From time to time this Eurovision devotee has tried to convert others to his faith. I’ve had limited success to put it mildly. But I get it. Fans of Eurovision—Europe’s guiltiest guilty pleasure—tend to be over-enthusiastic about it, and the show itself can be quite intimidating in its own way.
Like many of you, I’ve heard a number of reasons why some friend, relative, colleague or Facebook stalker may not be as interested in the show as me. The most common reason is that “it’s too weird”.
Perhaps Eurovision fans have, over time, developed some kind of resistance or extra tolerance for weirdness: an Israeli transgender woman singing about Cleopatra? What’s so strange about it? A Moldovan ska/rock band with a girl traversing the stage on a unicycle? Yeah, so what? For us, that’s just another entry. But for people into “mainstream” music…yes, I see their point.
The contest, when it’s not called cheesy and outdated, is seen as a cycle of constant randomness. But is Eurovision really that outré? Is it actually more over-the-top than your mainstream pop act? Maybe not…
Just think about some of the greatest music acts in the world right now, like Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry. Can we really call them conventional? Of course not. It’s all part of a package: the looks, the marketing, the behaviour…we know what to expect from a world famous pop star, and we take for granted that it’s not what most people would call “normal”. But what marks the difference between “popstar weird” and “Eurovision weird”? Why do outsiders make such a distinction? Heck, even some of us Eurofans do it too!
Let’s make another thought experiment: imagine, for a while, that you don’t know anything about Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj. Would they have looked out of place in Malmö or Moscow with their outrageous outfits, complex choreography and (according to some) non-sense lyrics? Wouldn’t they be able to pass as some weird Swedish or Estonian artist? What about Daft Punk, another big mainstream act and their “Robot” schtick? Didn’t we actually see that at Eurovision at some point?
Maybe not as classy…
And some of the competing countries at recent Eurovisions have seen their entries progress—albeit slowly—from out-of-touch to “I can actually see this toping the Billboard charts”. Sweden and Denmark took the big prize with two dance songs that sound incredibly current. They may be different styles, but both “Euphoria” and “Only Teardrops” left Contest Land and gave off the impression that they came from the real world.
It’s hard to tell if the mainstream music scene has became more ludicrous or if the Eurovision Song Contest has become more conventional. The truth probably lies in between. In their quest to stand out, current pop stars are looking for ways to shock, which ultimately means being more spectacular and over-the-top. Aspiring Eurovision artists, on the other hand, seek to look more “respectable”—and therefore traditional—to critics and audiences alike.
True, Eurovision is still a li’l strange for the average music fan. But those two worlds are getting so close they may soon collide. God save us from the impact…
Antonio Arrieta contributed this report from Monterrey, Mexico. Follow him on Twitter at @EscritorEnojado. You can also keep up with the latest Eurovision news and gossip by following the team from wiwibloggs.com on Twitter and Facebook.