Flashbaku: A recap of Azerbaijan’s first ESC
Can anybody believe it’s been almost a year since Baku?
I’m definitely having issues getting my head around it. One minute I’m all excited for the next installment of Eurovision amazingness – making stuff to wave over the three nights and contemplating baking a Swedish-themed layer cake to mark the occasion. The next, I’m having a panic attack about where the last 11 months have gone, and contemplating inventing a device to stop time instead of baking some stupid cake. It’s a little confusing. What is for certain is that Malmö is heading straight for us, whether we like it or not. Ultimately, that’s a very good thing!
Before the thirty-something days until the first semi are up, I figured it would make sense to go back in time (not literally…I haven’t invented a device for that yet) and remind everybody what went down in the Crystal Hall last May. I’m going to do this via a series of posts known as Flashbakus (see what I did there?) and this first episode is an overview of the Azerbaijani action made possible by Ell & Nikki…and Azerbaijan’s ability to do so well in the contest despite sometimes having an, ahem, average entry. So sit back, relax, and take a trip down memory lane feat. stats, facts and some of my personal highlights from the most easterly ESC of all time.
When 22nd, 24th and 26th May, 2012
Where Baku Crystal Hall, Baku, Azerbaijan
Motto ‘Light your fire!’
Broadcaster İctimai Television
Hosts Leyla Aliyeva, Eldar Gasimov & Nargiz Birk-Petersen
Returnees 1 – Montenegro
Withdrawals 2 – Armenia, Poland
SEMI FINAL 1
Interval act Natig Rhythm Group
– Albania: This was the first performance to give me goosebumps, which I really wasn’t expecting as I wasn’t a big Suus-aholic at that point. But you can never anticipate which entries will blow you away live, a la Ukraine 2010.
– Romania: Watching Mandinga’s tangerine queen Elena struggle as her earpiece failed her was both cringe-worthy and highly amusing. Fortunately, apart from a few timing issues she pulled off a decent vocal, so kudos to her for that. I also enjoyed the 2012 version of Epic Sax Guy – the Moonwalking Bagpiper.
– San Marino: Yes, I admit it. I enjoyed this performance more than I thought I would and more than I knew I should. It helped that Valentina could actually sing (and she’s getting the chance to showcase her voice in all seriousness this year) but really, anything would have been an improvement on the music video *shudder*.
– Cyprus: And I thought the Cypriots brought their A-game in Düsseldorf! Ivi and her gal pals totally outdid Greece in every department last year, which is not the norm. Costume, choreography, lighting and props all deserved…well, props.
– Russia: Oh, those grannies and their pizza oven! This was the act everyone was waiting for, and I for one was not disappointed. The BB gave us that promised party for everybody, as well as a midnight snack (the show had to be held later than usual thanks to Azerbaijan being über east, so thank you Russia for the sustenance).
– Ireland: I’d consider Jedward’s performance of Waterline relaxed compared to the ‘we’ve been living on red cordial for the last six months’ vibe of Lipstick. What I liked most was watching the twins’ perfectly primped hairdos be destroyed by the water fountain they carted across the continent with them. Although giving them a good scare by announcing them as the lucky last qualifiers was pretty priceless.
1. Russia 152
2. Albania 146
3. Romania 120
4. Greece 116
5. Moldova 100
6. Ireland 92
7. Cyprus 91
8. Iceland 75
9. Denmark 63
10. Hungary 52
– Greece made their ninth consecutive final, whilst Cyprus qualified from a semi for only the third time since 2004.
– Hungary qualified for the second year running, having returned to the contest in 2011 following several failed attempts.
– Switzerland, on 45, and Finland, on 41, missed out on qualifying by a Nishliu dreadlock.
– Austria lost the first semi, only getting 8 points’ worth of popos shaking.
SEMI FINAL 2
Interval act (A rather horrifying) winner’s medley
– Serbia: My beloved Željko back on an ESC stage once again? Of course that would be a personal highlight! His opening of the second semi with the atmospheric Balkan ballad (how unexpected) Nije Ljubav Stvar more than compensated for Montenegro’s, shall we say, unusual opener in the first.
– Macedonia: I kind of fell in love with Kaliopi during Eurovision week. Not only is she apparently the nicest person on Earth, but she’s a great performer too – as we saw on this Thursday night. It was a simple presentation from FYROM, but the lady rocked the house.
– Sweden: As is usual with Sweden, nothing had changed performance-wise since Melodifestivalen. Did anyone care? I don’t think so. The crowd was buzzing (with euphoria, perhaps?) as the lights went all laser on us before the camera closed in on Loreen, the woman of the moment. What followed was an act staged like no other in the history of forever/the contest.
