Well, would you look at that. May is nearly upon us (in the month sense, not the ‘grinning harbinger of political doom’ one), and that means only one thing: Eurovision. Wait, don’t run away! Let me try and persuade you to appreciate Europe’s premier cheesefest a bit more…
I first watched Eurovision at the tender age of 7. It was the year that began with a colossal technical gaffe. It was also the times before semifinals, so I ended up nodding off before the late great Terry Wogan announced the result. Skip forward to 2006, when my housemates insisted we gather to watch Finnish metal-merchants Lordi win. At this point, I started reading up on Eurovision as an excuse to not finish my MSc dissertation. And then, just like the EBU’s premier spokesperson Lynda Woodruff, I was hooked.
Now it’s basically my Mastermind specialist subject. I festoon the house with participants’ flags every year, have a Eurovision party for the final, I’ve been to two concerts and one of the actual semifinals in Stockholm, and for the last 5 years have even watched each country’s selection process, thanks to the joys of streaming. (Look, if the choice is The X Factor or Bulgaria’s Eurovision qualifiers, I know which one I’d pick.) ‘But Laura, what’s so good about it all? It’s all crap music and political voting!’ you cry. But you are wrong. VERY WRONG.
And so, without further ado, here’s why you should get on board, in five handy bullet points…
Reasons to love Eurovision:
1) It’s where you find decent music.
Yes, really. Waterloo aside, there’s loads of cracking songs. Many acts get big producers on board (I think Justin Timberlake’s produced one of Azerbaijan’s entries). Sweden’s also a consistently good source of musical joy. I’ve even come away from national finals with playlists of trendy Latvian electronica, albums by German acts that would slip right into Radio 1’s rotation, and all manner of cool stuff. You just have to rock up with an open mind. (And yes, this is where I drop in at least one song that got heavy radio play here. Loreen, anyone?)
Plucking one of my favourites at random, don’t tell me you wouldn’t have this banger up loud in the car if it came on. (Listen to her album if you love this – you won’t be disappointed.)
2) Eurovision is in more places than you know.
It gave us the Epic Sax Guy meme. And it’s now sucked in Australia too. Y’see, the EBU area takes in more countries than are in Europe; all you have to do is pay your membership and put forward a national broadcaster, and that’s that. Which is why you get places like Azerbaijan, Israel and so on. The USA loves it so much they sent Justin Timberlake as the interval act last year. Oh, and speaking of trendy guys, that groovy song Dean Martin sang? It was Italy’s 1958 Eurovision entry. You’re welcome.
3) It’s a learning experience.
I started Duolingo before going to Stockholm last year and then I accidentally seven more languages. Thanks to that, I had just enough Swedish to sing along to 80s classic ‘Diggiloo Diggiley’ and understand a fantastic pro-LGBT speech at a free pre-Eurovision concert, which was given just before Russia’s contestant came on. Sick burn indeed. You can also use it to understand Eurodramas in the original language (like Spain’s voting scandal or Germany’s winner refusing to represent his country), and learn how to order a meal in Kyiv.
The contest is also, of course, heaving with potential Brooding YA Heroes, leading to queues at the numerous pre-parties for selfies. This year’s ones to watch are Manel Navarro and Kristian Kostov, by the way. So in a very real way, watching the Eurovision is writing research, right?
4) It’s full of surprises.
Over the years, we’ve had a Ukrainian man in tinfoil, some enthusiastic Polish milkmaids, a man in a beaver outfit as Latvia’s national final ad break act, and more drama than you can shake a stick at. Political voting pales into insignificance once you’ve seen Irish veteran Linda Martin pick a fight with someone insulting Louis Walsh. Might get ‘you are an odious little man’ as my ringtone.
5) It’s super-inclusive.
It’s the nicest fandom I’ve ever been in. I turned up in Sweden already knowing some Twitter folk who took me under their wing, and it made the whole week such a joyful experience. Plus, to get on a political soapbox for a bit, Europe’s a fab place and Eurovision shows you all of it, dramas, conflicts, celebrations, bearded ladies and all. This year’s tagline is ‘Celebrate Diversity’, and what better way to do it than through a big ol’ music contest, eh?
So, you in? GOOD. The internet’s heaving with previous shows in their entirety so go forth and enjoy. Oh, and don’t forget your drinking game cards for May 13th. Bring a lot of drink. And bring your sense of humour. Take it away, Måns and Petra!