Azerbaijan takes prize but Jedward still winners


Ireland’s energetic, happy twins missed out on Eurovision title but their future success seems assured

I DIDN’T even know that Azerbaijan was in Europe. Apparently it joined in 2008. And now Azerbaijan has stolen the Eurovision from us, even though Jedward were the best act, by a kilometre.

Is there to be no end to this country’s suffering?

Many of us haven’t watched the Eurovision in decades, and only tuned in with the other 60 million viewers because Jedward were performing. Strangely, nothing much seems to have changed in Eurovision during the intervening years. The toe curling embarrassment – was it really necessary for one presenter (Stefan) to carry another presenter (Anke) up the glittering stairs? The strange evening wear – Anke again.

The indistinguishable songs with rather striking titles – Taken By A Stranger, anybody? Only the voting system seems to have improved.

Last night, due to modern technology and old-style organisation, the way in which the countries of what used to be called the Eastern Bloc vote for each other, and the way the Scandinavian countries vote for each other, and the way that the United Kingdom gives us high points and we give them low points in a time-honoured system which has morphed into a custom, was even clearer than usual.

There is also a Eurovision tradition of having an Irishman doing the commentary on the BBC. Last night Graham Norton made what used to be known in variety circles as a strong debut, replacing Sir Terence Wogan. The power of make up, intoned Graham Norton, looking at the very beautiful blonde spokesperson for Croatia delivering her country’s votes, You should have seen what she looked like in rehearsal. He was also uniquely placed, culturally, to remark on Ireland giving the UK act, Blue, lower points than he thought they deserved.

Not that there was much in the difference, with the UK in 11th place and Ireland in eight. Thank goodness we hadn’t been the top favourites, or we would have ended up down near France.

Until last night you would have said that Jedward were pretty well irresistible: they look like toys, they seem to live in a happy place somewhere in the entertainment ether.

They seem also to live in that happy place all the time. They are never photographed, as far as I know, in a supermarket car park loading their 4x4 with groceries, or falling out of a nightclub. We don’t even know what they like to do in their spare time, if they have any.

In this way Jedward are very old-fashioned celebrities. Like the Hollywood stars from their great-grandparents’ time, who did not allow the glamour slip, Jeward never let their hair down in public.

Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal, of Ell/Nikki, the winning pair, on the other hand, are old-fashioned in every sense. Their act could be described as being in the traditional Eurovision style.

A love song (I think) sung by a youngish man, and by an older woman who was wearing a white peasant dress in the style of a pastoral maiden, even though she has two daughters and a husband back at home in north London. She looked as if she was becoming increasingly emotional during the performance.

There were a whole lot of backing singers who were dressed in white. It was inoffensive, and looked sincere.

Cabaret is cabaret, and television is television. Like the Rose of Tralee Running Scared(yes!) had been designed to please old people.

There is a lot of talk about how television types knock themselves out trying to please the yoof with wacky programmes, but really, in the big light entertainment set pieces like Eurovision, no one wants their expectations confounded, or to stray from the middle of the road where we are all so nice and cosy. Next year in Baku, then.

Jedward singing Lipstickwas zippy and funny and very, very young. Jedward are only 19 years old. Someone had told them not to hold back, and they gave a terrific performance – by far the best of the night.

Their female backing singers lent a particularly Irish touch by wearing stilettos with their hoodies.

The design, the choreography, the costumes and the song were pretty damn good. Jedward cheered up their fellow countrymen, at any rate. For this alone we are grateful.

The truth is, Jedward were too slick, too bright, too energetic and too professional to slip comfortably into the warm bath that is the Eurovision. In this tame context they looked almost violently good. It was a rare miscalculation by their manager, Louis Walsh. We should be proud.

The future for Jedward seems assured. Let’s hope that it is, and that they can maintain this level of commitment and energy as they enter adulthood. Let’s hope also that they make a fortune and retire happy and healthy, to drive twin golf carts in sunnier climes.

The future for Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal appears less certain to those of us who are not familiar with show business circles in Azerbaijan, or indeed with Azerbaijani show business circles in London.

In the strange world of show business it is unlikely that they will do as well out of winning the Eurovision as Jedward are going to do out of losing it.