Eurovision 2010: The dullest yet?
Here is the ill-informed speculation I promised about what I see as the narrow and
unadventurous entries in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
Let me first assure you that I do not actually think that Eurovision is the place to find interesting and innovative music. But within the context of the competition there have been—especially in recent years—entries that stretch the boundaries of what is acceptable.
While Dana International (Sharon Cohen) may have been the first transgendered person to win Eurovision (Israel, 1998), much to the consternation of conservatives in Israel at the time, her performance had nothing of the flamboyance of more recent cross-dressing acts such as Verka Serduchka (Ukraine, 2007), which came second (watch it here), or Denmark’s 2007 entry, Drama Queen which failed to inspire the voters (19th). Watch it here.
For a few years there was a preference for chains, leather, and ethnic music, started perhaps by Ruslana’s winning entry for Ukraine in 2004 (still a personal
favourite), and including Bulgaria 2007, the camp, gothic stylings of Switzerland’s Vampires are Alive (2007), and Azerbaijan’s 2008 entry, Day after day. The move possibly
culminated in Ukraine’s (again! gotta love those Ukranians) entry last year that included the “hell machine” and dancing centurions! Relive the magic.
And of course, that isn’t to mention the entries that were novelty at best: Dustin the Turkey for Ireland in 2008, or the sadly incorrect We are the Winners of Eurovision entry for Lithuania in 2006. And another personal favourite, “Pokušaj” by Laka for Bosnia & Herzegovina in 2008. Watch it here in all its glory, but don’t let the knitting brides freak you out. And I haven’t even started on Lordi!
My point is that while many of these entries didn’t win, they are far more memorable than the turgid ballads and anaemic pop songs that polled better in those years. And for those of us who don’t take it too seriously, these are the entries that make the contest. And as I have suggested above and in previous posts, I can’t see too many of these sorts of songs—everything looks very safe and conservative.
I think there are two reasons for this. The main one is the Global Financial Crisis. I
can’t find any published research, but anecdotally it seems that a period of economic instability, with accompanying high unemployment and low incomes, leads to a return to conservative styles in fashion and other cultural signifiers. The height of hemlines seems to have a direct correlation with the stock market. If anyone knows of research that either confirms or refutes this observation, please let me know.
The other reason, in my estimation, is the rise of the ubiquitous television reality
talent show. Now Eurovision might be the granddaddy of all the Pop Idol, Wherever’s Got Talent, and X Factor clones that dominate programming in recent years, but the rise of the Pop Idol model confirmed a particular style of music as appropriate to the show: a sort of gospel or soul-based pop-rock with pronounced use of melisma.
No fewer than 11 of the 39 entries in this year’s Eurovision have come through their country’s version of Pop Idol. Three of the five members of Belarus’s 3+2 were contestants in New Voices of Belarus, while Feminnem, the Croatian entry, were the three finalists in Croatian Idol. Now it makes sense to use these competitions to select the national winners who go on to Eurovision, but it is unsurprising that it leads to a certain sameness in the music.
So I’m worried that we might be in for the dullest competition in years. Still, we might get lucky: one of the presenters might trip on stage and fall over.