Today, we’re taking a closer look at the 57th edition of Eurovision which was held in Azerbaijan for the first time. The nation debuted in 2008, meaning that they had won the contest on their 4th attempt – a pretty impressive feat. The contest was held in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, where an arena was built to cater for the Eurovision Song Contest. The Baku Crystal Hall was located on the coast of Baku, near the National Flag Square. The shows were hosted by the trio of Leyla Aliyeva, Eldar Gasimov (the El of Ell & Nikki) and Nargiz Birk-Petersen, and featured a total of 42 entrants. Montenegro returned to the contest, and Armenia and Poland withdrew.
Two countries stand out for me, although the backing dancers and backing bands seemed to have made a return this year, with a lot of countries using either one of those. The first nation which I loved the staging of was Moldova, who had sort of a whimsical approach to their stage performance. None of it really made much sense, but it was just so fun to watch. This could have been a really conventional stage performance but the colourful costumes and the out-there dance moves give this song a whole new level of adorableness.
Second up is Turkey, who also had a bit of a whimsical performance with their nautical themed stage show. When the song starts, you might think all those capes on the backing dancers are more for visual effect, or decorative purposes but you would be wrong. The clever manoeuvring of the capes creates the shapes of a ship, from the front, and from the side. Matched with Can Bonomo’s drunken-like dancing (maybe it’s just seasickness?), it makes for a coherent, entertaining performance. What really is the cherry on top is when the ship is formed, and the dancers bop their heads to the beat.
Huge props for Spain, who not only picked a competent singer and an incredible song, but they dressed Pastora Soler in a beautiful dress. In recent years, Spain hasn’t really hit the trifecta on those things, but now that they have, we’ve going to take a moment to appreciate it. The dress is a pale blue number, a simple, floor length, wrap around gown which hugs all the right places, and with the nude underlay, it looks a bit risqué but there’s really no risks for ‘unfortunate accidents.’ With the main details of the dress at the top where it crosses the shoulder, it’s good that her hair was up in a sleek bun to show off the dress in its total glory.
It seems easy to just go with the Barbara Dex recipient (don’t know what this is? See below in the Facts section for more details!) However the voters really weren’t wrong on this one. Rona Nishliu had one of the most incredible voices of the 2012 contest, but what she had in big notes, she lacked in fashion sense. Or at least her team lacked in fashion sense. What is this costume? She borderline looks like a movie villain, but what throws me the most is the need to keep that one huge dreadlock wrapping around her chest and neck area. I have two questions about it – why? And how is it stuck there? And WHY?!?!??
Best Live Vocals
There was a big pool of participants of which I could have chosen from for this category, and I will admit it was hard, but watching this back, there is one act which just exceeds expectations in comparison to the studio version. That act is Estonia, who was represented by Ott Lepland and the ballad Kuula. The song on its own has its highs and lows, but what Ott did was put in the extra 10% after that first verse and he continued that effort until the end of the song. His voice did not wane even as the song grew to its climax, and I think that’s pretty impressive – just as impressive as some of those notes towards the end.
Watching this back, there are two songs which for me fit perfectly into this category, but on different levels. The first, which is Portugal is a genuinely great song with a really classy stage performance, and a very capable singer. I don’t always get along with the Portuguese entries, and find them hit and miss, leaning more on the miss side, however this song hit all the right notes. For me, it feels like a calmer version of their 2008 entry, which I actually didn’t like very much, but this for me had a similar backing with a better melody. This is criminally underrated.
On the other end of the spectrum is Israel, which is a song I also genuinely like, a lot, but I can actually see why this didn’t make the final. The performance was a bit so-so purely because of the probably drunk keyboard player, however as for the actual song, I think this deserves a hell of a lot more credit than what it got. I remember this being one of my favourite songs of 2012, and I still really enjoy this to date.
The Best All-Rounders are the countries which have a great song, a great vocalist and a great stage performance. Sometimes I agree with Europe, and my all-rounders coincide with Europe’s final results, and sometimes, my all-round favourites don’t end up very high up on the results table at all.
