Who knew, it’s Baku!

(picture the scene – I’m was writing this in Heathrow terminal 5, waiting to get my connection back to Manchester… and then Euro-flu took hold when I got home so I’m posting the final update for the year uncharacteristically late. Sadly, no pics –  camera lead is still missing!)

Another year, another Eurovision Song Contest. Another great winner!

Whilst Azerbaijan had never led the betting at any stage, their odds had shortened during the week. A decent song with great staging and a place in the running order that would have given them a bounce all played out to their advantage in the end.

I would never have imagined that they would win – but I’m really pleased that they did. I was getting a bit grumpy with Greece and Ukraine challenging for the lead. I like the Ukraine song, but I didn’t want it to win because of the sand art. Again, it was visually very effective, but felt a like a distraction form the song than an enhancement.

Didn’t Ell and Nikki look genuinely shocked by their victory – which made it even nicer to watch.

And how fabulous was the stage for the scoring – OMG!  That was something that was kept secret from everyone – no one in the press centre knew that the green room was going to be revealed from the start (we knew the green room was behind the stage). It was also a pleasant surprise to see a GIANT scoreboard on the LED backdrop. Last year in Oslo I could barely see the screen, so it was refreshing to not have to strain to follow the action.

The top 10 reflects a more diverse list than any of us ESC scholars could have predicted – but the field was wide open. I think my ‘Napkin of Death’ gave me 5/10 – the early promise of my predications seem to fall away (kiss of death, I tell you!). The final scores were bunched together – and how nice with four juries still to vote to see both Sweden and Azerbaijan still challenging each other for the win.  Jedward did a great job, and great to hear their commentator tell them that Ireland were proud of them. As a consequence of them not winning it meant that Karen did not have to stay for the winner’s press conference – although she will be filing her article for The Irish Times today. Reports suggest that they have been mobbed at the airport back home – great to hear. Even though their Eurovision Song Contest has been a genuine success for them, they really are Marmite, aren’t they… you either love them or hate them!

Blue did OK. The early signs looked good as we topped the leader board – but eventually we fell away to finish a slightly disappointing 11th place. Not quite the result they were hoping for to re-launch their collective careers.

As my friends and students know, I am a HUGE fan of the Swedish Melodifestivalen – which selects their entry for the ESC. I have been an advocate of Eric Saade’s “Popular” since the early rounds of the contest back in February. The thing is that I’ve been listening to it since then and by the time I arrived in Dusseldorf and saw Eric perform I was expecting more. I was slightly underwhelmed by his vocal performance throughout the ESC.  If you listen to the recorded version of the song he does a cracking end note in the higher register of his voice – he didn’t go anywhere near it during the ESC, which was a disappointment for me. Whilst I might have been a bit grumpy about that the rest of Europe (perhaps not hearing it for the 200th time!) seemed to love it. Last year – when Sweden failed to make it to the ESC final – it was a huge national embarrassment to them, and so with this best placing at the ESC since 1999 it looks like schlager is back, b-a-c-k, BACK!

Last year when I got back I was a bit grumpy about everything – but this year I leave Dusseldorf with some good memories of the city and of the Contest. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Karen for all that she has done for me this week, and over all the years to add the extra ingredients to my experience. The ‘New Europe’ panel on “Feeling European” – which incorporated my paper – paid for my travel and accommodation, and I am grateful for that. I am also thankful to Karen for using her influence with the EBU to get me my accreditation this year. It has been much harder for people to get into the press centre this year – and I had initially been declined by the BBC.  I am happy to have represented the ERN at the Eurovision this week, and Karen did a great job during a very busy week to pull the two events together.

I know at the end of the blog last year I stated that things would be different if I went to ESC2011. Well, they were different for sure!  Travelling 90 mins each way to and from Cologne was a bit draining – but all in all the experience of being at the centre of the ESC means that for a little short term pain there was a long term gain… I mean – did you see the programme last night – I was there, and it was awesome.

So, the Contest is off to Baku next year – and I’m sure Azerbaijan will do a great job. Will I be there?  Let’s not think about that just yet.  Instead, let’s congratulate Azerbaijan one last time – and let me thank you for reading along over the last 10 days.

That’ll be Dusseldorf then…