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!