Eurovision Sofa: How did we end up in Azerbaijan?
A step back even moments after last year’s contest and you would have been stunned to ask how Azerbaijan won. On the night, there were so many better songs that were performed so much better, yet Azerbaijan prevailed with a comfortable margin to the even more surprising runners-up Italy.
I can’t complain with ‘Running Scared’, the studio version for me was brilliant enough to warrant a thought that it might be up there and competing for the win. But the live version was shockingly bad, especially the vocals from Nikki, and was saved only by the good ones from Elgar. On reflection, the theme of white was like a highly disappointing heaven, it just wasn’t what was in the brochure.
Without a question Azerbaijan will put on one impressive show, and in any case it was only a matter of time until they went and won it. It’s just unfortunate that the year they finally do it (I say finally, they have only been competing since 2008), is with virtually the worst song they have sent. Safura would have been with a chance the year before had she not been the opener, and AySel and Arash were well worth their third in 2009. If hadn’t been for the outstandingly good songs from Norway and Iceland.
Ifs and buts of course, but it is wondering which songs, on the night, we’re superior to Azerbaijan. Technically, Italy’s Raphael Gualazzi and Slovenia’s Maja Keuc were by far the best, and I still can’t help myself listening to Keuc’s ‘No One’ every now and then. However they really failed to capture the general audience’s inspiration and wouldn’t have got where they did (2nd and 13th) without the jury vote. The running order certainly hampered others, Dino Merlin started from the dreaded 2nd spot, while another of my favourites, Denmark’s A Friend in London started 3rd, although performed brilliantly, would have benefitted from taking Azerbaijan’s spot.
Then the frustrating voting system ruined others chances. While Jedward were seen as the sixth best song by the jury (yeah right), a poor performance by Blue, on the day before the final itself, saw them rated 20th, only better than eventual wooden spoon winners Switzerland, the cocky Russians and the usual woeful Spanish. Yet again, while a 50-50 split between the jury and the public votes is the fairest and less likely to end up in a mass British acceptance that political voting is to blame, the fact the jury vote is based on a totally different performance to the actual final is unbelievable. It should be the same performance, and it is ridiculous that the jury performs on a dress rehearsal, where clearly Blue were out of sorts and weren’t up to the standards they set themselves in the Final. And while we’re at it, surely an out of sorts Blue is not fourteen places worse than Jedward in any situation.
But while we’re going through songs that were better than Azerbaijan, lets not forget the ever left field Moldova. It must have been hard for Zdob şi Zdub to top bringing the lead singers Grandma on stage in 2006, but with unicycles, cone hats and clear insanity, they managed it, and we all loved it. Lena didn’t humiliate herself on her return, Eldrine was surprisingly enjoyable and Eric Saade, was, well, popular.
While we’re at it, can I include the opening featuring ‘Mr German Eurovision’ Stefan Raab and Lena with a brilliant rock and roll cover of Satellite, which I would have happily voted for back in 2010. Or how about the gigantic screen in the background, I could have easily spent three minutes just staring at it. Actually, I did, with Ukraine.
So that’s nine songs I’ve decided were more worthy of a win than Azerbaijan. Granted it’s not much use complaining now, they’ve wasted a lot of money on a good looking stadium to host Eurovision. As a whole, the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest was highly enjoyable, especially with very few songs that I didn’t like reaching the final. And in those cases, the gimmicks were usually good enough to get me through the three minutes. It’s something I don’t expect this years contest to match, no matter the propaganda spread out by Azerbaijan. They’ll go big and spectacular, with a few pyrotechnics added in for good measure, but the quality simply isn’t there, and that is really going to hamper the overall quality. And quality, is what Azerbaijan crave.