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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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?
Merry Christmas!! Or should I say, “Hyvää Joulua!” as the Road to Denmark takes us to Finland today.
As you can see, I’m fairly lukewarm with the Finnish entries. They’re generally okay, but I do not have a particularly strong affinity for any of them (at least, not these ones). Finland, though, will always have a special place in my heart because Helsinki hosted the first Contest that I watched. Speaking of which, let’s look at the first defending champion I saw.
2007 – Leave Me Alone – An attempt at pop-rock that was better than the reception it received, but ended where it probably should have in its final placing. It’s a pleasant enough entry and fun to sing along to if one is in an angry mood, but, generally, it’s rather generic.
2008 – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa – A true rock entry that slipped into the Final but then fell flat. It’s not my cup of tea, but as I said in the Czech Republic post, these kind of songs bring a much needed diversity to the running order.
2009 – Lose Control –A beneficiary of the former jury system, which allowed a wild card to move through to the Grand Final. It’s a slapdash song that is alright, but not much. The singing is better than the rapping and the presentation was a bit of a mess – it did better than it probably should have.
2010 – Työlki Ellää – A fun song and I think one of the more popular Finnish entries among the fans. It’s fun and catchy; I don’t know a lick of Finnish, but I can sing along to the chorus! The presentation was fitting, but in the end, the song just wasn’t quite memorable enough. (Finland would have done better with this song)
2011 – Da Da Dam – A song with surprising success. I think it was generally overlooked, but it brought Finland back to the Final and gave us a soothing song about a boy trying to save the planet. Again, I’m fairly lukewarm on the song, but it is rather pleasant.
2012 – När Jag Blundar – First time we here Swedish on the ESC stage since the open language rule went back into effect in 1999 and it comes from Finland! The song is quite forgettable, but it has a wonderful story behind it. Karlsson’s brother wrote the song about their mother; both were on stage to honor her with their performance. Oh, so very sweet!
2013 – Marry Me – My feelings about this performance are already documented on this blog. I will say, though, that the song is fun and a bit inventive and guaranteed that it will be remembered for quite some time, particularly if it continues to be used for gay marriage campaigns.
Let’s Take a Closer Look At: Finland 2009. As I said, despite finishing 12th in its semi-final, Lose Control qualified for the Grand Final thanks to the former jury system that was present in 2008 and 2009. I’m going to use this as a nice little soapbox to restate my love of the jury system from 2010-2012. I loved the way the old 50/50 system worked – it was simple math. This new ranking system is not ideal and it’s more complicated than it needs to be. Though, I appreciate the new steps being add in starting this year – where each jury member’s individual ranking will be revealed along with the voting results. This is not retroactive, unfortunately, but it should stay standing going forward.