Photo credit: Thomas Hanses
There are strobe lights. There are robots. There’s a woman who clucks like a chicken.
Welcome, my friends, to the Eurovision Song Contest.
At its core, the concept is simple. Countries of European Broadcasting Union each select one musical act for the competition, and the winner is ultimately chosen based on a combination of viewer votes and the in-person musical jury. But to say that Eurovision Song Contest is a mere singing competition would be to sell short over sixty years of no-holds-barred European musical shenanigans. Instead, it may best be described as a cross between American Idol and Miss Universe (if each were fed copious amounts of magical European fairy dust). And it has likely had more of an impact than you realize. After all, if you’ve heard of ABBA, you arguably have the Eurovision Song Contest to thank for that.
Following the two semi-finals this week (which, sadly, did not air in the US), the one and only Grand Final is gearing up to air on Saturday afternoon. To help you get up to speed before the big event, here are a few stand-outs you can look forward to watching tomorrow.
Yes, I know. Geography may not be my strong suit, but even I’m aware that Australia’s not in Europe. Ryan Reynolds, jealous that Canada has not also been granted entry privileges, pointed out that this seemingly arbitrary treatment served only to awaken “a sleeping moose.”
I, on the other hand, am not in the mood to ask too many questions (especially when it seems like there’s no good answer). Instead, I’m just grateful for the catchy pop of Australia’s Jessica Mauboy. The woman can sing the phrase “we got love” in approximately ninety different ways and I’m still looking forward to the ninety-first. If that’s not talent, I don’t know what is.
While I do not speak a lick of Albanian, I’m oddly drawn to Albania’s non-English language entry. It’s got shades of Bon Jovi’s Always, but with a soulfulness that’s all its own. Also, I’m not complaining about the sultry eyes of singer Eugent Bushpepa (and, of the many things I’m looking forward to in Saturday’s competition, learning the correct pronunciation of his name is up there).
God bless the French for delivering on so many critical French stereotypes in one fell swoop. Between the stark black turtlenecks and shots of the Eiffel Tower, all we really need is a few strategically tilted berets and this thing is good to go.
But lest we forget, life’s not all bon bons and Pepe le Pew (and may I just say to you, France, that I’m sorry for feeding into all of these ridiculous stereotypes. I promise I’ll stop). The song’s sobering message is based on the real-life story of a refugee born on a rescue ship, caught (quite literally) in between two worlds. In between the over-the-top fanfare of their competition, it’s an important reminder of the realities hovering just beyond the contest’s reach.
While the lyrics teeter all-too-closely on the bring of repetitive (“you said we’d be together ’til we die; I’ll forever wonder why” sticks out over and over…and over), Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy has officially won me over with:
(1) His unbelievably, incredibly, undeniably charming and deeply Irish name;
(2) His music video couple-turned-interpretive dancers; and (above all)
(3) The fact that The Irish Times seems to have lost its mind over Ryan’s progression to the Eurovision Song Contest finals.
Regardless of how things shake out Saturday (and I heavily hope that they shake in Israel’s favor), I will be listening to Netta’s Toy for the foreseeable future. From her very first chicken cluck (trust me, she actually makes it good) to the last kicky dance move, it’s obvious why she’s a clear favorite to come out on top in Saturday’s competition.
When I think of country music, the Dutch are not the first (or the second, third or even eightieth) thing that comes to mind. Frankly, for a nation characterized (at least, in my mind) by the effortless cool of hipsters that don’t actually have to try to be hip, it’s a bit of a mismatch. But to hear Waylon belt about whiskey and diamondback rattles with the perfect country twang is to know that my silly European stereotypes are, well, just plain silly.
The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest airs 3:00 PM ET on Saturday, May 12 on Logo.