Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog

Eurovision Song Contest 2011 (Or what does Europe want?)

Eurovision Song Contest

Eurovision Song Contest

Although I promise myself, each and every year, that I will stop watching the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), this annual moment of laughable grief (meaning that the initial enthusiasm that accompanies some of the songs is ultimately destroyed by the final results), I always end up doing the opposite.

2011 couldn’t have been the year when I actually kept the promise. First of all because ESC had “come” so close (Is it following me?!?). The events took place in Dusseldorf this year, after Germany’s victory in 2010. Second, because thanks to some of my colleagues’ initiative, a screening of the final show, which took place on the 14th May, was organized in one of the dorms, so that we ended up sharing in the convulsions and the blubber of that night of self-exorcism that Europe seems to perform every year. A night of “snacks and circus”, I would say (I myself chipped in with some “thematic” fruit jelly Euro cents.).

Our fellows from the other continents (those who, hesitantly, joined us) couldn’t at first understand the cause of our bizarre excitement, but once the show started everyone entered the frenzy, not to mention the treat that the voting process, the famous douze-points-giving, was.

I won’t make extensive comments about the songs (be it for the fact that I was bound to have a favorite), but I will say that, just as it does every year, Europe came onto the stage well-adorned, with strange hairstyles and straining voices, covering, as usual, a most hallucinating span of genres (even opera counts, with France as an example). Europe sang in English, sometimes even in macaronic English-French (like Lithuania). Europe brought on the stage dancers, actors, and other celebrities just to make the performances “fuller.” Eccentric decors and letters-on-jackets forming the name of the singer (see Russia’s performance; memorably, in 2008 they won with Evgeny Pliushenko on the stage!). All this, combined with the gigantic screen projecting parallel motifs, made it vertiginous.

One couldn’t find time to comment upon everything concomitantly. The experts in art focused on the visual effects (Greece had hip-hop elements, with ancient columns projected on the screen!), others detected here a crystal Celine Dion voice, there a false note, but ultimately most of us were part of a strange “yes or no” spontaneous jury. Whenever the representatives of one the countries whose natives were among us performed, everyone clapped and was merry.

Merry-go-round as this all is, one gets the strange feeling that nothing actually changes, as years pass. It’s a carousel. Every year you could trace this or that underground relation to a previous contestant or song. Every year—the persistent beginners, then, some ex-pop-stars trying to resuscitate their glory, then sometimes winners coming back as if craving a failure (The German winner of 2010 obeyed this logic and participated this year.), sometimes those who didn’t make it the first time winning on their second try, and so on.

There is even an “ESC style” of music, which one immediately recognizes. Although it’s not always the case that this guarantees victory (and that’s when rock, for instance, takes over the unadventurous pop, eventually with some ethnic vibes).

 But all this showbiz swing doesn’t really mean anything without the usual political controversy (i.e. the final vote). It is enough to say that some call it all “Neighborvision”.

We ourselves came to the conclusion that there’s no better way to understand Europe and its (political) climate than to look at how each of the countries’ votes are distributed. Thus, following the well-known logic, the Balkan countries will support each other.  So will the ex-Soviet countries. On the other hand, it’s no surprise when Moldova exchanges twelve points with Romania, Greece gets its twelve from Cyprus, and Italy from San Marino, etc.

Whenever an exception to the rule happened, everyone was electrified. Iceland and Hungary amazed everyone with their incredibly “diverse” votes. Or what about Israel voting for Sweden (after a more or less recent diplomatic conflict)? The question was, each time: Is country X making a political statement by giving fewer points to Y this year?

We can only hope that the exceptions (not few, I guess) prepare a more non-political Eurovision. But I also couldn’t help being disappointed at the end. Alas, it’s the last time I will watch it (I promise)!

All in all, there was too much of Europe in Europe that night. A paradoxical unity, I would say (the organizers decided to “celebrate” it by making the intro video for each country . . . a portrait of an immigrant.). Now that we know the winner (Ell/Nikki from Azerbaijan – “Running Scared”), we can ask ourselves: What kind of music does Europe want and why? Ultimately, what does Europe want?!? Europe wants, in torturing “adoration,” to “run scared tonight.” And also Europe wants to . . . imperceptibly glide. To Azerbaijan.

by Aurelia Cojocaru (1st year BA, Moldova)

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