“But B,” I can hear you saying. “It’ s May. Christmas is seven months away. I know the season starts earlier every year, but this is ridiculous.”
This is true. But I’m not talking about Christmas. This week is even better: it’s Eurovision.
In 1956, the European Broadcasting Union held an intra-Europe song contest, broadcast live on television from Lugano, Switzerland. Seven countries entered, Switzerland won. Since then the Eurovision Song Contest has been an annual event, sometimes serious sometimes wacky, occasionally regrettable but always fun. In the U.S., it seems to be most known as the launching ground for ABBA, who won the contest in 1974 with “Waterloo.” The Seventies were a bit of a heyday for Eurovision, preceding what I would call a bit of a decline in the 1990s. In the past decade, I think it’s bounced back pretty well. It’s kind of like Doctor Who that way.
I first was introduced to Eurovision via a BBC article on the 2008 contest. Finding out about Eurovision is a bit of a dangerous rabbit hole – hours later I poked my head up from the dozen YouTube videos of Eurovision entrants past on my computer and realized I had found something amazing.
That year, in 2008, Dima Bilan won for Russia with his song “Believe.” You have to see the performance: In addition to Bilan, the live show featured Hungarian composer and violinist Edvin Marton and Olympic figure skater Evgeni Plushenko* skating on a sheet of artificial ice. Eurovision is that kind of a big deal:
That 2008 contest also featured perhaps the most glorious and baffling entries ever: “Pokusaj” by Elvir Lakovic. There are no words to do justice in describing the running, the supertall singer in an ‘80s-era headband, the quartet of knitting brides, and the laundry. An earlier version of the song included a live chicken, just hanging out on stage. Seriously, if you watch nothing else in this post, watch this video:
Turkey’s entry was Mor ve Otesi, a pretty popular band here:
In 2009, I was in Turkey during Eurovision Week. Even better, I was at a resort in Antalya with a bunch of other twentysomething Americans, most of whom had never heard of Eurovision before. We held a viewing party with mojitos and snarky commentary (n.b. if your Eurovision viewing does not include significant amounts of snark, I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong) and watched the adorable elfin Norwegian entry, Alexander Rybak, win with “Fairytale.” This entry is, at least for me, the earwormiest Eurovision winner:
Also noteworthy in 2009 was Greece’s entry, performed on what appeared to be a giant stapler emblazoned with the Greek flag:
And Turkey’s sparked controversy domestically due to the content of the lyrics and the fact that the singer, Hadise, is actually a Belgian-Turk:
2010’s Eurovision was won by Germany, with Lena’s “Satellite,” which is about the most mainstream-pop song I’ve heard win Eurovision in recent history. It’s fun and bubbly:
Then last year, Azerbaijan took the trophy with “Running Scared,” sung by El and Nikki. Fun fact: Nikki’s real name is Nigar, but the country committee decided to change it for the contest out of concerns that people would make detrimental associations.
In celebration of Azerbaijan’s win and the fact that the country is hosting this year, 2 Peace Corps volunteers in Azerbaijan made a spoof of “New York State of Mind,” titled “Baku State of Mind,” which is a pretty good introduction to Baku life (says the person who’s never been there…):
I originally planned to go into this year’s entries in this post, but 1. I already have 10 videos embedded in this post and 2. Baku State of Mind is a good note to end on, actually. That just means if you’re lucky/I’m motivated, all 2 of you regular readers will have three posts in about a week. That’s how awesome Eurovision is. Three-posts-a-week awesome.
Anyway, the semifinals start tomorrow, and I know you all must be at least half as excited as I am. After all, Eurovision only comes once a year.
*Incidentally, if you’ve never seen Plushenko’s routine to “Sex Bomb,” you are missing out and I will remedy that for you immediately: