The unconscious madness of Eurovision heads into its fourth era – “relative normality” – at a time when its place in the schedules appears even more tenuous than normal. At least during the third era – “beyond parody”, aka “the early 2000s”, aka “what do you mean, irony?” – there was a sense that eventually everything would calm down. Like the child left alone with a six-pack of Dr Pepper, “eventually” took a long time. Maybe too long. We shall see.
Waiting too long for something to come from investing time, money and, well just money into the whole affair was Finland, one of the nations which joined the family back in the black-and-white days. The booze-and-mobile country famous for giving those pesky Russians what for had to wait until the peak/nadir/plateau/trough of the “novelty years” to win, appropriately enough with a self-parody rock song which correctly balanced “camp” with “FLAMING” in a year when such a feat seemed lost to the ages.
Anyway, Finland began in the early 1960s, an era of Eurovision which underlined how out of touch it was with the music “scene” even then. If you’ve ever been hungover/coming down/humping on Saturday mornings with BBC Two in the background, you’ll probably recognise the orchestral background to Finland’s debut from the RKO “classics”.
“Playboy” was perhaps their first real shot at understanding how Eurovision actually “worked”, by proudly sounding so out of step with the music at the time it’s little wonder every passing American felt it their duty to flood radio stations with their own artists.
Finland eventually swigged every available drop of booze and vowed to remain as detached from reality as dear old Auntie Margaret for as long as possible. And by my measure, this trip on the HMS Batshit lasted from before my parents met to just after puberty smacked me around the particulars, so that’s pretty good going. Dear old Finland launched into the spirit(s) with “Tom Tom Tom”, “Pump Pump” and many moons later “Yama Yama” without a care in the world. They were trolling Europe well before it became fashionable – wouldn’t you say, Eastern Europe – and always with an undercurrent of sincerity, like the office bitch, if you will.
(In)Famously, the unhinged behaviour of Finland introduced the contest to moments of remarkable moments in television history, not just music. I doubt we’ll ever get over the initial impact of hearing a soft-punk-ish entry about nuclear war, complete with punches to the head at every chorus, never mind their joyful tune about the Rapture taking away all life on earth except for the singer (or at least that’s what I took from the lyric “Though a hundred lightning strikes at the earth and all of life explodes, nobody can take love from me.”)
As a child of the 90s, my fondest memories are watching Finland attempt to sober up. This was ultimately achieved when Eastern Europe gatecrashed the party, meaning the old hands had to sit out due to a low average score/just not being good enough/being sick over Norway, that sort of thing. In reality that meant coming down from the too good to be really bad to the crushing disappointment of being in Birmingham. I mean, the crushing disappointment of watching as their most grounded and sensible song in decades crashed and burned without mercy.
(I blame the man playing the plant pot)
The fallow years of the entire contest, not just Finland’s journey through it, was topped by them winning the thing (sorry, Portugal, not going to happen). They made a good attempt at avoiding being forever associated with madcap lunacy with something soft, and something disco, both of which were welcomed by the Eurovision family with a reaction approaching that of a husband greeting the wife’s new haircut with too heavy a pause.
So anyway, Lordi happened, which the rest of Europe thought was good enough to copycat to a degree (Czech Republic, Albania, Macedonia, the usuals). When Finland tried to copy themselves, always a good card to play at Eurovision, it was with a better song (and therefore had no chance).
Most recently, we’ve seen Finland settling down to such normality (lad with guitar singing about saving the world, woman without guitar singing in Swedish and subsequently getting death threats from supporters of True Finns) that it was with refreshing to tune in this year to watch both Azerbaijan and feminism being shot with the one bullet of “Marry Me”. As a reprise of everything they once stood for, “Marry Me” was a plunge into the sauna – dance routine, dodgy lyrics (“I’m your slave and you’re my master!”) and a gay kiss, it’s as though the 2000s had never happened…..