What We Learned From the Eurovision Song Contest

I made a friend watch the Eurovision, something she had somehow never done before, and halfway through Saturday night she remarked that she didn’t have much experience with the whole thing, but wasn’t it a bit weird this year? To which there was only one correct answer: no, it was a pretty average Eurovision night.

Normal rules do not apply here. While we fooled ourselves into thinking that the X Factor at least gave a chance to those who could actually sing, rather than those who had the weirdest outfit or backstory, the Eurovision has made it pretty clear that the only thing that really counts is fabulousness. It’s a show, a phenomenon that lasts for a week and is then immediately forgotten. Maybe it was meant to be a festival of European music, culture and spirit once, but it’s become something quite different, and quite wonderful. Here are just a few things that have become clear since Saturday night:

  1. The voting public knows exactly what Eurovision means. Norway’s lovely little ballad never stood a chance, as did the guy bravely singing in Montenegrin. Conchita Wurst, the bearded woman and hotly tipped favourite, got great marks across the bench. Graham Norton, commentating for British television, seemed astonished at the high scores from countries not universally known to be outspoken in favour of LGBT rights. I wasn’t. This show has somehow managed to retain its niche character, only it’s now watched and supported by millions. And Conchita Wurst knew the winning formula of drama, edge and fabulousness — as did Georgian Eurovision viewers. It may only work in television land, but it was the most uplifting thing I have come across in a while.
  2. Political voting may not be dead, but it’s been somewhat neutralised. From this year, the phone vote will only count 50% in the final result, while the other 50% are decided by a national jury. So, while Russia still got their 12 points from the usual suspects, there was a noted absence of the expected high scores from the UK to Poland, for instance, or Switzerland to Germany, Portugal to Spain etc. Poor France got all of two points, despite a lot of neighbours! It’s unusual, and not entirely the point of Eurovision (surely those willing to phone an expensive voting number should get to decide!), but it does make the whole thing less predictable. Also, and this is the real story of the day, Georgia somehow messed up the jury votes, so all those points for Conchita Wurst did actually come from the public. Hooray!
  3. Presenters don’t stand a chance. Do you remember any of the presenters from recent years? I don’t. They are not part of the show, no matter how hard Nikolaj Koppel tried with his questionable piano number, or Pilou Asbæk with his constant Chinese jokes (I still don’t get them.) The Eurovision final is a very hurried affair (I should know, my fingers still hurt from typing!), and there is simply no time to stand out as a presenter. Let’s not forget that much of the presenters’ charisma will be lost in translation. Also, that dress they made Lise Rønne wear wouldn’t flatter anyone.
  4. There’s charm in the short movies. I have always loved those little films introducing the different countries. In the past, they have often tried to focus on the host nation, but this year, it was all about the contenders and their countries. Who could resist a big bear of a carpenter painting a door in the middle of a frozen nowhere? It was sweet.
  5. Everything said in the Green Room is meaningless. Everyone’s had their go. The crowds have gone mad. You still have an agonizing hour of vote-counting ahead of you. Someone asks you what your favourite meal is, and if you love your grandmother. Nothing more constructive than flag-waving will ever happen in this room, and I don’t know why they insist on going there.
  6. There will always be at least four power ballads and two novelty acts. And you know that the power ballads will come from Spain and three Balkan nations, and the novelty acts will feature outrageous hair. It is written.
  7. Boobs don’t score. Sorry, Poland, your exposed butter-churning might have had an effect on some men, but certainly not on those voting. Next year, send hot builders with the Pope tattooed on their abs.
  8. The best song will not win. I have stopped caring. There have been some really good songs in the past, and they have always scored low. On Saturday, I got my hopes up for a few minutes when the Netherlands started raking in the twelve points, but their song was just too good to win. And a cowboy hat can never, ever beat a lady with a beard.
  9. Subtle, is it not. Wurst does mean sausage, so Conchita’s act was pretty clearly defined. Didn’t do any harm though.
  10. Never trust a handsome lawyer with a violin. On TV, these are always the serial killer. Sebalter of Switzerland managed to give me the major creeps when his song featured the line “I am the hunter, and you are the prey.” No amount of innocent whistling will make that mental picture go away.
  11. If there was a Eurovision Dance Contest, those Danish guys would win:

Ah, what fun it was. And now back to reality.



By Karo

Schnazzy East German translator and cricket obsessive residing in England. I have other qualities, too.

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