Most of the time, I could justify the purchase of an album - I was studying the language, it was a way to practice, to listen, to sing along to easy melodies, until turns of phrase became comfortable to me - not that they were usually phrases I needed to know. But still, it was language practice. I have pop albums in Italian, French, Japanese, Aboriginal Australian. No, I haven't studied all of those.
So when I first met Eurovision, I took to its multi-national language and culture fusion naturally. Sure, most of the songs are in English or French. But not all. Bosnia scored high marks with the lament Lejla this year in Bosnian. Alvedansen, by Norway in Norwegian, was an ethereal piece of elegance, but better suited to a movie soundtrack than the contest. Croatia had a fidgety Croatian entry. Bloody Mary was Spain's exceedingly bored entry by Las Ketchup. Romania's compelling dance beat Tornero (with an irritating video) has verses in English and an Italian refrain.
Other countries offered polylingual songs: Moldova offered salsa number, Loca, in completely mixed Spanish and French; it was catchier than it ought to have been. Turkey's Superstar was mostly in Turkish, with one verse in English. Belgium's entry, Je t'adore, was all in English except for the title line. It was my second favorite song of the contest, but lost out in the semi-finals to widespread surprise.
But Eurovision isn't just about language, translation, and regional favoritism in voting. It's about the stage performances as well. This year featured way too many people dressed in white, and way too many gratuitous backup dancers who added absolutely nothing to the performance. (Unfortunately, this applied to my favorite entry in the field, Denmark's Twist of Love. The video was much better.) But it also featured a ballerina emerging out of a white piano, bleeding rose petals everywhere, as part of Russia's strong entry, Never Let You Go. Loca had three costume changes in a three minute song. Germany's offering was a country song, No No Never, sung by an Australian; getting into the spirit of the cactus-themed performance, Germany's points announcer was dressed up as a cowboy, sitting on a horse, when he reported the country's votes. The UK's schoolgirls perched on school desks. Sweden's strong Invincible started off with a cape as big as the stage. Iceland's Congratulations was a completely over-the-top piece incorporating candy cane telephones and a slide shaped like a high heel shoe.
But none of that was a patch on Finland's entry, Hard Rock Hallelujah, an unexpected '80s-style heavy metal entry, the band members all dressed in monstrous latex suits, and accompanied by fireworks. Simply being memorable is a good way to get votes - surely that's why Lithuania's We are the Winners did as well as it did. Finland's entry was not only memorable and a showy stage performance, but that rare exotic in pop-centered Eurovision, heavy metal. It swept the field.
You can still watch the videos for all of the entries here.
The second Saturday in a row found me listening to songs sung in another language - only this time, it was live! For the first time, Anime North imported a j-rock band as one of its guests of honor. Kotoko, the name of the lead singer, recorded theme songs for series including Please, Teacher, the only one I'd heard of, Tweeny Witches, Kannazuki no Miko, and Starship Operators. Anime North was the first stop on her first "world tour", starting in Toronto, going to A-kon in Texas, and then back to Japan for a more extensive tour there.
And Kotoko gave a good concert. It was fun, but her music wasn't too fluffy. (Not that I understood the lyrics...) On the energetic numbers, her two backup dancers came out, guiding the crowd like cheerleaders to participate. There was darkness in the performance too - literally in the case of Re-sublimity, performed with red lights alone illumating the initially black-cloak-clad singer. Chi ni Kaeru was haunting. (We had programs and beginning-of-performance song samples to make sure we knew what songs were being performed.)
Although a fairly experienced performer at this point, she giggled charmingly when she spoke, nervous about her English. Her hair was an unearthly silver-grey, gleaming in the light. The bass player was clearly having a great time playing on stage; the guitarists seemed more serious. The crowd loved it all.