Thursday, February 9, 2012

Eurovision: Deliciously Addictive

Friends, Romans, countrymen:

I admit it. I love Eurovision.

Eurovision is basically the American Idol of Europe. It's way older though. It's an annual, international competition between national broadcasters who put forth one pop-singing representative to represent that country in the competition. Viewer votes decide which country wins, and the victor hosts the contest next year. This year, it's in Baku, Azerbaijan.

What's not to like about trashy pop, countries going to the throat over whose diva can get more people to shake their booties as they watch on sofas from Faro to Murmansk, Eilat to Glencombcille, Malta to Tromsø?

(Nina, Caroban, Serbia 2011)

(Also Eurovision is partly responsible for one of my most active friendships. Our first "nerd out" and "freak out everyone else in the room" was discussing Eurovision and Ke$ha.)

The spectacle! The lights, the crowds, the terrifying outfits. It's almost a Grand Prix of bubblegum-hood, Ke$ha on a thousand steroids. 

And not to mention the music videos: raw pop culture at its best. Half of what I know about gender theory, power dynamics, and sexual agency, I've learned through a Eurovision lens. This video alone, from Slovenia's 2007 contribution, provides enough for at least thirty minutes of discussion.

And the song is fucking awesome. Daj ga na prsi svoje, naj spomin ti bo na mene...

(Alenka Gotar, Cvet z juga, Slovenia 2007)

So, Eurovision is intellectually stimulating, indeed. There are so many layers of analysis: voting pattern geography, types of music that get selected, the music itself, the culture behind.

But Eurovision is also fun. The music, as "bad" as it is, usually has a fair few fun songs. (Anyone who knows me well knows that I love trashy music, to the point of singing Milkshake while admiring Rubens paintings at art museums.) Actually, the music isn't completely bad. There's some really good stuff in there. Particularly if you like fast-paced dance-track type things. 

Snobbery is all well and good, but let's face it. It's eleven at night, you're working hard on your midterm paper for History of Urban Spain, and you need music to pick you up and keep you going. Are you going to pick the hipster on a guitar singing about all of his melancholy semi-breakups, or are you going to pick Magdalena Tul's truly awesome Jestem?

(Magdalena Tul, Jestem, Poland 2011)

And then there are the contributions that are catastrophically bad.

Even these has value.

Firstly: in the cultured Europe versus uncultured America war, Eurovision provides us Americans oodles of ammunition. As much as you can blame Americanization, it takes a certain amount of personal culture-fail to produce something like this:

(Sieneke, Ik Ben Verliefd, Netherlands 2010)

That tune...that outfit...that background...

And then, the lyrics. The chorus goes "shalalie shalala, shalalie shalala, it can't leave my head, shalalie shalala, shalalie shalala, it's there when I get up in the morning." Besides being filled with unfortunate innuendo, it's absolutely...empty. And traumatic if you understand Dutch.

And then there's just terrifying, terrifying music.

(Eric Saade, Popular, Sweden 2011)

Besides the awkward GaGa imitation, there's also the sheer nonsensicalness of the lyrics. When you look up the translations of the lyrics for Cvet z juga and Jestem, you find a certain poetry to the lyrics. This song is more of a whiny-teenager manifesto! "I will be popular, I will be popular..." simply does not compete with "my white world, my faraway flower (moj beli svet, moj daljni cvet)."

Finally, it's a forum for the national prides and rivalries that today's European governments like to suppress. Representatives are very patriotic, and supporters are loud and proud about being Dutch/Georgian/Belorussian/Irish. As a result, you get a lot of little swipes. Croatia and Serbia go at each other's throats (let it be noted that Serbia's submissions are often way better), and Greece never votes for Turkey. And then you get magnificent trolls - a troll that

a) I will leave you off with and
b) proves why I'm damn proud to be a Lithuanian Jew. Grizti i Lietuva!

(LT United. We Are The Winners of Eurovision, Lithuania 2006).

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