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After watching the tape of this year's ESC for God knows how many times, I have finally found the time to write an extensive review of this year's "most watched program(me) in Europe."

As probably every fan has said, the openning was a bit too long and repetitive. So, what am I to do, but to agree, even though, I am notorious for being a non-follower. But, when you have to tell the truth, you have to tell it. I liked the graphics bit and I also liked the shots of the Holy City. It was nice to see the beauty of it. 

But, apart from that, I did not like much of the openning, especially when the hosts came on. Now, don't get me wrong. I liked the hosts, well, Sigal and Dafna anyway. It's just that they kept repeating the same stuff over and over again and I was wondering if we were going to start before the millenium ends. They kept on saying "Welcome," "Welcome" and it became iritatiting. For me, at least. This all was worsened by the fact that they had accents, something I am not fond of, even though I have one, too.

Speaking of hosts, let me give you my few bits on them in general. I liked Dafna and Sigal and their craziness. It seemed as though they were the only ones who were genuinely excited. It reminded me of Croatian Dora 99, where the hosts were going on and on about how exciting it all was and when they cut to the green room, the performers were "mrtvi, hladni," as we say in Bosnian, which would mean "cold and dead," devoid of any visible excitement. Sigal and Dafna were also, it seems, more educated about the whole idea of hosting than the old Yigal was. He just was too stiff. At times, I wondered if he were British. But, then I remembered the good old Terry (Wogan, for all you quasi-fans) and I could not fathom him being stiff, though he is not really British, but Irish. Oh, let me stop. This is getting too tangled! I am confusing myself even. 

So, anyway, Yigal could have used a shot of Prozac (or one of those relaxation drugs. Y'all crazy people know what I'm talking about). It seemed as though Yigal was making the three host thingy a "one too many" deal. But, we need more professional, relaxed people who can handle those greedy-for-time-so-that-they-can-advertise-their-beautiful-country spokespersons. And he handled that in a well-done manner.

All in all, I would say the hosts deserve a 6 out of 10, with Yigal hurting their average.

6 out of 10 is certainly too low a score for the spectacular stage IBA has created for our color-hungry eyes. I think that the stage looked amazing, which contradicts my initial reaction to it when I saw a model of it at Geoff Harrison's Eurovision Database. It looked huge, which is always good, but in this case I would have preferred a bit smaller stage. Why? you might ask. Because! I may answer. No, seriously, I think there was plenty of room for an orchestra, the essential idea of what ESC is for me. The performers and the hosts used up hardly a third of the stage, so why not have it cut in half and make room for the violins, trumpets and what-nots? Nevertheless, I am satisfied with the look of the stage.

I especially liked the changing colors, which made the stage look anew with each song. The sun in the back was a nice little thingy that often stole my attention away from the performers, signifying that I have seen the contest way too many times. It moved during ballads, but, to my dismay, it stood silently (for the lack of a better word) during the faster numbers. I would have loved seeing it keeping up with the fast rhythm of All Out of Luck, but I suspect the weight of the sun could not handle the movements. Well, DUH!

The supposed-to-be planets were a bit off course, weren't they? It would have been nice if Aiste could touch the Earth and rest on it, while singing a high note. And Doris could have put her cloak around Saturn. Now, that would have grabbed some mad votes! As I write this, I tell myself: where in the hell is all this crap coming from? I should use the whatever technique I am using now when I write essays! 

Off to the performers, at last:

Lithuania: Poh' little, waistless girl. Could not find anything better to wear, huh? Oh, don't be sad, little girl. When you become famous, you will be able to "ford" many "spensiv" things. She sounded rather disappointing compared to the video preview. And she looked very different. She certainly did not look anything like the small country girl I saw in the clip. She looked hot, nonetheless. Aiste could have used a few backing vocals to help her scream and shout. The overall performance was average-y, while the voting result was disappointing as Strazdas was one of my top 10 favorites. Lithuania cleared its name of being the worst country in ESC ever, that's for sure. Go Lithuania, go!

