Tonight we will almost certainly hear the hosts of Eurovision declare that ‘music has the power to unite us’ to the uproarious cheers of the stadium full of revellers. This largely fatuous sentiment isn’t necessarily wrong, but it fails to capture in its entirety what makes Eurovision so great.
There is no meaningful political statement to be found in the song contest, no matter how hard every Guardian think piece journalist might look. Eurovision triumphs not because it is powerful, but because it’s a pure celebration of sincerity and joy.
Eurovision, its contestants, and its fans, are defiant in the face of cynicism.
The music is utterly bland. Only two types of songs succeed, the power ballads laced with facile sentiments about love, or the electronic pop with a twist (a violin, an elaborate stage set up, a gimmicky costume). None of this is good, and most of it is a genuine affront to taste.
anything Jedward would look at and say “yeah, that’s cool.”
The costumes somehow manage to be dramatic and completely over the top, while still being underwhelming. Think sequinned ball gowns, studded blazers, anything Jedward would look at and say “yeah, that’s cool.” The hosts tend to have all the charisma of a GCSE public speaking competition, and always have a strange, unnerving, sexless chemistry. The ‘political statements’, few and far between, are rarely radical and never insightful. The talent is non-existent. Sometimes we are blessed with a banger that can actually break into the mainstream (thank you, Euphoria), but these are the exceptions that prove the rule.
And yet none of this is really the point.
Not unlike the EU, Eurovision was founded in the 50s as a means of uniting a disunited continent, or so they say. Starting with just seven countries, 43 now participate in the contest which has a refreshingly lax conceptual policy on what constitutes ‘Europe’. Azerbaijan, Israel, and Australia all submitted entries this year.
Some have taken this to be a powerful statement on the openness of the European project, a completely nonsense take that is not really worth engaging with. It’s far more simple: Eurovision is a party! And most of you are invited!
For the UK, and really the rest of Europe, the bitter sentiment and sniping of Brexit is causing an unpleasant atmosphere. Some songs will inevitably and clunkily allude to the importance of unity, and they will do well, because complex messages and genuine insight don’t get very far in a contest that’s essentially premised on writing a song so inoffensive and universal that literally all of Europe will like it.
Eurovision is a party! And most of you are invited!
But this lack of discernible talent and quality is kind of why Eurovision should be celebrated. It’s just fun. It’s pure and incredibly naive, and even if it thinks it’s doing more than what it actually is that doesn’t seem to matter at all.
With all the cynicism permeating culture now, this joyous defiance is refreshing. Our fashion is minimilist, our diets are clean, young people don’t even like to drink anymore. It’s cool to be distant, removed, and to dance rigidly in a club to music with no words. Frivolity and passion are ok, just so long as it’s restrained and managed and it’s the right kind of frivolity and passion.
Eurovision doesn’t so much reject this notion, but just completely refuses to acknowledge it.
There is something touching about a collective singing and dancing and partying without even giving the cynics oxygen in a state of camp, auto-tuned, sequinned defiance.