Eurovision 2013: All Of Europe Under One Roof

Launched in 1956, Eurovision is a Europe-wide music competition held every May under the auspices of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Participating countries select their representative songs over the course of the preceding winter and spring. Some countries – like Sweden – make their selections via televised heats held over several consecutive weeks. Others – like the U.K. (this year, at least) – make their selections by internal committee.

Eurovision is a major event in Europe, with a remarkable 125 million viewers.

Nowadays, Eurovision lasts for almost an entire week. With the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there are now so many participating countries – 39 this year; even more in recent years – that two semi-finals are required to winnow down contestants to a manageable tally for the grand final. After semifinals on Tuesday and Thursday, this year’s final will be held later today in Malmö, Sweden. (Sweden won Eurovision last year, and with its win came the right to host this year’s contest.)Eurovision is not generally considered to be a showcase for serious music, and few global stars emerge from it. One very notable exception is ABBA, who turned their 1974 win with “Waterloo” into enormous international success. In lieu of musical seriousness, the event unleashes a kind low-impact skirmish of muted patriotisms and a massive gay following.

For many countries, participation in Eurovision is a rite of passage, a sign of progress. An Israeli friend once told me that in the late 1970s her family would dress up to watch Eurovision in their living room. This symbolic appeal of Eurovision remains especially strong in some Eastern European countries and the Caucasus today.

All members of the European Broadcasting Union can participate in Eurovision. This fact explains Israel‘s participation. Other EBU members beyond the borders of Europe include Morocco (who participated just once, in 1980) and several countries that have never participated: Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia. True Eurovision nerds will tell you that Kazakhstan, Kosovo and Liechtenstein have all submitted applications for EBU membership.

So right, tonight. The odds have Denmark‘s Emmelie de Forest, Norway‘s Margaret Berger (with likely the strongest straight-up pop song, a little piece of driven magic titled “I Feed You My Love”), Ukraine‘s Zlata Ognevich, Azerbaijan‘s Farid Mammadov and Russia‘s Dina Garipova at the top of the pile.

In addition to these, Hungary, Romania and Greece have emerged as fan favorites. ByeAlex, the Hungarian entrant, sings a lush, quietly earnest song called “Kedvesem.” The singer looks like a quiet, earnest Mission District hipster; he distinguished himself in the press conference for the second semi-final winners on Thursday night by quoting Friedrich Nietzsche. Romania’s entry, sung by a countertenor opera singer named Cezar, is an instant Eurovision dance classic with a particularly over-the-top choreography. The Greek entry, by Koza Mostra featuring rebetiko singer Agathonas Iakovidis, combines folk, punk and rebetiko themes.

For those who follow Eurovision obsessively, the event itself is a kind of quasi-religious experience. The line between fandom and evangelism is imprecise for this tribe, many of whom attend Eurovision regularly. This week in Malmö, the Eurovision tribe is everywhere, sharing the gospel of playful but somehow meaningful pop music. The photo above, taken yesterday, gets at some of the gospel’s magic. It’s simple and interpersonal. Koza Mostra’s lead singer, Elias Kozas, has swapped flags with a German Eurovision fan. No negotiations. No conflict. No international frustrations. Just a snapshot of a moment within which flags don’t matter much.

French Eurovision song causes trouble for using English lyrics

The French language is incredibly important to those who speak it; so important that it even has its own academy established to do everything possible to protect it. So the fact that this year’s French entry for the Eurovision song contest uses English lyrics has caused a slight national upset.

Jacques Mynard, of the UMP party — the same party as President Nicolas Sarkozy — has urged France’s major TV networks to reconsider the choice of Sebastien Tellier’s song which combines both French and English lyrics. Mynard feels that a bilingual song does a bad job of representing the nation. “The French language is the tool of a huge industry in terms of cultural influence and if we French give up our language, what do you think the others will say?” said Mynar. This isn’t so surprising considering that earlier this year, Sarkozy himself asked for 100% French television broadcasts; when it comes to the French language, there is no kidding around.

Tellier however feels that he needs to use a combination of French and English to achieve his own artistic goals. “To explain the vision of French people of sexuality and of life and so, to be understood, I need to sing in English,” Tellier said. This will be the first time that France uses a non-French song as a Eurovision entry.

Countries that compete at Eurovision are free to sing in whatever language they choose. Sweden has a great way of getting around the language issue: for the contests leading up to the final decision of what song goes to Eurovision, the songs are sung in Swedish, but when the national winner goes on and competes at Eurovision, it is usually with with an English version. According to Eurovision, songs sung in English statistically have a better chance of winning. France will just have to decide whether it prefers to protect the language or have a better chance at coming home with the Eurovision title.

Spain to “dance the chiki chiki” at Eurovision 2008

What’s a country to do when two million residents vote for a man who calls himself Rodolfo Chikilicuatre and looks like an exaggerated (not to mention distorted) version of Elvis, to represent their country in this year’s Eurovision?

Although condemned by the press, there is nothing that can be done but laugh and join in the “chiki chiki”!

Eurovision is one of the longest running television programs in the world. It’s a singing competition where each country sends a representative; the day of the contest, all participants must sing their respective songs live as the European audience votes for the best song.

Being a continent-wide singing competition, the contest is generally taken seriously, but the Spanish people seem to have a different definition of that as they chose to send the contestant they found most absurd and hilarious. The representing song “Baila Chiki Chiki” is a rap reggaton that includes reference to politicians and to grandmothers waving knickers in the air as they dance the “chiki chiki”. Go Spain!

The word is that our Spanish chiki chiki will only face competition from Ireland’s rubber turkey puppet Dustin. The contest this year in on May 24 in Belgrade.