Well, it's final time, which means we're well rid of those two radio talkers and get Graham Norton instead, which is not quite as good as Wogan but a vast step up on the others and actually was fairly entertaining last year.
"Amazing atmosphere tonight, which is my way of saying a drink has been taken." -Graham Norton.
"Cue improvised comedy." -Norton
Huh. The presenter in what Norton refers to as "the roadkill dress" is actually not a bad singer. Whaddya know.
And in an even greater shock, I actually find myself really liking their version of what I assume is last year's winning tune. He's not a great singer, this chap, but it works for the style. Huh. Even a passable drummer.
Fancy that. I actually thoroughly enjoyed the opening number, even with the mediocre "comedy" leading into it.
According to Norton, someone in Brighton or something is playing a drinking game - taking "a shot of blue-coloured vodka every time there's a pyrotechnic". Four billion neurons just curled up and died, because I've seen some of these numbers before and she's in for a lot
And here's a fascinating clip showing how the arena was turned from a football pitch to... well, the Eurovision studio. Actually really interesting, but that might just be me. A really good set this year.
"Perhaps a mistake to enter a song with the chorus in Swahili. I'm not even joking." -Norton, on the Norwegian entry.
"Let the show begin!" -The hosts. In unison. Oh gawd.
1 - Finland - Da Da Dam, Paradise Oskar
I remember being distinctly underwhelmed by this tune in semis. Yeah, I don't see that changing in the final. Eco-preaching, strummy solo guitar, high reedy singing from young chap that four million grannies will be saying "Ooh, isn't he lovely?" about. It's just too twee and message-y for me. And, of course, continues that age-old Eurovision tradition of nonsensical titles and lyrics. Da Da Dam indeed.
It's nice that he's standing still, but this anthem for the Prius generation is just too dull and preachy for me.
2 - Bosnia-Herzegovina - Love in Rewind, Dino Merlin
Oh, I remember this now. Remembering why I'd repressed it. There's a chap with a chubby ukulele who for some reason has curtains around his head, and a random farm hand prancing around occasionally tooting a horn.
"That woman seems rather unnecessary." -Mamma, on the woman in red. But no - she plays the vital role of occasionally tapping a tambourine.
It's not bad in its own way, but I won't miss it if I never hear it again.
3 - Denmark - New Tomorrow, Friend In London
Why does everybody this year have Jedward hair?
Anyway, I think what annoys me most about this number is the falsetto squeaks on "crazy, crazy world". That, and the fact that it's just the same boring thing over and over again.
And stupid hair.
Anyway, put it like this: my mother thinks it's boring, she'd be much happier with a bit of proper old-school AC/DC.
"...was able to perform despite the terrible ironing accident he had with the back of his shirt." -Norton
4 - Lithuania - C'est Ma Vie, Evelina Sasenko
She's a really good singer, easily one of the most pleasant voices in the competition this year. But this song needs more oomph... it could be nice with more power and a smidgeon of speed.
5 - Hungary - What About My Dreams, Kati Wolf
Oh, I remember this now. What a big ring.
Anyway, continuing the trend this year, it's not actually bad in any way, but not to my taste at all. Too dance-pop for me.
Bit sad, really. When things are either actually good or genuinely dismal, I can write stuff. This... it's neither.
I like the light-up bling on the backing folks, though.
"You can laugh at Jedward - no, really, you can laugh at Jedward - but remember it was England who kept them in X Factor so long." -Norton
6 - Ireland - Lipstick, Jed-sodding-ward
May god have mercy on our souls.
I saw these two on Never Mind The Buzzcocks once, where they showed every sign of collectively having the IQ of a boiled carrot. And the hairdo of a startled bonfire.
Actually, now I have a rather pleasant mental image combining Jedward and a bonfire. Yes, that's a good idea.
Musically deficient, stupid hair, and with an energy level only attainable with illegal pharmaceuticals. STAND STILL, you little toss monkeys!
...moving targets are harder to hit, though, and I like a challenge.
"...fuelled by a heady mix of sugary drinks and hairspray fumes." -Norton, on Jedward. Not actually on
Jedward, obviously, but talking about them.
