Eurovision coverage.

There’s a staggering amount of Eurovision-related stuff on The Guardian’s site this year: go here for the full index, and go here for tonight’s liveblog, hosted by Heidi “H Factor” Stephens.

For a fully illustrated song-by-song preview of tonight’s finalists, David Sim (hands up, who remembers Swish Cottage?) has done an excellent job on the Telegraph’s website.

K’s not around tonight, so I’ll be watching the finals in splendid isolation, laptop perched on my knee… and to be honest, it’ll be a nice change to be able to give the TV coverage my undivided attention.

Happy Eurovision, everyone. And while I’m duly horrified by the appalling scenes that took place in Moscow earlier today, isn’t it ironic that the gay-baiting Russian cops have got HOMO in mirror writing on the backs of their uniforms?

Those Eurovision Song Contest previews, then.

Film-and-music-cover-15.0-001After taking a much-needed break from the obsessive Eurovision-blogging in 2008 – mainly because I wanted to experience last year’s finals as a civilian, rather than as a fan-boy obsessive for once – I thought it might be fun to try and place this year’s previews somewhere other than this here blog.

So, um, here you are then: a handy guide to ten of this year’s more notable entries, which is also the cover story in today’s Guardian Film & Music section.

As for predictions, I’m saying Top Five for Norway, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey, Ukraine… and, oh go on then, the United Kingdom. For once, we may dare to dream…

“Over-excited” Eurovision tweet-splurge.

Last night, I attended the big Eurovision preview party at the Marcanti club in Amsterdam, where around half of this year’s contestants performed their entries. Cue much frantic, hasty and altogether “over-excited” tweeting:

Albania: sweet, underpowered.
Slovakia: strident, screechy, operatic.
Moldova: fab walloping diva.
Slovenia: odd string quartet, almost instrumental.
Lithuania: Freddie-aping skinny dude, in hat. (“Freddie-aping” is an exaggeration, but there was a touch of “We Are The Champions” at the start of the song.)
Serbia: hair bear and accordion, stompy.
Ireland: Vanilla Ninja meets Hepburn, rocking, worked it.
Denmark: totally smashable AOR waiter, grr! (Hmm, the beer goggles had been well and truly donned…)
Cyprus: adorable interpretìve hand movements.
Belgium: fat Shakey does Young Elvis.
Montenegro: upstaged by dancer. I think there’s something he hasn’t told her yet…
Bulgaria’s Got Talent: bizarre castrato car-crash. Many furrowed brows.
Iceland: weak, bland, forgettable.
Germany: preening, overcooked schaffel-swing.
Bosnia & Herzegovina: butcho Balkan bombast, incongruously styled in Coldplay’s cast-offs.
Ukraine: FUCKING HELL THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT. Demonic, fetishistic energy, with bonus beatboxed reprise. (This was everybody’s favourite, as it had been at the London Scala preview party the previous night.)
Poland: a tad too classy for this advanced hour? Grower, though.
Armenia: full blooded Eastern promise. (Actually, this was terrific. More cultural pluralism, please.)
Malta: eternal fan fave tryer tries again, impressively and adorably.
Spain: wildly popular Latino rump shaker. (slightly undermined by over-exuberantly mincy dancers)
Our Jade (United Kingdom): she’s over-selling it. Lacks sincerity. Respectful but muted applause.

Eurovision previews? You want Eurovision previews?

If so, then head over to my mate Chig’s place. He’s live-blogging the final dress rehearsal from the press centre in Belgrade, even as I speak. Off you trot! See you over there!

Update: Now that Chig’s done his stint, I am passing the baton over to The Guardian, where that nice “H Factor” lady will be live-blogging the proceedings from 8pm.

Eurovision 2008: if it’s OK with you guys, then please may I take a year off?

esc2008logoAfter ten consecutive years of obsessively pre-researching each successive Eurovision line-up (a job that has been growing more time-consuming with every passing year), I found myself craving a new experience in 2008.

