Recently, as I was reliving the unbeatable extravaganza that was Moscow 2009 on my laptop, my dad emerged from the dark recesses of the lounge room to make himself a cup of tea. This was not an unusual event in itself – it happens every night (don’t click away just yet; I swear I have a point). What got me thinking was his remark, after he had asked me what I was watching (as if I would be watching anything else musical). To my reply of “Do you have to ask?” came this response: “It doesn’t sound like Eurovision.” The country that was on at the time was Sweden, which as you’ll know was Malena Ernman with La Voix. This got me thinking. What exactly does Eurovision sound like?
You and I, loyal ESC fans, have been there as the music has become more diverse from one decade to the next, and adapted to the myriad of sounds that is no longer limited to schlager or ballads. But what is the Eurovision sound to non-fans like my dad? I think we can rule out popera.
A lot of the people that make fun of the contest must be stuck in a time warp, thinking they know what a Eurovision song is, as if there’s one formula that everyone follows. Eurovision is not Making Your Mind Up, nor is it Dancing Lasha Tumbai. Those songs are awesome, but they don’t encompass all of the other entries that came before and after them. Nowadays anything could be a Eurovision song. California Guurls? Sure. Cooler Than Me? Why not? Even that new one from the guy who used to front Live which sounds exactly the same as a Live song could represent the UK or … well, anywhere really. Consider these:
The Highest Heights (Lovebugs); Satellite (Lena); Sanomi (Urban Trad); For Real (Athena); Lady Alpine Blue (Mumuiy Troll); In My Dreams (Wig Wam); No No Never (Texas Lightning); We Could Be The Same (Manga); Unsubstantial Blues (Magdi); There Must Be Another Way (Noa & Mira Awad); Pokusaj (Laka); Et S’il Fallait Le Faire (Patricia Kaas).
If I played these songs from the last decade of ESC to the people who take great pride in squeezing the credibility out of ESC with zero evidentiary support (besides something they’ve been told or a snippet of a song they heard twenty years ago) without telling them they were entries, they’d never guess. The Highest Heights is an aural doppelganger for a good portion of indie songs on Triple J, a youth-aimed alternative radio station here in Oz. Satellite could have been Kate Nash’s or Lily Allen’s latest single. I could go on.
So I will. A song I have to mention is the one that shocked everyone, fans and haters alike, when it romped to a monster (pun wholeheartedly intended) victory four years ago. I refer, of course, to Hard Rock Hallelujah. “How could THAT impress Eurovision fans?” I hear the anti-ESC crowd yelp. “Why on Earth would they vote for a bunch of instrument-thrashing extras from The Lord of the Rings over the happy clappy sequin-encrusted Eurotrash that populates that ridiculous featherfest?” I’ll tell you why, peeps. Because times have a-changed, and our minds are open. And we obsessors know that Eurovision has never even been about happy clappy sequin-encrusted Eurotrash. Well not totally (What’s wrong with a bit of that anyway?). You can never guess who will bring what to the table in the preselections each year, even Sweden, the country with the most schlager-tastic reputation of all. Hey, without them, and Malena, and ‘la vwah’ I never would have written this genius post =)
So next time you relive a contest through sight or sound, pay some attention to the diversity, and you’ll see that the Eurovision sound is everywhere and nowhere. Dad, you can no longer say “That doesn’t sound like Eurovision” to anything, unless it’s the Dukes of Hazzard horn.*
* I’m not saying novelty horns are excluded from the ESC sound collective; in fact there’s a high likelihood of their making an appearance onstage in the future. All I’m alluding here is that due to the contest rules, the DOH horn would be disqualified, having already been published.
I think I’ll stop talking now.
Start the Eurovision conversation