"There are flashing lights in this performance... mind you, if you don't like flashing lights I fear you might have come to the wrong place." -Norton
7 - Sweden - Popular, Eric Saade
I'm Swedish. I grew up on Lasse Berghagen, Lasse Holm, Björn Skifs and ABBA. I love Eurovision, and I love seeing Sweden winning it. But this? No. Just no.
Pointless dancers bedecked in pointless buckles prancing pointlessly about to a tedious... is this dance music? I'm not sure what the youth call it...
8 - Estonia - Rockefeller Street, Getter Jaani
In the semis wossname Mills said this set looked exactly like a city. Not quite, perhaps, but it's actually not a bad tune. Decent singer, too, and like in the semis I still enjoyed the magic cane at the start. Could do without what Graham Norton described as "the most annoying backing dancers ever on Eurovision". Perhaps not an all-time record, Graham - this is Eurovision, after all - but they're up there.
And I still like the shuffle break in the middle.
"Stereo Mike is the senior lecturer in the music department at the University of Westminster. I have a feeling that on Monday he might not be." -Norton, on the Greek backing bloke.
9 - Greece - Watch My Dance, Loucas Yiorkas
Hm, do I detect a subtle Greek influence on the background?
OK, so the one-handed leaping about in the background is impressive, but this is not, after all, a gymnastics contest.
I'm not a fan of this tune. Ironically, I'm enjoying the rappy bits more than the actual singing, which is odd.
10 - Russia - Get You, Alexej Soon-To-Be-Sparrow (to appeal to the international market)
I don't remember much about this one from the semis except that I didn't like it much. We'll see why soon, I assume.
Oh, it's the one with the lighty-uppy shoes and jackets. It's solid musically, I suppose, but it seems to be a rather creepy anthem to stalking. Maybe they haven't thought that through... or maybe they're cynically trying to appeal to the Twilight demographic, who for some reason like that sort of thing.
11 - France - Sognu, Amaury Vassili
Haven't heard this one in full, just clips. Bloody impressive tenor, but we'll see what the tune's like.
Well, there's absolutely nothing wrong with his singing. Properly good singer (with the requisite Eurovision hair, of course), and a slightly anthemic tune with a nice drum beat in the background. Nice effect with the sunset in the background with the pyro and fog near the end. Odd thing... it just feels a tiny bit dull. Oh well.
Norton says Blue are big on numerology, and have somehow been muddling about with the number fourteen. Yeah, I lost interest.
12 - Italy - Madness of Love, Raphael Gualazzi
Ooh, this is nice. I don't like the guy's annoying, breathy voice at all, but the tune, the song, the instrumentals, the performance, the standing still - I like it a lot. Proper old-school late-night jazz. Yes, I approve. The only thing I dislike about it is the falsetto bits.
And a rather nice classically-inspired piano solo there. And a swinging jazz break at the end. I like this.
Lose the falsetto, mate, and I'll be a big fan.
I like those pods they have in the green room. Am I the only one expecting to see the Borg, or the Geth from Mass Effect?
Dino Merlin interview. What a strange chap.
"And he's got ringworm as well!" -Norton, on the Danish singer's back.
And, you know, I rather like the tilt-shift photography in the little introductory clips.
13 - Switzerland - In Love For A While, Anna Rossinelli
Oh, I remember this. A good singer, a nice song slightly reminiscent of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, a good and restrained performance... I like it. Not hugely, but if it popped up in my Winamp playlist I wouldn't skip past it.
14 - UK - I Can, Blue
Again, utterly inoffensive. We haven't had a great record in the UK recently, so I was expecting this to be bad. It certainly isn't bad - but there's just very little to it. So yeah, that's about all I can say about it.
15 - Moldova - So Lucky, Zdob si Zdub
My mum's in stitches at the moment. Bear in mind this is the gang that did the tune a few years back about grandparents banging drums.
Suffice to say that there's a unicyclist pretending to play a clarinet that is blatantly a trumpet, there are escapees from a mental ward running around with three-foot cones on their heads...
There's more than a hint of school play about it, and it's certainly enjoyable. And I like the trumpet breaks. But the thing is, these guys are essentially doing something the Leningrad Cowboys have already done - and done much better.