Belgium: The first thing I noticed was how well and appropriately dressed Vanessa and her backing vocals were. They might have looked a little too serious, but too me they were the best-dressed act of the evening. The hand dance seemed a bit dull, but, again, it was appropriate. Like the Wind was a very good title for the song, as the melody took on a role of wind a few times, even though Vanessa's voice seemed more like a barely-noticeable breeze at times. I had hoped Belgium would do better than they did, but I guess 12 out of 23 isn't all that bad. They will need a storm next time to fight off the curse of the second-place draw.

Spain: What else to say, but that the dress was awful! I mean, there wasn't a trace of fashion in it. It was obviously a mechanism to steal votes, but it did not work. As a matter of fact, many will agree that it resulted in a backlash from everyone, except from Croatia, who probably did not realize that the dress was a gay flag (or they have no fashion radars in their country). Spain failed to realize that most gay people are fashion experts and that they would not fall for this cheap trick. However, if she had stripped down or sang in 20 languages, she might have ended up third or fourth. Seriously, the song is quite nice, but it was not good enough to not be overcome by Croatia's Marija Magdalena. She looked very different on the Big Night and moved rather strangely. It looked as if she just got out of a bed.

Croatia: The cloak don't work every time! What a cheap try (hello Spain!) to lure voters with another strip, which this time resulted in nothing but a disappointing "shit, that's all?" from me. If she had been completely covered in a cloak, then it would have more acceptable for me. But, enough about the clothing. I was not too impressed with this version of the song. It sounded so much better at Dora 1999, where it was performed with an orchestra. This version just irritated the hell out of me with those drumming sounds. It was so repetitive! However, the song was obviously one of the best of the evening, and it deserved its 118 points and fourth place. But, I have to say a few words (well, more than a few, so bare with me) about the synthesized voices. I DO think that those were artificially fabricated voices. If they were not they would have had the men singing at Dora, just like some other performers used four or five backing vocals. But I saw no purpose why that girl had to be there. I could not hear her singing at all. But, anyways, it would be a damn shame if Croatia is to be disqualified next year, as it would not be the same contest without the powerful female voices of Croatia. But, they might send another ENI-like song next year and then I will change my opinion about this.

United Kingdom: Was there any melody to the song? And why were there five girls on stage? Maybe they were there to "support" the lead singer? Or to divert attention away from her yawning? Or to just simply act cute? In any case, the songs was very empty without its original melody and beat. Didn't it seem like the girls were swallowing the last syllables? If I hadn't known the lyrics of the song, it would have been really hard to decipher what the heck they were singing. Not much more to say about this crap, so let's move on.

Slovenia: Another fashion disaster! What is wrong with the performers? Are they trying to look as outstanding as possible to win votes? They ought to think about that more, 'cuz, honey, it ain't working. I did not like the dress at all and she laughed throughout the song, which made me wonder if she really knew what she was singing about. After all, the song was a sad one and there was no reason to be laughing. She did though, have the best voice of the night. The song really expressed her vocal abilities. But, next time remember to wear something less yellow, please! Bit disapointed about the placing and the fact that Slovenia is really going down on the relegation scale. With Slovenia and Bosnia out next year and Croatia on the verge of the decision, we will only have one ex-Yugoslav republic in the Contest, Macedonia. How sad!

Turkey: It would be nice if they had written a song with a chorus that at least the singer could sing without any problems, you know! That "al beni, sar beni..." tongue-twisting part of the song seemed fine at the Turkish final, but at the Contest she seemed like she was out of breath. And those pathetic little people called backing singers were just plain awful. I was under the impression that backing vocals were there to help the lead vocal with the song and to make the song sound better. But, maybe "backing vocal" means something totally different in Turkish. Oh, and the sound! It was easily the worst sound of the night. Together with the backing vocals, it completely ruined this highly-rated fun song. The music was too silent, making the voices sound excruciatingly loud. They looked as if they had fun, though and they engaged the audience, at least the indoor one. A disappointing result, however.

Norway: In three words: stand up straight! Get some dance lessons, boy. Running around and throwing your (btw, ugly) face into the camera is not cute anymore. Rock stars have long become rock legends. And that awful black shirt and the fake Bulls jockey have got to go. Doesn't he have anything else to wear? But, I liked the beat of the song. It would have been much better if a girl with a charisma was singing it. Stig just did not have that chemistry. It ended up far higher than it should have, leaving many better songs behind. I hope Norwegians stick with an "Altid sommer" type of a song from now on.

