Friday, April 10, 2009

Flashback Friday: Eurovision

This episode of Flashback Friday is kind of a stretch, but darnit, I want to talk about Eurovision today and it’s my blog so I’m finding a way to make it work.

Do you know what Eurovision is? If you don’t, you are as I once was, back in 2002. Then Jeremy and I moved to Moscow, Russia, and Eurovision was suddenly a relevant part of our lives and the lives of those around us. It became even more relevant when we took a weekend vacation in May to Tallinn, Estonia, where Eurovision was actually going to take place later that same month.

My thoughts at the time could be summed up thusly: What is this “Eurovision” of which everyone is speaking? That question can be answered in two ways.

On paper, said with a straight face, it is a musical Olympics of sorts, where the best music act from each of 50-some European countries converges on one European capital to duke it out on the stage. The winner of Eurovision earns bragging rights for their home country for the entire year, as well as...well, that's pretty much it.

In reality, of course, it is a pants-wettingly funny display of the cheesiest, most obnoxiously performed, poorly written music EVER, all the more hilarious because it is all done entirely in earnest. It’s like the auditions for American Idol on a global (well, European) scale, except that the bad acts have supposedly already been culled from the competition, since each country only sends one representative.

Eurovision, much like the Olympics, has had its occasional scandals. In 1978, Jordan broadcast the contest on national television but cut out Israel’s act (no, Israel is not in Europe, but whatever). Then, when Israel won the contest, Jordan simply ignored that fact and proclaimed the runner-up - Belgium - as winner. Classy.

Eurovision is such a festival of cheesiness that some singers have been able to represent their country even when singing songs in made-up languages. And a couple of years ago, these guys (the group Lordi, from Finland) won:

Aye caramba.

Then there was last year’s contest, which brings me back to the beginning of my post, and Russia. Russia has been a part of Eurovision since 1994, but it had never won the contest. Even in 2002, when we were there, this was a sore spot in the national psyche. Each year that passed and Russia didn’t win again, it was always because of some voting conspiracy, or prejudice among the politically based voting system, or whatever. But all that changed last year. In 2008, Dima Bilan brought home to Russia the ultimate glory from Eurovision with his song, “Believe.”

Here is the video. Please watch it. If you knew nothing about Eurovision before reading this post, you will understand everything after watching the video. The winning song from 2008 is a vaguely catchy, vanilla pop-ballad with generic, quasi-inspiring English lyrics, sung by a wholesomely handsome artist.

But that’s not enough to win Eurovision.

To win Eurovision, you have to have a guy bust onto the stage from NOWHERE and start figure-skating around you as you sing (I am not making this up – skip to 2:24 to see it happen). I don’t care if it IS Yevgeny Plushenko. It’s still shockingly corny.

I wish we could be in Moscow at the end of May to see Eurovision in person. Instead, I'll be doing the next-best thing: culling YouTube for the "best" acts after the contest is over. Admit it - after reading this (and this article from the NYT blog), so will you.


Stephanie said...

YouTube, here I come!

Jeremy Palmer said...

Make sure to read the NYT blog article "Imported Cheese" at

Read the comments too. They are entertaining.

I wonder if Russia was peeved that the winning song was in English!?

Jeremy Palmer said...

One the comments on the NYT blog pointed out this classy video:

Actually, it's what I think Hell might be like.

Eevi said...

Yeah Lordi is pretty much the coolest thing from Finland...NOT!

Lisa Lou said...

Oh man. This was the best thing ever. I especially liked the classy way he ripped his shirt open at the end. Very nice.

Kristen said...

HEY! Plushenko totally stole those moves from me! That's exactly what I looked like rollerskating around my garage as a kid pretending to be a figure skater. Or Ariel, depending on the day.

Steven said...

I love the front row at 1:26-1:30. And the random ice skater.


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