Are Europeans too happy to vote for sad songs? The last time a dark, somber song won the contest was in 1995 with winning-wary Ireland’s—I mean Norway’s—”Nocturne” by Secret Garden. It was so dark of a song that it would induce a bloody mass suicide on Sesame Street. The introduction of televoting changed the standard of selecting Eurovision winners. Ever since then winners have been songs of inspiration and hope like “Love Shine a Light” (1997), “Molitva” (2007), and “Believe” (2008). Some songs were tongue-in-cheek, fun, and celebratory such as “Everybody” (2001), “I Wanna” (2002), “Fairytale” (2009), and “Satellite” (2010). None of the songs that won after 1997 were sad songs. It begs the question, will Europe select a sad song as its 2013 winner?
This year, the bookies put three songs with gloomy productions and melancholy lyrics as the frontrunners to win Eurovision 2013: Denmark’s “Only Teardrops,” Norway’s “I Feed You My Love,” and The Netherlands’ “Birds.” Before we start placing bets on which one of the three will win, let us reflect. Which past Eurovision winning songs had lyrics like “You put a knife against my back” or “Hopes turned into fear and with my one wing I can’t fly” or “Look at us now, we only got ourselves to blame?” In reality, Eurovision audiences are not filled with gothic, emo teenagers partaking in daily self-harm. While these favorites are actually some of the best songs in this year’s Eurovision, I fear these songs will not properly connect with the rest of Europe and may lead to a rude, surprising awakening on the night of May 17.
As Europe dithers in financial crises one after another for the past several years, Europeans are still selecting a mix of upbeat, happy, or overly saccharine songs as their winners. Eurovision is normally a time of celebration, having fun, and enjoying diverse cultures. When it comes to depressing songs, Sweet Brown puts its nicely, “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That.” If Europeans are still feeling happy, then I would not count out countries like Sweden’s “You”, Germany’s “Glorious,” Russia’s schmaltzy “What If,” Ireland’s “Only Love Survives,” and Italy’s sentimental “L’Essenziale” – extravagantly sentimental songs so sweet that a couple listens can cause Type II diabetes. Look at their track records. Sweden has been very successful since its Melodifestivalen revamp in 2011. Germany and Russia are recent winners and do well when they put in the effort. Italy does well when we all least expects it to do well (e.g. 1990 and 2011). Ireland may be a big underdog since it’s been under the radar since 1997, but didn’t they win in Malmö 1992? Where is Eurovision this year?
Conclusively, Eurovision pundits should be very cautious calling 2013 a three-way race. 2013 may be as close as 2003 (when Turkey beat Belgium by two points) or 1998 (when Israel barely won against Malta and the UK). Frankly, this is good for Eurovision and terrible for the bookies and pundits. For the past several years, the competition became too predictable albeit with some great winning songs becoming Eurovision classics. An unpredictable contest in Malmö will definitely make incredible television. Who will win? I can definitely say it will not be Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, or Lithuania. Be very cautious betters and gamblers.