Everyone knows that late 2000s Eurovision was the best Eurovision. It’s undeniable. The 2006 win by Finland’s demon-metal band Lordi scrambled everyone’s expectations of what a Eurovision performance should be, and for the next few years, there was all sorts of new weirdness everywhere you looked as entrants tried to figure out how to deal with the new expectations of what a winning Eurovision entry looked like.
Here’s some of the best examples of a few country’s weirdly wonderful attempts to snatch the Eurovision crown.
For example, in 2008, France’s Sébastien Tellier rode onstage in a golf cart, inhaled helium from an inflatable beach ball, and sang like a chipmunk alongside his bearded-lady back-up singers — so very Sébastien Tellier.
In 2007, Sweden sang a glam-rock song about having an anxiety disorder called “Worrying Kind.” For a song about mental-illness and depression, it’s surprisingly cheery and upbeat.
Switzerland totally missed the point by sending a terrible Euro-pop tune about vampires (complete with Blade–Matrix goth-punk vampire dancers). Monsters are in, right? That’s what people liked about Lordi, right? No. Wrong.
In 2007, a lot of people were rooting for Ukraine’s entry, the admittedly completely awesome Verka Serduchka with the admittedly completely awesome “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” — it’s got blinged-out, Soviet-style costumes, an ass-slapping drag queen with a silver star on her head, and some head-boppin’ polka-pop. “Lasha Tumbai” is, by the way, a nonsense phrase that Serduchka solemnly assures us was not intended, in any way, to sound like “Russia Goodbye.”
I mean why would a Ukrainian drag performer sing a song with “Russia goodbye” as its hook? That’s crazy. You’re crazy for thinking that.
Serduchka finished second — and I think rightfully so, even though at first listen the winner, Serbian singer Marija Šerifović‘s “Molitva“, seems way closer to standard-issue Eurovision than “Dancing Lasha Tumbai.”
I mean it’s just another Balkan ballad, right?
But okay, for starters, if you don’t love Šerifović’s rumpled slept-in-her-suit unapologetically butch style, you’re mad and you’re wrong – and good lord her voice is incredible.
Maybe the best way to understand the greatness of “Molitva” is by comparing it to Russia’s 2003 entry, the year when Russia tried to win by sending their biggest international pop stars at the time, the male-gazey faux-lesbian outfit t.A.T.u.
Although t.A.T.u’s 200 KM/h in the Wrong Lane is, in certain ways, an overlooked pop masterpiece on par with Britney’s 2007 album Blackout, this performance shows everything that’s wrong with t.A.T.u. and everything that’s right with Šerifović.
t.A.T.u’s Julia Volkova and Lena Katina are straight women with… not the best voices… conforming to heteronormative gender presentation while using purported queerness as a marketing device and singing songs about nothing.
On the other hand, Marija Šerifović is an actual queer woman (though she didn’t officially come out until six years after her Eurovision win) — representing a country that’s almost as ‘phobic as Putin’s Russia — with an actual voice singing a song about how she’ll love who she loves no matter what anyone says about her.
And that’s maybe the thing about the camp extravaganza that is Eurovision. Despite the insane omni-ridiculousness, through all of the artifice, sometimes someone can stop the show by being suddenly, unexpectedly, uncontrollably real.
(This story was originally published on May 21, 2015)