“Dancing With the Stars” is over. “American Idol” is done. But continents away, an even bigger performance competition is about to crown its newest winner: the Eurovision Song Contest, a competition of cheesy pop songs, poorly-translated rap and club-thumping techno beats that brings Europe and its neighbors together. The competition has taken place every year since 1956 — you may have heard of some of its previous winners, like a little group named ABBA, or a modest singer named Celine Dion.
As reporter Will Englund wrote in the Style Section this morning, Eurovision is shifting East — this year’s competition is in Azerbaijan, the honor of hosting given to the previous year’s winner. Englund reported that some of the strongest acts this year came from Eastern Europe.
“Pop at its most delirious demands a strange kind of sincerity,” wrote Englund. “Maybe that’s why the locus of Eurovision has been shifting to eastern Europe since the fall of communism. Amid crime, corruption, authoritarianism and disillusionment, pop is something to believe in.”
What makes a good Eurovision video? Synthesizer, Lady Gaga-levels of costume and makeup, and high camp are key. While some favor Sweden’s club anthem to win it this year, some of the most entertaining videos come from all across the continent. Here are superlatives for some of the catchiest tunes, which you can watch below — or, if you’re in D.C., you can see the finale live at the Austrian Cultural Forum’s watch party, from 2-7 p.m, on May 26.
Best song about social networking by someone who seems to have just discovered social networking: Valentina Monetta, San Marino, “The Social Network Song”
Shiniest spacesuits, pointiest hair: Jedward, Ireland, “Waterline.”
Fiercest septuagenerian pop group: Buranovskiye Babushki, Russia, ”Party for Everybody”
Hipster maritime anthem: Can Bonomo, Turkey, “Love Me Back”
Rapping while riding a donkey: Rambo Amadeus, Montenegro, ”Euro Neuro”
Englebert Humperdinck!: Englebert Humperdinck, United Kingdom, “Love Will Set You Free”
Inexplicable Native American costume: Joan, the Netherlands, “You and Me”
Most over-the-top dramatic video: Anri Jokhadze, Georgia, “I’m a Joker”
Catchiest Kelly Rowland impersonation: Gaitana, Ukraine, “Be My Guest”
Unfortunate band name: Trackshittaz, Austria, “Woki Mit Deim Popo”