Eurovision is best described as a celebration of bold, boisterous and mildly political pop. Sure, the choreography is colourful, the costumes over-the-top and the clichés rife but there is no denying there is something very special about this yearly competition. Somehow the Eurovision Song Contest manages to bring together people of 43 countries, not all European, with different backgrounds, religions and political views to celebrate diversity and unity through music.
Next month Kiev will host the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest after Jamala’s win in 2016. Last year an astonishing 204 million viewers saw one of the three shows and international superstar Justin Timberlake tipped up to entertain the fans. All these people must be on to something and that is why I believe it is essential that you watch Eurovision at least once.
My personal Eurovision fascination started as a spotty 14 year-old in my hometown in rural South Australia. Armed with my Sunday morning Milo I watched the contest unfold on SBS. I was immediately captivated. The fashion, the songs and the languages were like nothing I had seen or heard before. My affection for the contest continued into my 20s while wearing a “Miss Denmark” fancy-dress costume at a well-travelled friend’s Eurovision party. It was the year that Azerbaijan won and up until then I couldn’t have pointed that country out on a map.
After watching the contest, I felt like I knew these countries a tiny bit better. When you travel throughout Europe you see countless cities, castles and churches. I rarely remember their individual details, their cornices or artistic styles. But what I do remember is the people I met. Their kindness, their character and their comments. The stories they share are an insight into their culture and the history of their respective nations and regions. And that is what Eurovision provides, a light-hearted peak into the culture of those countries represented.
And so, as I pack my bag and prepare my costume for this year’s contest in Kiev (yes, I am going. I am so excited. Don’t judge). I will give you my hot tip for 2017.
Italy’s entry “Occidentali’s Karma” (Westerners’ Karma) by Francesco Gabbani is the 2017 favourite. It’s brilliant but the Italian lyrics are a little confusing. The song seems to poke fun at westerners attempting to “westernise” Eastern culture. A thoughtful message all wrapped up in a catchy tune, fun dance moves and a dancing ape. Sweden has a hot guy (again) on a treadmill and Hungary’s entry is a chanting hipster, both strange yet likeable. Ironically the UK’s Lucie Jones will use her beautiful voice to perform a song entitled “Never give up on you” (Brexit anyone?). But the highlight will be Romania’s Ilinca and Alex Florea. These two young things will be dazzling us with a surprisingly catchy rap and yodel duet titled “Yodel it!”. How they found a sexy yodeller I will never know, but that is Eurovision.
All these performances, as quirky or catchy as they are all give us little clues into their countries culture (or sense of humour). And for anyone travelling, or planning to travel across Europe to any of the participating countries should consider tuning in. Of course, Eurovision is a bit like marmite and not everyone is a fan. But it’s ability to celebrate diversity and bring people together will always have a place in my heart.
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Eurovision Logo courtesy of https://eurovision.tv/ and youtube video “Ilinca & Alex Florea – Yodel it!” courtesy of Cat Music and YouTube