Bringing Out the Worst in Europe

May 24th, 2010 at 2:13 pm | 4 Comments |

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Like most postwar European institutions, the Eurovision song contest was born decadent and since then it has only gotten worse.  Eurovision, is the annual contest that brings together 39 countries, the vast majority of them European, in a competition of previously unpublished songs. Eurovision started in 1956 as an effort to bring together the countries of war-torn Europe.

It was a plan by a European committee and consequently it came with the usual package: naïve in intention, shady in action and really pathetic in end results. Starting with the initial intention to bring the European countries together, Eurovision has instead reaffirmed national and regional biases. Scandinavian countries vote for each other, the same goes for the Balkans as well, and somehow the Greeks almost always find the best song to be a Cyprian one and vice versa.

While geography, history and cultural ties benefit some, it’s clearly a detriment for some others. In 2009, Terry Wogan, presenter of Eurovision in the UK for 38 years, said that it was all “rubbish.” He added that “Britain has attacked nearly every country in Europe and people don’t forget.” People in Europe don’t forget and that’s very true; if it makes sense to be refighting Agincourt every year in a song competition is another story though.

Nevertheless the UK along with France, Germany and Spain will automatically make it to the finals since they contribute the most funding for the competition. It’s a tad peculiar: just consider if Canada in the most recent Olympic Games was guaranteed a place in the top five in every sport it participated in, just because it paid for the games.  Americans would have made the operation profitable and given each country a share of the profits equal to its contribution. Europeans, having long-standing issues with profitability, prefer to openly rig the competition.

And that brings us to the final consequence of the competition. Eurovision like so many other European institutions established to bring Europeans together somehow manages to bring the worst out of them. And it’s not just the biased voting, the peculiar mechanisms, et cetera, but mainly the unabashedly, exceedingly awful music that gets produced. It’s almost mind bungling to have countries with such rich cultural heritage trying and succeeding in surpassing Americans in the production of really bad songs. There are exceptions every now and then, which nonetheless, validate the general rule. On a yearly basis Europe tries and succeeds in outperforming America in the production of cultural trash. One has only to look at the 2008 Spanish entry “Baila el chiki chiki” which would aesthetically offend even the most arduous consumer of musical rubbish.  Or take this year’s entry from the Netherlands “Ik Ben Verliefd” which proves that Lawrence Welk is still alive, well and hard at work in Amsterdam. Belarus entry “Butterflies”  give you a pretty good idea about the kind of lyrics one has to endure:

And we’re like butterflies
Flying to the sun

The sun will never
Let us look inside
I believe
That all’ll be opened up
But in the right time

Open-hearted wait for it

And all the secrets will come out…

I don’t want those secrets coming out.

I do wonder how Kenneth Clark would cover the whole spectacle in his series Civilisation, perhaps, a special chapter entitled, From the Skin of Our Teeth to the Fat of Our Belly.

There is something more embarrassing than having your own country default on its debts, and that is having her participate in the Eurovision song contest. Kudos to Italy for staying out.

Recent Posts by Napoleon Linardatos

4 Comments so far ↓

  • mlindroo

    Lighten up, Nappy!
    Any contest that gave the world ABBA can’t be all bad can it?

    The Eurovision song contest is lightweight fun and not something that should be analyzed too deeply.


  • ottovbvs

    “Like most postwar European institutions, the Eurovision song contest was born decadent”

    ……obviously Napoleon preferred those pre-war institutions like the leagure of nations, the Nazi party and the Iron guard…….it’s pretty excruciating but comparing the song contest with European development since WW 2 suggests Linardatos is a fairly considerable chump

  • forgetn

    Maybe the UK makes it to the final five, but it didn’t stop it from getting “Zero Points” one year. From what I’ve seen recently, it seems to be an excuse to show heavy metal to an unsuspecting public — although there is something interesting (strange actually) in watching Heavy metal in Swedish; think the Muppets’ Swedish Chef gone wild!

    Pure anthropological interest!

  • sinz54

    I’ll stick with “America, the Beautiful.”