EUROVISION is a baffling creature - it's a place where every bad music cliché dives headfirst into a strange sea of kitsch, key changes and weird things that Europeans understand but no one else does (in fact, we're not even sure if the Europeans understand them).
In spite of it being a bizarre mix of turgid songcraft, pyrotechnics and sheer insanity, or perhaps because of those factors, Eurovision has grown in popularity in Australia in recent years, with last weekend's event proving to be a ratings hit for SBS and the hashtag #sbseurovision becoming the most popular trend on Twitter.
Here's five things we learnt from watching Eurovision:
Eurovision is musically behind the times
IT seems that the more music trends change, the more Eurovision stays the same. Or, if they do catch on to a recent music trend, it's a couple of years after it happened. For the most part this year, Eurovision was made up of three different types of songs - soaring ballad, club anthem, or novelty song. This year, Sweden's Loreen won with the club anthem
Here's Italy's entry this year:
England are getting desperate
THE UK are one of The Big Four. Along with Germany, Spain and France, they automatically reach the final of Eurovision each year because they are the biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union (this was recently expanded to a Big Five to include Italy). But despite the free ticket into Eurovision's big night, the Brits have struggled to bring home a good result in recent years. The most recent of their five wins was back in 1997 when Katrina & The Waves (of
Here's the UK's Jemini scoring a big fat zero in 2003:
Some countries still treat Eurovision as a joke
THE number of out-there, wacky entries in this year's final was pretty much one - the Russian grannies who finished second. Mind you, Albania's entry featuring a high-pitched squealing woman with dreadlocks was a close call, as was Ireland's returning singing twins Jedward, who appear to have more energy and confidence than is healthy. Apparently for the real gold in Eurovision 2012 you had to watch the semi-finals, where you would have caught San Marino's entry
Here's Russia, not taking things seriously this year:
The songs that win aren't always that bad...
...BY Eurovision standards. Firstly, these songs can't be judged against truly great songs - they're not. But within the pop (and occasionally rock) sphere of what Eurovision calls music, they aren't totally bad. Sweden's winning song this year,
Here's Lena and the utterly charming song
Eurovision is a good thing
BEFORE you dismiss Eurovision as a totally pointless pile of schmaltzy cheese where performers win because of their stage gimmicks more than their actual songs, consider this: Eurovision is fun. For the thousands of people who take it seriously and flock to far-flung cities such as Baku and Talinn for the finals, it's the Olympics of camp and the World Cup of good times, all rolled into one. For the thousands of cynical Aussies watching it on TV, it's the equivalent of watching a movie that's so bad it becomes awesome, while incorporating the perfect opportunity for drinking games, witty quips and casual racism. The advent of Twitter only confirms this - the sharp one-liners outnumbered the tweets praising the actual music. Unfortunately, the comments posted on YouTube are less clever and far more overtly racist - Germany and Greece appear to be taking on the rest of Europe according to some comments attached to the video of Helen Paparizou's winning entry for Greece in 2005. Which brings us to the very reason Eurovision exists and why it's important. The competition was first discussed in the 1950s as Europe struggled to rebuild and reunite in the wake of World War II. It eventually began in 1956 in the hopes of unifying Europeans through the power of music - an idealistic but sweet notion that has kind of worked. The populations of former foes now vote for each other's songs in what has become known as "block voting" - the former Yugoslavian states vote for each other in increasingly predictable fashion, as do the former USSR nations. While the competitiveness may be strong between nations, the unifying qualities of Eurovision are stronger.
In 1998, transgender Israeli contestant Dana International won, going some way towards breaking down a few barriers around Europe: