Notes on Eurovision


It will come as pleasant surprise that Terry Wogan will no longer comment the Eurovision song contest on BBC, but instead Graham Norton will be his replacement. After having to hear about the Eastern Block, block voting (which one of my more gifted students at Kent used in his/her final essay as evidence of the continued divided between East and West) and the need to reinstate the Berlin Wall, things can get only better. Rather than ranting about the laziness and colonial arragoance displayed towards the small peoples of the east, I have decide this year to write a few notes for Graham Norton so that they can guide his commentary–not be accused of being an academic who only criticises after it is too late:

Fact 1

42 countries participate, 22 are former Communist countires, plus Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Israel: Western Europe is in a minority. Thus, odds of a West European country winning are just not that that good (or to be precise: 38%)

Fact 2

There is little political voting during the Eurovision (except the ethnic voting between Cyprus and Greece). And no, Armenia and Turkey are not countries who always vote in the same ‘block,’ neither are Romania and Russia, Albania and Serbia. Studies of voting patterns indicate that there are cultural patterns, which create voting regions. If a song from Armenia sounds familiar to a listener in Greece who then votes for the song, this is not block voting.

Fact 3

Performers are trying to please their potential audiances–just that the voters are not in their own country and this leads to some very entertaining ways in which some acts think they can garner votes: Montenegro this year tries to appeal to the gay community with the George Michael cum Village People dancing background in the video. Romania’s Elena on the other hand is appealing to the Balkan ‘block’ by praising the virtues of Balkan girls with lyrics written by a true poet: ‘The Balkan girls they like to party like nobody, like nobody, For crowd delight, we’ll shine all night.’

Fact 4

Some acts are useful lessons in counterfactual history: Moldova this year shows us what Eurovision would have been like, if Communism had not fallen 20 years ago and still the countries east of the Iron Curtain were participating. According to an official bio, “Despite her youth [she is one of the oldest participant in the Eurovision song contest], Nelly is the most authoritative singer in Moldova confirmed by the VIP award, offered every six years.” This winner of the morning star award and many other honors tries to convince the world that they have never seens a dance like the hora from Moldova (which looks surprisingly familar to certain dances in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Ukraine etc.)…

Fact 5

Eurovision is the most successful form of Euroatlantic Integration. Forget NATO and EU, where is Belrus voting for the UK? In no organization in Europe are all countries of the continent included (except the sore loosers who no longer participate like Italy and Luxembourg) and can vote like equals. Maybe this is what might make many West Europeans unconforatble, being outvoted by these ungrateful Easterners who are all of a sudden equals. And some, like the Ukraine this year, are beating Western pop divas easily. On the other hand, the ‘Eastern’ hand in Norways song surely contributes to his frontrunner status.

Fact 6

Eurovision is silly, fun and thus to be taken seriously (or the other way around). It is rare to find such a mixture of genuine fun and playfulness with true camp and musical horrors. You can love the show and hate the music, that is the beauty of Eurovision. This mix of seriousness, kitch, camp and fun is what makes this continent such a fun place.

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