one of the most famous Armenian singers. Yeah, I know you’ve never heard of her. The song’s called “Boom boom”. While they’re making an attempt to give it a boxing theme, she’s dressed as Santa Claus until she drops the Santa suit and reveals herself to be wearing the traditional almost-not-there dress. Singing is not her forte. Standing there and looking good is. She should stick to that.

Turkey‘s effort is a group of Right Said Fred clones. They’re singing a song called “Live it up”, which has a backing track that sounds freakily similar to the old theme tune from Beverly Hills 90210. They deserve credit for entering a rock song though, which automatically makes it better than most of the other entries. Not by much unfortunately as the song is terrible shite. In the background there’s a spherical cage containing a girl who puts her ankle behind her head. They should have put that act front stage where we could all see it. It would have been worth an extra hundred points. Which would give them a hundred points.

Serbia‘s entry features four sixties chicks hanging around on stage singing about their man. Or something. It would have been totally at home in the Eurovision in the late 60s. Actually, it’s possible that it was. Someone should check. She can sing better than the song permits. That’s a shame.

Russia‘s song has a chorus that sounds like it’s a ripoff of the backing track from Lady Gaga’s Just Dance. It’s a real pity that the rest of the song didn’t do likewise. The four carefully-coiffed jacket-clad band members toss out lines like “Girl you blow me away”, “I’m gonna get you” and “I’m gunning for you”. It’s obviously a Mafia warning sung by four tough Moscow Teddy boys.

Switzerland gets extra points for using a ukulele. Then loses them all for having a song that’s performed with all the feeling of a six year old child reciting poetry. It’s like “Sleepy Jean” with all the good bits removed. She’s the best singer so far. Shame about the song.

Georgia‘s singer Eldrine is wearing a tasteful outfit that appears to be made of what happens when a tracksuit and a warning sign mate with one another. The song does its best to sound like Evanescence and dramatically fails.

Finland has sent a dude called “Paradise Oskar”, singing a song called “Da Da Dam”. He looks like a grinning Patrick Kielty wearing a girl’s blouse while strumming a guitar. The song is about a guy called Peter who sits under an apple tree before becoming an eco-activist. Just the sort of song that you expect to see on Blue Peter for the little ones. Don’t forget, it’s good to save the planet. With a guitar and an apple.

On to Malta. Glen Vella has entered the Eurovision four times before. Which presumably means that his previous four songs were worse than this one. The song sounds like what you’d expect an old b-side by Blue to be. He’s used all of Malta’s hair spray to stop what’s on his head from moving a millimetre. And he’s got really, erm, interesting eyebrows. Worryingly, I think he’s also sporting an erection. He screams “I love you all” at the end of his song. Anyone who’s noticed his crotch already knows, Glen.

San Marino‘s entry is a song called “Stand By”, sung by a girl called Senit. She’s apparently a musical veteran, having performed across Europe, including a performance in the Lion King. Judging by her hair, she played the Lion King’s mother. The song is there for anyone who’s been put on hold in a call centre as she sings about the time passing by while she stands by. Actually, it sounds a bit like “Circle of Life”. Not in a good way. It’s mostly sung using three notes.

Daria Kinzer is representing Croatia. Scott Mills introduces her by saying “she’s a big girl”. He means that she’s tall. Really tall. Legs up to her ass and maybe beyond for all we know. The song’s called “Celebrate” (though it sounds more like “Salad Day”). “Nothing can stop you now” “Join us and have a good time”. “The party of your life”. Now I know what you’re thinking – it’s about some sort of group  sweaty sex session. Nope. It’s about Croatia joining the EU. Do these people watch the news? She’s got all the singing talent of that drunk girl who was dancing in the corner of the nightclub last time you went, bellowing out all the words she remembered to Poker Face.

Iceland‘s song apparently commemorates an Icelandic songwriter who died earlier this year. It’s the sort of music that your granny might like. Assuming she’s a big fan of Morecambe and Wise. It’s just the kind of thing that they performed at impromptu comedy nights but at least they realised that they weren’t doing what did for the music. It’s rare that you see a Eurovision song that sounds like it was made up during the performance but after this, we’ve all seen at least one.

Kati Wolf, representing Hungary, came sixth in their 2010 X-factor. Yes, five people finished ahead of her. She’s wearing a giant blue ring, big enough to use as a door stop. The song seems to be about a self-conscious worried woman who doesn’t get enough attention. And can’t use long words either. “What about my life, what about me”. For some inexplicable reason, she’s got three Beastie Boys impressionists in the background. It’s utter Eurovision pap. Which is to say, it should be in the final for not actually being rubbish.

Portugal has sent a “comedy group” called Homens da Luta. They’re singing a song about unemployment in Portugal. It’s called “The struggle is joy”. They’ve come as a modern-day village people, including a guy dressed like Fidel Castro. In Portugal’s dictatorship days, they’d have been shot before leaving Lisbon. They’ve brought protest signs, a megaphone and they’re ready to start the revolution. Which, judging by the music, will hopefully not be televised.

Evelina from Lithuania uses sign language half-way through her song. Now everyone in Europe knows how to sign “tribulations”, which is useful. Or perhaps she’s signalling “I’m only doing this for the money”. The song sounds like something sung by Eponine in Les Miserables just before she’s about to die. When someone writes a musical called “The Young Thenardier Girl” they’ll slot this ballad in at the end and people will throw pennies.

One listen to Azerbaijan‘s entry and you’ll find yourself scrabbling for the remote control, happy to watch that show where golfers talk about their favourite shoes. It’s probably supposed to be one of those tender pre-sex songs that you put on when the object of your affections comes over for tea. It’s about as sexy as a wet sock.

Greece mixes Greek folk music with hip-hop. It’s called “Watch my dance”. It may be a contender for the worst song you’ll hear this year. And, having sat through eighteen other Europvision entries this evening, that’s something of an achievement. One guy does the hip-hop bits with all the swagger of Eminem and all the talent of the fat kid who lives down the road. As for the folk parts, if this is representative of what Greek folk is actually like, I never want to hear it again.

Short on time but for some reason want to see all of the above? Never fear…