ESC 101: Intro to Eurovision

(If you’re already familiar with Eurovision, feel free to submit your fave ESC moments in a comment!)

North Americans are totally missing out. No one over there knows anything about Eurovision. If you are new to Europe, or haven’t made it over here yet, you need to be educated! Good thing I am here to help you. You’ll get a vey brief rundown of the history and excitement of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in enough time for you to get excited about it before this year’s airs in May.

a song that became successful after ESC

In the early days, there were few counties and it was all about the songs, but as time has gone on, the number of participating countries climbs, as does the use of wind machines, interpretive dance, and sequins. Each country submits a performance, and there’s a big vote off to determine the winner. Despite the name “Eurovision” having “Euro” right in it, being European is not a requirement. The participating counties must be active members of the European Broadcasting Union, which includes some decidedly non-Euro countries like Israel, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Furthermore, each country can send whatever performance they want, whether the performer(s) are from that county, sing in (or even know) that country’s language, or have any relation at all to the country, or not. Indeed, Celine Dion brought Switzerland a victory in the 80s, despite being Canadian instead of Swiss. Then again, sometimes the songs are really laughably stereotypical of whatever country they’re from. It’s a good mix!

another famous ESC moment

Also despite the words “Song Contest,” many people feel it has less to do with songs and more to do with politics, stage performance, sex appeal, etc. It’s a popularity contest. Anything involving voting is going to be subject to human beings voting for whatever stupid reasons they want. Some people find this irritating, but I choose to find it wacky and exciting. I’m horrible at guessing what people will like, it seems. I’m always surprised by the results. Some songs are soon forgotten and others achieve some level of success. Notably, Sweden’s 1974 entry was the start of considerable success, but usually it’s not quite that much.

can you believe this didn’t win it all in ’82?!

Eurovision songs range from folky to comical to heavy metal to blues, but they’re rarely ever boring, even if not your style and even if not very good. Sometimes you’re wondering how that could have possibly been the best the whole country had to offer. Sometimes you’re left speechless. Sometimes the comedy is unintentional, and sometimes it’s not.

such a well-deserved #2 spot in 2007

Each country can pick their entry pretty much however they want. In Denmark, there’s a mini song contest called the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. For 2011, Denmark is sending A Friend in London with their song, “New Tomorrow.” I didn’t vote for it. I think it’s the worst of the ten songs from this year’s contest. I think it’s kinda funny that some guys with funky hair and animal skin vests make such airy fairy music, but that’s about all it’s got going for it. Even though my three votes didn’t end up pushing this crappy song out of the winning slot, I am still glad I paid a few kroner to show my disapproval. I did my part. I’m not even going to link you to it. You can see it live in May! Yes, even if you’re stuck in some non-Eurovision country, you can watch it streaming online from the Eurovision website. So put it in your calendars for May 10, 12 and 14. It’ll make you wish you grew up with this stuff!

Bonus: Eurovision was also the inspiration for the best episode of Father Ted ever.

One thought on “ESC 101: Intro to Eurovision

  1. Favorite Eurovision moments, huh? Let’s see…
    Since my Eurovision affinity in still in it’s infancy, none of these are very old, but in no particular order:

    Lordi brings “Monster Rock” to the stage to score a win for Finland and set a record point total for their amusingly un-PC “Hard Rock Hallelujah.” But really, how could flaming guitars and a mic stand in the shape of a battle axe NOT win?!

    Adorable Alexander Rybak breaks the record by playing the fiddle for Norway by snagging the vote of every pre-teen girl in Europe (and by doing some interesting musical key thing in the song which won him accolades and points from the new professional jury voting element). I have to give a nod to my host country, because celebrating Norway’s national holiday the day after he won Eurovision was definitely a great memory!

    Five words: Sergey Stepanov, Epic Sax Guy! (Moldova 2010)

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