Denmark: Next time bring us a couple that sings a love sings and actually acts like they're loving each other. Little more chemistry would have done them some good. But, hey, they, undeservingly so, achieved a very high position for a song that was rather mediocre from start to finish. Michael is a cute lad, but I cannot get over how weird his eyes look. Speaking of eyes, did you all notice that butterfly thingy Trine did with her eyelashes when she was singing the introductory note. That was so annoying! She sang well, though she missed a couple of notes and Michael was not anything special himself. And did Trine eat all the food Israeli provided for the performers or what? She must have gained a whole bunch of pounds since the Dannish final. Nothing wrong with overweight girls, tough. I just noticed that she looked differenty. But, anyways, Denmark had a lot of friends this year. I'll leave it at that and you think whatever you want :-)

France: I was very pleasantly surprised by Nayah and her performance. But, most importantly, the voice sounded much better. No out-of-this-world screeching and choreography. I didn't get what she was trying to say with those African necklesses, though. Are the French losing their identity, so they have to reach for other people's? Back to her performance. I liked the new version of the song with the genuine French sound to it. It's been a long time since we heard a traditional French sound on ESC. And French language always sounds mesmarizing, as it did this time. As Belgium opted for English, the unlikely Bosnia chose French. Good choice. France disappointed us with the final result, though. I expected a bit more. Nonetheless, we'll be seeing the French try out next year again and the year after that and the year after that and...

Netherlands: Marlayne looked as awesome as she did at the Dutch final. But, the act was the same. She talks to the guitarist, hand-dances around him for a few moments and than she goes off to do her thang. Hmm, not too imaginative. Also she sounded a little worse than at the final. Does "live performance" ring a bell? She disappointed a lot of people with the final result, Personally, I was happy, as I did not rate the song very highly anyway. It was around place 15 on my chart. Netherlands might be into the ancient country rock, but Europe isn't. I am certainly, not. Shit, if I wanted to hear song like this, I would listen to Shania Twain, the country goddess.

Poland: Boring! Yawn! He looked like he did not get enough sleep. He's hair was all messed up and his face was all swollen. These Eastern countries really have to realize once and for all that one-man ballads do not do good in Eurovision. Especially, if it is a ballad based on traditional Polish sounds. He sang the song OK, in my opinion. Yeah, I could hear that he had lost his voice few days before the Big Night, but it all came out good at the end. Except the result, which they deserved. No more manly ballads, for God's sake. I am going to go straight if I see another middle-aged (woops) man singing a ballad. All in all, very unexciting. If it weren't for the pause button on my VCR, I would have gone to the bathroom during this song (and only during this song).

L'chaim, the commercial break thingy: Accents, accents, accents everywhere. I did not understand half of the stuff Dafna and Sigal were singing. But, the song was pretty catchy. I am sure this was a hit some years ago, but this was my first time hearing this song. "To life, to life, l'chaim." As Terry Wogan said: "I still haven't got a drink."

And the better half of the Contest was about to start! 

Iceland: Viva la Iceland and those two hotties dancing behind Selma. I think Iceland put on a great show, even though they did not use those two fat ladies from the video. :) Guess they like athletic manly men better than two old bags! :) I believe Iceland could have easily won the Contest and they almost had won it. It would have been so great to see a country that hasn't won before win this Contest. It would be the first time after 1989, when the crooked ex-Yugoslavia swept Europe with Rock Me by surprise. Coming back to Iceland, I think Selma looked gorgeous, nothing like the video in which that dreadful black wig made her look like a bad Caucasian copy of the Icelandic goddess Bjork. 

