Flying the Flag or Wotsit: Eurovision liveblog, 2016


A key tool for my travel planning is the annual continental love-fest/substitute for World War that is the Eurovision Song Contest. Does it look like people are having fun in Latvia? Are the Spaniards natty dressers at present? How likely are we to get attacked by unicycling gnomes or percussive grandmothers in Macedonia this year? This year we are following the tiny dancing cartoon balloon to Sweden, and I look forward to choosing my next destination based on our findings. Since I’m already booked for New Zealand, I feel reasonably secure this time. Let us explore together in the spirit of Eurovision. I’ve got my fingers crossed for glitter.

I’ll be live-blogging – I usually do this on Facebook but this year my Eurovision buddies are far-flung and I have decided to inflict it upon the rest of you. Let’s do points out of ten and compare notes. I’m not a cynic – last year’s CD kept my spirits up through a bedridden couple of months. Yes, I was on painkillers; why do you ask?

Drinking/themed-snack-food-eating game as is traditional – drink/shovel mini-pretzels every time you spot one of the following:

  • Wind machine
  • Unnecessary key change (put the mini-pretzel back if it’s actually interesting)
  • Pyrotechnics
  • Awkward chat during the ad breaks across Europe
  • Fluorescent outfits that bring back memories of the early nineties
  • Swaying
  • Overtly saccharine messages of peace (two mini-pretzels if it’s a country embroiled in a high-profile conflict)
  • Saving the world through the power of singing a capella
  • Mention of Brexit
  • Contemporary “dance” that’s actually just wafting (I like contemporary dance so I’m a purist)
  • Overdramatic belt-fest
  • Performer rips off costume to reveal even more ridiculous/spectacular outfit
  • Glitter flies everywhere
  • Irish or Swedish writers writing songs for anywhere else
  • Results from jury fail to turn up due to technical difficulties
  • Presenters are desperate to get the results as jury reps mug for their national tourist board
  • Shameless political voting
  • My mother slips into existential despair

Below is the running order; comments appended as things develop. Watch this space.

It’s the fanfare! Here we go!

Brilliant ideas for my holiday outfits with this folded paper business. Wonder if it works with loo roll?

Mother: “Are they not stupid costumes?”

Father: “It’s art.”

She seems unconvinced…

Ooh, promises of dross. I do love this. We wonder if the BBC will have some sort of pro-Brexit party political at the interval.

Ooh, we need so much more from a health warning than just warnings of flashing images. Something like “not for the easily terrified or the lycra-intolerant”.

From the wee bits of the semi-finals I’ve seen, I do like the hosts. Petra gets Eurovision. You need to love it or take it seriously and thankfully she loves it.

According to Petra, we’ll be finished in 3-8 hours. Mans is looking forward to eating carbs again. Mans, I feel ya.

I look forward to this “dramatic finish” with the new scoring announcements. I expect it will be unsurprising as usual but it will provide some suspense! Probably just as well that Brits can’t vote my text given the popularity of the drinking games here. If you can’t find the numbers to dial, just as well you can’t vote.

Belgium – Laura Tesoro (What’s the Pressure)

Former Annie! You’re never fully dressed without sequins, apparently. Still rocking the Annie ringlets, I see. I’m feeling a bit funky. Loved Belgium last year. This may not be as cool but it’s… funky. Dancer on the left has certainly had his Weetabix today. Maybe mine too. A good attempt at giving people something to vote for. Will it be memorable by the end? Hard to tell. I like her.



Czech Republic – Gabriela Gunčíková (I Stand)

Ooh, some drama! She has monsters in her head. That’s dark. Unless they are cookie monsters. “You are my air” – talk about co-dependence. A lot of drama. Not really going anywhere. Also she appears to have left her headphones around her neck. Disappointed by lack of signposted key change… you make fun, but you miss it when they don’t deliver. Wind machine! Second – the death slot. No one has ever won from there.



Netherlands – Douwe Bob (Slow Down)

Bob is railing against modern life, apparently. “I’m going nowhere and I’m going fast” is a bit unfortunate as an opener. We’ve gone a bit country. He seems pleasantly laid-back. Unfortunately Dutch country has, in recent years, got people to slow down on their way to the voting lines. Not sure how someone apparently looking for answers ends up at Eurovision, but he did say he’d gone astray. Can’t argue with that. Pleasant and all but he did just stop and stand there for a very awkward ten seconds. It was “Slow Down”, not “Stop”, Bob.



Azerbaijan – Samra (Miracle)

Azerbaijan do seem to give it their all. And they’ve had a few good beltresses. “It’s gonna take a miracle” — yeoowch. You said it. Not sure about the Xena: Warrior Skydiver outfit. The Greco-Roman cabin crew in the background are enthused. Ooh, pyrotechnics! It’s all a bit one note – costumes, song, emotional content…



Hungary – Freddie (Pioneer)

Drumming Tibetan monks and wannabe backing dancers? Bring it on, Pizza-Making-Freddie! I don’t know if his enemy is indeed his own mind but it might be the whistling IT crew “dancing” in the background. Does that count as swaying? Better have a mini-pretzel anyway. Keep yer strength up. Freddie seems to have stumbled into this as a gap year work experience role, when his ripped jeans and leather bracelets would rather be rafting in Laos. At least the monk is really into this.

5/10 (I think the Eurovision spirit affected this score)


Italy – Francesca Michielin (No Degree of Separation)

Sounds and looks like a high concept staging. I feel like I might understand this better if I’d read a thesis on it. Pretty gardening going on the background, though. I’m working on my own garden now and wondering if I need an onion on a stick, too. She’s doing well for someone being menaced by a Triffid. Good thing she doesn’t suffer from hay fever. I’m not gripped but I sense there’s a lot emotion going on here. Glad I knew the title is “No Degree of Separation” because I heard “there is no big tree” and otherwise I might have thought there was a degree of denial. Cradling an onion… is it an onion? A bulb? I can’t in good conscience give this less than Georgia as I like her and her flowers… but it doesn’t do much for me.



Israel – Hovi Star (Made of Stars)

This is dramatic. Is riding a black horse in the rain especially dramatic? Good voice. Shame about the Trump hairdo. He has the sparkliest outfit so far which has to be worth somethng. Scary hoops spinning backing dancers. Very impressive. I’m worried about them rolling over their fingers but they are very good. Am I enjoying this or is it just the best so far? Ooh fire! Sequins! Wafting! It’s a bonanza! Power ballad! The hoop LIGHTS UP!

10! 8.5/10

Mother: “What language was he singing in?” English. I think we need to switch her ears on.


Bulgaria – Poli Genova (If Love Was a Crime)

That’s a lot of background glitter, but the light-up knee pads are innovative and have many real-world applications. I presume. Failure to use the correct “If love were a crime” minor but egregious due to unfortunate placement next to Sweden’s correct use. Think she’s looking for a second job as a belisha beacon? Can’t help enjoying that she’s absolutely loving it, but not sure that the backing dancers loved it so much as they only shuffled on at the very end.



Sweden – Frans (If I Were Sorry)

Song 9 and a tribute to Sir Terry. I’ve heard this! And I actually like it. Not too earnest. Am I getting old or did they hire a twelve-year-old? Joint favourite so far.



Germany – Jamie-Lee (Ghost)

Woah. She’s even more surrounded by flowers than me this afternoon in the garden centre. Ooh, silhouetted! With… some sort of headwear. If Carmen Miranda were a robot… Lasers. A floating moon. Tutus. Knee socks. Intimidating backing singers who look more scared of her… She is wearing all the bracelets. And all the hair clips. My goodness. I don’t know what the ghost in the song is, but I know what killed it. A bit…covered in bows. I can’t…



France – Amir (J’ai cherché)

He’s a dentist? What? That makes me wonder about what it is that he’s lost. He wore a suit – nice to see a young man making an effot. Though he’s come in his vest. Maybe it’s his shirt he’s looking for? “You’re the one I’m looking looking looking for… like the melody of my song” is a bit unfortunate. True, but unfortunate. (Father: “Phone us when you find it.”) He’s just said something about having found Paradise Lost, proving that even in French you can find a cliche at Eurovision.



Poland – Michał Szpak (Color of Your Life)

People. Seriously, this is a cry for help. This is a man in pain. Who still finds time to condition. Military coat and string vest is a bit of a new look. “There is no life without fear” – maybe he should be told he’s allowed to have a day off. He’s fighting the wind, having to live, no smoke without fire… can’t say he’s not putting the effort in. Good voice, TWO key changes – you spoil us! Face-belting gets my Eurovision blood pumping. Song has been done, but feel the drama…

8/10 for singing


Australia – Daim Im (Sound of Silence)

Australia? Somehow this makes me happy. They really put in their special best effort last year for the anniversary so it brings me joy to have them back. Graham Norton: “One of the things we love about Eurovision is that it defies logic.” Amen. Do the holographic people count towards the quota? Though her dress is about to eat her so we probably shouldn’t quibble. Definitely best vocal performance so far. Does that come into it these days? Ooh, no key change but we have gliter, reaching, dramatic power stances… you belt your face off, dear. Song’s not bad.



Cyprus – Minus One with Alter Ego

Wonder why they go for strobe lighting? They could easily not go for strobe lighting. This is where the social model of disability helps. “It’s dueeee anyyy tiiiiiime” (wild stare) – I hope this man isn’t an obstetrician. I think this might be a bit catchy but I’m distracted by the cages and the lighting.



