At Eurovision, Sweden’s Loreen bests the Buranovskiye Babushki

May 26, 2012

The Udmurts fell short.

The singing grannies who hail from the Udmurt region of central Russia have captured plenty of hearts but couldn’t quite win the Eurovision Song Contest, held Saturday evening in Baku, Azerbaijan.

They came in a distant second to Sweden’s Loreen and her song “Euphoria.” It may have been Sweden’s biggest victory over Russia since 1700 at the battle of Narva — which probably didn’t feature the special effects, zooming cameras and relentless passion that define Eurovision.

This is an annual evening devoted to pop music, in all its excess. The Jedward twins from Ireland wore knight-in-shining-armor-meets-Buck-Rogers outfits. Epaulettes (of the John Paul Jones variety) popped up more than once. The Turks had a nautical theme, with vaguely Japanese-looking waves on the screen behind them, an occasional anchor popping up, and male dancers in capes who formed a boat at one point. (“Hope this lot go to Somalia with their ship,” read one tweet.)

Three shirtless acrobats back-flipped in to start the French selection. Then shirted Norwegians did the same thing. Singers crooned, wailed, shrieked. “You make me want your aphrodisiac,” sang Eleftheria Eleftheriou of Greece.

Some of the lyrics were asking for trouble. “I don’t know what I’m doing tonight” (Norway). “I’m standin’ still, as you’re walkin’ out” (Germany). “When the music dies . . .” (Azerbaijan). One viewer immediately tweeted: “I’m confused. Is there supposed to be this much irony in Eurovision?”

A romantic breeze wafted across the Crystal Hall stage all evening, which made the theatrical snowfall that brought Loreen’s song to an end all the more fetching — and perhaps vote-grabbing. Every country in Europe has an equal number of votes to disperse, and most countries shamelessly supported their neighbors, but enough also threw a batch Loreen’s way to put her over the top. The results weren’t rigorously fair — but they were a lot more open and representative than other elections in Azerbaijan, with its authoritarian government.

The six Russian grannies — the Buranovskiye Babushki — appeared in traditional costumes, went through a routine of baking while singing, and regaled the continent in a combination of Udmurt and English. They’re cute and wrinkly and something of a novelty act. No matter — on the Russian TV broadcast, they were already appearing during commercial breaks doing an ad for Sprite.

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