Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision Song Contest 2008. Stockholm Edition.

I had a cultural experience last night. Without even leaving the apartment. DCP and I took in the Eurovision Song Contest 2008. It was amazing. Disgusting. Intriguing. Addicting. I don’t have enough words to describe it.

Basically 43 countries in Europe take part in a singing contest. There are semi-finals and finals and all of that good stuff. Last night we watched the finals from Belgrade. There were 25 entrants. Now some countries take this very seriously. Others… not so much. For example, Latvia sent a group dressed as pirates called Pirates of the Sea. Their song? Wolves of the Sea. I can’t make this stuff up.

Sweden takes it pretty seriously. They have their own competition to decide on who will be sent. And over a million people watch the stuff on TV. This is a country of nine million. Keep that in mind. It’s a long winded affair that sees all kinds of well established Swedish artists take part. This year’s winner was Charlotte Perrelli. In Sweden, her song, Hero, has been playing non-stop for months. Luckily you can’t see her on the radio. Because unfortunately Charlotte, or Lotta as I will so lovingly call her, has an alien face. Eyes very far apart, huge forehead. It’s a bummer. The French even made fun of her referring to her as a bad advertisement for plastic surgery.

Regardless this is a singing contest and Sweden was considered by some to be a dark horse favorite to beat out Russia, the eventual winner, and Ukraine. Perrelli didn’t even come close. Lotta came in 18th. Out of 25. That’s not good. She actually lost out to the Latvian pirates.

Luckily, for those of you who read Swedish, Dagens Nyheter gave us a running diary a la Bill Simmons from ESPN. But let me sum it up for you. We were inundated with horrible English from the hosts. Who, to their credit, gave a damn good effort. We laughed in horror as the hosts threw it back to the green room where we were assaulted by two hosts hopped up on something butchering their English lines and making fools of themselves. Questions were asked that were never answered because they just didn’t understand each other. In between all that my ears were attacked by some sort of music. Ranging from ballads in Hebrew (Israel apparently counts as Europe here) to Latvian pirates, to a Portuguese woman who looked like Ursula from The Little Mermaid. All the while the Swedish commentators were making snide remarks, commenting on others English skills (which granted I have done but I’m a native speaker and feel that I can make these sorts of judgments), and just kind of being assholes. I was a little disappointed in the Swedes. Luckily, they were often overshadowed by Spaniards singing about “El Robocop” and a blind woman from Georgia singing about peace. Incredible. Hell, Vlade Divac even made a guest appearance and launched a basketball into the crowd. All in all just an amazing night.

Along with the cultural experience I learned another thing. It is possible to get drunk on 3,5% beer. It just takes a few extra.

Welcome to Sweden.

31 comments:

  1. Something, Something, Something...........Darkside.

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  2. youtube it... hah classic

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  3. I must admit. I've been here 10 years and could stand watching Eurovision 1 out of those ten years...and I was forced to. I was invited to a "Eurovision dinner" at a friends home and endured 4-6 hours imprisioned in kitch-hell. I never want to experience that ever again.
    More power to the Swedes for embracing this annual cultural-must. I guesss we must embrace something every now and then. I enoy reading Hetti Ketti's responses to questions on quirky/zany Swedish customs. She's quite popular with Scandinavian Insider readers - www.sosmag.se. So, you've been back a year now? How does it feel?

    Beale

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  4. Eurovision is a great tradition, but there's a special sort of swedish artists/bands who participate in this show, unfortunately not the good ones.. I'm never happy with our representative and I don't watch the swedish "schlagerfestival" but eurovision is something special, everyone should experience it! XD
    it's just too bad you have to be east-european to win nowadays because of all the "kompis-röstning" (voting for their neighbors, ''friends'') but even this "kompis-röstning" is good in a way, because it brings countries that may have been at war against each other to suddenly be friends, like the Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, and also the rest of Balkan, like Albania and Macedonia, it's nice to see that they can support each other after years of hate!

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  5. turkey kicked ass!

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  6. It actually used to be a lot classier and more elegant and the song entries used to be a lot better and endurable. I'm talking about the good old days, the 60s, when I wasn't even born. For example, who can forget the classic Volare? The artists actually could sing back then too... There were people like Monica Zetterlund and I even think Edith Piaf appeared some year. Now unfortunately it is exactly what you said: Disgusting. it's kitsch of the worst kind, the artists can hardly sing and a lot of them had really bad plastic surgery (Charlotte Perelli for one). I think it's sad what it's evolved into. I've hardly watched it since I was like 10 years old or something, but I peeked just a little bit this year...

    By the way, I actually think a lot of Latvians take it seriously, believe it or not...

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  7. I think most countries takes it serious anyway. As i read in a newspaper this particular comeptition actually unites WHOLE Europe. There isnt many other occassions when over 200 million people in europe watch togheter.

