Surprise! I Liked Eurovision!

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

I always basked in the knowledge that I never felt a need to watch the Eurovision Song Festival because it was always on a Saturday night, and most of the time I had better things to do, usually working. Certainly I would have taken work had it been offered last night, but I had already decided I was going to tough it out and watch this tedium to see if maybe I could get a good laugh or maybe as a long shot, some material for my act. The latter might still materialize, but the ultimate surprise was I got totally into all 3 1/2 hours, and wound up LIKING quite a few of the songs.

For the American readers, Eurovision is a song contest which has been running annually since 1956, where European countries (and a few others) send a representative act to perform a new song, then the public votes, and a winner is declared. The winning song is popular in the ensuing 2-3 weeks, then pretty well forgotten after that. One major exception was the 1974 winner, “Waterloo” by ABBA, probably the only Eurovision winner to succeed in the US. Things might have been different, and ABBA might have just remained a Swedish phenomenon had the requirement that all acts sing in their native tongue not been lifted a year earlier. One other winner more or less discovered there was Canadian Celine Dion, who represented Switzerland (?) while singing in French (??). The last time UK won was 1997, with the song “Love Shine A Light” sung by an American act, Katrina & The Waves, 12 years after they’d had their one US hit, “Walking On Sunshine.”

The Brits didn’t take it seriously for a while, which could be a reason why they continue to fare poorly and have done for well over a decade. Their entry last night, the wanna-be anthem “Children of the Universe” by Molly Smitten-Downes, finished 17th out of 26 entries, surely better than two years ago, when they enlisted the fossilized remains of Englebert Humperdinck to sing a horrendous peace anthem, and finished second to last. Or the year before, when they thought they had a winner with re-uniting the popular boy band Blue, and only finished 11th. What really hurt both entries was that in both of those years, the Republic of Ireland, clearly not interested in winning, sent joke twin hair act Jedward, two of the luckiest men on the planet, as their representative act, and both times they finished ahead of the British act. Ireland didn’t have an entry this year, but didn’t need one, as they have won it more than any other country.

What was interesting (or not!) about last night’s show was an absence of any hideously bad acts or songs, which is one of the things that has kept viewers morbidly interested over the years. There were some that sounded like they could have won Eurovision about 40 years ago, like the entries from San Marino and Russia. Very few acts sang in their native language, and of those few, most incorporated some English lyrics in somewhere. The lowest scorer was France’s novelty entry, “(I Wanna Grow A) Moustache,” by Twin Twin, which I sort of liked, but I guess most voters preferred serious to camp. Also common was groups that sounded like a clone of an established act. Firelight, Malta’s representative, channeled Mumford & Sons, Bassim from Denmark sounded like Bruno Mars, Hungary’s Dani Andres sounded like Seal, Holland’s Common Linnets (who were my personal favorite and finished 2nd) sounded like Lady Antebellum, while the winner, the bearded lady Conchita Wurst of Austria, sounded like Shirley Bassey.

Conchita’s song, “Rise Like A Phoenix” addressed the identity crisis and struggle that the singer born Thomas Neuwirth has faced, and that seemed enough to ensure a victory, Austria’s first since 1965. This really wasn’t anything new, even to Eurovision, as a transvestite singer from Israel named Dana International won in 1998. It also wasn’t anything new even last night, as earlier on “Britain’s Got Talent,” a boy duo in their early teens captivated the crowd with their self-penned hip hop song addressing bullying, which they were victims of. My first reaction to that is “Yawn,” as a victim of bullying myself. I’ll give it some credence coming from these kids, but there sure are a lot of beautiful Hollywood starlets that try and convince us they were victims too, which just sounds like bandwagon-hopping. My thoughts withstanding, Simon Cowell was impressed enough by these kids to buzz them ahead to the live finals without a second audition. I’m not sure he’d have done the same with Conchita.

I had scarcely heard of Eurovision before coming to UK in the early 2000’s, and that’s understandable, as apart from “Waterloo,” the only other ESF song to even make the US top 20 was Britain’s 1996 entry, “Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit” by Gina G, which peaked at #12. Of UK’s five winners, only Brotherhood of Man’s “Save All Your Kisses For Me” from 1976 even made the US top 40, while the other winners didn’t chart at all. Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations,” which finished 2nd in 1968, rumbled all the way up to #99 in its three weeks on the US chart. Suffice to say, while it has made the news in US about a tranny singer winning this year, it’s doubtful that America will ever be interested enough to televise this event, and even less likely they’d ever participate. I think it’s a major concession for them to even be involved in World Cup, but that’s a whole nother blog another month away.

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