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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 May 2007, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Songcraft triumphs at Eurovision
By Mark Savage
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Helsinki

Eurovision winner Marija Serifovic (centre)
Eurovision winner Marija Serifovic (centre) won with ballad Molitva

Low-key balladeer Marija Serifovic has emerged as this year's victor at the world's biggest music jamboree, the Eurovision Song Contest.

The unassuming, bespectacled singer triumphed after a close-fought battle with flamboyant Ukrainian drag act Verka Serduchka.

The two were neck-and-neck during early stages of the voting, but Serifovic slowly pulled away to claim her crown.

At the other end of the scale, Scooch racked up a measly 19 points for the UK. Twelve of those came, somewhat unexpectedly, from Malta.


Serbia's torch song, Molitva, was a heartfelt plea to an estranged lover with religious overtones.

Marija Serifovic
Serifovic said she would celebrate her victory with 'litres' of white wine.

"I can't lie to God as I kneel down and pray. You're the love of my life," cried Serifovic as five bouffant backing singers touched her back in support.

At times, their routine resembled liturgical dancing. At others, it seemed to be a slow-motion lesbian porn film.

Either way, it was a far cry from the "horror rock" style of last year's winners, Lordi.

The Finnish band kicked off Saturday's show at the Hartwall Arena, just outside Helsinki's city centre.

Kitted out in gruesome latex masks, they put on a dazzling, theatrical show that got the home crowd on their feet - flags proudly raised above their heads.

The performance was so dynamic it was in danger of overshadowing this year's crop of contestants.

The situation wasn't helped by Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose leaden ballad Rijeka Bez Imena opened the competitive section.

But singer Maria Sestic did provide the first key-change of the evening.


Things didn't really shift into gear until Belarus came out, using the power of static electricity to stick their dancers to a pair of elevator doors.

The Ark
The Ark were amongst the most popular acts at the Hartwall Arena.

The song, Work Your Magic - a Bond theme in waiting - was the first of several tracks which, unusually for the Eurovision, wouldn't sound out of place in the UK charts.

Unsurprisingly, Finland's entry got the audience standing again, although singer Hanna Pakarinen looked a little bit cross.

Hungary's Magdi Ruzsa came out in bare feet to perform Unsubstantial Blues - a ballad that bore more than a passing resemblance to Hopelessly Devoted To You from the popular musical Grease.

Meanwhile, the popular European country, Greece, gave us 26-year-old, London-born heartthrob Sarbel, who put on a performance reminiscent of a young Ricky Martin.

But Sweden's The Ark were the next act to really energise the crowd.

Their glam-rock stomper, The Worrying Kind, benefited from a twirling psychedelic backdrop and a lascivious performance from bisexual lead singer, Ola Solo.

The band, hugely popular in their home country, also turned Eurovision tradition on its head by featuring male, not female, nudity.

To many, they were the most credible act of the night - but Ukraine's Verka Serduchka drew the wildest reaction.

Irish band Dervish
The Irish folk melodies of Dervish failed to impress Eurovision voters

Fans, who had memorised the show's running order, were on their feet chanting her name before the self-styled "megastar" made it onto the stage.

The brainchild of comedian Andriy Danylko, Serduchka is a flamboyant, if grotesque, caricature of Ukrainian village folk - but she remains popular across the former USSR.

Looking like a cross between Su Pollard and Timmy Mallet, she put on an energetic, eccentric performance - but it wasn't quite enough to win the competition once the millions of phone votes were tallied.


Critics who claim Eurovision has been marred in recent years by political voting will gripe that Serbia was awarded the competition's maximum score by five of its eight neighbours.

But the song also proved popular outside the Balkan states - with Finland and Switzerland also giving it 12 points.

For her part, Serifovic claimed her victory was a triumph of songcraft over showmanship.

UK entry Scooch
British quartet Scooch came joint 22nd out of the 24 participants

"I like to hear the music, not watch it," she said.

"I hope that next year in Belgrade it will be a music contest again."

Nonetheless, political back-scratching was thinly disguised this year.

The Scandinavians and former Soviet countries barely looked beyond their borders, while Cyprus' annual slap on the back for Greece barely raised an eyebrow.

Meanwhile the "big four" - Germany, Spain, France and the UK - all sank to the bottom of the table like a lead brick in a swimming pool.

Ireland came last, scoring a mere five points. But the UK were only one place above them, tying with France on 19.

It spells disaster for Scooch, who reformed especially to take part in the song contest. But, as the esteemed Sir Terry Wogan said: "I don't care. The UK survived without nul points".


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