Cyprus: What a shame! No-one expected this to happen. I never nightmared that Cyprus would end up so low with a song this great. Actually I had a dream well before the Contest where Israel and Cyprus were fighting for the first place, much like Sweden and Iceland did in reality. I cannot fathom the reason why Cyprus did so badly. Maybe it was the language? the performance? the backing vocals? Marlain's voice? the complexity of the song? All of these and none of these make sense. First of all, the language should not matter really. We have had restriced-language rule for almost the entire longevity of the Contest. We have had many, many non-English songs win the Contest over the past 40+ years. We've had Greek-language songs do very well these past few years. One may add that we did not employ televoting until two years ago. But, still, even with televoting, we've had two Croatian songs (98, 99), a Turkish song (97), a Greek song (97), an Italian song (97), two Hebrew songs (98, 99), and a Dutch song (98) end up among the top 5 since 1997! I do not think there is basis for the language argument. The performance and the voices of the performers? Well, remember Dana last year and her out-of-tune singing througout the song? It did not stop her from winning. And Marlain did not give that bad a performance on the Big Night. In fact, I think that she performed very well and that they had a great stage presence overall. I really liked how they danced around. And then there is the complexity of the song. I think that this argument has a really strong base. I, myself, found the song to be rather strange, as it put two different styles of music into one, making a symbiosis out of them. I believe that the televoters heard the first part of the song and decided that it is not something they'd vote for. They did not get goosebumps listening to the song and I believe that that's the only explanation that is credible, at least to me. All others, seem inconclusive. Nevertheless, I compliment the Cypriot delegation on a very good performance, a great song and a great sport-like behavior.

Sweden: Cyprus No. 2, but upside down. Who'd it thought the Swedes would do it again with an ABBA song 25 years after that very band swept Europe and the World with Waterloo. Charlotte, the one-sillicon lady did a superb job. She had one of the best voices of the night. It was absolutely flawless. She sang it very professionally and it helped her to win the Contest. She looked good also, though a bit (and say whatever you want about the following comment, but it is true, you have to admit it) like a porn actress. Remember Cicciolina? Well, Charlotte reminds me of her a little bit, thought the latter is MUCH better looking than the former. i also was very amused by the backing singers. In the end, I would have to say that Sweden, kind of, sort of, like, deserved the first place, though I would have preferred to have seen the Contest be in Reykjavik 2000. BTW, do you all realize that it was the Bosnian vote that decided the final outcome. And, also, Bosnian used a jury instead of televoting, so...

Portugal: Polish guy gone long hair. Yeah, Rui had stage presence and was all happy and blah, blah, blah. But did we really have to sit through those three minutes while this rather pathetic song was played? I mean, I did not feel anything when I listened to the song. That's pretty much all I have to say about this one. Next, please! Oh, yes, why did Terry Wogan translated Como Tudo Comecou as Take My Hand? I was under the impression that it translated as How It All Began.

Ireland: I am beginning to doubt Irish have any dance songs at all! What happened to B*witched, The Corrs, The Cranberries? The Corrs would most certainly bring a victory to Ireland once again, but this time it would be a very much deserved victory, as long as they send another We Are So Young. But, we all know Irish aren't trying to win another Contest for a long time, at least not until they recharge their budget batteries. '92, '93, '94, and '96 drained probably half of the national budget. As for the very strangely-named Mullans, I think they did Ireland proud with their performance. I enjoyed it, though I did not fancy the song itself. So what if the girls were fat? Does has no impact on me, whatsoever! I only hear the song and occasionally see the faces. I do not like deep female voices, though, so that was one minus toward Ireland on my list. And, boy, did Lithuania scare the shit out of us. Phew! That was some scary shit. First douze goes to Ireland and all of our jaws dropped to the floor. Even Terry was laughing his ass off. I think there is truth about the inverted Lithuania voting, because giving 12 to Estonia, their neghbors, would make sense, at least this year if not ever. Well, that's it for Ireland.

Austria: Was this song called Repetition or what? Oh, my God, by the time one minute passed, I was getting sick of the "...the reflection in your eyes..." Damn, that was some annoying crap. I liked the beat and Bobbie's Singing. It sounds very American and ironically enough it was either written or composed by an American (well, you'll have to forgive me, I do not pay much attention to the names.) The performance looked like an old rock group's gig in some cheap club. Bobbie looked good, and again I really liked how she sang the song. She did it differently this time around.

Israel: Funny! Very funny! I was laughing my ass off looking at four grown men singing a song that would fit only a kid group, perhaps the Teens of Croatia. It was ridiculous to watch them. They tried doing a dance routine, but all I saw were their shoulders moving off-rhythm. "This is a real Euro song," as Wogan put it. And no wonder ESC is not mainstream in Europe. Those who hear songs like this and see performances like this are immediately going to stray away from this kind of contests. The fifth place was a major overstatement. I could not believe my eyes. The worst part of the song is when that one black guy was singing "everybody's moving..." while trying to do some Michael Jackson movements. I mean, come the fuck on! Ain't no-one want to see your old ass make a fool out of yourself. Or, perhaps they do? Very, very overrated!

Malta: Israel No. 2. "Malta came very close last year, but this will disgrace them in 1999." Took the words out of my mouth, Terry! The song could have been better if it weren't for the excruciatingly annoying repetition of "...believe in..." and "" Oh, my goodness. I am watching the song now and I honestly cannot stand it! It was in my top 10 all along, but I have heard this annoying crap too many times! And, was that a dance they were doing? Or were they scratching themselves? In any case, it was cheesy. Malta, try sending a decent up-beat song next time, if you're not going to send a respectable ballad, OK?

Germany: Hey, wasn't that postcard very appropriate? The Tower of Babel. Ha ha, I could not believe it. For those of you who do not know this Bible story (and I am wondering how in the hell I know it), here it is: humans could not agree on how the Tower is supposed to look like and God made them all speak different languages so they could not understand each other and argue (but, to me, when someone doesn't understand what I'm talking about, it is the best way to argue). That's how we got all these different languages in the world. Well, it suited Reise very much. On to the song and the performers: it would have been nice if they changed the clothes, you know. It's not like they wore something exceptionally good that they had to wear it again. The performance was somewhat off and disappointing, as some of the million (!) singers they had on stage sang out of tune. I think that the song deserved the third position, though MANY of you would not agree. But, guess what, there is a thing called Freedom of Speech, you know.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Well, well, well. They gave us a superb performance. We came 7th and we broke the tradition of being at the bottom. Good job Dino and Beatrice! We knew you guys could do it! As for those who think that Bosnia only got sympathy and the so-called "refugee" votes, think again. We had far more refugees in Europe during 1993-1997. The are only a couple of hundred thousand of Bosnians left in Europe and they are scattered all over, so they can't make a big impact, as might Turkish people in Germany. And what is this sympathy thing? Y'all have almost forgotten what had happened to Bosnia in the last few years and could not care less. The televoters felt the same. If they wanted to award sympathy points, they would have done so before. Putnici was a good and, most importantly, a different song. Surely, it was a big plus that we performed second-to-last. The already-easy-to-remember chorus was just helped by this fact. The song definitely stood out by being a catchy, rhythmic French number with African and Carribean influences. I don't think Europe had heard anything like it. I certainly haven't, as it is not usually the type of music Dino makes and plays.

Estonia: After being swept by the Bosnian performance, I could have cared less about the last song of the millenium. But, it would be unfair to exclude them here. Estonia reminded me of Lithuania, but only song-wise. It sounded very much like Nocturne and the performers reminded me of those who performed Nocturne (what was their name again?). They even had a violinist who looked just like the violonist from Norway in 1995. Well, Diamond of Night is a very nice song, but as I have heard it trillion times before, it is really hard to talk about it, as I got sick of it. But, I will say, they deserved the 6th place.

Interval act: I think that this was the best interval act we have had ever. Even the Riverdance cannot compare with it. I play the tape almost every day and the only part of it that I watch is the interval act. The music sounded awesome. They should have entered a song with this melody into the Israeli preselection. I also liked the outside venue. And who needs a live interval act. Hearing a non-live song is much better than the live one. The song Free was the perfect choice Dana made. Can y'all hear the lyrics? They are so good! Well, of course, it's Stevie Wonder's song, but still, it really suited Dana and the message she tried to get across with it. "Free like a river, floating free..." Well, I really enjoyed this part of the Contest. That's it, I believe.

Well, I am glad I finished this loooong review at last. It took me a lot of patience and almost a week to do it. So, please enjoy it and comment on it freely.