The countdown has started to the world’s kitschiest songfest, the Eurovision
Song Contest. Finland has participated in 40 Eurovision songfests, with
a record eight last positions. Some countries are notorious for voting
low against countries who have slighted them, but when was the last
time Finland insulted anyone? These are well-deserved bona fide last
positions. (To get an idea of the competition you may be interested in this gem – a Finnish music video from the 1980s).

But
things are different this year. The Finns have nothing to lose, and have broken
with tradition in how to select the Finnish entry. Usually, YLE (the Finnish
national broadcaster and Eurovision delegate) appoints a panel of experts who
choose the entry from groups nominated by Finnish record labels. This year, YLE
invited the public to vote by SMS and phone in from the groups nominated by
Finnish record labels. And the result? Well, it’s not
ABBA.

The
Finns voted for Lordi, a heavy metal band from north of the
Arctic
Circle – they got a whopping 42% of the popular vote. The Eurovision website notes with
understatement that “hard rock is a genre seldom associated with
Eurovision”.

“What we want to bring out from
Finland
at Eurovision is the winter darkness of kaamos, the cold, reindeer meat and
blood pancakes”, says the band. Lordi perform in
elaborate monster costumes, masks, make-up and long black fingernails – they
look like a cross between orks, vikings, Freddie Kruger and
Kiss.

Last
week, the US International Herald Tribunereported the story on the front page: “Monster Band has Finns fretting over face it shows”.
The article suggested that the Finnish public’s choice reflected the Finns’ low
self esteem. The Finnish MEP Alexander Stubbs is quoted as saying that Lordi
could embarass Finland
when it takes the EU presidency in July 2006.

The
IHT
story was then reported in the national daily Helsingin Sanomat. It is hard to tell whether the
painfully
self-conscious Finns are fretting about Lordi being selected or fretting about
the IHT
reporting that they are fretting about Lordi being
selected.

What
will Terry Wogan make of Lordi?
Finland
may still come last. But it will go out with a bang.

Peter Fray

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