Weaver's Week 2012-05-27

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We begin this music week by mourning the death of Robin Gibb. He's best known for singing on classic number one singles with the Bee Gees, but crossed our radar in 2003 when he was a judge on the ill-fated second series of Fame Academy, and had to endure Richard Park being wrong about Alistair Griffin. Out of great suffering came great art.


Eurovision Song Contest

Semi-final 1, 22 May

Speaking of great suffering (or great art), it's Eurovision Song Contest time. Once more, the contest moves outside Europe proper, though well within the European Broadcasting Union's territory. The contest is in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, because that country's broadcaster won the contest last year.

As it's Ireland's semi-final, we're listening to RTÉ's radio coverage with Shay Byrne and Zbyszek Zalinski, and we've already found out that Derek Mooney's favourite Eurosong is "Ding-a-dong". We're so not surprised. We've also heard the BBC's entry for the first time, and it's — swish.

Eurovision Song Contest Your hosts: Leila Alieva, Eldar Gasimov, Nargiz Birk-Petersen.

Where we can, we're linking to MP3 downloads of the individual songs. Readers may prefer to buy the digital bundle or the CD, and all of these links help to support UKGameshows servers.

Enough of this filler, and straight to The Crystal Hall, where three yuppies in evening dress are playing the "whose line is it anyway" game, leaving in gratuitous pauses before speaking one line of something that might approximate to French. Oh, it's the hosts: a lawyer, one of last year's winners, and the president's daughter. Welcome to Baku.

1. Montenegro: 'Euro Neuro' – Rambo Amadeus

One of the demons off of Raven kicks off the show, throwing back his hood to reveal a bloke in his 50s with sweaty black hair. There's a Trojan horse on stage, and a slogan "Euro neuro give me chance to refinance." A shame that the jazz-funk wasn't particularly jazzy, and the other part was only one letter out. Their first entry in three years: were Blue unavailable?

Eurovision Song Contest We have no idea what's happening here.

2. Iceland: 'Never Forget' – Gréta Salóme & Jónsi

She plays violin at the symphony orchestra; he did reasonably in 2004, though still looks alarmingly like Patrick Kielty. We've another of those huge LCD back-projection video screen jobbies behind the stage, which is supported by some very angular struts. It's an intense, epic ballad, it'll do well, perhaps a little too intense to win.

3. Greece: 'Aphrodisiac' – Eleftheria Eleftheriou

Just before the postcard, we get a quick shot of the act, then thirty seconds of promotion from the Azerbaijan Tourist Board, culminating in the legend "Land Of...", such as "Land of Lighting the Outside of the Hall in our Guest's Flag" , then one from the "green room" (actually two dozen pods). This song will be a leggy Greek being leggy to a cod-Greek tune, while other leggy Greeks roll about on the floor. Wouldn't surprise us to find most of the vocal coming from the singer isolated in the far corner.

4. Latvia: 'Beautiful Song' – Anmary

The stage floor, well, it's a floor with thin strip lighting. Currently standing on the floor are five Latvian women, singing and dancing to a song about a beautiful song on the radio, one that everyone knows and loves. Very subtle this, psychologically reinforcing its own message. But when Shay says "Beautiful song from Latvia", should we have an extra set of quotation marks in there?

Eurovision Song Contest The cast of Loose Women Latvia on an exchange trip.

5. Albania: 'Suus' – Rona Nishliu

"An experimental song from Albania," promises Zbyszek, who advises us that the English lyric doesn't make much sense. "My plane is landing on the runway without the light of your soul attached today to your elbows." Yeah. Halfway through, she's really belting out the song, as though she were competing in the boxing round of The Voice of Holland Albania against Dr. Foghorn. "Sounds like a stylophone," says Shay, before cutting to a commercial break.

Theatre in Dublin, the gas board selling electricity, Sara Cox and Scott Mills wearing sunglasses and going behind the scenes, paying the television license in tarot cards. Hey, that means they let Scott Mills out of London, he must have been dealt at least the seven of wands. At 8.26, we have our first Jedward sighting; the performance is 50 minutes away.

6. Romania: 'Zaleilah' – Mandinga

Sung in Spanish, with bagpipes, with a tuba and an accordion and fire shooting out of the back, and with a singer who risks having her evening strap blow away in the slightest breeze. It's a remarkable sight. The group are the biggest Latino band in Romania.

7. Switzerland: 'Unbreakable' – Sinplus

"Unremarkable" according to Zbyszek; "this performance contains flashing images and strobing effects" says a BBC strap during the postcard, the best warning of dodgy special effects they've ever done. Good call, Beeb. It's a punk band, the singer's got a mohawk, the guitarist and drummer are banging hard, the bassist is a Rok Chik™. And it's a punk band because the singer has atrocious diction: in this contest, he's not getting out alive.

8. Belgium: 'Would You?' – Iris

The youngest contender tonight, Iris is too old to be named after the Goo Goo Dolls song, but only just. It's tapping into the same fragile power ballad territory that brought the contest to Azerbaijan, but isn't as accomplished. "It's all a bit simple" is Zbyszek's summary.

Eurovision Song Contest Iris should have gone to the Eurovision Toilet Roll Holder contest.

9. Finland: 'När jag blundar' – Pernilla Karlsson

It's time for the one Swedish song of the contest, written by Pernilla's brother about their mother. Pernilla's come on wearing a green cape, fluttering in the wind machine. It goes on for three minutes, then stops, and we are completely unmoved. Apart from by the flags waved by the crowd, which really are blocking the view and spoiling the shot something rotten.

10. Israel: 'Time' – Izabo

34 minutes to Jedward, and more Wrong Sort of Shiny warnings. The backdrop, inevitably, is showing timekeepers' clocks before the band strikes up. It's got Arabic undertones, and sounds a bit like "I am the resurrection", but these are no Stone Roses. On the other hand... the presentation is fab, and there's something ever-so-slightly moreish about this one – Shay will confess in the recap that it's growing on him. Is 11th in the semi-final worse than 26th in the final?

Eurovision Song Contest Time is never on Israel's side.

11. San Marino: 'The Social Network Song' – Valentina Monetta

"If you see the SMS numbers on the website, don't call them, as you will be charged and your vote won't count" warns Shay. The San Marenese entry originally name-checked a particular social network, but the EBU declined to allow the gratuitous name-check for Splashface. If only they would pass a by-law against Ralph Siegel's thirteenth-rate guff, of which this is the 2012 instalment.

Eurovision Song Contest Europe to San Marino: Unfollow. -1. Oh. That. No likey. No lightey.

12. Cyprus: 'La La Love' – Ivi Adamou

"If you wanna come to my house, then click me with your mouse," suggests Zbyszek about the last song. "Any song with the lyric 'La la la, la la la' is a winner in my book," he says about this next one. It's a leggy Cypiot being leggy, while backing dancers are also being leggy. With Cyprus TV actually having a budget, they've been able to afford a prop – just the one, a table made out of piled-up books. By far the better of the Greek entries.

13. Denmark: 'Should've Known Better' – Soluna Samay

Swiss and German parents, raised in Guatemala, and Soluna is a busker in Copenhagen. Quite why she's appearing like Avril in a sailor's uniform is unclear. The visuals (particularly the drummer going hell-for-drumskins) are striking, covering a weak song. It's growing on Zbyszek.

14. Russia: 'Party For Everybody' – Buranovskiye Babushki

We're 20 minutes from Jedward, and 42 seconds from the Russian Grannies. One of their husbands travelled to Baku, lest she meet a new man. Let's hope they're not drawn at number 2 on Saturday, as Englebert's next door. Actually, the hype goes before them: this turns out to be all gimmick (dancing grannies and an oven) and no song, with far more audience shots than is reasonable. Not even the appearance of a freshly-baked meat pie in the final 30 seconds can save it.

Eurovision Song Contest Gently dancing grannies from Russia, as one does.

The BBC are proving incapable of handling a commercial break, Coxy's interview with Mr. Humperdinck is broken up by one of the hosts looking around the green pods. Shay warns that there won't be a receipt for SMS votes, as that would further clog the network during the Active Vote Window. Apparently, there's such a thing as an Active Vote Window. Full details on Aertel page 196.

15. Hungary: 'Sound Of Our Hearts' – Compact Disco

Ah, shut up Shay, stop blathering, they're back, and you're about to crash the Euro-Serious entry from Hungary. It's five men (and a woman) in black, slightly over-emoting and walking down the catwalk sloping down from the stage, one that we hadn't noticed until now. Again, is 11th tonight preferable to last on Saturday?

16. Austria: 'Woki mit deim Popo' – Trackshittaz

"Tractor gangster party rap", according to the press blurb. Wrong Kind of Shiny, according to the BBC. It's a song about ladies, and bars, and dancing to ladies in bars. It's got guys in baseball caps perhaps trying too hard to be cool, because if you have to try to be cool, you ain't cool. That glow-in-the-dark effect? Russia did that, a year or two ago, and for better things than delineating a lady's backside.

17. Moldova: 'Lautar' – Pasha Parfeny

Four minutes to Jedward! This bloke would be the winner of the Game Show Braces accolade, if we could be bothered to award it. Five feline backing dancers, a distinctive if slightly unmemorable song, which ends by doing the conga down the catwalk. Going through, anything goes through from 17th, but we can't see it troubling the top of the scoreboard on Saturday.

18. Ireland: 'Waterline' – Jedward

Who are these people with flat hair? Ah, they're going to get rained on, and don't want to waste the hairspray. They're dressed in gold armour, not that it stops them from jumping about like Jedward, or performing what is actually a very decent pop song. And watch carefully how they never get the mikes wet.

Eurovision Song Contest After Timedance and Riverdance comes Fountainprance.

Listeners of Ireland, text your chosen song number to 53125, or call 1513 7172 followed by the two digit song code. Each SMS costs 60 cent, each call 75 cent, and there are no more than 20 calls per number or per mobile. Lines are open from 21.21 to 21.36 last Tuesday; please supply your own time machine. The BBC are using the recap as an excuse to show some viewer messages.

Right, the feed is back in the green room and showing highlights of Azerbaijan, Coxy is talking to Nikki from last year's winners and then going backstage. RTÉ is taking adverts from the electricity company, and from Visit Northern Ireland. Zbyszek predicts Russia, Sweden, and Iceland for the top three, with the UK thereabouts.

During the second recap, the Beeb bring up Jedward on a mobile phone, and get them to turn around and wave at the camera and jump around like Jedward. Then they show a profile of Enghump. Because he's so close to the BBC3 target audience. The interval act is very bangy, an armada of drums and people dancing. For the thirteenth semi-final in a row, the BBC declines to show this piece of culture, preferring to inflict footage of Coxy and Mills with some of the other acts, the Australian commentator, and a man who got his PhD in Eurovision. There's a thesis we could read.

Eurovision Song Contest The Beeb tried to conduct interviews during the drumming. It didn't work.

Shame about Coxy's interview, pushing Enghump for an opinion when he doesn't want to give one. A mike fail means we hear her describing that interview in terms we last heard being used about Five Star, and suggesting she should have stuck to the radio. Nooo! There's a perfectly good television career for Coxy. On Channel 5.

Armenia aren't here, for reasons we've covered in the past. Nor are defending Eurovision Dance Contest champions TVP competing: they haven't given a reason, says Zbyszek, who suggests the broadcaster has a football tournament to cover this year, and they've not done very well at Eurosong lately. Six countries that are going through are played out, and scrutineer Jon Ola Sand confirms that the result is valid.

It takes almost eight minutes to confirm the finalists: Romania, Moldova, Iceland, Hungary, Denmark, Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Russia, and (after the hosts walk up to stage with a golden ticket), Ireland. To which the Jedwards turn cartwheels all the way up to join the other qualifiers on the stage.

Any surprises? No Austria: there's a huge draw effect in the semi-finals, vastly favouring the late entries, but there's clearly a minimum standard that ÖRF failed to meet. Otherwise, nowt much.

This Week And Next

Part two of the semi-finals come shortly. We're also mourning the death of Eugene Polley, inventor of the television remote control. To mark his passing, our telly's remote has also decided to stop working.

Ratings for the week to 13 May come without information from most of the Channel 4 channels, so there's no way of telling if Twiglet: Breaking Sticks was more popular than Britain's Got Talent. We doubt it, BGT had 11.15m tuned in for the final, knocking The Voice down to 6.55m for the performances, and 6.75m for the results. The Apprentice was the BBC's most popular game show, 6.95m saw Wednesday's programme. You're Fired (2.65m) led on BBC2, with Great British Menu scoring 2.2m on holiday Monday. The Mastermind final was seen by 1.55m viewers outside Wales.

BGT also led on the digital channels, with 1.695m seeing the final afterparty. A repeat of Celebrity Juice straight after pulled in 960,000, beating The Satellite Channel's A League Of Their Own Sky1 (840,000). A new series of Scream Extreme recorded 37,000 on Watch+1, and didn't make the main channel's top ten.

Eurovision Week concludes with the Song Contest Final (8pm Sat, BBC1 and Radio 2, also RTE1 and RTE Radio 1). After that, we've new runs of Britain's Got Talent Us (ITV2, 8pm Tue), Four Weddings Us (Living, 8pm Thu), and Come Dine With Me Ireland (TV3, 9pm weekdays). The Voice of Holland UK concludes next Saturday, the final runs from 7.20 to 9.20. And advance notice for those of you going on holiday: The Chance to Go Into Business with Alan Sugar also has a two-hour final, that's on Sunday the 3rd, 8.30 to 10.30.

Eurovision Song Contest

Semi-final 2, 24 May

In the 46 hours since we were last in Baku, Iran has withdrawn its ambassador, for reasons not entirely obvious. And we've been watching Top of the Pops from 1977, with blasts from the past – Jimmy Savile, Marvin Gaye, Legs & Co performing "Mah na mah na", and Blue.

Eurovision Song Contest What's Baku like at this time of year? This.

1. Serbia: 'Nije ljubav stvar' – Zeljko Joksimovic

A blue stage with a spotlight picking out a lone fiddler, a bloke in a sharp suit singing a Balkan love song while a bloke walks around with a digeridoo. It's not quite as good as "Lane Moje", his entry from '04, but by golly it builds to a climax.

2. Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of): 'Crno i belo' – Kaliopi

A blue stage with a spotlight picking out a lone singer. It's a woman with a strong rock voice, and a rock backing band. Count your shiny warnings: this is number three, needed after the first minute. It'll pick up the Eurogoth vote, assuming they've not melted in this heat.

Eurovision Song Contest Dear Netherlands, what's with the head-dress?

3. Netherlands: 'You and Me' – Joan Franka

Telling the story of Joan's first crush, and how they used to play cowboys and Indians. Fires around the stage, the band stuck on the catwalk, and Scottmills reminds us that the Dutch have never got out of the semi-final. Are there eight worse songs tonight? It's ever-so-slightly "pitchy" acoustic niceness, Scottmills loves it.

4. Malta: 'This Is The Night' – Kurt Calleja

The song is upbeat disco, and the video wall is showing silhouettes of people dancing and with arms aloft. It just about works in the close-ups, but not in the big picture. Nor do the vocals, which end up being more than a bit "pitchy". Kurt used to be an air steward in London, and we can see this going down well at Pride festivals. One of the eight the Dutch need.

5. Belarus: 'We Are The Heroes' – Litesound

More shiny warnings, more bizarre microphone stands. The band are clearly auditioning to host the Scavengers revival, in their chain-metal vests. The song is fast Euro-rock, and it could probably be done in two minutes. Number two for the Netherlands.

Eurovision Song Contest Scavenge, salvage, and survive ... oh.

During the commercial break, Scott and Sara see the sights of Baku. The main show goes off and does something else.

6. Portugal: 'Vida minha' – Filipa Sousa

A lovely fado song, performed by someone who would have everyone turning round on The Voice of Holland Portugal. It's a female singer, with a mixed backing choir who walk around in a stately manner, like the butler at Wingstead Hall. This will be in contention.

7. Ukraine: 'Be My Guest' – Gaitana

Ukraine have done the mobile video screens trick before, haven't they? This is a solo female singer, in a flowing white dress: "Sounds a bit like Heather Small" says Coxy, and we agree. Four blokes in knee-length skirts and pixie boots emerge at the second chorus, just when the song is getting repetitive. The crowd on the video screens almost works in long shot, but Malta did that better ten minutes ago.

8. Bulgaria: 'Love Unlimited' – Sofi Marinova

More shiny warnings, and if the performer's English sounds dodgy, it's because she's being dodgy in nine other languages. Another solo performer dressed in white, but no video screens, and no backing dancers. This really, really needs someone else on stage: sparks coming off Catherine wheels really don't cut it. Bog-standard Eurodisco, and the third song the Dutch will beat.

9. Slovenia: 'Verjamem' – Eva Boto

A blue stage with a spotlight picking out a woman in white singing. She's not the main performer, Eva is even younger than Iris from Belgium, and is performing with other women in white. All very ethereal, this will go down a storm in middle Europe. A bit too ethnic to win? Don't rule it out.

10. Croatia: 'Nebo' – Nina Badric

A blue stage with a spotlight picking out a woman singing. It's another of those Slavic songs, clearly inferior to the last one, in spite of having a couple of blokes in long skirts and fishnet tops running around. Have an unofficial Wrong Sort of Shiny Warning; this will be on the cusp of coming back.

11. Sweden: 'Euphoria' – Loreen

Hot favourites have a mixed record at Eurovision: Alexander Rybak was the obvious winner from three months out, but France didn't particularly set the world afire last year. Official Shiny Warnings, a Kate Bush look-a-like throwing shapes and appearing more in silhouette than anything. She might like to work on her enunciation, because however many gimmicks there are in the closing moments, that's not the Best Thing In Twenty Years! Since Brother Beyond!!! the fans said it was.

12. Georgia: 'I'm A Joker' – Anri Jokhadze

It's the first time Georgia has sent a male lead singer, still less a Raven demon wearing red. He's backed by four of Legs & Co on treadmills, and tells Europe that he's a joker. This is the cardinal sin of television stories: show, don't tell. Number four for the Dutch?

Eurovision Song Contest Nevar's euro-swap demon.

13. Turkey: 'Love Me Back' – Can Bonomo

Lots of Turkish flags waving from the front of the hall as this begins, and we remember that Azerbaijan is Turkey's link into the USSR Pentagram. Ooh, it's an entry for the Game Show Hat panel to consider: another sailor's hat. Denmark doesn't have backing dancers turning into a boat, mind.

Eurovision Song Contest Turkey's gimmick.

14. Estonia: 'Kuula' – Ott Lepland

A former winner of Pop Idle Estonia, clearly in the Will Young mould: slow numbers, performed with a lot of feeling. This is grandiose and inoffensive: perhaps too inoffensive to win. Not sure about the forced grin at the end: don't do it on Saturday.

Another commercial break is an excuse for Scott and Sara to go on a funfair ride with Jedward. Basically, an excuse to show more footage of Jedward.

15. Slovakia: 'Don't Close Your Eyes' – Max Jason Mai

More shiny warnings, and Scottmills suggests people do close their eyes because this is shiny right from the start. It's late-80s hair metal, sung by a bloke with a lot of hair and no shirt. We can tell it's metal from the loud guitar riffs, the way the drummer's got a mohawk, and the way we can understand the lyric without subtitles. If he'd taken his jacket off before the results sequence, he'd have qualified from the "Hello, male nurse!" vote.

16. Norway: 'Stay' – Tooji

Tooji is an Iranian export, who enters on a stage with dry ice. He's wearing a hoodie, and one of his backing dancers is trying to beat Jedward in the Eurovision Cartwheel Contest. Very modern sound, we can see this fitting onto Tabor FM, but not necessarily to BBC1's Saturday night.

17. Bosnia & Herzegovina: 'Korake ti znam' – Maya Sar

A blue stage with a spotlight picking out a woman at a grand piano. She's elegantly dressed, singing softly in the Balkan style. The director treats us to a demonstration of the stage lighting, before Maya stands away from her piano and sings into a wind machine. This is going through.

18. Lithuania: 'Love Is Blind' – Donny Montell

He's won Strictly Come Dancing, and comes on to a sea of dry ice. And, to add interest to an otherwise forgettable song, he wears a blindfold. To demonstrate how he's blind, like love. Geddit?! Mercifully, that gimmick's off by the second verse, and we're left with jazz-pop. Adequate to qualify, which is about as much as it can get.

Voting details. UK viewers! Call 09015 2222, followed by the number of the chosen song. Calls cost 15p from a BT landline, other networks may vary, and calls from mobiles will cost considerably more. Terms and conditions are on the BBC website, or Ceefax page – oh. Lines open at 21.21 last Thursday, and close at 21.36. Again, bring your own time machine.

During the Active Vote Window, we learn the UK can't handle SMS voting, and nor can the BBC match their typeface with that used by the Eurovision producers. It's the same graphics package as last year, goodness. There's a plug for Eurovision products (though not a Eurovision hoodie, we note) and some shots of Azerbaijan as stirring music plays. The hosts go "blah blah blah" on the grounds that no-one is listening to them.

After voting closes, and instead of the interval act, we're treated to, er, the interval act. What gives, Beeb? The chance to see the last five winners reprising bits of their songs to traditional Azeri instruments. Third year in a row Lena's performed "Satellite" on the main stage, there. And then they burst into a chorus of "Waterloo", with Dima's mike turned off, and Ell and Nikki leading. That was, actually, great.

Eurovision Song Contest Dima, Ell and Nikki, Marija, Alexander, and Lena.

During the ad break, and presumably the auto-qualifiers, the Beeb show Enghump's video diary. Doesn't include any footage from Top of the Pops 1977, when he was already ten years past his peak. They also have a chat with the Icelandic entry.

Going through are: Lithuania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Ukraine, Sweden, Macedonia, Norway, Estonia, Malta, and (after another interminable pause) Turkey.

The running order for tonight's live final, then:

01 – UK, Hungary, Albania, Lithuania, Bosnia and Herzegovina
06 – Russia, Iceland, Cyprus, France, Italy
11 – Estonia, Norway, Azerbaijan, Romania, Denmark
16 – Greece, Sweden, Turkey, Spain, Germany
21 – Malta, Macedonia, Ireland, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova

It's, literally, a slow start: the first real uptempo number is Cyprus. After that, the fast songs predominate, with Estonia and Serbia the only relief. (And Malta, if you need to leave the show for three minutes.)

As last year, the voting will be staggered to lessen the chances of a runaway winner. The Big Map of Eurovision Voting Patterns might help to point out where the early points aren't going: if, for instance, Turkey and Switzerland and Cyprus are giving points early, we might expect a winner from the Scandinavian side of the map.

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