After the jump, a quick recap of Tuesday's first semifinal and the next installment of our walk down ESC WTF ST. So, so much. Next time you feel sad, I hope you remember how lucky you were in this moment.
In results that barely deviated from my original predictions (which were better than the overthinking predictions I did once I actually saw the performances), 9 of my 10 picks to advance from the first semifinal did indeed advance. And here they are, in waving flag form.
I really am obsessed with these flags.
For the flag impaired, that's Iceland, Greece, Albania, Romania, Cyprus, Denmark, Russia, Hungary, Moldova, and Ireland.
The one song I didn't pick really was a surprise for me. I really have no absolutely no idea how Albania got through. And I mean really. This is the 21st century equivalent of Medusa.
Notable losers in the first semifinal included Montenegro, San Marino and Austria. If you look closely, you'll see that one of the members of Trackshittaz is wearing a Chicago Blackhawks cap. So he had it coming, though I do admit this piece of crap grew on me.
I'm gonna save most of the qualifiers for the preview of the final, but holy crap Russia is going to be tough to beat. They only drew 6th in the running order for the final which hurts them, but man, how good is this?
Could be a blowout.
Now, back to the WTFs.
CYPRUS - 2004
There's nothing very WTF about "Stronger Every Minute" or this performance of it by then 16-year-old Lisa Andreas. It was good enough for 5th place at Eurovision 2004, tying the best ever finish for Cyprus at the contest. It was a big result for Cyprus, a country to whom Eurovision success matters a fairly great deal. For at least a night, Lisa Andreas gave Cypriots a lot of national pride.
So where's the WTF, you ask? Well, for starters, Lisa Andreas is British. The composer of the song, Mike Connaris, is too.
Eurovision, just like in most any other battlezone, is home to a lot of mercenaries. Though most singers and composers are natives, singers, composers, and producers are routinely recruited across borders and occasionally even oceans. Celine Dion, who is from Quebec, represented Switzerland in 1988. Olivia Newton-John, who is Australian, once sang for the United Kingdom. Our beloved Latvian pirates? The lead singer is Italian.
Lisa Andreas, who at least had some Cypriot heritage, was the only representative of Cyprus to make it out of the semifinals until 2010, when John Lilygreen broke them back in with "Life Looks Better in Spring."
He's from Wales.
While we're talking about Cyprus and the politics of Eurovision, I would be remiss to forget what Cyprus is probably best known for in the contest: reliably giving its biggest points to its major cultural and political ally Greece.
This will happen again on Saturday, rest assured. In 31 years in the contest, Cyprus has given a total of 268 points to Greece. The second-biggest recipient of Cypriot points is Spain, which has only gotten 106.
CZECH REPUBLIC - 2009
The Czechs never really got the hang of Eurovision, to say the least. And it never seemed like they wanted to.
While most all other Eastern Bloc countries were scrambling to join Eurovision in the early 1990s soon after the wall fell, the Czech Republic didn't ever get around to entering until 2007, remaining an odd blank spot in the center of the continent on the Eurovision map while even pseudo-European countries like Armenia found their way to the competition.
Once the Czechs finally decided to send an entry in 2007, they were rewarded with an incredible streak of abject failure. The Czech Republic finished 28th out of 28th in the 2007 semifinal, 18th out of 19 in a 2008 semifinal, and then 18th out of 18 in a 2009 semifinal. If you break down Eurovision results into a series of head-to-heads with every other competing nation, you could say from those results that the Czechs had a win-loss record of 1-64, which even the Oilers would laugh at.
The last place finish in 2009 (even behind the previously spotlit Belgian Elvis and Bulgarian knight) was especially disheartening since it came in the form of nul points, the term for the shutout that happens when not a single country gives a single point [Ed. note: Incidentally, this book about all the people who have ever gotten Nul Points is pretty awesome if you want to deepen your Eurovision study].
The shutout gypsy superhero entry was admittedly pretty bad, but it probably wouldn't have ever happened to the song had it come from a country that gets more reliable neighbor or diaspora voting.
The Czechs have not been back since.
DENMARK - 2007
Denmark has developed a habit recently of sending extremely safe adult contemporary-style music, so it was pretty hard to find a stellar Danish WTF.
In 2007, the convoluted format of the Danish selection show Dansk Melodi Grand Prix produced DQ and "Drama Queen" as its winner.
Aside from the obvious fact that it's a drag queen wearing an enormous feathered headdress, I don't think there's anything especially WTF about this, except perhaps for needing not one but two costume changes in a three minute song. But really, that's standard Eurovision stuff.
Denmark is found to be the happiest nation on Earth--I just wish they'd stop being the safest nation in Eurovision.
