Sunday, May 21, 2006

Lordi, Lordi, Hurray the Finns!

A Finnish "horror-rock" band Lordi won the Eurovision song contest last night. Fantastic!

Lordi's masks, armour and jets of flame attracted widespread attention before the contest - but many thought they were too outlandish to win.

Too outlandish to win?? Restraint is no way to win the Eurovision song contest. After all, the Ukrainian winner of a few years back won on the back of furs and whips.

For my American readers - the unitiated to Eurovision - let me try to explain. The Eurovision song contest was set up many years ago to promote harmony through song. But I suspect it was really an attempt to showcase French and German pop, which really cannot compete outside (or even in) their home market with British, Irish and American pop. We anglophones are the royalty of rock, the princes of pop.

The contest has changed a lot over the years. Yes, it's still cheesy pop, scantily clad chanteuses, and inscrutable English lyrics sung with incomprehensible foreign accents. (Most songs are sung in English, except for French entrants who I think are required by law to sing in their native tongue). It's still a lot of prancing around to bizarrely choreographed routines, but now it's even more so. Since the fall of Communism, Eastern European countries - the Latvias, Moldovas and even Armenias are swarming the competition. And let me tell you, nobody does cheesy like the Eastern Europeans. Their cheesiness is just so thoroughly earnest. There's no smug self-awareness, no post-modernist irony, they just go out there and sing and dance their painfully cheesy best. It's awesome.

The only downside to the new entrants is that all countries participating get a vote. The vote used to be some kind of rigged set up by judges from each of the countries who would swap votes in regional blocks. Now the Eurovision Song Contest promoters have cottoned on to the premium-rate phone in - and citizens from all over Europe can vote in to support their favorite act - though not for their own country's entrant.

People still vote regionally, often overcoming past conflicts. For example, Croats will vote overwhelmingly for Serbs. Last night Lithuanians voted strongly for the Russian song "Never let you go." (See video complete with creepy imperialist lyrics and wife-beater t-shirt). So perhaps I underestimate either the Baltic sense of irony or the effect of pop on global harmony.

But with all these countries voting, the part of the show where the votes are tallied - which used to be the best bit has now become tedious and over-long. Although there are only 24 acts in the final, there must be about 40 countries eligible to vote.

And last night, those 40 countries overwhelmingly supported the Finland's entry, a Eurovision first. Check out their Eurovision entry and the winning song's official video (complete with cheerleaders.) I must say Lordi look especially incongruous holding their winners' bouquets and monster masks. Congrats to 'em.

T-tags: , Eurovision, Video, Pop, Rock,Finland


Aapo said...

Aye, straight to the point about the contest there.

This may sound a little bit banal, but myself coming from Finland I see this really as some sort of national catharsis. My people, often perversely sensitive about their image abroad, used to play conformist and provide Europeans a never-ending cavalcade of the same poofy ballads and pop clones as everybody else. Being unable to beat our European sisters in cheesiness, we always lost.

When Lordi was voted to be the Finnish candidate, the same people started to whine is this the face you want to show of your country, what Europeans will now think about us and bla bla bla. The same discouraging shite you all too often tend to hear in Finland.

And now, after making Eurovision history, I think we've got the answer. Yes, that was exactly the face we wanted to show to Europeans -and they liked it.

We may not be as pretty and blonde as Swedes but, oh Lordi, how I have always wanted my country to be represented by somebody who introduces himself as the unholy overlord of tremors, the bastard son of thousand megalomaniacs!

Vol Abroad said...

I wish Finns would just let it all hang out a little more - it's a fabulous culture! Other than the English, no one is as darly comic, as deeply ironic. How else Zetor, the tractor restaraunt? How else the Leningrad Cowboys? Or Lordi for that matter (though I admit, it wasn't exactly to my taste).

Except for the dark winters, it's a wonderful place. Beautiful countryside, open gleaming cities. Excellent food, nice people, good beer. I should go more often.


Perhaps I should confess at this point that I have Finnish ancestry and still have family there. :)

newscoma said...

I lived in Amsterdam for about a year in the mid-80's. I cannot tell you how jealous I am of your adventures there.
I think my time there molded me to who I am today (could be said that might be positive, maybe not.)
Anyway, thanks for your on-going posts to us here in Elvis country.

Vol-in-Law said...

"With Power and Might
Casting Down the Prophets of False..."

Lordi YEAHH!!! :)

As a big Meat Loaf and slightly smaller Iron Maiden fan, and a lover of Finland, naturally I think Lordi are great.

melusina said...

What struck me about Lordi at first glance was how reminiscent they are of the monsters in Nordic mythology.

As far as the costumes and music, well, it ain't nothing most of us Americans haven't seen before. As far as heavy metal goes, it is actually kind of tame.

I don't mind that they won, and I am glad the Finns finally got a chance to win. But I don't think they had the best song. Then again, that is never who wins the ESC, anyway.

But geez, what the hell is up with the entries the U.K. throws in every year? Pop culture rejects or what? I expect more from the U.K. contestants.

Aapo said...

Just for curiosity, I guess you spotted the hat Mr Lordi was wearing. He's from Rovaniemi, aka the official town of Santa Claus, and that hat -of the four winds, as it's called- is an ages-old symbol of the Sami people who had habitated Lapland looong before Finns made it to the very north. Though he's not a Sami himself, I really liked the move.

To anybody who fancies some good old Maiden/Sabbath sort of metal -and doesn't mind a small puff here- I can heartily recommend Machine Men. Young lads who already start to be rather known abroad and will soon make it big -and with whom I went to the same high school. :)

Vol Abroad said...

Melusina - the UK has been throwing it away since the start of the Iraq war when the UK had a halfway decent act and got a fabulous nil points as retribution from the rest of Europe.

And I agree Lordi were kind of the pop version of rock - very suitable for Eurovision.

Vol-in-Law said...

The "tameness" was one of the things I loved about them - I hate Grunge and I dislike Marilyn Manson & all that jazz. Lordi were really rather sweet and innocent, I felt...

Onward the Arockalypse! The Day of Rockoning is upon us!

melusina said...

Vol abroad, I see you married one of those guys too. ;)