The Eurovision Song Contest is tonight.
May 12, 2001 10:32 AM   Subscribe

The Eurovision Song Contest is tonight. Being an American, I don't understand it one bit, especially since the grand prize seems to be a one-way ticket to eternal obscurity. But someone must like it. "I want to shower you with sugar lumps/and ride you over fences..."
posted by aaron (42 comments total)
I lived in England from '76-'79 as a pre-teen, and the Eurovision contest was a pretty big deal over there. If memory serves, it compares to the Grammy Awards over here, only since it was 20+ years ago, with much less cross-culturalization of music, I'd wager it is not as big of an event now. Countries have their own entrants, similar to the soccer-based World Cup. I believe one of the winners when I was there was called "Milk & Honey" with a cutesy pop tune...not a great song by many standards, but it had a great beat and you could really dance to it. :-)
posted by davidmsc at 10:40 AM on May 12, 2001

The Eurovision Song Contest is one of those heart-warming events which you could only get in a place as diverse as Europe.

For those who know nothing about it, it's a contest where each European country submits a song/performance. These are then performed in random order. Then juries (or phone votes) vote for which songs they liked best from the OTHER countries.

Pointed are added up country by country, and eventually a winner, and loser, are found. The winning country then hosts the contest in the next year.

Sounds simple really, but there's a lot more to it. The Eurovision Song Contest is endearing in the way it entwines awful twee music with 'eurotrash' performers and hosts. If something is tacky, it'll be at the Eurovision, and we'll all be laughing our asses off at it.

The contest is so funny because of the politics behind it too. It's so transparent, that we have to laugh at it each yet. Isn't it odd that Turkey never gave Greece any points? And why do the Scandanavian countries always give each other the highest number of points? Oh I wonder!

In closing, the ESC is so wonderful because it's so awful. Think of Happy Days. The show sucked, the characters were awful.. but that's what made it all so GREAT. The Eurovision Song Contest is a grand display of European music, culture and politics at its tackiest. I love it.
posted by wackybrit at 11:16 AM on May 12, 2001

There's actually some pretty solid songwriting talent involved. Russ Ballard co-write this year's UK entry, Kimberley Rew has written a couple (and won once). I still can't believe "Ca Plane Pour Moi" didn't win in its year.
posted by rodii at 11:22 AM on May 12, 2001

I'm appalled that three posts into the thread, no-one's mentioned that Eurovision gave the world ABBA.

Vive la Eurovision! (or should that be le? I've forgotten most of my french)
posted by lia at 11:48 AM on May 12, 2001

ABBA was, is, and always be a treasure. Harkening back to my days in merrie olde England, "Dancing Queen" was #1 on the charts when I arrived there in '76. All of us kids loved ABBA. "Top of The Pops" was truly must-see-TV on Thursday nights on BBC1, and Liverpool was the coolest *football* team. Except for the year when Ipswich won the FA Cup. Ah, nostalgia...
posted by davidmsc at 11:53 AM on May 12, 2001

David - Liverpool won the FA cup today actually. They beat Arsenal 2-0.
posted by tomcosgrave at 12:01 PM on May 12, 2001

Oh no, this year's Eurovision Song Contest is going to be hard to sit through. The hosts have decided to say everything using rhyming couplets! Not only that, but they seem to be using the fictional language, 'Europanto'.. a bastardised version of several European languages.

So, now I will go back to écouter a la kontest where the hosts hablo Europanto. C'est bueno. Vilkommen a Europe..
posted by wackybrit at 12:11 PM on May 12, 2001 [1 favorite]

If you're not watching it on BBC Prime (or whatever the domestic British equivalent is for the international network), than you're missing some great biting, cutting, sarcastic commentary. "It is said that Norwegians first start visiting a pool at two months until, well, they drown." Regarding the hosts, who I've never heard of, "Watch out for a visit from Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy."

