This year's Eurovision Song Contest drew to a close on Saturday in a televised final which attracted around 120 million viewers worldwide. But while some media reported lagging interest in the 54-year-old competition and concerns about spiraling costs in recent years, countries such as those in the former Eastern bloc continue to take it seriously.
Indeed, when it comes to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, some would argue that each takes it far too seriously. In 2008, Russia and Georgia came to blows over the latter's entry while Armenia and Azerbaijan eagerly embroiled themselves into their own scandal during and after the competition the same year. Such bickering is increasingly noticed outside of the region as @SarcasmCupcakes sarcastically pointed out on Twitter.
Of course, with Armenia and Azerbaijan still locked into a bitter dispute over the territory of Nagorno Karabakh, nothing could be further from the truth, although the competition had been held in a much better spirit than in previous years. Despite that, however, at least one minor spat between Armenia and Azerbaijan did reportedly occur. Nevertheless, all three countries were remarkably restrained.
The situation did became a little more tense closer to the final when, after leading in the betting stakes, Azerbaijan was reported to be facing competition from estranged neighbor Armenia. “Maybe bookmakers made fun of Armenia and Azerbaijan because only we could bet mad money on [Eurovision] because of stupid nationality?” wrote one young journalist from Azerbaijan on his Facebook page.
But aside from the politics, why do countries such as those in the South Caucasus take the competition so seriously? Scary Azeri explains why in a post just as relevant for Armenia and Georgia as it is for her native Azerbaijan.
Eurovision is crap.
It is the cheesiest show that currently exists in this world.
To me, the answer is obvious. The countries that take Eurovision seriously simply have no good pop music. They are hopelessly behind, and will never catch up, unless they stop investing national funds into crap.
Or is it because, for countries like Azerbaijan, Eurovision is the only chance to feel like a part of the world’s pop culture?
Judging from most commentary on the competition, many would agree. Just as Twitter and blogs were full of commentary in support of the acts from the region, there were many more that instead ridiculed them. Some, such as FQI CUI, also equated the number of votes to the acts from Armenia and Azerbaijan more on the basis of female eye candy rather than actual musical merit.
Azerbaijan surprised me. I suspect that Safura appealed to voters who were erm… more visual. The same for Armenia’s Eva Rivas (if that push-up bra were any higher, we would have had a free show when she was erm… bouncing across the Eurovision stage) though her voice was better than Safura’s IMHO. The Armenian song choice (“Apricot Stone”), while reflecting their cultural heritage was just all over the place lyrically. Kitschy to the max. Azerbaijan at number 5 and Armenia at number 7.
Was nice to see the Georgian entry (Sofia Nizharadze with “Shine”) crack the top 10 at number 9 […]. Sofia has a huuuuuge voice that was pretty much on fire for most of the track. She’s a pretty lass too.
Glass Candle Grenades was more scathing, critical and unashamedly politically incorrect.
In case you hadn't realised this is ‘Drip Drop’ by Safura, who is from Azerbaijan, the lucky girl. Once you get past the fact that she is some kind of unholy foreign amalgamation of Miley Cyrus and Holly Valance, you start to notice the fantastically choreographed dance moves. You don't? But they were arranged by Beyonce's Choreogropher! The one that did that horrible video that Kanye West loved so much! Apprently in Azerbaijan they need a choreogropher to help a confused woman down the stairs. Maybe he just sorted out the twirling gay bloke that appears later in the song. I don't know and I don't really care. The song was boring, and so was Safura. Next!
After that downer anything would sound good, right? Wrong. What we have here is a 78 year old Armenian man blowing a pipe and a woman who looks like she has blown her miniscule budget on plastic surgery to look like a down syndrome Angelina Jolie. She is singing about an Apricot Stone. I noticed that the really foreign sounding women are never as amusing as the men, even when singing about the inedible parts of fruit. This song managed to be both boring and baffling, whch is no mean feat. and I'm pretty sure the only reason it recieved any votes at all was because of her cleavage. That's cheating down syndrome Angelina Jolie!
Others such as Watch with Mothers, however, were a little more forgiving and good spirited.
First up was Azerbaijan with Drip Drop – actually not a displeasing song – and we were promised choreography from the people who gave us the dance routine for Beyonce’s Single Ladies, a routine copied by everyone from The Jonas Brothers to members of the Brazil World Cup squad. Sadly, singer Safura wasn’t quite able to match the attitude of Destiny’s most successful Child, and it all looked a bit stilted and overbaked. Still, for the cheesiest ditty-festival on the planet, this wasn’t a bad start.
Georgia’s saving grace was that singer Sofia Nizharadze was extremely presentable. But as Graham Norton accurately surmised, this was an over-produced affair and it didn’t help that we could barely see Sofia for all the weirdos in white suits she was surrounded by, actively molesting her. A missed opportunity, no less.
Things were picking up. Armenia took to the stage as the show got its second wind, and we were treated to a busty lady singing about Apricot Stones whilst an 83 year old man played some pipes and a bedlam-assignation of mad people jaunted about behind them. If the drugs were kicking in at this point, you might not even have noticed.
Nevertheless, the acts from Azerbaijan's Safura and Armenia's Eva Rivas provided many with much to tweet about on Twitter on the day of the finals. The cleavage displayed by the latter in particular did not go unnoticed by many, including Armenian bloggers such as Ianyan.
[…] All the apricot stones in the world couldn’t have helped Armenia’s Eva Rivas place in the top three, but they did land her in seventh place – an accomplishment that might have been aided by her own prominent apricot stones.
Unfortunately, however, such commentary was at the expense of arguably more talented singers such as Georgia's Sofia Nizharadze. Netherless some Armenians and Azerbaijanis did tweet about her.
Meanwhile, Twitter was also awash with tweets from some nationalists alleging their particular entry hadn't been awarded the number of points it deserved. This was especially true for Armenia and Azerbaijan, although many Europeans also noted the apparent favoritism shown by Russia towards its three former satellite republics.
And while Georgia exchanged votes with Armenia and Azerbaijan, its two warring neighbors didn't do so among themselves. In contrast to previous years, however, major scandals had been averted.
At the end of the day, though, and despite concerns about Azerbaijan's oil revenue and Armenia's Diaspora adversely influencing and affecting the vote, Germany's Lena won the competition much to the relief of some regional analysts. Moreover, and despite some Armenians alleging Turkey entered a rock song to divert support to ally Azerbaijan, it came 2nd.
In the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan came 5th, Armenia 7th, and Georgia 9th, but while supporters and nationalists in the South Caucasus scratched their heads in disbelief, with some even alleging sinister financial, political or geopolitical motives and plots, most other attention was instead on Germany's winning entry. Sputnik music was one of them.
First place, however, went to by far the most impressive song on the night. Germany’s Lena took the stage with little more than a microphone and a cocktail dress. She looked and sounded drunk and sloppy, but her song, ‘Satellite,’ had a serious kick and a killer melody. Her vocal style, unlike the interminably dull singers who had gone before her, was delightfully playful, calling to mind Regina Spektor or Björk at her poppiest. ‘Satellite’ has already topped the charts in Germany, and it’s a reasonable bet that her Eurovision success will see her climb the charts all across Europe this summer.