Armenia Withdraws from Eurovision: Why Europe Should Be in Mourning

Armenia’s state broadcaster AMPT has announced that it is withdrawing from Eurovision 2012. The European Broadcasting Union made the announcement this morning via their web site

“We are truly disappointed by the broadcaster’s decision to withdraw from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest,”said the Contest Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand. “Despite the efforts of the EBU and the Host Broadcaster to ensure a smooth participation for the Armenian delegation in this year’s Contest, circumstances beyond our control lead to this unfortunate decision.”

Love it or lump it, politics will always be contested at the Eurovision Song Contest. Despite the promise that juries will help eradicate the bloc voting that has marred previous contests, no jury anticipated what’s happened with Armenia this year.

Rumours initially circulated that Armenia, one of ESC’s strongest participating countries may boycott Baku because of safety concerns. This is due to on-going war over the occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region that has resulted in the catastrophic loss of lives on both sides since 1918. The government of Azerbaijan responded by guaranteeing the safety of the Armenian delegation, and on January 17 Armenia confirmed its participation. But in late February 2012, Armenian singers issued a statement saying the country should boycott the competition following the Feb. 23 death of an Armenian soldier in Azeri sniper attack. But when PanArmenian.Net released Armenia’s 2012 Eurovision song and entry on its web site yesterday, everything looked like it was on track for Baku. Lucia Moon would sing a song called”Delicious Feeling/ Call It Insane”—and the team at WiwiBloggs.Com rejoiced.

Looks like we got ahead of ourselves. Now that Armenia is officially out, it’s with a heavy heart we look back at Armenia’s participation in the ESC and assess their impact on the contest over the years. Alright WiwiPeeps, let’s settle down for a much needed history lesson…

Armenia debuted at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 with the song “Without Your Love” performed by André. Although this song was merely a simple pop number, it managed to generate a lot of controversy because Andre was introduced by the commentators and EBU media as the singer from Nagorno-Kazabakh, Armenia.

Hello??? This provoked outrage especially from the Azeris who regard that territory as being part of Azerbaijan. Still, the contest went along smoothly and Armenia finished in 8th place marking a successful debut.

In Helsinki 2007, “Anytime You Need” was the Armenian entry. The song was performed in English and Armenian by Hayko. This was the first occasion on which the Armenian language was used in a Contest entry… (But let’s face it: that was only their second appearance). It was a highly forgettable, dreary ballad, and most pop fans had forgotten the song the minute it ended. Still, it managed to maintain the eighth position of the previous year. A huge surprise for ESC 2007 considering that most of the entries were of particularly high standard.

Come 2008, Armenia presented a crowd favourite to ESC held in Serbia. “Qele Qele”, performed by Sirusho, managed to gain the most ‘douze points’ that year, and was the bookies favourite to win. It charted in many countries including Greece, Cyprus, and Russia and finished in fourth position.

In 2009 Armenia contributed folk music to the contest. Inga and Anush Arshakyan performed “Jan Jan.” It was a bizarre spectacle of Gemini mirrored images accompanied with great vocals. The song managed to remain in the Top 10, and it did kick off a highly successful career for the sisters in their homeland. Backstage though, there was added controversy. During the first semi-final, the introductory “postcard” leading into the Armenian performance depicted, amongst other monuments, We Are Our Mountains, a statue located in Stepanakert, capital city of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which is a dejure part of Azerbaijan. After an official complaint by Azerbaijan, the video clip was edited out for the broadcast of the final. However, in retaliation the presenter of the Armenian votes, Sirusho (ESC 2008) held up a clipboard with the monument’s picture on it as she read off the votes, and in the background a screen in Yerevan’s main square could be seen to display the monument. This tug of war continue to play out heavily in respective media of both countries for nearly a year!

Eva Rivas: Miss Apricot 2010

In 2010, Armenia tipped the scale further. The controversial entry “Apricot Stone” sung by Eva Rivas was submitted to the ESC. The apricot, known in Armenia since ancient times, has long been held as an emblem of the country which has been called “The motherland of the apricot” Furthermore, the lyrics of Apricot Stone have a hidden political message about the Armenian Genocide. During the press conferences in Oslo, this was hinted by the Armenian delegation causing a stir amongst the Azeris and making it very uncomfortable for many ‘uncomplicated’ media darlings. The theme of apricot continued throughout the three minute production, and analysing this in detail may require a thesis of its own. The song featured the duduk, an instrument carved out of apricot wood played by famous Armenian “dudukahar” Djivan Gasparyan, the oldest person ever to feature in a Eurovision Song Contest performance.

Good news came in the form of the Junior Eurovision Contest, which was won by Vladimir Arzumanyan of Armenia with the song “Mama”, later that year. This gave Armenia first victory in any Eurovision contest, ahead of Azerbaijan.

In 2011, things took a nosedive. The winning Armenian entry “Boom Boom” was picked out of four songs, all of which were performed by Emma Bejanyan. an internal selection.. The whole package was a disaster (remember those silly boxing gloves on stage?), and Armenia failed to qualify for the final show for the very first time in its short history.

Although what we remember of Armienia’s last performance at The ESC leaves a lot to be desired, it’s clear that she remains one of the stronger contenders in the contest. In an ideal world, conflict should remain in the battlefields and not mar the contest. Many true ESC fans are still hoping to see Armenia’s entry do well in Baku as unfortunately till date, the country’s biggest entertainment export remain the Americanised hogwash that is, The Kardashians. Perhaps ESC can produce a replacement for the perma-tanned sisters next year.

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