I think it's either John Peel or the guy who voices over Top of the Pops 2.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:38 PM on May 12, 2001

Regarding the Latvian entry, "Just when you need it, along comes the accordions, the whole malogeon. Eurocred is restored!"
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:45 PM on May 12, 2001

Hey, Eurovision is a great way to listen to some of the worst music ever made ! It's fantastic ! Vive l'Eurovision (there's a vowel as first letter :)
That makes for a great part of a great "eurovision like" net radio =))
posted by Sprotch at 1:07 PM on May 12, 2001

It's still a rather big event, actually. There'll be 100 million people watching all over Europe, and the stage lighting alone is said to be the biggest ever. Denmark, where I live, is very excited about it.
posted by Hjorth at 1:20 PM on May 12, 2001

Russ Ballard co-write this year's UK entry

Wow. He's still kicking around? I've got a couple of tunes of his in my MP3 folder.
posted by kindall at 1:22 PM on May 12, 2001

Well, I just spent a lovely spew--I mean, few--minutes going through these.Too much disco, too much pippin', too much faux-Wham! (ew), too many diva-wannabees. In that context, Latvia's entry was kind of cool! Russia's was bad but at least it rawked, sorta.

Kindall: yeah, post-Argent he's been mainly a producer and songwriter. Don't get your hopes up, the song is bad.

Lithuania and Greece have cute singers.
posted by rodii at 1:25 PM on May 12, 2001

It's 4:30 a.m. in Manila and instead of sleeping, I'm watching tve's Eurovision broadcast. Man, I love having cable.

I turned my computer on to come back here and post that I remembered I should've contracted and said "Vive l'Eurovision" earlier; thanks for pointing it out in my absence, Sprotch. Fabrizio from Malta just finished singing -- the Maltese take Eurovision extremely seriously, as 98% of Malta's population watches the contest every year.
posted by lia at 1:41 PM on May 12, 2001

american sees europe.

american scratches head.

how original.
posted by will at 2:12 PM on May 12, 2001

Being an American, I don't understand it one bit...

posted by will at 2:14 PM on May 12, 2001

"I'd wager it is not as big of an event now."

Oh yes it is. :-) It's huge. It's so huge, I left the Amsterdam Music Theatre during the intermission of Lou Reed and Robert Wilson's 'POEtry' based on the work of Edgar Allen Poe... to go home and watch the Eurovision. That huge. :-)
posted by prolific at 2:24 PM on May 12, 2001

Friggin' Estonia? That's the American equivalent of Delaware even having a pro basketball team and then miraculously winning the championship.

And anyway, the only half of the band that can sings is the 50-year-old man from Aruba. The 20-year-old dipshit from Talin is talent-less.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:03 PM on May 12, 2001

Of course.. if the US had a similar song contest, people would whine that Texas should get more voting influence than Wyoming, and so on.

Then it'd take 3 months for the total scores to be added up. ;-)

The excellent Swedish entry is on Napster. Great song. Friends - Listen to Your Heartbeat.
posted by wackybrit at 3:07 PM on May 12, 2001

I guess this is party time! Estonia was my favourite song all along - seriously. I'm uploading the mp3 to FilePile. Say whatever you want. I love it.
posted by Hjorth at 3:09 PM on May 12, 2001

It took you two posts to come up with those brilliant insults, Will?
posted by aaron at 3:11 PM on May 12, 2001

Did anyone else notice the uncanny similarity between the Estonian singer and Mr. Tom Jones?
posted by feelinglistless at 3:40 PM on May 12, 2001

I think this sounds sounds like its a kind of combination between the Olympics and the Gong Show
posted by ttrendel at 3:54 PM on May 12, 2001

For once, I've gotta give props to the Europeans. When we Americans do something crazy, it's shooting up schools. You guys go on tv and have an insane party. It's all good.
posted by owillis at 3:55 PM on May 12, 2001

I think it's either John Peel or the guy who voices over Top of the Pops 2.

Nonono: it's Terry Wogan. Who confessed to knocking back half a bottle of Bailey's while doing his voiceover. National institution.

