It’s like American Idol staged in the Seventh Circle of Dante’s Inferno, if that’s the one that features people singing in heavily accented English in front of what appear to be Windows Media Player Music Visualizations.
It’s the addition of geopolitics to inane singing competitions. Montenegran rappers in hazmat suits. Belarusians doing the cha cha. A Belgian Justin Bieber singing that love kills. It’s the sort of thing that, if it flashed before your eyes right as you were passing, you would fear that your life had not been nearly so virtuous as you had hoped. Every year, Europe gathers around and celebrates the one thing that binds it together:
currency language bizarre, trippy pop music and a devious scheme to keep England from ever winning.
Yes, I realize that poking fun at Eurovision is like shooting low-hanging fish who have just expressed support for Donald Trump. But it comes but once a year. And you should watch. Here are 10 reasons.
As a fan of Eurovision for some time, I have noted certain patterns. There is always, it seems, at least one song with a flute or traditional pipe. There is always another song with vigorous drumming. This year, these songs are one and the same, courtesy of Denmark.
This is Russia’s Vigorously Generic Inspiring Song (“Why don’t we always reach out to those who need us the most? Together we can change the path of time. Together we have power to decide. The answer lies within our hearts and minds…. What if we all opened our arms? What if we came together as one? What if we aimed to stop the alarms? What if we chose to bury our guns?” as Russians exuberantly clasp each other’s hands in a theater.) What if we aimed to stop the alarms, indeed?
Here is Lithuania’s entry, which requires no introduction.
He is very happy in a way that does not seem related to the content of the song. “Because of the shoes I’m wearing today? One is called love, the other is pain?”
The entry from Ukraine resembles a commercial for PCP-tainted Lunesta.
Latvia has some rapping as well, and the video resembles something U2 has been regretting since 1990-something, but they compensate for it by including a keytar.
This entry, from Romania, is Buzzfeed’s favorite, and I think they have a solid case.
Greece wants us to know that “Alcohol is Free”– and if you only have three English words in your song, those are a good three to pick.
Malta has hipsters, in case you were worried that this phenomenon was not devouring all of Earth alive in its hideous ravening maw.
I am a fan of Iceland’s entry, if only because, as the top YouTube commenter on the video points out, the singer bears an uncanny resemblance to Thor.
This one, courtesy of Finland, is probably what Taylor Swift will sound like in five to eight years, unless she evolves as an artist.
Armenia’s entry is catchy, although I am not sure what they have against the popular travel guide company Lonely Planet (insufficient detail in Armenia-related entries?). Like Russia, they are having a little difficulty with their English lyrics. “Who’s the one with clever face? That can tell us what is in the space? Playing games that none can play?… Who’s the one that has the right? Treat us wrong and tell us what is right? Bringing crowd against the squad….” But, hey, I could not write a song in Armenian, which belongs to its own branch of Indo-European.
Nothing forces you to confront the inanity of most pop lyrics like watching people sing slightly off translations of common tropes. The next time you see someone singing a generic uplifting ballad, ask yourself: What if we aimed to stop the alarms? Who can tell us what is in the space?
It’s the distillation of all the things that are silly about pop music with slightly lower production values and a dash of cultural references we do not understand. What are all these birds hitting rooftops and falling down like raindrops? (The Netherlands coughed this up, no doubt still recovering from their disastrous efforts to generate a national song for the new monarch.)
At this point, any European is welcome to point out that we watch celebrities belly-flop off platforms week after week, and that we gave them Justin Bieber. (“No,” we hiss, feebly. “That was Canada.”) And yes, this is completely true. That is why we should be watching Eurovision.
It is a positive joy to gaze across the Atlantic and ponder the bizarre, trippy, nonsensical things that EuroPop is doing. It is certainly more fun than trying to figure out the bizarre, trippy, nonsensical things the Euro is doing.
The second semi-final of Eurovision is on this Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern time, and the finals are this weekend! Mark your calendars!