Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fairytale Is Right


Americans don't get it. The Spouse and I don't anyhow.

I've lived in Europe since 2001, but I never paid any attention to this 53-year-old song contest until Moscow won the right to host this year.

It's all over town. Posters. Billboards. Buses. Everywhere you look. And the venue, the Olympic Stadium, is just around the corner from us.

I had to google it and find out exactly how this thing works. There are a few past winners whose names I've heard of. ABBA won in 1974 for "Waterloo." I know ABBA. Lulu, France Gall, Celine Dion, Katrina and the Waves . . . these are all Eurovision winners whose names I've heard of, even if I can't immediately hum one of their songs.

Before The Spouse and I sat down to watch the final last night, I had the distinct impression that Eurovision was known for the sort of European pop music that makes Americans shake their heads in disgust. The expectation for performers these days seems to not only be to sing a song, but to provide a whole vaudeville act complete with doo-wap girls, acrobats, and skimpy costumes.

We were late to the program, and came in about midway during the finals (Malta). We noted that the performers all seemed capable of belting out a tune with skill. They had stage presence. But when I tried to imagine hearing the respective songs on the radio, or getting them stuck in my head (an "ear worm" as the Germans call it), nothing really struck me.

My personal favorite was Denmark, but this is probably because their entry was very American in style. I even voted for them.

The scandal was Georgia: kicked out of the competition for including provocatively political lyrics in their song, "We Don't Wanna Put In." Eurovision strictly forbids any mention of politics. After that little disagreement between Russia and Georgia last summer, it's hard to take them seriously when they maintain that there is no reference to the current Russian Prime Minister here. But the attention has brought them more attention than they ever could have garnered via the contest. They're loving all the free PR.

But the winner. Sheesh. We heard this guy perform and remarked, "NO way! What a stupid song. The boy sure is cute. But NO WAY this will win."

Shows what experts we are in Eurovision tastes.

Not only did the cute boy win, he won with a record high number of votes. And when he returned to the stage to sing his song again, he didn't just sing the song, as I expected, but they did the whole act again, complete with the flips and push ups.

The Spouse, staying true to form, has already changed the name of the winning song from "Fairytale" to "Hairy Tail." He sings it to the cats.

Now, in Russia, every story has a dark side. And Eurovision is no exception.

Apparently Eurovision rivals Ice Capades in its attraction to the gay community. It is a musical White Party. An editorial in the latest issue of The Moscow News says,

Pride in hosting Eurovision surely has to go hand-in-hand with the traditions that the event is associated with, such as kitsch acts (transsexual Dana International was one winner, for example) and millions of gay and lesbian fans.

But it really came as no surprise that Moscow refused to give a parade permit to the local gays and lesbians who wanted to hold an event and thought Eurovision might provide the right tone and positive attention since Russia isn't exactly a gay-friendly place. What would be funny, if it weren't so sad, is that the OMOH, Russia's elite police force . . . the SWAT and SEALs of Russia . . . are what gets sent out whenever a few gay men and lesbians want to have a parade.

But there is cosmic justice in the universe, and every now and then you see their emblem in a mirror. I don't have to spell it out for you, do I? Think about it backwards . . . H-O-M . . . I'll leave you to it.

I'm told their paraphernalia is all the rage among the gay community in Spain. Anyone know for sure?


valentina said...

Yep you're right about Americans not getting it, at least this one doesn't. That disco throwback of the Georgia group seemed harmless to me as I didn't pick up on the political references at all.

The Danish song sounded so American that I actually googled it to be sure they weren't singing an American Country Western pop hit but it seems to be original to them. They even have southern accents! I thought it was the most professional and memorable of the 3. My American bias I'm sure. But I could see him actually on American Idol and making it pretty far in the contest. Mimi disparages A Idol because of the pop nature of it I guess, but I'll tell you some of those folks can REALLY sing!

The Norwegian kid just totally escapes me. Ok, so he is cute, but he has a most ordinary voice and that song was horrible and the acoutrements of the acrobats and the beauty contestant women dressed in passe evening gowns seemed totally absurd and then on top of it was his squeaky violin or should I say fiddle!

As one who has heard really fine fiddle playing, as the art is indiginous to SE Ohio, and although I am sure this is not the only place to claim this, his was awful!

AS much as we have all disparaged Celine Dion and ABBA they have a level of competency which only the Dane seemed to project. Of course I am basing my evaluation on only 3 examples but fortunately I have been spared the others! I did hear and Israeli/Palestinian duo on NPR the other day who were to compete. They were poppy to the max...But due to the political nature of their song perhaps they were disqualified? Who knows...It was pretty insipid...

Thank you for adding the "White Party" concept to my vocabulary. AS one who is gay friendly I had never known this before so I am glad to be informed about it.

AS Americans despite the antigay tenor throughout lots of America, including even CA, it seems hard to believe that any place as cosmopolitan as Moscow would be so totally homophobic but clearly it is. That is really amusing about the OMOH police!
"HA" as Seabury would clearly say!

Anyhow this was an interesting blog and seems to have provided some insight into the European kitschy level of taste which I'm sure we can rival as Americans...

We are after all, you and I culture snobs...But we were raised on the Beatles, the Stones and Jimmy Hendrix...xov

Jen said...

Well, I am an unashamed fan of Eurovision and have been for decades. To me the aim is not to sound so much like a contestant on American Idol as to present a slice of the competitors’ home country. Interpretations are often bizarre and at times incomprehensible – from the Ukraine’s prehistoric cave antics to irritating teen divas Tatu. You can usually count on Serbia to do something out of the box and Malta to send some 75 year old opera singer. Some performances are embarrassingly atrocious (actually, that’s usually the woeful presenters) and some are surprisingly haunting (Estonia this year for example). There can be a mix of death metal and acoustic folk songs. There is usually a slew of very old men in white suits teaming up with glamazons who’ve had more than a dash of facial work. Sometimes countries are so desperate to avoid holding next year’s show that their entries are deliberately amateur.

In short, it’s a spectacle.

I love Eurovision as it isn’t some bland homogeneous music show, though unfortunately the songs are becoming more and more generic - a kind of pop oatmeal. At the least, I really wish they would force contestants to sing in the language of the country.

Can't wait for Oslo next year 

Jen said...

Oh, I meant in the language of THEIR country!

The Expatresse said...

I liked Malta's singer. But she was definately more adult.

The Expatresse said...

Yeah . . . there was a lot of English.

I know Andrew Lloyd Weber composed the UK's entry this year (it was sort of boring, I thought). Do they usually compose their own works?

Jen said...

I think it was last year (or maybe the year before?) that the UK got no votes at all so I suppose they were out to improve. But what a tedious Andrew Lord Thing tune - not Eurovision at all!

There are regional competitions and then national competitions - I've seen some real shockers from Eastern Europe on youtube.

While they're supposed to be original compositions, many of them seem highly derivative and help can come from anywhere (two Aussies helped write the Greek song, dated as it was. Perhaps they wrote it in 1992).

Jen said...

I think one year they had a young teen with a skimpy outfit representing Malta. Everyone just about fell off their perches.

kate said...

I don't get it either. Never had. Probably never will.

Hadn't thought about Omon backwards. Now that image will make me giggle every time I see them out looking fierce.

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