Rybak may claim to know the secret behind songwriting. Musicologists insist success at Eurovision is based on a 16-bar verse and chorus formula. Many live for a key change, but musical theory matters not one jot to Moldova. They travel to the beat of a very different drum – sometimes literally. If there's such a thing as a Eurovision songwriting rule book, they tore it up from the start.
When the former Soviet republic came dangerously close to winning last year, heads turned. Until then, they could be relied on to ‘just not get Eurovision’. But have the Moldovans discovered its secret by accident?
Tonight, DoReDos will compete for one of ten available spots in the grand final, and if their rehearsals are anything to go by, they’ll get what they want. In one of the most varied and downbeat semi-finals on record, their camp and joyful performance stands out. Together with dancers, they open and slam the doors of a stray Ikea Pax wardrobe creating a three-minute bedroom farce that would do Brian Rix proud. Let's look back at Moldovan Eurovision history.
Start as you mean to go on
Moldovan ska-punk rockers Zdob și Zdub were known for raucous energy, less so for hanging out with elderly women. But that's what they did when they took to the 2005 stage. 'Grandma bangs the drum', was their entry, and said grandma joined them, complete with one of those wicker rocking chairs you sometimes see in junk shops. The crowd went wild when she got to do her solo.
The group came back in 2011, this time with big pointy hats and that other obvious Eurovision staple, a unicycle-riding fairy.
If you can't win, go viral. That was the motto of SunStroke Project when they first graced the Eurovision stage in 2010. Combine Pat & Mick mid-80s fashion with a saxophone player prone to over-enthusiast thrusting, and you have the basis of a meme. Just as the online world tired of 'Rickrolling', along came Epic Sax Guy.
They ended at the lower reaches of the scoreboard, but their Eurovision story was far from over. Last year, the SunStrokers returned. This time with a campy promo video, heavy on the unsuitable husband trope; a story they carried over to their staging. Busy but entertaining, the group went down the 'entertain the masses' route, and came within spitting distance of a win.
One for Grandpa
If you want to get noticed, flash the flesh. Everyone remembers the unenlightened Polish entry with the milkmaids – and if they don’t compilation clip shows are happy to remind them. But let's not forget Nelly Ciobanu. In her short skirt, based vaguely around a national costume, she endeared herself to many as she explored the charms of Moldova, singing the praises of an indigenous dance, which seemed to involve people holding hands in a circle and having a jolly time. Mainstream it was not.
What can be more endearing (and not at all creepy) than a grown woman clutching a teddy bear as she sings a love song? Jazz singer Geta Burlacu performed on a chaise longue and waxed lyrical in a performance sponsored by Build-a-Bear. Her trumpet-player went pretty much ignored as she ya-da-di-da'd.
I've saved the best till last. Leather clad cops writhing around a climbing frame might suffice for some. Not Moldova. Add cartwheels, torn shirts and a heavy dose of pyrotechnics. Eduard Romanyuta opened the contest with a bang. It didn't matter that not one member of the team behind the song hailed from Moldova, nobody listened to suggestions that Eduard had paid his way to the Contest. It's a tiny bit NSFW, and you'll feel grubby afterwards.
Next year in Chișinău?
So what can we expect if the Russian-bankrolled Moldovans actually do the unthinkable and win Eurovision with one of their frothy pop confections? For one thing, you won’t be jostling for space with other tourists. Moldova is the least visited country in Europe. Only 121,000 foreigners entered the country in 2016 (according to the UN World Tourism Organisation).
The parties should be fun though. It's second only to Belarus as the booziest nation on earth. Each inhabitant tucks away an average of 16.8 litres of booze per year.
Image Credits: Andres Putting.