And Estonia is this year's Finland, Mo. (Which was last year's Iceland.) The Baltic states are stupidly cool right now. Though that song was not particularly good.

Actually, I missed too much of this year's show: could any of those who watched provide a summary of the "bizarre" partisan voting? It wasn't "Latvia votes for Estonia" etc, was it?
posted by holgate at 4:15 PM on May 12, 2001

My favorite contender of all time would have to be Bing Tiddle Tiddle Bong.
posted by toddshot at 4:33 PM on May 12, 2001

ABBA, yes... and don't forget France Gall (on a song written by Serge Gainsbourg, may he rest in peace) as well as Céline Dion.
posted by Tara at 4:34 PM on May 12, 2001

aaron: i posted the first one, then remembered the quote from the second. it was too good to pass up.
posted by will at 5:48 PM on May 12, 2001

What makes the 'partisan' voting bizarre? It's quite simple: Spain and Portugal help each other out in the voting, so do the baltic countries and Poland, the scandinavian countries, UK and Ireland and the slav countries. It usually adds up quite nicely - and it means noone walks away with no points at all. I think it's okay. And yes, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland all gave Estonia 12 points.
posted by Hjorth at 11:12 PM on May 12, 2001

I switch between the BBC and Dutch tv to watch it. Terry Wogan is becoming increasingly boring. It's a lot funnier to listen to the guy doing the Dutch presentation. He's deadly serious and known more about Eurovision than anybody should. I.e. you get all the background info and then some, plus you get slag it your way instead of being subjected to Wogan's banter.

I think he's the one Irishman I'd like to see banned from the airwaves.
posted by prolific at 11:21 PM on May 12, 2001

Gotta say, though, that Wogan's kind of charm appeals deeply to me. There's no commentary like that on American television, for anything, since the boys--Beavis and Butthead--went off the air. I know Comedy Central has tried it with various events, but they usually suffer from a) the roundtable approach and b) not knowing what's going to happen next. Counter-commentary, as opposed to kowtowing to and tit-sucking on canned crap like this, is rare and valuable. You only get it on television a day late on Letterman or Leno, or maybe John Stewart.

Aqua's pop-n-sparks little aerobics number during the vote tally blew away pretty much all the national acts that performed during the two hours. We are the cartoon heeee-EEE-roes, whoah oh!...

My fave national acts were Denmark and France. I thought that Estonian song was derivative quasi-caribbean white boy studio-produced dancehall, like they'd heard it once on Radio Free Europe in 1987, wrote a rip-off song, then found an accomodating native to hold up the talent end of the schtick. I know Eurovision is crap ('cept for Abba, God bless 'em everyone in their little hideaways), but please.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:53 AM on May 13, 2001

You mean you guys watched it?
posted by pracowity at 1:16 AM on May 13, 2001

Hjorth: sure, sure, but it's so blatant ;)

And bizarrely, a decade of strife in the Balkans doesn't stop the former Yugoslavian nations voting for one another.
posted by holgate at 4:44 AM on May 13, 2001

wackybrit: culture and politics at its tackiest

Hey, that's an English word they don't teach at school! And yes, it's how I would define it. [Language lesson-- Same in Spanish: the sonorous 'cursi' or 'hortera'].

I didn't watch the show and, what's worse, I didn't even know it was yesterday, which is a clear symptom that I hardly watch TV (except The Simpsons, of course).

If you live in Spain (don't know about the other countries) and watch some TV (actually, the public TV network, Televisión Española) you just can't miss it. Several weeks before the festival you get bombed with the Spanish participant song in the form of a cheesy music video repeated (too) many times a day.

And what about the local TV commentators? Those experts in guessing the pointing-behavior of the countries "And now Italy, which is on draw with us, will give the points to Cyprus so that [war strategy goes here]"

Eurofestival doesn't seem to change through the decades, and that's what gives it the Herculean nostalgia power. Well, there's one thing that is changing -- the increasing use of English in the lyrics, especially among the small countries. Sadly, as Europe=diversity and I really like to hear languages I wouldn't do in my life otherwise.

