Sunday, May 21, 2006


The Politics of the Eurovision Song Contest

Let me apologize in advance for my post having nothing to do with British politics and only tenuously with politics at all except for the small 'p' variety, but I am going to vent some Victor Meldrew like bile about the politics of the Eurovision Song Contest. My partner Kate and I last night thought we'd indulge in some retro kitch nostalgia and watch the much lampooned contest, something which neither of us has done for some years.

The experience was even more deeply depressing than we feared it might be. There were several moans which we had-listed below- but they boiled down to the total mismatch between voting and anything like musical quality. Part of this is explained by the determination of tranches of Europe's telephone voters to plump for the efforts of their neighbours, musical considerations notwithstanding.

1. We saw blatant 'neighbourism' in the Nordic countries, East Mediterranean, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. It was so predictable that in the end it became farcical: Ukraine giving their 12 points to Russia who responded with their own 10 points to Ukraine. Similarily with Moldova, Croatia and Rumania and with the Baltic States and Finland who went on to win the competition. What also surprises me is how nations who suffered under the political hegemony of Russis for so many decades can now sign up to a cultural equivalent.

2. Talking of cultural hegemony, we were also disappointed by the move out of native languages and into English. The assumption seems to be that English is the language of rock and roll and that such songs have a better chance of winning. The result was crass and a mockery of the supposed cultural exchange the contest represents. What made it worse, much worse for this Meldrew clone, was the American accents used by some contestants and by the absurdly bland presenters whose constant use of the word 'amazing' was rightly ridiculed by Wogan. I was delighted when the French song and voting rapporteur communicated exclusively in their own tongue.

3. I know that musical judgements are essentially personal but we were astonished at how rubbish songs did well while the better ones languished. Foremost was the 'song' which won, of course-of which more below-and I am not bleating about the UK song's fate-19th out of 24- as it was the feeblest kind of dreck we've ever offered-but others like the Russian or the Armenian efforts while the only genuine songs like the French entry, or even more so the Irish one, received scant support. Is all Europe tone deaf?

4. As the years have gone by, it seems the musical element has gradually receded in importance. Many of the entries dispensed with aiming for good song and good performance and opted instead for gimmicky presentation-costumes and gymnastic dance displays. The worst offender under this heading was the Finnish entry,Lordi (see picture), a rubbish 'death-metal' feeble copy of 'Slipknot' version of 'monster glam-rock'(see, I do know a tiny bit about this...). So of course, we now know, yet again, how mediocrity of the highest order wins this absurd farrago, year after sodding year.

My son groaned when I told him of my viewing plans- no doubt he could see this rant coming-and subsequently contradicted my judgement by enthusing about the Finns as a welcome breath of fresh air in a competition which young people have reckoned to have been on life support ever since it was invented. My final point is that I am quite pleased, and yes, maybe a little proud, that in a Europe where the contest is perceived as mainstream entertainment, British coverage concentrates on ridiculing this richly risible use of prime viewing time. It'll be an aeon before I watch it again.

What also surprises me is how nations who suffered under the political hegemony of Russis for so many decades can now sign up to a cultural equivalent.

Russia has left sizeable Russian minorities in the nations on which it had the hegemony. They all identify with hte mother country.
I can understand that, anonymous, but in numbers sufficient to swing possibly the majority of voters?
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