In my last update, I mentioned that we’d had a Eurovision party, and I’m pretty sure some of your are like, what? Eurovision? Is that some sort of European Parliament? Does it involve a Prime Minister and some naked wrestling, as is the governmental tradition in most European countries? (Damn Texas education system, teaching me lies)
I tend to describe Eurovision was American Idol gone Europe, but that would be really underselling it. While American Idol began in 2002 (and it’s British predecessor in 2001), the Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956. At its core, the mechanics are as follows: each country in Europe nominates a song, and every other country votes on them. More specifically, the songs are all performed in one crazy night of spandex, flashing lights, and jingoistic nationalism, and people from almost every European country call in and vote for their favorite country.
For example, say I’m living in Belgium. I’m drinking a wheat beer, eating fries, and complaining about my lack of government. I was Eurovision, and I decide that I like the Albanian song the best; I text my vote in during the show. Democracy in action (sort of). Now, Eurovision is like the Senate – every country, no matter how populous, gets the same amount of points to give. The highest vote getting in each country gets 12 points, the next 10, then 8, and then incrementally down to 0. Germany (pop. 81,802,000) gets to give the same amount of points as San Marino (pop. 31,887).
Giving 12 points is the ultimate foreign policy fist bump. They’re often traded among countries that are friendly, regardless of song quality. UK and Ireland? Fist bump, 12 points, douze points. Greece and Cyprus? Opa, 12 points. The Balkans, the Caucauses (except for that little Azerbaijan/Aremnia tiff), the Scandinavians, and the Baltic countries all tend to vote for each other. Besides the political implications, there is, of course, the music. Also, yes, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Israel count as Europe for the purposes of this contest.
This is really where the Idol-type shows and Eurovision completely diverge. These aren’t just sappy ballads and bad covers. There are all sorts of genres that overlap, stand out, and show the unique spirit of each country. Though most of the artists are unknown in the states, past winners that are more internally familiar include ABBA, Celine Deon, and Katrina and the Waves. Considering how many countries there are in Europe, each stage production tries to lift above the din and make enough of an impact that will get other countries to pick up their phones and vote.
Highlights of the past few years include…
And that’s just scratching the surface. If you want to do yourself a favor, head over to the Eurovision page on Wikipedia and go through the years, finding the performances on YouTube. You’ll be enthralled by hours. Sure, there are some sappy ballads (I hate you and your sand art, Ukraine), but a lot of it is high energy crazy pop music. Lovely Wife uses a lot of it was running music, if that gives you an idea.
A Eurovision party involves drinking, snark, and eating marginally culturally appropriate food. Luckily for Americans, who are the disenfranchised masses in this vote, they at least show the performances live online. If you’d like to see the entire contest, you can watch the final here, and the semi-finals on the same page. While missing some of the colorful commentary available on the BBC version, at least you don’t have to wait another month or two for it to hit the torrent sites.
If nothing else, if you weren’t aware, you now know about this crazy contest across the pond. Go watch a few, and next year, join me in spirit on in my apartment to enjoy the crazy live.