This is pop? A look at wacky Eurovision contenders
Russia entrant Buranovskiye Babushki perform during rehearsals for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest at the Baku Crystal Hall in Baku, Azerbaijan, Monday, May 21, 2012. The final of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest will be held at the stadium on May 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — A memorable melody. Distinctive stage presence. Some horse-trading of votes.
Those are secrets to success in the annual Eurovision Song Contest, a televised pan-European extravaganza viewed by some 125 million people worldwide that is now entering its 57th year.
The winner is picked by juries and television viewers across the continent. Semifinals this week have whittled down the entries to 26. A smorgasbord of revealing outfits and onstage preening is expected at Saturday's final, but gray-haired acts from the U.K and Russia are stealing most of the attention.
Here's a look at favorites and wacky wonders:
Engelbert Humperdinck of the U.K. had turned 20 and was already a seasoned pop performer by the time the first Eurovision Song Contest was held — in 1956. In the 1960s, his manager convinced him to change his stage name from Gerry Dorsey to Engelbert Humperdinck— after a 19th century German composer — and he went on to become a less raunchy version of Tom Jones. Amid all of Eurovision's hyper-kinetic dance and pop acts, the 76-year-old's "Love Will Set You Free" stands out as good old-fashioned crooning.
Romania entrant Mandinga perform during rehearsals for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest at the Baku Crystal Hall in Baku, Monday, May 21, 2012. The final of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest will be held at the stadium on May 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)
The gray hairs are taking over Eurovision. The (old) girls from Buranovskiye Babushki from the Russian Urals are doing their bit to confirm all those stereotypes about shawl-wearing grannies. They are almost certainly the first Eurovision contestants to perform part of their song in the obscure Udmurt language, which is distantly related to Finnish. Their sheer adorableness gives them universal appeal and their folky, up-tempo "Party for Everybody" is hard to dislike completely.
The irrepressibly, and often annoyingly, enthusiastic Jedward twins from Ireland first came to prominence in 2009 on the British television talent show "The X Factor." They failed to win but have since fashioned a faintly successful pop career. They are competing for the second year running, possibly because the last thing Ireland wants now is to win and have to host the expensive contest next year. Jedward's song "Waterline" is pretty odious fare, both tinny and thumping at the same time.