May 15, 2011

Euro Song Contest Maintains its Tasteless Traditions

After the American Century

It must have been that crazy European song contest. I cannot sleep tonight,  nor can I sing a single line from any of the 25 songs I heard. After at least a decade of steadfastly ignoring the event, I decided to watch. The day before I heard a long discussion on the radio, in which several university lecturers explained how the event had evolved over the years. Its style had been affected by American Idol and similar contests. It displayed a variety of ethnic and regional song traditions. The choreography had improved. The contest stimulated European integration. And on and on. I decided to watch again, to see how the contest had been transformed.

What I saw, however, was depressingly familiar. There were many bad copies of American popular songs, most of them sung in something like English. None of the songs was memorable enough for me to hum a line now. None of the lyrics told a story, so far as I could tell. The event was held in a football stadium, and its acoustics, at least on my television, were poor. There were some terrible costumes, and silly but very athletic dancing. Several of the contestants could not sing on pitch, notably  the French entry, who was a master of bathroom bathos. Quite a few female contestants seemed to have been chosen because of their beautiful legs, which were displayed all the way up. Much cleavage also was on display. Cyprus gave Greece 12 points. Romance language countries voted for each other. Former Soviet countries all voted for each other. Nordic countries voted for each other. Truly atrocious songs did rather well in the voting. In other words, this is the tasteless event that I remember from decades ago. It has maintained its traditions.
Azerbaijan won, which is perhaps the best thing one can say about this year's event. And, oh yes, Denmark finished a quite respectable fifth. Not too bad considering there were 25 finalists, selected from 43 national entries in the semifinals. Sadly, however, the Danes finished behind the Swedes, who will remind them of this frequently for the next year.
In this contest, unlike the European Cup in football, little countries have a good chance of winning. Britain lost, despite sending a professional band that I thought was rather good. Ireland did better, and should have been near the top. But it did not appeal much to the Eastern Europeans. 
For Azerbaijan, the victory is proof that it exists in the eyes of Europe. It is an invaluable advertisement. I am considering already when to go there on vacation - it looked so quaint in the video before the song. But it will absolutely not be to see next year's event.