16 - Germany - Taken By A Stranger, Lena
Oooh, I like the lighting, that kind of cone of lights gives a really neat sci-fi effect. Add to that some nutters in silver catsuits (if that's what they're called) and the title starts sounding like it's more about alien abduction and less about date rape. That said, listening to the lyrics, I can't help but feel that the date rape interpretation might be closer to the mark.
Anyway, everything about it screams alien abduction, X-Files, Close Encounters. So frankly, whatever the actual meaning, I'm going with aliens.
The tune's not great, though.
"Great big throbbing tonsil there." -Norton, on the pulsing heart logo.
17 - Romania - Change, Hotel FM
I still think the intro sounds like Eloise, Arvingarnas entry from about 1994 or so. All in all, though, I like this tune. Proper musicians on stage (not the dancers with the hats and trumpets, I mean the other two), a singer who stands still, a catchy tune, a laid-back beat, a finger-snapping break...
I like it. It's got no chance.
"I'm not mocking those trousers, I used to own a pair rather similar. But I threw mine away." -Norton
18 - Austria - The Secret Is Love, Nadine Beiler
Another really good voice, but a very slow start. I really like the lighting design right at the start; darkened stage with the blue backlights, fog and spotlights.
The tune's a bit slow for me, but actually really rather pleasant. And a very good performance.
19 - Azerbaijan - Running Scared, Ell/Nikki
...I'm sure I've heard that "Oh oh... ooooh..." thing before. Not just in the semis, I mean before this year. Or am I imagining that?
Anyway, I'm not a fan of this tune. Too slow for me, no groove, and that falsetto thing that always annoys me. And it's just the same over and over again.
"Nikki lives two streets away from Anthony Costa. He knows everyone
And there goes Victor Meldrew BASE jumping again.
20 - Slovenia - No One, Maja Keuc
Sunrise... Sunset... well, it does sound like it, doesn't it? If they had a good tune, deedledeedledeedledum...
Not a fan of this tune, actually, and the cleavage monster is just distracting. Run! She's behind you!
Anyway, not a bad tune. Just a bit dull.
Then there's a bit of a chat with the French singer, over which Norton has a natter about the votes. And then the German presenter plugs the DVD a bit. All done? Good, on we go.
21 - Iceland - Coming Home, Sjonni's Friends
Interesting story behind this one - the original performer died before selection, so some of his mates formed a band, got through selection, and now perform it in the Eurovision.
And it's actually a catchy tune, too, a bit jazzy with some decent singing. I really like this one.
Also, it sounds like a proper New Orleans horn section in the background - clarinet, trombone, trumpet, sax... it really makes the tune work.
And that is a seriously impressive set design.
22 - Spain - Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao, Lucia Perez
Well, this is cheery. Would work better with the snare on the backbeat - get a bit more punch to it. But on the whole, a pleasant and cheerful but forgettable song.
Oh, I recognise the vaguely Ming The Merciless cape of this next number...
23 - Ukraine - Angel, Mika Newton
I don't remember much of this tune, just that Mystic Meg playing in the sandpit completely upstaged the actual tune.
Not that that's a bad thing - I don't really like the actual tune at all, it's rather tedious - but it is after all a song contest.
The sand thing is properly impressive, though, and the song itself just becomes a rather dull soundtrack to it. And, like a good film soundtrack, you forget it's there.
24 - Serbia - Caroban, Nina
I can't help but like this one. But then, I was raised on a diet of 60s comedies. And orange, white and purple - is there any more 60s combination? Even the staging of it, right down to the choreography of the backing singers, is dead on.
Not only is it an enjoyable number, I can't help but think it has a chance of doing well... Hope I haven't jinxed it now.
"You know what they say, save the best for last... that's not applicable in this case." -Norton, on Georgia's entry.
25 - Georgia - One More Day, Eldrine
I don't know why, but I almost like this one. Very strange. One thing's for sure, it's not because of the really weird costumes, or the vaguely constipated prancings of the guitarists. But that woman has a seriously impressive set of pipes.
