This year, diversity is taking the forefront at ESC, this is Conchita Wurst’s legacy. I, for one, am quite excited that we are finally diving deeply into this issue. Diversity is more than merely having folks of different backgrounds present, it’s incorporating the variety of differences into the event, organization, etc. and celebrating our unity through celebrating our variance. Armenia’s supergroup, Genealogy, is built on this principle; celebrating the wide breadth of the Armenian diaspora through having each continent represented within the group.
ESCInsight has a fantastic article looking at disabilities and the Contest, something brought to light through due to various forms of ability represented this year: the band members from Finland each have a developmental disorder, Monika from Poland has paralysis, and Bianca Nicholas, one half of Electro Velvet from the UK ha,s cystic fibrosis. I won’t dive into disabilities here, no need to rehash what has already been discussed so well.
I do want to talk about the racial diversity at this year’s Contest. In addition to the smattering of black background singers that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, we have several black lead artists, from Latvia and Switzerland. And Maimuna from Belarus and Guy Sebastian from Australia are of Asian descent. Between these lead artists, the backing vocalists, and backing dancers – this will probably be one of the most ethnically diverse Contests on record.
Why is This Important?
As the ESC continues to increase its brand globally, it needs to increase the presence of non-white folks onstage to broaden its appeal. While many European countries tend to fall along the bottom of global diversity scales, no country is 100% singular in its ethnic make-up. Furthermore, Europe is slowly becoming more diverse. As we reaffirm that ESC is for all, we must then ensure that all are actually represented on stage. This holds especially true as we discuss the legacy of colonialism among Western nations, the increasing immigration in the North, and the various people groups throughout the East, all of these contribute to the diversity across the continent. Just as the LGBTQ+ Community often exclaims, “visibility matters;” seeing people who look like you, as a member of the minority, in prominent places (such as onstage in a starring position at Europe’s Favorite TV Show) helps you feel more represented, connected, and a part of the larger society. This, in turn, leads to increased positive feelings and welfare. I am not arguing that increasing the ethnic diversity of Contest performers will singlehandedly improve race relations across Europe, but it can certainly play a part in it.
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Hello Readers! If you are just joining us, I am reviewing the top six entries according to the bookmakers and determining whether they are legitimately in the running for the crown (contenders) or merely overrated (pretenders). I previously anointed Sweden as a contender and Ukraine as a pretender. Today, we’re looking at Denmark and Armenia. I had to think long and hard about both of these entries and have actually reversed my original thoughts on both.
Song: Cliché Love Song Performing Artist: Basim
Why it is a contender: Basim has a million-dollar smile and delivers the song well. He also capitalizes on the Bruno Mars style music (I like to call it “Pop & B”) that is quite popular right now. The song also has a trademark big note that allows it to really quite stick in the viewers’ and judges’ minds (for better or for worse). Not to mention that this entry will be running in the 23rd spot, a prime location and DR has plenty of time to strategize how to best pad it with weaker entries on either side.
Why it is a pretender: The song, while catchy, can be rather annoying. The lyrics are not that strong, either. Plus, that big note can come back to bite Denmark in the butt if Basim botches it (think Israel 2010).
Final Verdict: Contender While the song gets continually less likeable with each listen, the stars are aligned for Basim to lead the Danes to the ever-so-rare back-to-back victory. This will hold doubly true if predicted favorite Norway stumbles in the second semi-final (but more on Norway in the next C.or.P episode).
Song: Not Alone Performing Artist: Aram MP3
Why it is a contender: This song just sticks out. In a year full of ballads, country/folk, and dance, Armenia sticks out as a modern piece of music. In that regard, it needs to draw comparisons to Sweden 2012 – an entry that stood out from the field for being so unique and ear- (and eye) catching.
Why it is a pretender: There was another modern piece of music that year in Baku – Montenegro’s entry Euro Neuro. While Montenegro surely did not have the same expectations as this year’s Armenian entry, it, too, drew attention for the same reasons: off-centre song that pushed the limits of how music is defined. Not Alone does not follow typical melodic patterns, lyrical traditions, and is much darker in its performance interpretation than most ESC entries.
Final Verdict: Pretender This is probably the hardest one to call. Every strength that this song has could be equally argued as a weakness – at least as far as ESC success is concerned. With the added news that it will be Aram MP3 alone on stage for the performance; it makes me think that this song will go over the heads of most who are viewing and voting. I still love this song, though.
In its short history, Georgia has had varied success at the Contest. While they have two victories at the Junior version – where it has submitted very unique and experimental entries, its songs for the ESC have generally been much more formulaic. In my opinion, the songs have declined in quality since their debut in 2007. Let’s dive in, shall we?
2007 – Visionary Dream – Georgia’s debut at the Contest, it definitely tried to show its unique style with this entry. The music is hot and the singing was outstanding. I think Sopho and Georgia took Europe by surprise with the strength of this song. Though, the lyrics leave much to be desired.
2008 – Peace Will Come – The only female singer for Georgia not named “Sopho,” Gurtskaya is one of the country’s biggest stars. The song was nice; the costume change was well done and I am still looking for where the clothes went. Irony! Right after a song about peace and maturity, Georgia withdraws because they’re political, anti-Putin song did not qualify to compete.
2010 – Shine – A formulaic song that won the hearts of the juries, I think that the performance outshone the actual elements of the song. Nizharadze’s voice was strong and pure – very well done. I thought the staging was a bit over the top, but the singing was right on target.
