Europe Gears Up for Wacky Song Fest

Edited by walterp on . Posted in Music

People across Europe will be glued to their TV sets on Saturday night, watching acts ranging from weird to raunchy to wonderful. The event, "Olympics of Popular Song," is produced annually by Eurovision. Germany's entry: Lena Meyer-Landrut.

By Karen Carstens

No matter how the entrants from dozens of different countries try to impress their geographically far-flung audience, they can all rest assured that they are taking part in the world's wackiest "Olympics of Popular Song".

Just like the European Union, there is nothing quite like "Eurovision", the biggest international song contest on the planet.Good, campy funWhile Eurovision is hardly a household name in the western hemisphere, it is an annual fixture on the European entertainment calendar.

The quality of the songs performed might seem perplexing to anyone new to Eurovision – very few of the acts could hold a candle to Lady Ga Ga.

But Eurovision is not necessarily about launching careers for talented singers who just happen to be down on their luck like the hit US TV show "American Idol" or its latest rival, "The Voice".

It is about wallowing in the truly cheesy fun of it all and voting from home via telephone based on your gut instict – or national preferences.

Nice neighbors

The Nordic countries, the Baltic states or many central European countries, for instance, will tend to vote in blocks – especially if their own country has already been eliminated – for their neighbors with whom they share many cultural and historic links.

The Greeks and the Turks, by contrast, do not often vote for each other, given that they have a nagging little problem called "Cyprus".

The little Lena that could

Last year, a cute teenage girl from Germany named Lena Meyer-Landrut stole the hearts of many Eurovision fans with her oddly accented English in a rendition of an adorable little pop diddy called "Satellite".

Given that Lena won the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo, this year's event is taking place in Düsseldorf, Germany. The deal is that whoever wins gets to bring Eurovision "home" to their own country the following year.

Lena will try to defend her Eurovision title on May 14 with the song "Taken by a Stranger".Yet, based on a random, unscientific poll of Germans living in the Washington DC area, she is, alas, not predicted to win again.

But Eurovision is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you're gonna get!The Jedward twin duo from Ireland performing their song "Lipstick" at a rehearsal of the second semi final for the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest.

Waterloo

The most famous winner of a Eurovision song contest is probably the superstar Swedish pop quartet ABBA, which coasted to a Eurovision victory with a catchy tune called "Waterloo" in 1974.

And the most controversial is probably Dana International, an Israeli transsexual who won in 1998 with the aptly entitled "Diva". (The controversy stemmed less from Dana's lifestyle than the broader question of whether Israel should really be considered part of Europe?

Dana International, by the way, was competing again this year, but was knocked out in the semi-finals.) The now legendary French-Canadian songstress Celine Dion meanwhile won for Switzerland back in 1988 with "Ne partez pas sans moi". (Another quirky aspect of Eurovision is that national acts do not necessarily always originally hail from the countries they represent in the contest.)

Julio Iglesias (1970) and Cliff Richard (1968) were top Eurovision contendors in the past who narrowly missed winning the contest. Katrina and the Waves – featuring the Kansas-born, UK-based American singer Katrina Leskanich – meanwhile won the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest with "Love Shine a Light".

Eurovision was launched by the Geneva-based European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and first aired in 1955. The song contest has surely achieved its dual purpose of extending the EBU's broadcasting influence while at the same time bringing Europeans together in an "ever closer union", to borrow from the EU's own nerdy albeit uniquely apropos jargon.

Easy sell

Whether Eurovision has produced all too many lasting contributions to the world of pop music, however, is another matter. Still, watching a Eurovision song contest can be a fun and campy way to enjoy the "unity and diversity" of what its organizers have come to loosely define as "Europe". (Russia and Turkey, for instance, are also included in the Eurovision family.)

Today's EU leaders must continuously grapple with stabilizing the eurozone while at the same time selling the European project to sometimes skeptical citizens who wonder what it really is doing for them.

Welcome to the euro zone

Eurovision, by contrast, showcases the lighter side of the "unity and diversity" of modern Europe. Thanks to Eurovision, everyone can let off some steam and express various national rivalries dating back in some cases to antiquity in a lighthearted fashion – usually without anyone getting hurt in the process.

Maybe it would be a good idea for other regions of the world to contemplate starting up their own Eurovision contests. An Iraqi version of "American Idol" that first airedy only a few years ago could, for instance, be a good starting point for a wider regional production in the Middle East.

NAFTA Vision?

On this side of the Atlantic Eurovision could be replaced by a kind of tri-country "NAFTA-Vision" contest between all the states and regions of Canada, the US, and Mexico.

At least three languages would be allowed onstage in this contest – English, French and Spanish, maybe with a few more thrown in for good measure, such as German, Chinese and Russian.

During the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest a Belgian group was fronted by a female singer in a flowing dark robe with a mane of chocolate brown hair who breathed into the microphone in a faux language of her own invention.

Leave it up to a country with three official languages (French, Flemish and German) to put forward a Eurovision act that decided to make up its own, new "pan-European" language.

This year, reportedly for the first time ever, the French Eurovision contestant will not be singing in French, but in another language – Corsican.

Eurovision really is like a box of chocolates, which is why people can't seem to get enough of it.

From: The Week in Germany

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