Why I Watch Eurovision - Daniel Viles



So, you're asking, what is a highly cultured artistically-gifted anti-kitsch young man doing paying a small homage to the Eurovision Song Contest? Well, it's all my mother's fault. Like many Anglo-Australian mothers, my mother suffers from a horrible disease which leaves it victims with an insatiable appetite for Cliff Richard music. During my time caring for my mother, I was occasionally in a position in which I had to stay with her and watch Cliff's concert videos. Cliff, of course, regularly mentions the fact that he lost the Eurovision Song Contest twice in his banter with the audience.


Well, I didn't think too much more about it, until in May 1989, I saw a TV advertisement on SBS for that year's Eurovision Song Contest, which I duly watched. The music ranged from the intriguing to the cringeworthy, the presentation was amateurish and the voting was very strange indeed. I loved it!


I managed to catch the contest the following year, but missed it in 1991 as a result of the near-absence of advertising for the contest in the Australian media. I have seen every contest since except 1993 (same reason for missing it as 1991), although, I nearly gave it away in the mid-nineties. After the dreadful 1994 contest, I wasn't watching the show in 1995. My family, however, were watching the contest, and dragged me out of my bedroom when they heard the Norwegian entry. The rest of the contest didn't impress me too much, but fortunately, the Norwegian entry won the contest and I heard the reprise. The song, of course, was "Nocturne" by Secret Garden, and the fact that such a brilliantly crafted piece of music won the contest greatly surprised me.


I had already worked out that the winning song largely determined the dominant music forms of the following year's contest, and eagerly anticipated a series of songs with ethnic flavours and acoustic instruments in the 1996 contest. Well, the music that year was unbelievably good and the presentation of the Norwegians was the most fun and the least kitsch that I had seen in the history of Eurosong. What's more, this particular Irish victory ensured that the musical style continued into the 1997 contest, in which RTE took the presentation of the contest to another level again. Unfortunately, the winning song by Katrina and the Waves, while good in itself, spawned a series of poor impersonations in the 1998 contest, and Dana International's victory meant that the contest had taken only two years to return to the depths from which it came.


So, why do I still watch it? I watch it in hope. I listen for the songs that show creativity, emotion and that generally convey the idea that the artist gives a shit about what they're doing. While these were almost absent in the 1999 contest, the 2000 ESC saw some credibility return via the entries from Latvia and Romania. However, as long as Eurosong persists with televoting as the only means of deciding the winner and allows entries to be performed in any language, I fear that nations will too often go for the instant pop song over anything lasting and creative.


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