I'm currently reliving fond Eurovision memories by listening to old ESC albums. Some of them have aged with surprising grace. This album, Istanbul 2004, is so-so. The only real highlights are the winner, Ruslana's "Wild dances" (misspelled "Wild Dance" at the album) and Zeljko Joksimovic's "Lane moje", which I think came second. Still, the other songs are tolerable as background music, for instance when you are writing Amazon reviews!
But yes, many of them are straddling the thin line between competent muzak and unintentional self-parody. This is even more obvious if you watch the live performances on Youtube. For instance, what are we to make of the Nazi-inspired symbols worne by the Austrian boyband? Or the half-nude, dancing disco Tarzan from Bosnia? Or Sakis Rouvas, appealing rather heavily to the "Greek player" stereotype? Or the embarassing pseudo-opera from Malta? Or...? Well, you get the picture.
Even Ruslana's winning song, representing the Ukraine, comes close to the parody category, with her weird blend of Mad Max beyond Thunderdome and Russian Cossacks, not to mention her incredibly bad accent. (Apparently, she was supposed to promote Huzul culture. Nobody got it. Hu...who?) But yes, her victory was an open and shut case.
The Eurovision Song Contest 2004 isn't for everyone. If you want *really* good pop, disco or rock, look elsewhere. But if you want to know what everyone in Europe (and Australia) is talking about around mid-May every year, this is a good place as any to start.
Four stars. But don't tell me I didn't warn you... ;-)