Tuesday 22 May, 2012

Eurovision in 2012 and Engelbert Humperdinck?

Eurovision contestants, on stage

Eurovision Contestants from Instanbul

Just last week, May 15th, was the anniversary of the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) which brought to an end the Thirty Years War (which, up to that point was probably known as the Twenty-Nine Years and Counting War). Anyway, the treaty did away with much of the power of the Holy Roman Empire and returned control to individual states and rulers. To many, Westphalia was the beginning of the modern arrangement of European states. Some have come and gone in the last 360 odd years, boundaries have certainly shifted, but the picture remains much the same. So, how well did this new picture hold up and how successful has the individual states system been? Well, there were a couple of blips in the last century that developed on a global scale and we do like the four-yearly soccer tournament as a way of determining national status. However, one event really shows how strong, yet navigable with the right credentials, those boundaries might be. Yes, this Saturday May 26th is Eurovision time again.

Regular readers (Paul, Greg….how are you both?) might think “he did this one last year” and, yes, he did. I wasn’t going to come back to Eurovision but recent controversies and political shenanigans have managed to re-ignite the desire for me to spend some time trawling YouTube for clips of musical awfulness related to this festival. For newcomers (and you really should read last year’s posting), the Eurovision Song contest is an annual jamboree where each country is required to submit one song. After semi-finals, (to remove the melodic and potentially talented), the remaining acts come together for a night of, frankly, bizarre entertainment which is supposed to show the best of each country within the loose confines of its musical tradition.

Baku at night

Baku

Last year I gave a rounded view on some of the more amusing contestants and insight into the voting system. Azerbaijan won, take a moment because we really don’t hear those words enough – outside of chess and freestyle wrestling. However, as a lover of backgammon then a word in favour of our Black Sea friends where backgammon is widely played and appreciated. Anyway, for the first time, Azerbaijan won and so Baku will be the place to be this week as they host this year’s event with a pan-European TV audience of about 100 million people.

I need to concentrate on the entry from our own shores this time. Traditionally the UK has a decent Eurovision record, winners on several occasions and a regular contestant. In recent years fortunes have not been so great, the slew of new states into the European mix, with a tendency to vote for their neighbors, has left the UK slightly outside of things. The UK also found acts so awful as to make three minutes seem like a very long time indeed. 2012 is a special year in the UK, the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and a well-planned sports’ day in east London will focus global attention on us. If we could add in some Eurovision glory then it’s the Triple Crown.

Engelbert Humperdinck giving the peace sign, wearing red

Engelbert Humperdinck

So who did we choose? Not an up and coming, not even one of Mr Cowell’s entourage, nope, we went old-school. Step forward….. Engelbert Humperdinck. It’s a brave choice, will it work? You have to hope so. For the record, I like the fact that his wiki page has (singer) written after his name – presumably so as not to confuse him with the many other Engelbert Humperdinck’s around.

The competition will be fierce, except for Austria; I assure you that Austria will be laughed off stage. If Austria win….I was about to suggest doing something absurd but Eurovision is not something that can have reason attached, so I am reconsidering my position on Austria (it is particularly horrible though). See for yourself, watch the clip and enhance the experience by clicking on the ‘lyrics in English’ link while watching– really worthwhile.

So, come on Engelbert, do it for Britain…..or at least be cast as the next Bond.

Flickr photo via Proteusbcn,  Teuchterlad, Rockinred1969

(Editor’s note: Add Paul on Google+Paul Mattesini’s posts appear Tuesdays on Following the Equator. If you have a travel question for our resident expert tour director, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future posts.)

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