At the Eurovision Song Contest, sex appeal has as much currency as musical ability. Last year, Albania’s Kejsi Tola wore a tutu and stood on a wind machine, and Ukraine’s Svetlana Loboda did a pole dance in a metal orb. This year, flesh once again takes center stage. But the most sexually charged performance doesn’t feature breasts or bikini lines. In fact, it doesn’t feature any women at all.
In the official preview video of “Opa,” Giorgos Alkaios goes homoerotic. He plays an alpha male who exerts control over four younger men, each of them taut, tan and full of testosterone. The sound of a beating heart in the opening bars suggests something physical. Later, carnal grunting seems to confirm it. “Opa” may represent a modern take on Greek pederasty. Ancient Spartans thought it essential that male adolescents love accomplished, older aristocrats. Here, back-up dancers shake their hips and lick their lips whenever Alkaios–a noted Greek recording artist–opens his mouth. So much for just being “friends.”
Of course, the Opa video may simply be an example of something European that’s misread as gay. Take the black leather vests with their decorative studs and chains. That they expose toned stomachs and sweat dripping down pectoral muscles could invoke a fetish bar–or the latest look out of Milan. The choreographed voguing screams cabaret, but it also allows the men to out-flex one another–such hetero-machismo! The biggest ambiguity comes when the video shifts to the beach. At first glance, Alkaios looks like a sugar daddy making new friends in Miami. But maybe he’s just a generous old gent who has taken some friends to Mykonos for the weekend. The continental divide may also explain the shaved armpits–very eurozone–and the white denim–very eurotrash. (Note: Throughout all of this I’m talking about the character Alkaios portrays, not Alkaios himself. I have no clue about his sexuality and wouldn’t speculate anyway).
The lyrics don’t clear up the confusion. Read one way, they tell the story of a man coming out of the closet and embracing a new lifestyle. Read another way, they tell the story of how Greeks must now cope with austerity measures imposed following the Greek bailout:
I burn the past, my old nights, and I start from scratch even if you don’t want to. Hot tears, too many lies, I paid for what I borrowed. Opa!
I set on fire all past events, I’ll change everything and I’ll cry out the past is forgotten and everything is starting over.
Greece is always a contender: it hasn’t finished lower than ninth since 2003, and it’s never failed to make it past the semi-finals. Giorgos Alkaios and Friends are currently the bookies’ favorite to win the first semi-final, though Slovakia’s Kristina follows closely behind. Like Giorgos, she has chosen to sing in her native language. And, again like Giorgos, she boasts four muscled-bound back-up dancers. The first semi-final may prove a battle of eye candy.
It’s difficult to predict where Greece will finish in the final. “Opa” blends Oriental sounds with Western pop–a mix Eurovision voters usually love. It’s less clear how the professional jury (introduced for the first time last year) will respond. Regardless, it’s safe to assume that Greece will finish inside the top ten. Depending on staging, Giorgos might bump all the way up to fifth.