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Eurovision 2009: More on Semi-Final One

May 13, 2009

I hated the idea of coming into work this morning. I was convinced I would face two significant questions, quite possibly even three. I didn’t want to answer any of them.


First was a question about the unrelated but nonetheless spectacular crisis which occurred at the top of yesterday when I skidded towards the bicycle stand outside the train station realising I’d left my wallet and train pass at home and managed to lock myself out of the same house too. With no way to get back inside, no way to obtain spare keys and no money, I was forced to go to a nearby public library and occupy the only available table close to the front door with a couple of elderly people whose ablution routine was in need of a serious overhaul.

How was it a clearly obsessive 36 year old man was able to achieve such a feat. And as a grown man was it really adult to kick the wall as hard as you did Jon and swear like a docker? I can’t answer that question, but I can confirm that one or two heads did turn in my direction when I did so.

Then there was the inevitable line of question I would face about the Eurovision semi-final last night. I work with journalists. Journalists are by their very nature nosey. They know I love the Eurovision. They were bound to ask me. “How was it?” asked the assistant editor.

I mumbled reluctant approval before adding how it felt like a dirty affair and I was feeling exhausted. “Didn’t the right countries go through to the final then?”

A palpable sense of relief passed over me. As it happened, the right acts did go through in my humble opinion.


Sweden’s performance by Malena had persuaded me that maybe it wasn’t quite so annoying after all while Malta’s Chiara progression to the final was both expected and right and proper even if I still wasn’t as in love with the quality of her voice as I expect at this stage. Portugal deserved it (how could anybody not adore the refreshingly sweet sound of the song and the comforting background graphics?) and Iceland undoubtedly earned it. And as far as I was concerned Armenia’s qualification was nothing short of a formality (I’d be quite happy for the two lovely ladies to trounce the competition come Saturday night).

If there were any surprises however, it was Turkey, Finland, Romania and Bosnia & Herzegovina. These failed to spark my interest and as much as I didn’t enjoy Semi-final rejects Montenegro, Switzerland and Macedonia I would have allowed them a pass to the final. Complex I am. That’s me.


By far the most arresting however was Israel’s “There must be another way”. This may have been ever so slightly pre-empted by the experiences I had Tweeting during the live event.

Shortly before the beginning of the show, a suggestion had been made that if I was going to Tweet then never being rude about Israel was a key thing. It was a fair point and perhaps even justifiable given the obvious political difficulties in and around that area of the continent. And as anyone will admit (though perhaps not in a blog) there is an implicit feeling that treating that part of the world with kid gloves is important.

To a certain extent I agree given that my knowledge of the area and the complex political issues is woeful. I should know more. I should remember more. I don’t. That, I figure, is just as human as it is shameful.

That said, what bothered me was the effect it had on me even though I appreciate the suggestion wasn’t disingenuous. It felt as though I had to consider Israel’s song in a special way, that any disparaging comments were off-limits because their contribution was something different from any other.

This was a song contest, I kept telling myself. Regardless of the ongoing debate about political voting and the high expectations that this year’s contest might see such problems eradicated (or at least lessened), I always look on every single performance for what it is: three minutes of television with a pop song upon which I form a judgement. That’s what I do with everyone. Should I treat Israel any differently? Should I feel guilty if I don’t?

I had already pretty much dismissed “There Must Be Another Way”. The political importance of an Arab and a Jew singing together on stage had been outlined quite early on in the competition but I’d still tried to put that to the back of my mind. It’s about the song I kept telling myself and it’s about whether or not I enjoy the performance on the night. That’s my yardstick.

As it was, that particular yardstick was exactly the one which made Israel’s song and more importantly their performance take me by complete surprise. Amid what I now recall as a sea of mediocre club beats, imitative rock and bubblegum pop, Israel’s song rang out because it was so refreshingly simple and utterly honest.

Fundamentally, their performance did well for me because for the first time ever I saw their act in a running order – yet another reason why all the incessant analysis I’ve engaged in over the past week is in some respects a redundant process. I’m yet to convince myself that it’s a winner but on the strength of Israel’s performance last night it’s definitely a song I’d like to see do well.


And the third question my colleagues would ask me when I got into work this morning .. what of that? What was tweeting during a live broadcast actually like? Was it worth it?

The truthful answer was that it began being exciting, then became stressful and then became a source of intense worry as I retrospectively analysed what had occurred and what had been said. If I end up tweeting on Thursday on Saturday however it’s worth flagging up that conversations across the social network are almost certainly not going to happen.

Between concentrating on conversations, watching the TV and conversing with my partner about our assessments there was precious little time to drink wine and far too much time devoted to worrying about the outcome. So, don’t be surprised if I don’t engage in conversation on Twitter in the future. Eurovision is quite a tricky thing to engage in on it’s own.

  1. I’m saved on the twitter front by the fact that my wife hates the Eurovision song contest so I’m confined to a small TV in the kitchen while tweeting on my netbook.

    I have nothing but twitter and Eurovision to concentrate one. Last night was almost as much fun as the twittering the last election and I’m sure Thursday will be even better with a peak on Saturday.

  2. Well, I hope you still live-twitter the event as it’s fun and instructive to see others’ opinions in real time.

  3. I’ll be live-twittering again tomorrow, at least I assume so. Depends if guests come or not.

    I have to say, I don’t quite understand your love of the Armenian song. Yes, the costumes and staging are great, but it’s basically just a J-Lo B-side with duduks. Beneath the headdresses, it’s bland and mainstream. Andre did the same thing a lot better in 2006, IMHO…

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  1. Eurovision 2009: Semi-final One « Thoroughly Good Blog

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