2011 – One More Day – In an unexpected turn of events, Georgia broke into the Top Ten with a rock song (and incredibly ugly outfits). I still do not quite understand how this song managed to be so successful among such a strong field of contenders, but it is what it is. I do not think that the composition was all that compelling nor the lyrics all that moving – the performance wasn’t even all that interesting. One of those results I just do not quite understand.
2012 – I’m a Joker – The only Georgian entry, thus far, to fail to qualify for the Final. It was a hot mess – it’s lyrics, it’s composition, it’s performance: it was nowhere near quality. It was not even a decent joke entry as it took itself too seriously. Just…poorly done.
2013 – Waterfall – Big ballad: Check! Swedish song author: Check! Wind machine: Check! Key change at just the right moment: Double check!! ESC victory: nul. This is, as ESC Insight would say, “Eurovision by numbers;” however, it failed to impress the fans or garner the jury support that everyone figured it would. In fact, it barely slipped into the Grand Final ahead of San Marino’s effort. This reminds us all that it may be time to reexamine what makes a “perfect” ESC entry.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at: Georgia 2013. Painting by numbers is when one is able to recreate a painting by matching colors to a number on a canvas. When applied to ESC “Eurovision by numbers” is the concept that an entry encapsulates all the stereotypical elements of songs that have traditionally been successful in decades past – a power ballad with a dramatic key change and overly sentimental lyrics that involves a key change and uses a wind machine in its performance. Waterfall had all of these, plus a bonus point for having a big name Swedish songwriter. Unfortunately for Georgia, the song fell flat, with the fans and the juries. I think it’s an indication that we must rethink what we deem as the “ideal ESC entry.” Ever since the involvement of televoting in 1998, the strength of the performance (the singing as well as the staging) became more important. With the victories of Estonia, Turkey, Greece, and Sweden 2012 – the influence of dance music has multiplied tenfold. In fact, since 1998, only three true, ballads (in this case, ballad is defined as a slow, emotional song) have won – Denmark’s surprising folk entry from 2000, Serbia’s megaballad from 2007, and the 2008 winner performed by Russian megastar Dima Bilan. Otherwise, pure pop tunes or dance hall tracks have lifted the trophy at ESC. Maybe, instead of asking if a song is stirring enough, we should ask “can I dance to this beat?” What this means for the future of the Contest, I’m not quite sure. But with similar failures like France 2009 and Spain 2012, we really have to challenge what we believe are the conventions that define a strong entry.
Check back for the next stop on the Road to Denmark: Germany! You can also look for previous stops as well.
For those of you that celebrate it, Happy Boxing Day! Aujord’hui, nous examinons le premier pays de la groupe «la Grand Cinq» : la France!
2007- L’Amour à la Françoise – A fun song that is very “French” – it’s artsy, slightly nonsensical, and a whole lot of guys wearing pink. It took a couple of years to grow on me, but this song isn’t half-bad.
2008 – Divine – the infamous entry anglais; the only French entry to be performed in English (save for two lines). Again, it’s “very French” in that it’s rather artsy (check out the beards on the backing singers!) and a bit nonsensical, like there’s some kind of inside joke that we’re not privy to. It’s fun; I’ve always liked it, but as far as a song goes – it’s average.
2009 –Et S’il Fallait le Faire – the first of the four perfect scores (check the tables) that we’ll see. Musically, the composition is perfect – it’s French cabaret (which is Kaas’ style), and constantly pushes the song forward, it invokes the sound of a clock that magnifies the growing sense of urgency in the lyrics. Speaking of which, the lyrics are so heart-wrenching, they’re so passionate, and Kaas performed them beautifully. I thought that the staging was absolutely perfect for the song, just the singer and a microphone on a darkened stage, really captured the cabaret feel and the camerawork, again, added to texture to the words. One of the best entries to date and I completely understand why a mere eighth place was seen as a disappointment.
2010 – Allez! Ola! Olé! – Bravo to the French for not being afraid to embrace, not only its colonial past, but also its diverse present – yay Black people on the ESC stage! The song is a bit nonsense, but its the definition of a party anthem. Too bad Les Bleus did not perform in the World Cup as well as their anthem did at ESC.
2011 – Sognu – One of the biggest flops in recent history, this song was a huge favorite to win in Düsseldorf, but finished a mere 15th due to a timid performance and stiff competition. 2011 was a strong year and this song, as nice as it is, was lost in the fray.
2012 – Echo (You and I) – I. LOVE. THIS. SONG! The staging was TERRIBLE! The song, though, is quite lovely. The lyrics harken back to this dying love and the music is well orchestrated. Anggun’s singing was fine, but the staging was horrendous, the pure definition of a mess.
2013 – L’Enfer et Moi – An amazing song that was screwed by the producers because, r some reason, someone thought it was wise to put it first in the running order. Bourgeious was amazing in her performance of this intense rock song. The constant building throughout the song in both the music and the lyrics is beautifully done; it’s such a well-written song!
Let’s Take a Closer Look at: France 2010. I would love to take this opportunity to blast off on the producer chosen running order that was introduced in 2013, but I will bite my tongue. Instead, I will look at what will hopefully be a continuing trend – the submission of soccer anthems to the Contest. Allez! Ola! Olé! was written to be the French world cup song in 2010. Be My Guest from the Ukraine in 2012, while not officially said to be a soccer anthem, definitely had that sound. Both songs were high energy and a ball of fun. While neither finished in the Top Ten, both brought a much needed spark to the ESC stage that I hope countries continue to send. Who knows, maybe Valentina Monetta’s third attempt will be a foot stomper for San Marino.
What do you think – do we need more anthems on the ESC stage or is one every few years enough?