Eurovision Eurovision Season!
posted by April 18 at 10:00 AMon
The Eurovision Song Contest is the yearly pinnacle of kitsch, camp, over-the-top acts, over-the-top heartfelt ballads, disco-ish songs, and don’t even get me started on the outfits… The only moment in the year where Europe is one. “One” in the sense that all over Europe everyone ridicules the other countries’ tastes in music. Truly the spirit of unity! And let’s be fair, in this day and age of bland English popsongs, where else are you going to hear a Croatian song about stilettos (Severina - Moja Stikla –ESC 2006)? Or a Ukranian warrior song? With whips!? (Ruslana – Wild Dances –ESC Winner 2004) Or see a dancing penguin (Sophie & Magaly: Papa Pingouin -ESC 1980)? Such cultural highlights would be lost without Eurovision!
The rules of Eurovision are simple. Every country that’s an active member of the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) can take part. You don’t necessarily have to be European, Israel’s been taking part since the 70s! Every country sends a song that’s under three minutes long, there can be no more than six people on stage, no live animals either (though cardboard cut-outs are fine (Alf Poier – “Weil der Mensch zählt” – ESC 2003), all the vocals must be sung live, since the late 90s you can choose the language you sing in (though countries like France and Spain tend to stick to their own language, well… most of the time), political messages and pornography are not allowed, and the participating country must air the complete contest (the cause for the Lebanon’s withdrawal a few years ago when they refused to air the Israeli entry).
After all the songs have been shown, every country gets to vote for their favourites (usually through televote) and awards 12, 10, 8-1 points to their top 10 songs. You’re obviously not allowed to vote for your own country. The country with the most points wins, and gets… nothing! Well, they get the honour of having won and the financial backlash of hosting the contest the next year. Who wouldn’t be up for that?!
The next couple of weeks I’ll be reviewing all the songs that are taking part in the contest in Belgrade this year. Why? Well, because someone was crazy enough to ask me. Or maybe I volunteered… I’m not quite sure anymore.
I’m from in Belgium, at the heart of Europe (or so we like to think), incidentally a country that’s been taking part since the very beginning in 1956. Without much success, but still.
Ideally, Eurovision should be watched with a bunch of friends, in a house filled with flags (you need flags to wave during the songs, there’s no other way), some alcohol, score sheets and plenty of discussion. Afterwards, when the normal folks have gone home, I tend to watch the contest again with the 2 other Eurovision freaks I know and watch the show in depth. Just try and listen to the songs when 10 people are commenting on the choreography, it’s impossible.
Eurovision night when I was a kid was invariably the same thing. My parents would watch it and remark that the festival used to be a lot better. They’d keep watching though. Year after year. When the time came for the scores, “Hello Belgrade, this is Brussels calling”, my father would complain the voting was political, usually when some Scandinavian country gave another Scandinavian country their 12 points. When The Netherlands was the only country in the whole contest to give Belgium any points, he usually called it “justified”. Of course. When the winner was announced my father stayed with his verdict that it was “all about politics” and “he’d never watch again”. Until the next year, obviously.
There’s no denying that countries don’t get points just on the merits of the song. E.g. Cyprus will generally give their 12 to Greece and vice versa. And yes, Eastern Europe seems to benefit more from this than western countries (And hey, let’s not forget ex-Yugoslavia: Honestly, first they go to war against each other, then gain independence and the first thing they do when they enter Eurovision -undeniably one of the reasons they wanted to be independent in the first place- is vote for each other.) Despite all that, neighbours voting for each other or emigrants voting for their home country hasn’t decided on a winner just yet.
This year, the contest is at a record of 43 countries taking part in two semi-finals (May 20 and 22) with 19 countries each. The top 9 (and 1 wildcard) of each semi-final will go through to the final on May 24th where they’ll join the Big Four (UK, France, Germany and Spain, the main financial contributors to the contest who automatically qualify for the final) and last year’s winner Serbia. The songs are a mix of trashy Eurobeats, ethnic ballads, weird acts and er… a turkey. Something for everyone!
To start things off, here’s last year’s winner: Marija Serifovic (Serbia) with her lesbian-styled Molitva (being honest, it’s the only believable choreography they could’ve thought up).
And to show you the other side of Eurovision: last year’s runner up: Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka- Dancing Lasha Tumbai.
I absolutely love both songs, in case you were wondering