Yesterday I was invited by Linnea, a Swedish girl on my running team, to watch Eurovision 2011 at her apartment with some friends. What the hell is Eurovision, you might ask? I asked the same thing. Apparently this part of European culture has never made its way to the United States, because it’s a huge deal in Europe which almost every country participates in, maybe just as important as the Eurocup. Basically, the Eurovision Song Contest is a competition between European nations for the best song. Every country chooses their representing artist, which is usually an unknown on an international scale, and one song is performed by each country. Then, Europeans get to vote for the best song, though they can’t vote for their own country.
This is sort of like an American Idol forum, though it’s not open to discussion or critique and doesn’t have to be just pop music. In fact, a year or two back a hard rock band decked out in scary costumes won. This year the competition took place in Dusseldorf, Germany, and as we sat down with some Fernets, empanadas and chips, we watched to see what Europe had to offer. Even though I never watch shows like this, I have to admit, I was thoroughly entertained.
The thing is, music goes over language barriers, even though in this case the majority of the songs had at least one part in English. It was interesting to see how everyone spoke English so well, even from breakaway Soviet nations. The only country that refused to speak English was, surprise surprise, France. As everyone was presenting their votes, only the French insisted on speaking French. Even the Spanish, so proud of Spanish, spoke in English. Oh well, c’est la vie.
My favorite act was by the Italian Rafael Gualazzi, singing “Madness of Love,” a sort of jazzy tune. Joining us in the apartment were Sergio from Brazil, and Diana and Pia from Denmark. It was funny watching the girls get so excited every time their country was mentioned or they saw a flag. Nationalism affects everyone, I suppose. One of the craziest songs was from Moldova’s representative, Zdob si Zdub, singing “So Lucky.” In the end, Azerbaijan was voted the best with Ell/Nikki singing “Running Scared.” One thing that sort of ruined it, however, was that every country voted for their regional neighbor. Thus, a country with many neighbors and borders was more likely to get courtesy votes than a country with less allies. It didn’t seem very fair, but maybe this delicate system is actually what’s keeping Europe from going to war with each other. “Vote for my pop singer and I won’t invade you.”
Next year I’ll have to see if I can get access to a European channel and show some friends this crazy spectacle, because at the very least, it makes for some humorous comments on the avant-garde European styles.