In anticipation of Saturday night's contest, I've assembled some of highlights and lowlights from this year's typically bizarre smorgasbord of entries, so that confirmed Euromaniacs can start working themselves up into a frenzy, and non-Europeans can fill the gaping hole in their weekend caused by having no Doctor Who to download (hem hem).
Remember, last year's winner was this, and that's quite an act to follow. All the following links are to YouTube and the quality varies: better-quality versions are available from the official Eurovision website if you're frighteningly keen.
- There are not one but two drag entries this year: Denmark, which is a decent floorfiller for the slightly drunk, and Ukraine, which is like being repeatedly smashed over the head with a mirrorball = shiny but painful. I suspect these two may cancel each other out in some matter/anti-matter sequinned chain reaction.
- France have shunned their usual tactic of submitting a forgettable pouting brunette in favour of - zut alors! - a comedy entry called Les Fatals Picards (calm down at the back, it's not a Star Trek reference). I think they're taking the piss out of the English love of sticking random "romantic" French phrases into songs. I thought it was a bit wearing at first, but on second thoughts it has un certain charme. It is nevertheless bound to come fourth from bottom.
- Germany is clearly going for a Rat Pack feel of suavity but it's a bit of a limp tune. Also, I think this is another comedy entry, but it's hard to tell because, well, it's in German. The song is a lot like Ry Cooder's "Women Will Rule The World", too. If you ask me, it's been all downhill for the Jurmans since Guildo Horn climbed the scenery in 1998. Your autobahn mileage may vary.
- Romania's entry is called Liubi, Liubi, I Love You, which is a great Eurovision title. It also wins points for being one of those folk songs that gets faster and faster as it goes on, and for its attempt to squeeze the most possible languages into one song. It loses points for its over-obvious comedy intent, however.
- Norway is trying to get the Spanish vote in the bag by doing a Latin number, sung by some mutton dressed as lamb. They seem to have forgotten than Spanish, while a widely spoken language on a global level, is only spoken by one country in Europe. Next time, try a rousing chorus in Serbo-Croat and watch that Balkan block-voting swing into action. Well, possibly.
- Malta - In many ways this is classic Eurovision fodder: terrible lyrics, barrel-scraping rhymes (indigo/vertigo?), unflattering fashions, questionable over-emoting, and nicking the musical style of a country that is not your own (cod-Spanish is clearly this year's cod-Turkish). This video has also got an overblown running-around-big-houses plotline, which I always love because it reminds me of Total Eclipse of the Heart. (Although it's sorely lacking in smoke machines or ninjas. Shame.)
- Sweden - A slightly shambolic glamrock revival number, with the singer trying hard to be Marc Bolan but the song sounding more like the kind of thing Mud or Wizzard used to release when it wasn't Christmas, i.e. a song nobody is likely to remember when they've sobered up.
- Now, it's probably slightly too early to predict a winner, but I reckon that Switzerland have as good a stupid gimmick as any. "Vampires Are Alive" is a brilliantly silly song title whichever way you splice it and goddammit, it's kind of catchy (then again, so is chicken pox). I reckon it will all be down to their stage act on the night, though. I particularly love the wonky wording: "We'll never come undone" - is that your leather corsets you're singing about? They should definitely get me to write the lyrics for them next time; personally I'm willing to change nationality in the shallow interests of 15 minutes of pan-European infamy and some tax breaks.
- And where are the United Kingdom in all this, I hear you ask? We're over here. On one side of the scale we have air hostess outfits, double entendres, drinks trolleys and a dance routine based around pointing out the emergency exits. On the other side we have no ability to sing in tune whatsoever. Royaume-Uni, nul points beckons....