Eurovision 2007 was a true fantasy – at least that’s what the organisers believed when they adopted it as a theme. A record number of countries – 42 – came to Helsinki, the nightlife capital of Europe, with Georgia and the Czech Republic jumping on the bandwagon, and Serbia and Montenegro participating for the first time as independent nations.
The semi-final allowed for final tickets for both Georgia and Serbia, but unfortunately not for the Czechs, and seventeen others. The ten who did make it were raring to go alongside the direct qualifiers as Lordi opened the show with a music video, before appearing on the stage (which was designed to look like a kantele, a traditional Finnish string instrument) to welcome Europe to Finland.
The metal monsters gave way to a petite Bosnian whose father was responsible for writing their national anthem, followed by a four-piece Spanish boy band who failed to break the curse of number two.
Next came Belarus, presenting its fourth entry, called ‘Work Your Magic’ sung by Koldun, a 22-year-old who had shot to fame in his home country as the winner of a Pop Idol-type reality show called Star Factory. He appeared on stage wearing all black, with four dancers in the same. Two sliding doors enhanced the performance further as two of the dancers seemed to stick to them as they floated across the stage. The song was certainly an original effort, with a great crescendo building from verse to chorus. Koldun sang well, and as he finished on a literal high note, the crowd gave him a rousing round of applause. It was to be Belarus’ most successful entry so far.
One country that also made an impact this year was Slovenia, who turned in a great performance and managed to coin a new genre of music. Alenka Gotar’s strong soprano voice and ethereal looks combined with a thumping bass line led to a newspaper succinctly labelling the style ‘popera’. ‘Cvet Z Juga’ was popular in the semi final, but failed to notch up a notable amount of votes when it came to the crunch of the final.
The ever quirky France was being represented by a group called Les Fatals Picards, who had been together since 1996. They sang in a mix of French and English, and wore predominantly fuchsia outfits designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, one of which included a black cat as a lapel. The five men ran around the stage very enthusiastically, but the whole spectacle may have been a bit confusing for the audience who were used to more ‘mainstream’ pop. 2007 marked the fifth year in a row that France had failed to make the top ten. It was a similar situation for the rest of the Big 4 countries.
One of the more controversial entries of the contest came from Russia. Legendary producer Maxim Fadeev had brought a newly formed three-piece girl band to Helsinki, called Serebro, and had also co-written their entry ‘Song #1’. Marina, Elena and Olga wore promiscuous costumes inspired by school uniforms, singing what was one of the favourites to take out the title, but one which featured lyrics such as ‘I’ve got my bitches’ and ‘my bad ass’ which were frowned upon by the EBU due to Eurovision’s reputation as a family show. But the audience didn’t seem to mind, as the band rose to third place in the ranks. They went on to release a debut album, with several tracks making the Russian and European-wide charts in the top ten.
Serbia had chosen established vocalist Marija Serifovic and a dramatic ballad to represent them as an independent nation. She and five backing singers used subtle choreography to great effect, whilst ensuring that the song ‘Molitva’ (meaning ‘prayer’) got the right amount of attention. In 2006, Serbia (who did not go to Athens) presented their votes with TV host Jovana Jankovic saying that despite her country not having a song that year, ‘next year we promise to give you the best one.’ It was a promise they would keep, because the small Balkan nation managed to win the contest on their debut, which blew Ukraine’s 2004 victory after only one previous participation out of the water.
Another big surprise came in the form of Ukraine, and the flamboyant alter ego of comedian Andriy Danylko – Verka Serduchka. Eurovision has always been an attraction to the unusual, and this year was no exception. ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai’ was a disco-inspired effort, and like Romania’s entry, was sung in a variety of different languages. For those who weren’t prepared, the sight of Serduchka wearing more makeup than all of the female soloists combined and what looked like several tonnes of alfoil may have come as a shock. But he knew how to work the crowd with a song that featured one of the most infectious refrains in contest history.
Whilst the United Kingdom failed to impress dressed as flight attendants, Bulgaria did with an ethnic percussion-based piece from Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov. Like Secret Garden had done in 1995, the duo performed a predominantly instrumental song, called ‘Water’, which incorporated the sound of both drums and Stoyan’s oral manipulations, whilst Elitsa provided the vocals and joined in for some of the drumming. It was a very strong effort, and had been Bulgaria’s first to make it through to the final since their debut in 2005, and subsequently was their first to make Eurovision’s top ten.
The Serbians seemed very surprised, but of course pleased, when they took out the top prize – indeed, the margins between the top three weren’t massive. Ukraine followed them by just 33 points, with Russia in third by only 28. And it was the most successful contest performer Ireland who was left in last place, with the UK not far in front.
Thanks to Marija Serifovic, in 2008 the well-travelled Eurovision would be heading yet again to a place it had never been before. After the victory of Denmark in 2000, each contest had been won by a nation who never had before, and for a country that had been a small part of another when Eurovision began, to win now was an amazing thing.