Welcome to the second part of our Wiwi Roundtable, where wiwibloggers Chris Halpin (UK), Angus Quinn (UK), Sami Luukela (Finland) and Sopon (USA) are talking about Eurovison 2007. If you missed Part One, then follow the link here to catch up.
Chris: I suppose this also brings us to the most controversial point of 2007—the Eastern/Western Europe results split. Greece and Turkey represented the Mediterranean well, but the ex-Soviet/Balkan/Baltic blocs were dominant here. Other than Greece and Turkey, Finland’s 17th place was the best finish for a country outside those groups. I really think this was a case of bloc voting, given the quality (or lack thereof) of some of those songs, which goes against my own personal feelings of “cultural voting” in other contests. I’d say that outside of the top three, only Belarus and (admittedly, the very worthy) Hungary were deserving of finishing above the likes of Finland, Sweden and Spain. I’m sure that some of you will have others you liked, Bulgaria coming to mind in particular, but do you agree that this was the year Eastern Europe “took over” Eurovision?
Sami: I wish I could say that it’s because Eastern countries had better songs, but that’s just not the truth. One of my favorites was Germany, which did very poorly. I understand why though: it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and it was performed in German. I also liked Spain a lot.
But Eastern countries did have great songs and I can see why they did so much better. Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Moldova all had great songs and deserved their placements. The Hungarian song was not among my favourites and I personally can’t see why it did so well. Because all of my big favourites were in the final, it’s hard to say why it was mostly Western countries who got eliminated in the semifinal.
Sopon: If we are to look into the semi-final for a moment, we can see some relatively foolish efforts. Denmark’s entry that year, in particular, was a laughing-stock. DQ failed as a drag queen compared to Verka. Remember, the ridiculous acts in the final all came from the pre-qualifiers (Ukraine, UK, France, Ireland, etc.). Belgium also failed horribly that year. But not all the blame for bad songs goes to the West. They brought a couple of really great songs (Netherlands, Norway, Cyprus, and Iceland in particular). And the East put forward some awful efforts as well, such as the off-keyness madness that was Estonia, Czech Republic’s outdated metal band, and Albania’s strange electronic ballad.
Let’s look at statistics geographically. The Western countries are bigger than the Eastern countries on average in area, so there are by far more Eastern countries. Given that 5 of those large countries were to qualify already, that put even less of them in the semifinal. Even without the bloc voting, there would still be a trillion more Eastern countries qualifying just because there are more of them. The eventual domination of these countries was inevitable.
Chris: Which is likely why the EBU decided to introduce the pots and two semi finals for the next year to help with the spread…
Angus: I think the result was strongly shaped by neighbour voting but at the same time with the composition of the final thrown up by the semi I don’t see how it could not be about neighbour voting. That being said I think 2008 was the real high point of bloc voting – ‘Molitva’ at least won pretty wide-ranging support. But also from the Big 4 and Ireland only Spain really have a song that I’d weight of any merit. I also think the Swedish song was unusually crap and a real let down after Carola’s song. Politics played a big role in 2007 but I think that had more to do with a talent vacuum than anything else – 2008 was the real year when bloc voting won the contest for the winning song over actual talent.
Sopon: I’ll be bold and say I agree that The Ark was not a great choice, especially for a country like Sweden, which has such a successful track record at Eurovision. Most of the rock songs that year were bad (other than Finland and Iceland), but this was partly because we knew nothing would top Lordi, and they went all out. Rock just couldn’t blow us away that year.
Angus: The rock songs didn’t make much of an impact on me at all actually. 2007 was only the second contest I watched and all I took away from it were the jokes: Ukraine and the UK were the only countries I remembered distinctly. I think the rock was all just much of a muchness after Lordi. The camp has stood the test of time much better…for me anyway!
Sopon: Slovenia that year was also a joke. I mean, it’s nice they finally qualified, but Alenka’s song was so bad. At least her voice was decent. And France was hilariously bad. (What was it with the joke entries running around the stage in a circle that year?) The mixture of Franglais, a cat-wearing drummer, and silly lyrics was way too much to take seriously. Scooch was a guilty pleasure for me. Don’t crucify me, but I think it’s super catchy!
Chris: What has always been interesting for me is that, at the time, Germany was actually considered a favourite for the victory in the buildup to the contest, yet it hasn’t really endured much love since. So yes, it’s only fair to point out that as much as some of the Western European countries were deserving of better results, there were some real stinkers. I’d even argue that Dervish’s performance for Ireland is one of the most diabolically woeful performances ever seen at Eurovision – harsh, but nothing about it seemed to work for me.
From a native point of view, I was a fan of Scooch but they really were never going to get anywhere, especially with a draw next to the much more polished appeal of Verka. Plus, the tongue-in-cheek lyrics were completely lost on the live stage, whereas the song holds up much better on the studio version. But after the mess that was the UK National Final, even held after the EBU’s deadline, they probably were glad just to be there!
There’s not been a whole lot of positivity here, but I think we can find some by discussing Finland as a host. The staging was some of the most dynamic we’d seen for a long time and the video screens were used well in a lot of the performances (Hungary and Ukraine are good examples here). Jaana and Mikko were good, competent hosts and I’d say the only downer was the forced character of Krisse. Whilst that was her shtick, it felt inappropriate for Eurovision’s global audience. That’s something that only a certain group of people would get, surely, and we saw a year before with Silvia Night why that can go wrong. But are we at least in agreement on the general hosting?
Angus: I think the stage is a lot more impressive than it gets given credit. For starters most of the camera angles do it no justice. Most people seemed to want intimate performances which denies the idea of any scale and means that Belgrade and Moscow look comparatively bigger. The hosts were fun too but a little light on the comedy – a pinch more humour and it would have been perfect! It just doesn’t save the contest as a whole for me though. For me it’s sort of a throw back to the early 00s and doesn’t act as part of the progression I see in 2005 and 2006 toward the contest I recognise today in terms of scale, music quality and production values. True fantasy? More like true nightmare!
Sami: The stage was nice, but it was way too dark. It was the perfect size, not too big like Moscow 2009 and Düsseldorf 2011. I also need to give some credit for the postcards, which showed Finland in numerous different ways. Finland might have been one of those countries which no one really knows anything about, but after watching the contest they might remember a thing or two. I like Krisse a lot, but I’ve seen her work before and after Eurovision more than most people (I believe). I can agree that maybe everyone didn’t get her humour, but I found it funny. She was a great green room host, even if she was a little too partisan.
For me as a whole the year is very average, and there’s only few songs I still listen to. There were lots of awful songs and horrible joke entries, but also songs which will be remembered in many years time.
Chris: Understandable, really, Sami. I think every country has at least one character that might be a little bit hard for some outsiders to grasp. Certainly, I think the whole thing feels slightly less of a “grand occasion” than Greece and Serbia’s hosting either side, but I think that the Finns did a strong job. It helps lift a fairly average field and to be fair to 2007, I don’t think it should really be considered the worst contest of the “modern era” But while that debate may rage on, it’s at this point we must say a farewell to our “True Fantasy”!
Thank you for joining us for this look at the 2007 Contest. Do you think that Finland were good hosts? Let us know in the comments section below – and we’ll be back next month with an 80’s Roundtable special!