The rapper with the yellow... stuff on his tunic was bad, though.
The lead singer is really good, though, and some interesting microphone technique towards the end where she mutes it with her hand. But it's approaching metal, and I almost like it. Very strange.
"The UK entry. No matter how drunk you are, remember, you can't
vote for them." -Norton, reminding Brits who've been doing shots for every pyro gerb.
Overall, the standard has been unusually high this year, musically. There are maybe seven or eight tunes I could quite happily see winning.
Of course, chances are Eric Saade will take it, thus reminding us that musicality has nothing to do with it.
"25 songs, and I can guarantee you that one of those will win..." -German presenter
"You're not wrong, Stefan." -Norton, deploying the snark
"It is a tradition in Eurovision to have a spectacular interval act. Germany have decided to break that tradition. [...] The people in the hall love it, because they know who he is." -Norton
He's not wrong. This act - some guy called Jan Delay, I think - is enjoyable, I suppose, but certainly not spectacular (and why is it sampling Get Your Freak On
?). I don't mind this average and forgettable act at all, though, except for the fact that they had the Top Secret Drum Corps during the semi-finals... and that vapid Sara Cox decided it would be a good time to start rabbiting on about some uninteresting interview. As if I care about her and her amateurish interviews - particularly when the alternative is watching the TSDC. I'm still quite annoyed that they couldn't even deign to show them.
Oh, now this chap's style has changed, to a fairly funky almost-rap. Hate to say it, but I actually quite like this bit.
Hah, Jan-Ola Sand doesn't have the scores yet. "I'll get back to you." And how many dresses has Anke gone through now?
"I'd hate to leave Germany saying 'Blue: none.' Blue Nun, get it?" -Norton
They "improvise" some stuff at the end due to the (I'm sure) completely unscripted scoring delay.
"I've seen them do this four times..." -Norton, on the "improvised" bit.
"Tear down this wall!" -Stefan, being ever so witty.
"It would be fabulous if Stefan could put down his guitar for a minute..." -Norton, getting bored.
Oh, this is an interesting development. The first seven points get issued in one go right off the bat. I like that - it makes things a bit more expedient.
"The Germans really appreciate it when you learn a few of their words. I haven't." -Norton
Huh, douze points from Bulgaria for Blue. Who'd have thought?
Ye gods, Ireland have eight points already. I weep for humanity. And we've been shunned by the Dutch!
This is odd. The Italians liked Moldova. As Norton said, "Seriously?" But then, they gave Blue ten points.
"And finally, twelve points from Cyprus go to Greece!" -Cypriot presenter
"No!" -Norton, shocked
Ruslana from the Ukraine seems... slightly sauced, methinks. And giving their twelve to Georgia? A surprising development.
The Finns, in their eternal wisdom, gave 10 points to Jedward. Urgh.
Norway: ten points to Sweden. Shocker. And twelve to Finland. The Norwegians and the Finns take every opportunity to stick it to us in Sweden, you know. We used to own you once, peasants! We can do it again!
Why do these score-talkers always launch into a ten-minute essay on how much they loved the show? Get on with it!
"What have you come as? Are you going to be sacrificed later? Thrown into a geyser?" -Norton, on the Icelandic score-talker.
"It's quite late to be hanging around under a bridge in Bratislava." -Norton. Now I want to write a book and call it "Under A Bridge In Bratislava".
"Eight points to Moldova from the UK." -British presenter
"Now, Britain, you're not taking this seriously." -Norton
And twelve for Ireland from the UK. That's it, British music really is dead.
"We love you in Denmark, wherever it is." -Norton, channeling Jedward.
Poland reporting now, pausing for about twenty minutes before handing out their eight. Slightly depressed that Jedward is FOURTH, ahead of twenty-one more qualified entries.
"Just tell us!" -Norton, getting justifiably annoyed by the bloody idiot reporting from Poland
Oh, they've got Danny Saucedo from Sweden. He was good on Så Ska Det Låta. Ten to Denmark, shocking.Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!
SWEDEN, home of music and Eurovision winners for decades, actually gave points to those inept trichological porcupines? Ah well...
