Only two years after their debut, Ukraine had conquered the world’s biggest song contest, and hence wanted to make a lasting impression on Europe in 2005.They were under some pressure, with this year being the contest’s 50th anniversary. “Under The Same Sky” was the chosen slogan for this year and symbolized what Eurovision is all about – uniting a continent through the language of music. The organizers hoped that the event would increase tourism in Ukraine and boost its international image, whilst the government wanted a greater chance at acquiring EU membership.
Moldova and Bulgaria were the latest nations to join the ESC club, whilst Hungary returned after a seven-year hiatus. Both countries sailed through the semi final qualifier, along with Romania, Norway, Israel, Denmark, Switzerland, Latvia, Croatia and FYR Macedonia.
And so the Saturday final began in earnest with a rousing performance from reigning winner Ruslana, who had pulled out of hosting the show only several weeks previous due to her lack of English skills. Then the presenters, Pavlo, and Ruslana’s replacement Maria, or “Pasha and Masha” as they were otherwise known, appeared and disappeared off the stage in a flash to make way for song number one, from Hungary.
Popular duo Nox presented an unusual, up-tempo ethnic number which kicked the show off to a great start and received plenty of cheers from the audience, which unfortunately was not the case for the next entry.
Just as they had in 2002, the United Kingdom had drawn the ‘cursed’ second spot. Whilst Jessica Garlick had still managed third place then, Popstars contestant Javine was not destined to share the same fate. She had scored a UK #4 hit in 2003 with ‘Real Things’, and came to Eurovision after several years out of the spotlight, having fought off the likes of glamour model Katie Price to win her ticket. Singing an R & B track infused with an assortment of Middle Eastern sounds called ‘Touch My Fire’, she gyrated with great enthusiasm around the stage and certainly sung well (which had not been anticipated due to an alleged sore throat in rehearsals), however by the end, with 18 points and 22nd place, she was left with a more disappointing result than the year before, and has since disappeared from the celebrity scene once again.
Of all the gimmicks employed in this year’s contest, Romania’s was no doubt the most entertaining, and proved very effective indeed. Luminita Anghel was being supported by a group called Sistem, whose instruments consisted of metal barrels, dustbin lids, and angle grinders – the latter of which provided the pyrotechnics. Although this spectacle distracted in part from the song, it clearly paid off, sticking with televoters and giving Romania their highest ever placing.
Eurovision newbies Moldova made a splash with their first entry, sung by eccentric band Zdob şi Zdub, who were known for their original fusion of punk, hip hop and traditional Moldovan music. ‘Boonika Bate Doba’, translated as ‘Grandmamma Beats The Drum’ involved, strangely enough, a grandmother beating a drum, whilst the lead singer leapt to and fro, and encouraged the crowd to sing along. They certainly loved the performance, and no doubt, the sweet old lady as well.
As is the norm, the home entry gained the biggest cheer of all. GreenJolly were a trio of middle-aged men performing the protest tune ‘Razom Nas Bahato’. The song didn’t have the level of impact needed to be a Eurovision winner, and drifted down to 19th in the voting. There has been many a conspiracy theory formulated over the years regarding the host nation sending a song which is sure to fail, for fear of having to foot the bill for a consecutive contest, and perhaps this is one of them. The song did go on to become the unofficial theme for this year’s Ukrainian Orange Revolution.
2005 was not a good year for the Big 4 countries, and none felt this more so than Germany, whose singer Gracia was riding high in the charts at home with her song ‘Run and Hide’ – or so it seemed. Just before the contest it came to light that the successful sales of her single were just a product of mass purchasing by her manager to increase its popularity (and chances of Eurovision victory). With a final score of 4 points (2 from both Moldova and Monaco), this move in no way paid off. Whether it was the shocking revelation, or the fact that the song just wasn’t any good, is unknown.
Having participated since 1974, and with two third places since 2000, Greece were hungry for a win, and it turned out that this was their year. Triumph came in the package of megastar Helena Paparizou, who had earned Greece one of those thirds as one half of duo Antique in 2001. Helena had a huge following both in Greece, and in Sweden, where she had been born and raised. Accompanied by a quartet of male dancers, she performed the infectious ‘My Number One’ with vigor, striking her final pose to deafening applause. The song was helped along by its sing-along chorus and slick dance routine, and definitely had the edge over the majority of the others.
was Bosnia & Herzegovina, not Sweden, who provided this year’s obligatory ABBA imitation, in the form of blonde trio Feminnem, whilst Switzerland achieved their best result since 1994 with an Estonian girl group. But Greece held on to the lead for dear life throughout the voting, whilst Germany and France were left at the bottom of the pile. A surprise was the runner up, Malta, who garnered 192 points to Greece’s 230, with a simple ballad sung beautifully by 1998 contestant Chiara. Having come third that year, just missing out on the top prize for a second time was disappointing, but nonetheless a brilliant effort.
Fifty years on from its debut and Eurovision was still going strong. It was a fairly average year song-wise, but paved the way for Greece to dominate the international stage to an extent not seen since the 2004 Athens Olympics. And they were more than happy to rise to the occasion.