    Actually i think every single country puts out alot of pressure to show a good side, its after all very good advertising. Sexy/funny/good/smart or whatever attributes the contestants have, they actually show a side of their country. The normal person usually state their own opinion about a country from the Media anyway, just look on how alot of europeans got an prejudice that people from USA is stupider than from the rest of the world. If u are to reach out, u usually need to do something outside the ordinary.

    They even showed the show on a few clubs in Gothenborg, even if noone who i saw when i was out watched it :)

    Anyway i missed the competition, but at least i looked up one particular thing. And that was the joke Björn Gustavsson did when showing the results from the swedish people/jury(?) I found it funny at least, as i could for myself overserious people around europe grasping and getting puzzled :) Was proberly funnier in the heat of the moment though. Incredible swenglish "its throu"

    here it is:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY92NtEl4T0

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  8. the björn thing I'm torn about. Because I knew he was a comic I thought it was funny. My question is though how the rest of Europe reacted to some weird blonde guy stumbling through English and trying to crack jokes.

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  9. oh man the rest of my comment didn't make it. bummer.

    @anonymous - something indeed...

    @anonymous (beale) - it is very much a cultural experience. and Im glad to have been a part of it. that being said I don't know if Ill ever watch it again.

    and I am getting lose to that one year anniversary. and for th emost part it feels good. some ups and downs. excitement and disappointment. suppose Ive learned quite a bit. all in all everything you could hope for from an adventure.

    @anonymous - agrred. even though I couldn't understand a single word they said.

    @robban - well this wa my intro to schalger. so this is what I know. but from my opinion something needs tochange because this was bad. but to each his own.

    and I think you're right... from what I understand most of europe seems to take this very seriously. but latvian piraes singing about wolves of the sea can't be serious can it?

    @braus - some of my response is right above this... don't really know how it happened. anyway.

    I saw some places advertising that they were also showing the song contest here in stockholm. didn't know it was that much of a draw. but I suppose watching that stuff sober would just be painful.

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  10. Well the Björn part was all about shocking anyway, while the other countries had hosts who tried to learn serbia and do a few phrases to be polite and "hip?"

    Björn opened up with "Hola Belgrad" with pure Swenglish dialect :) Hola being the complete wrong language.

    I mean the thing in itself wasnt that advanced or anything, but it sure was fun:p at least i thought so thinking about 200 million europeans watching it.

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  11. Hairy Swede - Yeah naturally, you can't know about that but I'm just letting you know that it wasn't always like this. Because, frankly, I'm embarrassed about it... I'm embarrassed about the fact that 200 million Europeans watch this and take it seriously because it's just so terribly crappy...

    I don't know, I'm just as confused as you are...

    Braus - yeah exactly, I think the fact that the other countries thought he was being serious made it a lot funnier.

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  12. Aye indeed:p if u watch the clip i'm pretty sure that the first rounds of laughter(not from the commentators, but the audience) is because they was thinking this guy is starting to loose it because of nerveousness :)

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  13. This Björn was acting stupid. He's totally unknown outside Sweden, so no-one knew he's a joke. Well, maybe now they do. Acting like a 12-year-old might do the trick here, but other countries can't be expected to understand this type of 'comedy'. He was mocking the whole contest there.

    I have a secret (not so secret after this) wish that because of B.G. misbehaving Sweden would be out of Eurovision Song Contest for the next 10 years. That should teach them. Maybe Björn wouldn't be concidered that funny anymore, I hope...

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  14. Well, aren't you a happy camper? Yes, he's totally unknown outside of Sweden and they didn't know that he was a comedian and that he was acting. Of course they couldn't be expected to know he was joking. That's the point, that was the funny part. Had all of Europe known he was a comedian and that he was just taking a piss it wouldn't be funny at all. The funny part was that all of Europe, except Sweden, thought that he was actually talking like that and giving the highest score to Sweden by mistake, because of nerves. It was a sort of internal joke, national internal joke if you will. I don't want to be rude but if you can't see what's funny about that you should look over your own humour instead of degrading the humour of a whole nation.

    And, honestly, isn't the show making a good enough job of mocking itself? Practically all the entries were just... crap. I just can't come up with a better way of putting it. I actually wouldn't mind if Sweden got banned from Eurovision song contest. I think that if a joke like this upsets people who really like Eurovision (which I'm guessing, by your comment, you do) get upset about a joke like this it shows a complete lack of self-irony (if that is a word in English). I mean, if you take a song contest, in which a band named Pirates of the sea who sing a song called "Wolves of the sea" and a little Spaniard who can't sing and a group of Spanish ladies (all wearing wigs and fake mustaches, of course) are accepted a sentries, so seriously and can't stand a little mockery from a comedian it just shows that this is a contest not worth competing in. So, I say bring it on!

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  15. Ok, apologizies. Maybe I was too harsh on Swedes. It's just that Sweden (just like Finland) has always taken the contest too seriously. The Hero was a serious act. The press was serious about it. So where the kidding around comes from? One guy who thinks he's funny gets to share his sense of humour to Europe. It would not have been out of line, if Sweden had had a puppet singing there, like Ireland did. I thought Perrelli's alien looks were unintentional.

