Ah, Eurovision. You strange, X-Factor on speed event! I have been watching the annual Eurovision song contest since I was tiny, gathering around the TV first with family and then later with friends, awed, flabbergasted, impressed and occasionally terrified by the parade of glitter, glam and booming pop that appears onscreen. Read on and prepare to fill your soul with decades of fabulous Euro pop.
For those not in the know (read: anyone outside Europe) the Eurovision Song Contest started in 1956 and has been held each year ever since. The contest is an opportunity for host countries to show off and the videos between songs are sometimes like giant tourist ads (though I must confess to not really remembering what we’re taught about each place once the broadcast has ended)
In the 58 years the contest has been running, Ireland has won the most (7 times, including a hat trick of three years in a row from ’92-’94). Britain has won 5 times, which I think is pretty damn good, although collectively the British public is unimpressed. The Eurovision Song Contest is one of those things – like the World Cup – that we won once and so think we should keep winning, feeling cheated when we don’t, with conspiracy theories abounding. Of course, we totally ignore the fact that dozens of countries compete in the Eurovision, so naturally the UK’s chances of winning are diminished. There are always clear gaps in how seriously different countries take the competition. It’s always interesting to me how many countries sing in English – half the fun is trying to work out what France or Germany or Latvia might be singing about (sub-titles is cheating).
For the past few years, my best friends and I have gathered at one of our houses, produced vast quantities of delicious food and settled in to watch the show. Previously aided by the delightful musings of Terry Wogan and now Graham Norton, we love the element of surprise and ‘anything-could-happen’ that comes with Eurovision. You can never predict what a performance might entail on the night, what surprise or spectacular effect might be employed:
I mean, amazing, right? (CELINE DION!)
Aside from all the actual competitive songs, the host country always has to provide a sort of halftime entertainment, while everyone votes and puts the kettle on. One of the most famous of these performances was in Ireland in 1994 when the world was formally introduced to Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley and Riverdance:
Norway also did a great job in 2010 when they hosted. Featuring Madcon on vocals, it also had a Europe-wide flash mob!
There is just so much to enjoy here, people.
I personally love Eurovision for two main reasons: 1) I have a blast watching it with people I love and 2) it’s just so damn FUN. Entering into the spirit of the evening means not taking yourself too seriously and embracing the vast cultural diversity our little continent holds. It’s lovely to be part of something that brings together so many people from so many countries and creates such excitement and enthusiasm. You’d have to be a very cynical, measly person not to derive any pleasure from the explosion of music and drama that is Eurovision (I feel like that sentence could be equally applied to Taylor Swift…)
So, Euro dwellers, let’s all tune in on Saturday night and for those outside Europe, check YouTube in the following days for some guaranteed pure pop gold. Never forget – it gave us ABBA.