Eurovision

I suppose pretty much everybody in Europe and other parts of the world know most of this story. For those who don’t…

In the 1950’s, the Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union (EBU) was trying to find a way of “bringing together the countries of the EBU around a “light entertainment programme.””  My guess is somebody said, hey, let’s come up with a more fun way of competing next time.

So they decided to hold an international song competition with countries dueling in what was then a relatively primitive international TV broadcast to all countries of the union.

The first contest was held in 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland. According to Eurovision’s web site, this broadcast went to Germany, Belgium, France, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Switzerland won the first contest for a song called “Refrain” by a performer named Lys Assia. (Who at 92, is still very much with us). Here is that very performance:

This year there are 42 countries entered: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, F.Y.R Macedonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Ukraine, United Kingdom. (Only 12 of which I’ve been to. 30 to go!)

The 2016 Eurovision Song Contest will be held at the Globe Arena in Stockholm. The Semi-Finals will be held on 10th and 12th May, the Grand Final will take place on Saturday 14th May. All shows will be broadcast at 21:00 Central European Summer Time (CEST).

I plan on watching at least some of it from their web tv site. As an American, I have no involvement or favorite in this. But I always find it interesting to watch. I may make some comments under this post. Feel free to do so as well if you’re so inclined.

Interestingly, there is no surprise in what the songs are as they are already posted on their web site under ‘Participants.’ Those of you who are familiar with this competition know it’s a very pop-oriented show. And while I’ve always to some extent been a fan of popular music, much of what I hear today leaves me cold. But I find it fascinating nevertheless. Never know when the next ABBA or Bjork will emerge.

Speaking of ABBA, as part of the 50th anniversary, fans voted on the best song ever to come out of Eurovision. The winner was “Waterloo”. And while I certainly haven’t heard every Eurovision song ever, I concur that “Waterloo” is a great song. I consider it maybe the best pure pop song ever written.

According to Wikipedia: The song broke the “dramatic ballad” tradition of the contest by its flavour and rhythm, as well as by its performance. ABBA gave the audience something that had never been seen before in Eurovision – flashy costumes (including silver platform boots), plus a catchy uptempo song and even simple choreography. (Very simple – Agnetha and Anni-Frid are terrific singers, dancers, not so much – me).

The group also broke from convention by singing the song in a language other than that of their home country. Prior to “Waterloo” all Eurovision singers had been required to sing in their country’s native tongue, a restriction that was lifted briefly in the 1970s (thus allowing “Waterloo” to be sung in English), then reinstated a few years later before ultimately being removed.

I thank blogger Jem Tunes for initially digging up this video. It’s fun to see a band at the exact moment of the beginning of their stardom:

May the best man, er, woman, er country win!

 

10 thoughts on “Eurovision

  1. Fantastic stuff. I always watch Eurovision for the sheer kitsch cringe 😀
    Luckily in the UK we have a very witty commentator making sly comments over the whole thing which somewhat mediates the plastic sparkle. Looking forward to it 😉
    Interesting post, btw, and yes: Waterloo is just a great pop song (though I do have a niggling hunch that ABBA may in fact be androids)

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    1. “Sheer kitsch cringe.” I like that expression so much I think I will borrow it and throw it into random conversations as if I just made it up. 🙂

      Yes, alas, I am stuck with the plastic game-show host commentators. Either that or I may just mute the sound when they say something vapid.

      And I’m fully certain that the ABBA members are resting quite nicely in their pods somewhere.

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  2. Checking out videos on youtube and found this video of the Eurovision winners from 1956 to 2014. It was really fun to watch. Not what I expected. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is..hopefully. 🙂

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    1. I’ll check it out, thanks. Didn’t get to see as much of this year as I’d hoped. I’m going to watch recordings of semifinals on their site.

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    2. Very interesting to watch the progression over the years. It seems to have started out with Edith Piaf-like torch singers, mostly maintaining the “solo singer” identity all throughout the Sixties. It got a little poppier in the mid-Sixties but for the most part,appears to have existed in some sort of a bubble with regards to the rock music that was exploding everywhere. And until I watched this I did not realize that the winning country hosted the following year’s competition.

      It also shows what a game-changer ABBA really were,at least in terms of this contest. Prior to them, no real bands. Subsequent to them, fresh-faced pop bands galore! (That said, I don’t think I was aware that Celine Dion had won this.) Loved the choreography of the Swedes in ’92. Unintentionally funny I think.

      It looks to me that the first inkling of a rock band came with Katrina and the Waves in 1997. Not heavy rock mind you, but pop-rock. And they are mostly famous for “Walking on Sunshine,” a much better song IMHO. And my favorite of course, is the Finnish heavy metal band from 2006, Lordi. (How the hell did they get on this show?) I have a Finnish friend and while their music is not her cup of tea, she was still excited that her country won. Also, got a kick out of the bearded drag queen from 2014. It’s a long, strange trip from 1956. 😀

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      1. Yes, really interesting progression with singing styles and, also, a progression into singing in English, which I just wrote about. It was interesting for me to see how much I enjoyed the old torch singing as much as the new sound. I thought some of it was hysterical. I think you spoke about the Swedes in ‘92 with the guys dancing in suits. Not sure why but it cracked me up. 🙂

        Like you, I have no idea how the mental band Lordi got in and then won the competition. Their costumes were ridiculous. Just as surprised to see Katrinia and the Waves, Celine Dion as well as Lulu. The bearded drag queen I saw on a TV show but didn’t enjoy her singing until I heard her sing on the video clip. All and all, I thought there was a lot of talent during those years including the earlier years.

        BTW – I read online that countries also quality for Eurovision depending on their contribution to the event.. The story read, “The entrants from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain automatically qualified for the final because their countries contribute the most money to the competition.”

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  3. In case you missed it, Ukraine won Eurovision with the song “1944,” by a singer named Jamala. I guess there was some controversy as there was a political element to the song. Anyway, not a bad song as these things go. Nothing I’d buy, mind you. But not bad.

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  4. Song game me chills. I especially loved, what I consider, ancient chanting in Jamala’s song. I also was happy that she sang both in English and her native tongue. I noticed the change of singing more in English through the years with the Eurovision winners. It was good to hear the new winner sang in both languages and hope it continues to be more of a trend. Thanks for posting.

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