Like a reluctantly remembered nightmare, last week’s Eurovision Song Contest already seems very distant. But, in the manner of the Sand people in Star Wars, the nations of Eurovision will no doubt soon be back, and in greater numbers. Disappointingly, with scarcely an alien tongue displayed apart from Montenegrin, the chosen language was poor English. Since it is hard (for those not native speakers) to make out the sense of songs in English, the logic seemed to be to write them nonsensically from the outset.
Sweden’s winning song had a thing about natural history, but showed a feeble grasp of fundamentals. ‘Go sing it like a hummingbird,’ it said, ‘The greatest anthem ever heard.’ Never mind that hummingbirds don’t sing (hence the name). Later, the singer boasted: ‘I make worms turn into butterflies.’ Nice work, even if he only meant caterpillars. There was one more item of entomology: ‘The crickets sing a song for you.’ Again the vibration is not vocal, but comes from the wings.
Unreality obscured the big strobe-pocked hall in Vienna. The Azerbaijan entry, ‘The Hour of the Wolf’, seemed concerned with lycanthropy. Yet the singer displayed a Boy Scout readiness: ‘Yellow glowing eyes, / I’m hypnotised. / I feel brave yet scared, / But I’ll stay prepared.’
Most songs were about the night (=sex) or about war. Either involved ‘the drum that rolls inside’ (five letters, begins with H, from Belgium). Russia, afflicted with synaesthesia, declared: ‘Your heart is like a beating drum/ Burning brighter than the sun.’ It was but a step from firearms to the arms of love: ‘Pull me baby, I’m your trigger,’ sang Israel’s man. The irremediable lyrics of Greece ran: ‘You killed me and I am done, / Without a gun. My light has fade, / I feel betrayed.’ Georgia beat the field by plunging into obscurity in the first two words: ‘Fighter oximated.’
It is not easy to give the palm for the worst couplet. Norway invoked the true spirit of McGonagall with: ‘Honey, I’m telling the truth/ I did something terrible in my early youth.’ Yet the most bathetic was Israel’s refrain ‘And before I leave/ Let me show you Tel Aviv.’