Eurovision – it’s a song contest, right? Wrong. It’s a TV show, and as such, the visual impact of each performance is crucial. Every winner in recent memory has had a money shot – a moment in their three minutes that allows it to stand out among the 25 songs that are performed.
What have these tricks been? Sometimes they are not subtle, Lordi’s monster costumes in 2006 or the Russian ice skater in 2008. Sometimes alongside the clothes there’s a killer dance routine, as aided Latvia in 2002, Turkey in 2003, Ukraine in 2004 and Greece in 2005.
Audience participation helped Estonia in 2001 and the Olsen Brothers in 2000. The last-named triumphed for Denmark with the aid of camera shots showing the whole audience waving light sticks in time to the music. I knew at that moment the song had gone from pleasant also-ran to winner.
Sometimes, the staging can be questionable but undoubtedly memorable, as was the case with Serbia’s lesbian-tinged winning performance in 2007 and Dima Bilan’s histrionics for Russia in 2008.
The trouble is, there are plenty of gimmicks vying for your attention. Which ones are going to fly, and which ones fall flat on their face? Don’t just look for any visual trick; look for one that works with the song.
For an idea of what not to do, you should check out Bulgaria 2009 and Malta 2007. These come from the ‘kitchen sink’ school of staging. They threw everything but said utensil into the show. The former had men on stilts swinging people round, the latter had shirtless men waving towels in the air. The effect was more comic than cosmic.
For an example of how to do it, look no further than Alexander Rybak’s victory for Norway in 2009. It was a catchy number only added to by visual elements, such as the active role of the backing singers and the male acrobatic troupe that seemed to tell the story being sung.
Rybak also had a certain boyish charm. Sexiness is not to be underrated on the Eurovision stage. 2008 was full of beautiful females near the top of the scoreboard behind Dima Bilan with his huge female teen fanbase across the former nations of the USSR.
Model looks aren’t everything. Sertab Erener in 2003 and Marija Serifovic in 2008 both won without them. Memorable staging that seemed to encapsulate their song was enough for the pair of them, and it’s what you should watch out for on the Eurovision stage.
Kalomira’s arse-shaking dance routine in the instrumental part of ‘Secret Combination’ turned this ordinary ethnopop song into a vote grabber for Greece in 2008. She finished third. Aysel repeated the trick for Azerbaijan in 2009 with the same result.
General Eurovision Advice
DO strongly take into consideration how the performance looks on screen
DON’T assume that any gimmick is going to add to the appeal of the song