Saturday, May 10, 2014

Eurovision Song Contest 2014: My Favorite Entries

Tonight millions of TV viewers will be tuning in to watch the Eurovision Song Contest which has been broadcast in Europe since 1956.  Denmark won the contest in 2013 and is thus the host this year with Danish Television spending around 200 million Kroner (circa 35 million dollars) on the huge production. The ESC is a strange cocktail: often kitschy, with performers wearing costumes so gaudy they make your eyes hurt, it is also the ultimate guilty pleasure and even manages occasionally to spotlight great talent.

ABBA famously kicked off their brilliant career when they won the contest in 1974 held in Brighton, England performing "Waterloo" wearing, yep, outfits so ghastly that Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Frida surely must squirm just thinking of it forty years later.  Canadian Celine Dion won in 1988, representing Switzerland in Dublin; the song title was "Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi". One of the most unusual and arguably best entries was Finnish band Lordi's winning entry "Hard Rock Hallelujah" in 2006 in Athens, performing in their signature Orc like monster costumes.

Personal taste is precisely that: personal. I'm no snob and can proudly say to have the most eclectic taste of anyone I know, but hey, this is my music blog, damn it, LOL, and so... drum roll... I have picked out six favorite entries in tonight's grand finale, broadcast live from my original hometown of Copenhagen. (by pure coincidence, I'm vacationing in Copenhagen this month - visiting from Los Angeles where I have resided for many years - and will of course be watching the contest live on television from 9 pm to midnight local time.)

NOTE: I have made the point several times, but it bears repeating: due to the technology used in studios today, most recording artists manage to sound great on record (and of course also in their music videos), but too many fail to deliver the goods vocally in a live context. Stage fright, a bad sound mix, poor acoustics, etc. obviously don't help matters. Thus, far too many of the singers disappointed in the semi-finales broadcast earlier this week. Still, I feel several of the songs deserve to be heard by those of my readers who may otherwise not have the opportunity to hear them. And I sincerely hope that the singers who in the semi-finales sang off-key or were not able to sing the high or low notes required will do much better tonight. I have a fairly high tolerance for gaudy costumes, but I confess I have pretty much zero tolerance for lousy vocals.  After all, one shouldn't accept a musician playing out of tune. Likewise, singers shouldn't get a free pass...unless they are suffering from a case of acute laryngitis.

In my opinion: best songs, best vocalists, best videos (in random order):
Norway, Armenia, Hungary, Netherlands, Iceland, Azerbaijan

Runners Up  (videos not posted; listing also in random order):
Austria, Denmark, Greece, Finland, Germany, Sweden


And the winnner is....Conchita Wurst, representing Austria with the Shirley Bassey style contest entry "Rise Like a Phoenix", a very impressive song that would be perfect for a James Bond film title intro.

25-year-old singer Thomas "Tom" Neuwirth aka Conchita Wurst when he performs in drag, but bravely keeping a perfectly trimmed beard, brought the house down in Copenhagen and was awarded the maximum points of 8, 10 and 12 points by the majority of the juries/audiences voting in the contest. Netherlands came in second, Sweden third, but there was no doubt that the Belle of the Ball and the true star of the night was the genuinely stunned, moved-to-tears Conchita/Tom who deserved to win for best vocals/performance, not to mention mega watt charisma. That's entertainment!

Tonight's result was a solid vote for tolerance, inclusion, and harmony and thus a highly fitting ending to an international event.

Next year Austria will of course host the Eurovision Contest in Vienna. It will be exciting to watch Conchita's/Tom's career in the next twelve months. Few ESC winners have gone on to ABBA like success, but I have no doubt that Ms.Wurst-Mr. Neuwirth will go down as the most memorable winner in ESC history. And that's no small feat in itself.


NOTE: The video directly below is from Thursday's semi-finale.

More info: