Eurovision was one of the countless international events cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic. We were supposed to be following along at home and screaming at our TVs. It was supposed to start TODAY, in fact. But instead, we’re still at home, doing fuck all.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there’s no better time to relive spirit of the contest, as we’re now free to binge without the distraction of leaving the house. On top of that, we have decades of old material to draw upon and relive the batshit campiness.
From my hardcore analysis of past years’ entries, let it me known just how much the Eastern European countries not only pull through but actually dominate, when it comes to having batshit entries. I mean that in the most positive and supportive way. The contest would be nothing without them.
With that in mind, here are eight entries which might not all have won, but have left lasting impact on our collective memory and sanity.
8. Who See – “Igranka” (Montenegro 2013)
Rapping over an electronic beat interspersed with a brief chorus sung by a woman a huge voice is a pretty generic pop formula nowadays. Thankfully, Montenegro mixed it up in the form of an intergalactic jam shesh where the rappers woof like dogs and dress like astronauts.
From the minute Who See emerge from inside the stage, you know a banger is about to be unleashed. The chorus, sung by Wikluh Sky with her Kim Possible eyepiece, proves that dubstep can actually be good and even innovative.
This is Elon Musk’s wet dream and the fact he and Grimes could, and I say this wholeheartedly, never, makes me sleep so well at night. Fuck your weird baby names and ugly utes, this is what real space culture looks like.
Oh, and if you listen to the final few “woofs” with fancy headphones, I promise the hairs on the back of your neck will stand on-end. Thank me later.
7. Cezar – “It’s My Life” (Romania 2013)
No sweaty, that’s not a castrato. Cezar is a countertenor – meaning he has the highest possible adult male singing voice. And in “It’s My Life”, he flexes he absolute fuck out of it.
There he stands on his platform in a bedazzled, latex Dracula outfit with a train which radiates all over the stage. It’s Transylvania meets Las Vegas, set to the tune of an operatic banger.
No fucking idea what is gong on with those semi-naked, red-and-bronze interpretive dancers, but I like their style. They’re there to remind us mortals that it’s Cezar’s life, and we’re just living in it.
6. Sunstroke Project & Olia Tira – “Run Away” (Moldova 2010)
OK, yes, the internet memed the shit out of this song 10 years ago and the jokes’s old by now. But the Epic Sax Guy was just six seconds of what is a truly chaotic and fun performance. So let’s set the saxophone aside and appreciate the rest of what went on onstage.
Firstly, we have Anton Ragoza playing a neon violin while spinning violently on a turntable. Yet despite the spinning, he never breaks eye contact with the camera. Creepy. Suddenly, everyone on stage jumps as if they’ve been hit with a sonic boom – a fitting reaction to the banger we’re about to be exposed to.
The verses are a fun mess of strange intonation and weirdly sensual voice modulation. Meanwhile, watching Olia Tira dance like Kath Day-Knight is a sight in and of itself.
Seven years later, Sunstroke Project returned to Eurovision with another weird AF banger. It might not have made it on this list, but it’s 100% worth a listen.
5. The Shin and Mariko – “Three Minutes to Earth” (Georgia 2014)
We all know Avril Lavigne died in 2003 and was replaced by a stunt double, but did you know Shakira has also run off and relaunched her career as a Georgian folk singer?
When I first heard “Three Minutes to Earth” six years ago, I thought The Shin were a joke band and their music was a fuckfest of dissonant time signatures and underwhelming percussion. But then I woke up and realised the genius of their fusion of Georgian folk music with scat jazz, flamenco and (of course) yodelling.
Everyone gets a turn to yodel. The band members of The Shin, and Mariko herself (a.k.a. Georgian Shakira), absolutely let loose as she glides around the stage in an emerald caftan in a kind-of-beautiful musical exorcism.
Despite the song being in perfect English, I’ve got idea what they fuck they’re singing about, but tbh I don’t care. Yeah it sounds crap upon first listen, but don’t write it off. You’ll be yodelling in no time.
4. Buranovskiye Babushki – “Party For Everybody” (Russia 2012)
Was Russia having a laugh when they sent six elderly babushkas to represent them in Baku in 2012? Or was it a cheap ploy to nab the popular vote? If you consider it within their track record of sending lowkey-fashy acts which present a very specific national identity, the babushkas are actually very on-brand.
And they absolutely killed it. The song’s a bit lame, and they physically can’t do some of the crazier stunts that other performers do, but their energy and commitment to the bit made it one of the wildest yet most memorable performances of the decade.
The Buranovskiye Babushki sang in a mixture of Udmurt and English, and said their goal from the whole endeavour was to raise money to renovate their church back in their village of Buranovo, a tiny settlement in the Russian equivalent of whoop whoop which is home to around 600 people. It’s enough to warm the cockles of your heart during a cold, Siberian winter.
3. Jaques Houdek – “My Friend” (Croatia 2017)
Too often in stan culture, particularly for seemingly queer-coded songs, does a certain word get used that I feel panders to two-dimensional cliches, thereby abandoning any responsibility to clarity that we have, not only as communicators but also that I have as your friendly P.TV writer proselytising about Eurovision. And yet with this in mind and, in fact, in spite of it, I feel obliged to say: MOOOOOOOOD.
But seriously, this one-man duet is literally me when I’m arguing with my internal monologue over the pettiest shit. Jaques Houdek can nail two genres simultaneously and he wants the whole of Europe to know it.
It’s hard to know which is more extra – the opera guy or the so-called “pop” guy. Either way, listening this cacophony of Italian opera and orchestral English pop is like riding a rollercoaster inside of my iPod from 2009. It’s over-the-top, it’s tacky, it’s catchy, but above all, it’s a straight-up bop.
2. Lordi – “Hard Rock Hallelujah” (Finland 2006)
Finland has the most death metal bands per capita according to Encyclopedia Metallum, with 730 bands per 1 million people. So it surprised no one (OK, maybe a few of us) when they entered a Christian metal band kitted out with hoofs and prosthetic archangel wings back in 2006. It’s somehow even less surprising that Lordi actually won.
“Hard Rock Hallelujah” is exactly what it sounds like. An orc-looking creature got on stage and literally started preaching the gospel to the tune of guitar thrashing. The chorus is amazing: “Rock ‘n roll angels bring thyn hard rock hallelujah / In God’s creation supernatural high.” The verses are even better, if you’re brave enough to listen.
But it’s when Mr Lordi’s archangelic wings begin to spread from his back, while the keyboardist wails into the air as if he’s banging the keys with his final pulse, that the energy reaches a climax. The verses are great, the chorus is infectious, but it’s hearing the whole damn stadium belt out the three words “Hard Rock, Hallelujah” which got me praising God and Satan at the same time.
1. Verka Serduchka – “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” (Ukraine 2007)
You don’t have to be a Eurovision superfan to know this was coming. The glitziest, the the wildest, the mosts iconic – Verka Serduchka. Verka is Ukraine’s answer to Dame Edna, if Dame Edna wasn’t played by someone accused of being a racist, misogynistic homophobe who uses drag to make transphobic jokes. But I digress.
“Dancing Lasha Tumbai” was an instant classic because it paired the hypnotic rhythms of Europop at its trashiest with whimsical phrases delivered in hammed up campy accents in German, English, Russian and… Mongolian?
When it was entered, the song’s writers said the song’s name meant “whipped cream” in Mongolian. But there’s no such word as Lasha Tumba in Mongolian or any other language. Most fans would argue it was a creative way to say “Russia goodbye” while skirting the competition’s strict no-politics rule. The song was released a few years after widespread protests ousted a pro-Russian government, after all.
But the song would be nothing without its staging. Watching a middle-aged glamourpuss
hobble strut around the stage and booty-slap camp, bodyguard-looking dancers and Eastern European belle singers is the epitome of Eurovision.
“Dancing Lasha Tumbai” may have come second in 2007, but fans will remember it as the most batshit entry of all time.
Image: Getty Images / Mick Hurston