Today is a day where I agree with Europe, and my two All-Rounders, who I couldn’t bear to choose from are Serbia and Sweden. Let’s start with the eventual winner, Loreen, who represented Sweden with the song Euphoria. This was a runaway favourite even before the contest had begun and I think for good reason. I know there are still some people out there who disagree, however I think this really pushed the contest into a new generation – it was a revolution towards the modern, chart friendly hits. The stage performance is minimalistic but stunning, as is her voice. Euphoria probably remains as one of my favourite Eurovision songs ever, and probably one of the best winners in my opinion.
Serbia came third in the competition with Eurovision royalty, Željko Joksimović and the song Nije Ljubav Stvar, which I truly think would have dominated the contest if Sweden hadn’t sent Loreen, or someone as special as Loreen. The song is absolutely stunning, and features all the typical Željko characteristics that Eurovision fans have come to love over the years. He has not lost his touch, and that’s very clear with this very polished performance.
The first time Georgia sends a male performer, and they send the craziest man in the entire country. The song starts with him in a seedy red robe, so when that comes off, it’s gimmick number 1 ticked off the list. There’s a drum, there’s a dancer in a one legged, one armed jumpsuit with long red hair doing acrobatics, there’s a piano – I mean, more is more, right? Sure the song is pretty humorous but I think Anri’s strong vocals could have probably been utilised in a more subdued fashion. If it’s a competition to match the song name to the stage performance, Georgia certainly wins.
Most Cringe worthy Moment
You know those videos on YouTube that you see where the backing music has been taken off a live performance video to reveal the true voice of the singer behind it? Well, I really truly hope this has never been done, or ever will be done for the Slovakian entry. Max Jason Mai was the representative for the country, and what’s super ironic, is that this was probably one of my favourite songs pre-contest. What really stuffed that up was his actual live performance, which was essentially completely off key and what I don’t understand is why this wasn’t realised before the contest. Either it was a case of extreme nerves on the night, or whether he just genuinely isn’t up for the task ahead. This song, although very rock-y for Eurovision, is a great song and it’s a huge shame to have watched this with anticipation only to hear some of the most cringe inducing notes ever.
Italy takes the cake for best hairstyle of 2012 simply because of the height and width she manages to get her hair to reach. It’s potentially the hairstyle she just wakes up with, or alternatively it could be that messy look that takes hours to achieve. I suppose the height and width is achievable when you comb your entire head of hair onto the one side, but the positives about it is that the people sitting at the back of the stadium can also see her hair, if not her on stage. Just to be clear, this is all fun and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, because in reality, Nina Zilli is hair goals and I’d lowkey love her luscious locks.
Bonus Category: Act Most in Need of Better Backing
I really have to mention Bulgaria here, who sent poor Sofi Marinova to fend for herself on that big Baku stage. This could have been something really special, even though the song was somewhat questionable (although I will admit it became a favourite well after 2012). Some backing singers wouldn’t have gone astray, especially in those initial moments. Sofi looks so small on such a big stage, and it almost looks comical with some of the poorly chosen camera angles. When she’s zoomed in on, doing some of those crazy dance moves, it’s not too bad, but still, this probably needed something else, whether that was one or two backing singers hidden somewhere in the back, or some synchronised dance. What I can say, is that having Sofi on stage alone did give us the chance to see her whip out the most ‘deer-in-headlights’ movements ever, which was both cringey and totally amazing simultaneously.
Fun Facts about Eurovision 2012
The languages Udmurt (presented by Russian act), Georgian (presented by Georgian act) and Azerbaijani (presented by the Bulgarian act) were heard for the first time ever during Eurovision 2012
The number of finalists was raised to 26, due to the inclusion of Italy in the ‘Big 5’ – the previous year still featured 25 as Germany was a ‘big’ country and also the host country, both of which automatically qualify for the final. This was the second time there were 26 songs in the final since 2003.
The Barbara Dex Award is an ‘unofficial’ award given out annually to the contestant who was the worst dressed of the year, and for 2012, Rona Nishliu won this award with 829 votes, with Ireland’s Jedward far behind on 551 votes, and Bulgaria’s Sofi Marinova with 232 votes.