– Turkey: They made a ship. Out of their COSTUMES. TWICE! Is that not one of the most amazing things that has ever happened?
– Estonia: Naturally I appreciated the opportunity to stare at my future husband for three whole minutes, while he sang his little heart out. Again, this performance was a simple one (with an exceptional selection of background images, I must say), all about the song and the emotion. And me drooling over my TV screen #pathetic.
– Lithuania: If there was ever a one-man show, its name is Donny Montell. Well, its stage name, anyway. The man sings, dances, wears blindfolds, plays air guitar, and does all of them brilliantly. Well, he doesn’t look entirely normal in a blindfold, but who does?
1. Sweden 181
2. Serbia 159
3. Lithuania 104
4. Estonia 100
5. Turkey 80
6. Bosnia & Herzegovina 77
7. Malta 70
8. Ukraine 64
9. Macedonia 53
10. Norway 45
– Sweden won the second semi for the second year running.
– Macedonia reached the final for the first time since 2007.
– Norway just squeezed into the top 10 ahead of Bulgaria, who also scored 45 points.
– Slovakia brought up the rear this time, suggesting that no amount of exposed flesh can guarantee one a good result.
THE GRAND FINAL
Opened United Kingdom
Interval act Emin, chewing gum and performing Never Enough
– France: The French gymnastics team figured Eurovision was as good a place as any to get in some Olympics practice, and I agree. John-Paul Gaultier decided that stapling an entire roll of chiffon to the back of Anggun’s leotard was better than a mere few metres, and I double agree. That costume + a decent wind machine = a match made in Eurovision heaven.
– Azerbaijan: I don’t think the last-minute addition of ethnicity was a good idea, but that dress – you know, that dress – certainly was. It was a clever “prop” that struck a balance between ‘not exciting enough’ and ‘so exciting I’m distracted’. It must have caught on, because I’ve seen it done a few times since.
– Spain: This was the performance of the final as far as I’m concerned. Pastora delivered a faultless vocal that genuinely made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck (I’m telling you, I looked like a hedgehog) and when she launched into her epic note and the artificial breeze kicked in, there were tears in my eyes.
- Sweden 372
- Russia 259
- Serbia 214
- Azerbaijan 150
- Albania 146
- Estonia 120
- Turkey 112
- Germany 110
- Italy 101
- Spain 97
- Moldova 81
- Romania 71
- Macedonia 71
- Lithuania 70
- Ukraine 65
- Cyprus 65
- Greece 64
- Bosnia & Herzegovina 55
- Ireland 46
- Iceland 46
- Malta 41
- France 21
- Denmark 21
- Hungary 19
- United Kingdom 12
- Norway 7
– Sweden’s was a record-breaking win: Loreen out-douzed Alexander Rybak in being ranked first by 18 countries. Rybak scored 16 sets of douze points. What a loser.
– The honour of twelve points did not come easily to the other 25 participants. Coming a very distant second to Sweden in those stakes was Albania, Azerbaijan and Serbia, all receiving four sets of douze.
– Three Big countries, as well as host country Azerbaijan, made the top 10. Germany’s 8th place was their third top 10 finish in a row; not bad for a country that had struggled not to come last in the years BL (Before Lena).
– Spain’s 10th place marked their first top 10 appearance since 2004, when they also came 10th. Pastora Soler scored ten more points than Ramón did in Istanbul.
– Albania secured their best result ever, and after failing to qualify in Oslo and a disappointing showing in Düsseldorf, Estonia was back on form in 6th place. Their previous Estonian-language entry had also finished 6th.
– Ukraine’s recent results have been impressive – 7th in 2006, 2nd in 2007 and 2008, 10th in 2010 and 4th in 2011. But last year’s 15th was proof that they’re not invincible (and possibly that Europe disliked Gaitana’s floral and fringe combo just as much as I did).
– The same goes for Greece, with 2012 being their first finish outside of the top 10 since 2003.
– The UK was the lowest ranked Big country, only outscoring Norway (and I’m still not over it). Sending a household name with a less than contemporary ballad did not pay off, but at least they’ve learnt from that mistake going in to Malmö. Oh wait…
I realise now that it may have taken you longer to read this recap than go back and watch both semis and the final again, but, hey, you could have given up if you wanted to. Now that I think of it, maybe you should go back and watch the show again if you need to, then let me know below what you loved, hated, and were shocked and surprised by in Baku. We all need the practice, since we’ll soon be doing the exact same thing for Eurovision 2013.
COMING UP: If you thought I couldn’t possibly find any more ESC lookalikes, you were wrong! The Flashbaku doppelgangers will have you seeing double. Then, my longest and most difficult quiz EVER rears its head, in an Azerbaijan-tastic test of your Eurovision 2012 knowledge.
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