Although the lead singer of the band that represented them last year took one giant step away from safety with his remarks to the Dutch spokeswoman...
ESTONIA - 2008
Estonia was the first Eastern bloc/former Soviet country to win Eurovision back in 2001, winning one of the weakest editions in the history of the contest with "Everybody" by Tanel Padar, Dave Benton, and 2XL. It's thoroughly awful.
Benton, who is from Aruba, became the first (and so far only) non-white singer to win the competition, which made it an unlikely pairing of milestone events in Eurovision history.
That song managing to win could be the Estonian WTF moment by some distance...if it wasn't for the 2008 edition of the contest, when two Estonian members of parliament and some third guy flew down to Belgrade to sing a song in Serbian gibberish (with some German and Finnish too). I found a video with subtitles for your comprehending pleasure.
Choosing to sing in the host's language mockingly was a bold move, to say the least, and it resulted in a rare chorus of boos from the Eurovision audience.
FINLAND - 2006
Lordi growled to victory in 2006 with 292 points, which was a record for the highest-ever point total until 2009 (Lordi still remains in second). Finland had never even broken the top five in decades of trying, so it was a huge victory not only for Finland but for Finnish morale, which is typically low (as evidenced by this).
Even in the derivative world of Eurovision, nobody has tried to copy Lordi too obviously, which is a sign of respect but also probably a testament to how hard it would be to do what they do so thoroughly.
Though ridiculous, Lordi takes its personas pretty seriously. In fact, that after he appeared with another band out of his monster garb a couple years ago, Lordi kicked out its drummer, because he revealed to the world that he's a human and not an actual monster or something. Tough rules.
FRANCE - 2008
As one of the big five (along with Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK), France is automatically entered in the final each year. That means they can get away with some shit.
In 2008, France sent Sebastien Tellier, who I gather is sort of French electronica's answer to Zach Galifianakis. His song "Divine" marked the first time in Eurovision history that an act used a golf cart, a beach ball filled with helium, and beards for female back-up singers.
Several French government officials made their displeasure with the act known. Not because it was ridiculous, but because it was in English.
An honorary mention goes to an entry I prefer, this triumph of the Franglais language that features running in circles and a stuffed cat.
GEORGIA - 2009
In 2008, Georgia (yet another country of questionable Europeanness) sent a song by the blind singer Diana Gurtskaya called "Peace Will Come." Peace did not come, because three months later Russian tanks rolled into her country in the 2008 South Ossetia War.
Georgia was understandably not happy with Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin after this, so the song they decided to send to the 2009 contest in Moscow was a little disco protest number called "We Don't Wanna Put In."
Furious at the negative political nature of an entry that would be performed in their capital , Russia complained to the EBU, who then told the Georgians to change the lyrics. Georgia refused and was forced to withdraw.
Georgia returned to the competition in 2010 with nothing bad to say about any politician.
GERMANY - 1979
I said at the beginning of the first installment of this series that I was planning to skew recent, but I can't ignore what Germany gave the world in 1979.
A band called Dschingis Khan sang a little song honoring Genghis Khan (whose name is Dschingis in German), and changed probably changed the way the Eurovision game was played forever.
Some thought that a song about a brutal warlord-type sung by a bunch of Germans might not go over well in that year's host city of Jerusalem, but everybody seemed to love this stuff.
GREECE - 2002
Though they've only won once, Greece is probably the closest thing to a dynasty that Eurovision has had this millennium with eight straight top 10 finishes. Backed by a strong diaspora (not to mention the aforementioned guaranteed points from Cyprus), Greece has found a way of combining ethnic and pop elements extremely successfully.
I'm not sure what elements Greece was trying to combine in 2002, but the fumes from the resulting reaction will make you lightheaded.
On the other hand, if stomping choreography, a keytar, Robocop, and spelling ("sagapo" = "I love you" in Greek) are your things, you've probably wondering where this has been all your life.
HUNGARY - 2009
Hungary was one of the first Eastern bloc countries to do well at Eurovision, coming in fourth in 1994. Since then they've had only sporadic attendance, and thus not much opportunity for WTFing.
But in 2009, Zoli Adok made some seriously WTF decisions on his way to crashing out of the semifinal.
Firstly, if the only remotely interesting thing you have in your act is a costume change, why are you wasting it in the first 20 seconds? Second, why are you wearing what looks like a women's figure skating top that's several sizes too small?
Hungary took 2010 off in shame, but has now made the final again in 2011 and 2012 to firmly reestablish its place as a perennial also-ran.
Thanks for joining me again, folks. Iceland through Moldova next time.