And 7 out of 8 Europeans will agree about the ultimate high-dose recall pill: the Eurovision blue 'splash screen' with that jingle melody (maybe a classic music piece?).

If Eurofestival wasn't enough, the proud members of the Iberoamerican community (ie, Portugal, Spain and South America, AFAIK) can annually enjoy the OTI festival. And that's, ugh, really bad songs.

From the documentation department. Coolest thing ever in Eurovision history: the 1998 winner, israeli Dana International, was a transsexual (born as a man, then switched to woman).

[off-topic silly question: how should I preferably enter special characters like accented vowels, directly off my keyboard or escaping them à la &something;?].
posted by fonso at 6:36 AM on May 13, 2001

[OT] If I'm writing in French, I enter them directly off my keyboard. Just like you did when you wrote "à la..." ; )

Works fine!
posted by Tara at 7:37 AM on May 13, 2001


Why, oh why, did you have to give us an FA Cup score? Of course you couldn't have known that here in the States the matches are shown on tape, days late. Nor could you have known that I studiously avoid all possible sources of FA Cup and EPL scores until they're aired over here.

Now I'll have to figure out a way to forget the outcome until tomorrow, when I can watch the match. Does anybody have any non-intrusive recipes for complete memory blockage?

I would prefer a method for a localized amnesia, in the Sport/Soccer/England/FA Cup/Scores/Final section of my brain, and not a global amnesia that might take Holidays/Spring/"Mother's Day" or Addresses/Home/"My House" away, too.
posted by dfowler at 9:37 AM on May 13, 2001

fonso: Charpentier, Te Deum prelude.
posted by holgate at 10:14 AM on May 13, 2001

My dad was at the Eurovision show in Copenhagen - sad, but true. But, hey, it's part of our heritage - and even though I usually try my best to hide the fact that I'm Danish, it's at times like these I feel the most patriotic.

The US may have the Grammys - but who wants all the manufactured glamour, boring crowd shots, and interviews with "stars" who wouldn't be able to tie their own shoelaces if you paid them? No, no, give me the Eurovision - it's crap, it's a cliche, but at least it looks like they're having fun.

As for the hosts, well, if I never have to hear another rhyming couplet coming out of the mouth of Søren Pilmark (the male Danish host), I think I'll die a happy man.
posted by mschmidt at 6:35 PM on May 13, 2001

Kinda late, my humble contribution. As Lia mentionned ABBA, some of us may have forgotten that other artists have gone thru what may probably be one of the tackiest show on earth -with "Grand Ole Opry"-
Whether you like her ( ) or not (, even CELINE DION took part of it!!!!
(can't remember though if she was a contendent for Luxembourg or Switzerland...
posted by attilalehun at 4:04 AM on May 14, 2001

Switzerland. Luxembourg had Plastic Bertrand though.
posted by rodii at 7:13 AM on May 14, 2001

Thanks Rodii.
I can understand that some countries would need "external" help. For example, the Quebec is often put to contribution, like this year for the French. But I don't really get when a member of one of the nations part of the Eurovision, goes to neighbouring country to sing -probably didn't qualify in its own country. The Belgians probably had it enough with Plasti "ça plane pour moi" Bertrand?
Otherwise, Eurovision and its tackiness doesn't bother me as much as the fact that more and more songs are sung in English!!! Nothing about English language, but wouldn't it make more sense that each country has a song in its own language? so that people like me who would not have a chance to hear a song in Slovenian, Estonian or even Danish get a chance to hear, know and eventually appreciate it (I am sure I am missing sthg)! Instead we have this international crap sounding alike all the time and everywhere. rest my case.
posted by attilalehun at 8:46 AM on May 14, 2001

The baltics have the Eurovison stacked in their favour.
It's a blonde and blue-eyed conspiracy.
posted by lagado at 5:20 PM on May 14, 2001

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