    I can understand your meaning of internal joke, but isn't it a bit mean of you to have a laugh at Europe's expenses? Even if the whole contest is a big joke these days. Bad taste, really baad, sorry!

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  16. You say that Sweden and Finland take it too seriously and yes, I have to agree, some people do (obviously not me, though), but my point was that you do too. You don't have to think that Björn was funny but you can at least take it for what directed at a ridiculous (nowadays, at least) competition, not Europe like you said. I fail to udnerstand how you don't think it's out of line with a ridiculous song entry when you think Björn Gustafsson fake-stuttering is. I think the people who like the show could laugh alittle at their own expense. I mean, look at the freakin show...

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  17. sorry, typo ...

    correct version:
    "you don't have to think that Björn is funny but you can t leats take it for what it is - alittle harmful mockery directed at a ridiculous (nowadays show" etc...

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  18. If you want to see and hear the contributions of the ESC you can go to Youtube:

    Semifinal 2:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtlUzk13zO4

    Semifinal 1:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZeREp2QB1I

    Final
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXO7mNSfO4Y

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  19. I think many songs actually were better than charlotte perrelli's song which I knew wouldn't go well. Even I didn't like it. We say that "they" the east europians have bad taste and only vote for eachother bu t what do we do? The nordic countries also vote for eachother. In the beginning the eastern europeins weren't even permitted to compete and it was always countries like France, Ireland and France who won. Nowadays these countries doesn't even trie to send decent songs. Ireland's song for example, they just gave up and actually sent a turkey. I think its fair for the eatern european countries to win. And to say we shouldn't compete anymore is a sign of wounded pride (sårad stolthet) since its hard for us to win.

    I think its fun to watch ESC. Its fun to see all these ridiculous acts. And there are some good songs, many of those aren't swedish. Some say its impossible for nordic countries to win beacause the "east european countries have taken over". But Finland actually won year 2006. As long as you send a good new-thinking song you can actually win.

    I will continue watching Eurovison song contest since its tradition and fun and it actually connect us with the rest of europe even if everyone have differnet tastes. I agree that the music hasn't got much quality butr to say it was all better before is a glorification. There were some kitch songs even then especially in the 70:s . Peace out!
    (sorry for my bad english)

    /eurovison song contest fan

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  20. hehe, anyway this is how its supposed to be

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M6t9qjyO_M

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  21. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QiZXr55Zik

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  22. I agree much with 'anonymous' above. It's still good fun, and most of the songs in ESC were actually worse 5 years ago! It's ESCapism as its best:)

    I begin to understand local humor better after Robban's explanations. I can see the fun in it now, but personally I think comedy which needs explaining isn't good comedy. Inside jokes usually do need it.

    Good subject, H.S.! I had the same subject in my blog, but it didn't take off this well. Nice conversation here!

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  23. This is a really good Eurovision song. Winner in 1997:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dy-SkJhzXQ

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  24. Just got to post this one aswell, when it comes to the Bjorn thing.

    This is how sweenglish is supposed to be.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jwwWYuXI4E

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  25. I think this song from sweden year 1996 was good http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaV6cIZfrdA&feature=related

    also the winner year 1995from norway http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfJA3wvcxC8

    as well as the song ireland won with http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3CcbgU_oJk&feature=related in 1996

    I really like folklore and the middle of the 90:s really was a good period for these kind of songs!

    /eurovision song contest fan

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  26. Eurovision Song Contest! You've gotta to love the discussion.

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  27. Hi is very funny your blog, I laught a lot , but to say that you don'T like Eurovision ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    what to say about the SUPER STUPID OFFULL IDIOT
    A M E R I C A N I D O L !!!!!!!!!!
    i remeber you that Eurovision gave the chance to ABBA with the famest song WATERLOO!!!!
    than Celin Dion - yes ,,, and many others!
    all the best from Montreal! I' am watching the contest LIVE on Internet!

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  28. Ill agree... American Idol is pretty horrible also. But Eurovision? Come on... its just so ridiculous.

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  29. "This Björn was acting stupid. He's totally unknown outside Sweden, so no-one knew he's a joke. Well, maybe now they do. Acting like a 12-year-old might do the trick here, but other countries can't be expected to understand this type of 'comedy'. He was mocking the whole contest there."

    I'm an American who has not yet been to Sweden, and I completely adore Björn Gustavsson. I think you probably just don't understand his style. I suggest you watch some of his "Benjamin" videos or perhaps videos from Parlamentet. He also did this hilarious song during Melodifestivalen to Carina Berg, Kristian Luuk's girlfriend. Anyway, the point is that not only Swedes can appreciate his humor. Maybe you just missed something.

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  30. I guess I'm a bit late with that one. Oops!

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  31. Late is ok. I'm late responding... oops. Anyway, I haven't seen or heard much about Björn in quite a while.

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