Serbia – Sanja Vučić ZAA (Goodbye (Shelter))

Serious themes always seem oddly placed at Eurovision as it never comes across as the locus for any kind of awareness. Mother: “It seems loud but I can’t hear it.” Emotionally, one presumes. Good vocal. Love the backing dancers. No idea what they are doing but I like it. Also I like the song. Unless my sense of equilibrium has been permanently damanged by this point in the evening. Key change! And I’ve found my missing kirby grips.



Lithuania – Donny  Montell (I’ve Been Waiting for This Night)

He’s doing his own wafting. I hope they’re insured for that. I can’t wait to see the Trampoline of Minimal Use. Another graduate from the school of dramatic drumming on this one. I suspect I won’t hate this song though it’s also giving my profound Early Century Youth Church flashbacks. Taking the jacket off -he means business. Lots of solo performers this year. Must be scary. Wish I’d gone with my original impulse to put “countertenor breakout” on the drinking list. We’d all be goners by now.

7-8?/10 I don’t even know any more


Croatia – Nina Kraljić with Lighthouse

“I feel my ship capsizing” – it’s okay, in that massive dress you’re going to float.Massive costume removal = still massive dress underneath. This is sort of a latter-day Kate Bush performance. Somehow still less weird and less compelling but the key change has won me over. It’s very much in keeping with the huge foldy dress theme from the opener.



Russia – Sergey Lazarev (You Are the Only One)

I was all sceptical about Russia being the favourite yet again after recent freezing out by true Eurofans, but then I find out that he has tried to combat that personally and he has a bakery for dogs called Poodle Strudel and now obviously he has my vote before singing a note. Performance similarly impressive and multimedia-driven as Sweden last year. Some seriously impressive wall climbing and wing-spreading. Can’t remember anything about the song…



Spain – Barei (Say Yay!)

Points for exclamation mark and positivity. Spirited and all – I liked her but it didn’t do much for me on the musical or kitsch fronts. Le sigh.



Latvia – Justs (Heartbeat)

Well, he seems like a low-key and affable chap. Is that what Eurovision needs? Very introspective. Nice voice. Some of these choices this year seem quite safe – I suspect one of the more abandoned kitchen-sink performances might edge it on spectacle alone. Very level playing field. He’s working hard.



Ukraine – Jamala (1944)

Political commentary? In any case, France last year showed you could have an effective historical song about the war. Cages are a bit of a staging theme. Ooh, wind machine! Bit introspective for Eurovision, maybe.



Malta – Ira Losco (Walk on Water)

Do the unborn count towards the six-performer limit? There are an awful lot of gold embellishments onstage this year, but this is the first maternity offering. Not exactly sensible shoes – I always wonder if those video floors are slippy. Any insights? This is reasonably catchy but this year that’s all relative. The dancer is earning his fee and possibly trading in his kneecaps.



Georgia – Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz (Midnight Gold)

I think it’s my inner indie rock chick talking here, but this is one of the ones I’ve enjoyed independent of the Eurovision relativism here. I’d probably enjoy it at a party. “Thank you, and happy birthday to my mother.” I’m not saying they’re the Clash, but I liked it. I need to revisit them.



Austria – Zoe (Loin d’ici; Far From Here)

Apparently Austria won in 1966 the last time they sang in French, so my initial scepticism may be misplaced. I’m about two lines in and enjoying her perkiness. She makes flowers grow with her positivity. I can identify.



United Kingdom – Joe & Jake (You’re Not Alone)

Shoulda sent in a selfie – always dreamed of my big Euro moment. Haven’t heard this (purposeful Eurovision blackout). Can’t vote, won’t score. In what is definitely not a vintage year it’s endearing and one of the better songs. Good performance!


Armenia – Iveta Mukuchyan (LoveWave)

I have a yucca called Iveta. Do I give points for that? I lost perspective some time around the fifth key change this evening. I think this is a Doctor Who zombie creature on an answering machine? Oooh, big build and the Fire of Dramatic Significance. That’s points right there. Points that you can take right to the bank. We needed more of this throughout the evening. Have holograms, will travel. Wind machine – YES!



At the end I lost perspective with regards to numbers and I don’t have strong feelings this year. Not recapping the voting as there’s a big packet of popcorn that’s been staring at me for the last two hours and its time has come.

In this house, we’re voting for: Israel, Sweden, Serbia, Croatia, Georgia, Armenia. Job done.

Oh, it IS the actual Justin Timberlake. I assumed the interval act had been delayed, they phoned him up and he said, “Sorry, I’m just in Timber Land.”

This is a pretty good educational video. Best interval act ever, Sweden. This is hilarious. Sweden has done well.




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