"Now, this man is quite annoying, but San Marino is quite small and they have a limited talent pool to draw from." -Norton, on the annoying and rambling San Marino bloke.
"Hamburg iss flipping ouwt!" -German reporter, doing the campest German accent since Stephen Fry said "Oh, woh ist meine handy?"
The Azerbaijani reporter apparently represented Azerbaijan last year, so opened her spiel with a verse or two of her song.
"Oh, get over it." -Norton
Oh god, the Slovenian guy is singing... or something. And then a "tribute to Paul the octopus". Somebody shoot this oke.
Also, this is REALLY going on a long time. 43
countries reporting, and we're only just halfway through.
"Isn't this exciting?" -Anke
"Very exciting. My bladder may burst." -Norton
"I really need the toilet, actually." -Eric Saade, expressing a similar sentiment on the excessive delays in getting the bloody scores in.
Now a very dignified-looking chap reporting from Turkey. Twelve to Azerbaijan, in a turn of events that's stunning if you've never watched the Eurovision before.
"Isn't it nice when they just do it sensibly? Nice and efficient." -Norton, on the Swiss reporter's very welcome approach of simply getting on with the job.
Tight race at the top this year. But it's dragging on a bit, though, so I might skip a few.
"I wonder where he is... could be anywhere." -Norton, on the French reporter with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
"One... we built a tunnel to your country." -Norton, on the French lack of gratitude.
Oh wow, France gave Spain a twelve. Fair enough, it certainly didn't deserve to be last.
The Serbian talker: "Where is Stefan?" No, mate, you can call up for a chat later, we'd just like your scores now.
Azerbaijan at 163 points - They're going to be hard to beat.
Shockingly, Portugal gave 12 points to Spain. I didn't see that coming.
"Thank you for the show, we really enjoyed it. [long pause]" -Hungarian presenter
"Mm-hm... anything else you'd like to tell us?" -Norton
"And here are our points." -Hungarian, finally.
Hee hee, one of the Georgian rockers spilled his red wine. I dunno, he struck me as a keg-of-beer type.
Britain in danger of falling off the left side, now. Scores from Ireland coming up - rescue? Oh, he's got fake Jedward hair and gave the UK six points. The cheek!
So... why do we criticise the eastern European countries for voting for each others, and then slam Ireland for only giving us six?
"We were expecting a ten or a twelve, frankly." -Norton
"Guten Abend, Anke," says the Israeli reporter, launching into a lengthy bit of German. A certain twisted irony there, isn't there? And doesn't he have a British-university accent?
Four countries left, a possible 48 points for someone to overtake Azerbaijan's not-too-great effort. It's still a race, but it's really tight. A few years there's been an obvious winner from fairly early on, like back when Charlotte Perelli (then Nilsson) won it for Sweden with Tusen Och En Natt
... if I remember correctly, but I don't have a great memory for such things.
Oooh! The Belgian reporter has the Atomium in the background, rather nicely lit up. I like the Atomium. But anyway, Azerbaijan have definitely taken it now, nobody can overtake them now.
The Latvian reporter is weird. Has she been at the pills? She does a little song and dance, doesn't affect the winner, just kicks Sweden down to third place. After Italy
. I liked the Italian tune, so I'm actually quite pleased... except for the fact that Azerbaijan won, and they were dull.
Also, the run from the "green room" (which is neither green nor, on any plausible scale, a room) reminds me rather of the Mogadishu Mile in Black Hawk Down
. What a huge set.
All in all, a fairly decent result. Most of the good ones ended up at least on the left side of the scoreboard... but then, so did Jedward, so it's not that
And I am really
impressed with the set design and that phenomenal lighting and SFX rig.
Well, that's the 2011 Eurovision. The Azerbaijani singers' voices have taken a bit of a knock, but under the circumstances, who can blame them? Oh, and there seem to be long streams of loo roll falling from the ceiling.
So, any thoughts? Did the right song win? (No, it didn't.) Is there any justification for not placing Jedward on a desert island with only each other and a single knife and fork for company? (Not that I can think of.) Was Azerbaijan really better than Italy? (No.)
So go ahead and post your comments. I'll be off to sleep for now.