Dominic Ambrose Blogblot

of words: narrative, film and non-fiction

Eurovision 2007!

Eurovision 2007: Power to the Party Crashers!

May, 2007

(Images here are from Eurovision 2006 in Athens)

It’s a truly upsetting scene at European TV these days: for years the tired crowd of pretentious partygoers have done little more than preen before the mirror at the annual party, having long ago lost interest in listening to each other, since they’ve heard it all a hundred times before. Now suddenly, they find their party has been crashed by the boorish newcomers to the neighborhood, who failed to understand that their invitation was only half heartedly extended. There they are, camped out on the most comfortable seats, drinking cheap beer and laughing at jokes in some incomprehensible foreign language. That’s the Eurovision song contest lately, as the Western European founders and financial benefactors of the contest fade ever more ignominiously into the background, finding themselves transformed from hosts to cater-waiters at their own party, serving votes to the rising stars of Eastern Europe.

The Greek production number, Eurovision style. 2006

The Greek production number, Eurovision style. 2006

The easterners arrived in the 1990s, and felt immediately at home in the atmosphere of tackiness and terminally white musical taste that has always been the hallmark of this contest. They have joined in the formulas with great enthusiasm, finding that it dovetailed comfortably with their own taste for headbanger rock and slut-disco (a mix of miniskirts up to here and oom-pa-pa drum machines), and they don’t fail to send loss-leaders in all formula categories: the lousy entries from Belarus and Poland attesting to this. However, one on one, the easterners generally do formula better than the westerners: the tired queen from Denmark was no match for Ukraine’s pro Verka Serduchka and somehow hard rock sounds more genuine and soulful from Croatia and Moldova. Even newcomer Georgia did dance beat better than the disco Dutch. But even more importantly, the Easterners do something that no westerners have thought of in years: they occasionally send their best quality pop singers with complex songs that mix folk traditions, popular tastes and schmaltzy singable lyrics for the home crowd. The Albania, Bosnia and Macedonia entries were well wrought. Bulgaria and Slovenia were innovative and entertaining. And Serbia was the winner, fair and square.

And what about the spoiled rich kids on the other side? The Brits were abysmal, with an old TV advert ditty with half the lyrics just copied off the cabin safety instructions on the flight from London. The only votes they got where 12 bogus points from Ireland, desperate to horse trade. To its credit, the Brits didn’t prostitute themselves and gave the Irish what they richly deserved: absolute zero. Portugal once again made a fool of itself with a denatured lambada, Dança Comigo, the dancers apparently thinking it was ballroom dancing contest, (Hello TV Portugal? Earth calling… The lambada already is a dance, maybe you’ve heard of it… ) It made the idiotic Norwegian doppelganger, Ven a Bailar Conmigo seem downright authentic. Spain dropped the las Ketchup formula in favor of some toothache inducing boy-candy in the style of the teeny idols from the Fame clone TV series, Un Paso Adelante. It might have had some impact if the scrawny boy-toys could sing a note. But Greece didn’t allow itself to be outdone in an area that it clearly believes to own: Greece and its transparent alter-ego Cyprus have been sending bare-chested gyrating boys in tight pants for years, though they have only won with a real-woman two years ago. This year they were back at it, with Sarbel. And where Greece goes, you can be sure that its arch-rival cannot be find behind, Turkey was right there, sending Kenan Dogulu to do a few disco groin thrusts and tit-shimmies for the crowd. But there’s the difference: Turkey is more-or-less a party-crasher, and Turkey sent accomplished pop star Kenan Dogulu, while Spain did not send Miguel Angel Muñoz.

Germany, the schizophrenic amalgam of former east and west, is the eternal odd man out in all this, incomprehensible to its Western neighbors in that it takes the contest seriously, and without the modern pop traditions of either east or west, it stubbornly insists on sending quality but quirky acts that ignore the

Athens, 2006

Athens, 2006

formula rules. Add to that the fact that it has few, if any, alter-egos willing to play the vote trading game, and it’s no wonder that Germany always comes in near the bottom. They complain about the vise-grip that Eastern Europe has on the top spots. They may have a legitimate complaint, but they have to address their complaints to the real culprits: the other westerners who find themselves at the bottom of the hit parade for one simple reason: they stink to high heaven.

It’s a no brainer: the easterners are sending professional singers with careers and a personal style, the west is sending amateurs, banging out the same tired formula ditties: cheesy cha-chas, dated disco and gooey glam-rock. This from countries with flourishing multi-cultural pop music industries: only the most sterile white-bread pap? WTF?!

For jaded western audiences, the real attraction of this annual exercise is the perverse pleasure of discovering which hackneyed formula each country will try this time, and to enjoy the delicious pleasure of watching them make fools of themselves. For eastern audiences, the pleasure is quite different: to see their country and their neighbors compete in an international song contest before an audience over 100 million strong. As long as Western Europeans treat the contest as a joke, they cannot expect to be greeted with anything more than scorn. Finally, a venue where the Eastern Europeans see themselves as the quality show-stopper acts, with the west opening for them with what the musical equivalents to old vaudeville acts featuring poodles in pink tutus. Why shouldn’t the party crashers bask in the applause?

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May 4, 2009 - Posted by | music, performances | , , ,

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