Namely, the experience of coming to the songs more or less fresh on the night. You know, like the NORMAL people do.

There have been several catalysts for this. Firstly, the old “mad mad busy, have to draw priorities somewhere” excuse. For these days, my daily routine involves coming home, spending an hour or so per day doing various things for the community village blog (still going strong, still updated several times daily), and then squeezing in all the stuff for the Evening Post (which, as you may have noticed, is a fairly massive time commitment these days). If you factor in the doubling of our number of gardens since this time last year, and the occasional “quality time with my partner” slot (we’ll still do whatever it takes to watch every episode of Desperate Arsewipes, come hell or high water (or indeed tornado – watch out for the flying sharks)), then this doesn’t really leave many hours left in the day.

Secondly: watching last year’s final at a friend’s party in Brighton, I had a sudden moment of clarity. Maybe I had started to take this Eurovision thing just a tad too seriously?

(I think I realised this when the whole room had emptied, barring a couple of other mildly interested onlookers – and me, perched clench-fisted and white-knuckled on the edge of the sofa, self-penned print-outs in hand, with a kind of grim “don’t even THINK about holding an off-topic conversation in my presence” expression etched into my features.)

Thirdly: since the family tragedy which coincided with my trip to the contest in Athens (today being the exact second anniversary, in fact), some of the shine has inevitably been taken off the event. Too many associations.

And so, if it’s OK with you guys, I’d like to take this year off, please. Hope you all enjoy the final on Saturday night. We’ll be watching it with friends in the village, and I’ll be cheering on France’s Sébastien Tellier (not a hope in hell, but hey), Ukraine’s “Shady Lady” (hot favourite, and a welcome return for the FYE-ya/diz-EYE-ya couplet), and the rapdily ascending dark horse that is Portugal (sorta fado-tinged musical theatre). Your toilet breaks this year are Israel (#7) and Greece (#21), and your unmissable OMGWTFLOL! moments are Bosnia (#6), Latvia (#14) and Azerbaijan (#20). Croatia has a 75 year old rapper, Sweden has a former winner with a name-change (and at least one face-lift), Georgia has a “how did they DO that?” mid-song costume change, Russia has a shirt-ripping twink, Finland has topless metallers in leather kecks, and Poland has the teeth. Your fashion stories this year are the afore-mentioned leather kecks, and a goodly array of sparkly silver mini-dresses. The overall quality is generally pretty high, as 20 of the 25 songs have had to qualify from the two semi-finals, thus leaving some of the out-and-out dross behind (Estonia and the Czech Republic spring to mind). The “Big Four” (UK, France, Germany, Spain) will be ritually humbled as per usual, and the UK’s second place in the running order (aka the “slot of doom”) has pretty much killed its chances of anything like a respectable finish.

And I’m in danger of accidentally writing the preview that I promised myself I wouldn’t write. Once again: Happy Eurovision, everyone!

In which I briefly put my annual obsession to bed for another year.

Saturday’s result was a Good Thing for the following reasons.

1. Serbia won on merit. Not for its novelty value, not for its gimmickry, but for the quality of both the song and its performance.

2. “Molitva” is the first downtempo song to win since 2000.

3. It is also the first non-English language song to win since 1998.

4. The last eight winners have all been from countries who have never won Eurovision before.

5. No country has won Eurovision more than once in the past thirteen years.

6. As Chig (and several others) points out, “Molitva” was popular with voters from all over Europe, and not just from Eastern Europe. It also scored the largest number of points from Western European voters. Conspiracy theorists please take note.

7. Mystic Mike correctly predicted the top two positions (albeit in the wrong order), and 60% of the top ten. My predicted bottom three all finished in the bottom four.

Saturday’s result was a Bad Thing for the following reasons.

8. Having placed a bet on a Ukranian victory, I am £10 worse off. Naturally, this renders points 1 to 7 above null and void.

Same time next year, then? But of course.

We now return you to your scheduled programming.