The typical reception to the annual spectacle that is Eurovision varies from country to country. In the United Kingdom, the media usually focuses on the flamboyant and beglittered entries – after all, us Brits are renowned for drinking copious amounts of alcohol during any Eurovision broadcast. Whilst self inebriation is a personal choice, I find it hard to ignore the freedom of expression and liberation captured by acts which can all be described by the same terminology: glamorous, camp… fabulous. Think about it. If we are going to bring tens of countries together for one night, not only will it be cheap entertainment, but also a very public opportunity to escape one’s drab daily life and be who one really is!
All WiwiBloggers and avid Eurovision fans can agree that it is this element of the show that brings us together. You don’t have to be gay, effeminate or young to appreciate it. After all, who doesn’t mind a man in drag, howling quasi-musically for three minutes whilst being showered in gold and silver confetti? Eurovision is for everyone and more than fifty continuous years proves this. We have revelled in the unorthodox joy that Eurovision brings for so long; it would be criminal not to analyse this vital piece of the ESC puzzle. I only wish to go over the era between 1950 and 1999 – I am confident a large majority of you have an awareness of the 00s and 10s, whose contributions led to the creation of this blog.
Even in 1956, when the Contest took off in Lugano, passions of lust and want, mixed in with desperation and glee, were all portrayed in the performances. Naturally, comparing today’s outlandish rant-like entries to the sorts in the early fifties isn’t really possible. But the avant-garde was not absent. An iPod favourite of mine, “Aprite Le Finestre” (Italy), is sweet and has a lovely message – a typical song of its era. But, if you compare this innocence to “So Geht Das Jede Nacht” (Germany), you immediately notice the cheek and attitude of the song – “but if you’ve been thinking that I’m sitting at home, I’ve actually been going out with someone else everyday!” You have to look at it relatively; you’ll notice what I mean.
Along comes colour television in the 1960s, and oh my, what a decade! The festival of song has already developed into the annual celebration of unity through music and the diversity of entries, has, well, diversified! Let’s look at 1969 – you have your ballad-divas from France, Italy and Portugal, and your sixties party anthems (if you can call them that) from Switzerland and Norway. The quirkiness just emanates from Belgium and Finland. Think about it – the Spanish frilly dress, the Belgian Louis Neefs’ random spasm, the trademark guitar of the Netherlands – all of this reminds us that it’s not just about a song, but about trying to create a memory. This is why we watch it. This is why it’s on television. It’s art of the most pedestrian kind.
If you want a decade that truly demonstrates the flamboyancy of the Eurovision Song Contest, you only have to observe the madness that was the 1970’s. I don’t deny that interpretation is also a matter of taste, but I have a small amount of quasi-expertise in this decade, mainly due to sustained, repeated car journeys with my family, listening to the 1976 and 1977 contest songs, whilst trying to give an overview of the political and social events of the time. After all, what sort of post-pubescent young male doesn’t do that?…
I could write perhaps a whole article on this decade, but let’s name a few songs which are particularly iconic: “Baby Baby” (Belgium) – you’ll never want to see trouser flares again; “You Are Summer, You Never Tell Me No” (Sweden 1973) – because describing breasts has never been so domestic; “Ding-A-Dong” (Netherlands) – without this catchy number, I wouldn’t have a ring-tone; “A Million in One, Two, Three” (Belgium) – perhaps the only composition I have ever heard to represent the 70s in and outside of the Eurovision Song Contest. Truly, I have only scratched the surface here.
The eighties are of no significance to me. The rise of the synthesiser famously, and nauseously, induced headaches for many. “Piano, Piano” (Switzerland) would have been a fine and dandy offering, but that damn synthesiser, exploited in many 80s entries, practically renders every entry (including this one) as some sort of crass muzak for a budget supermarket advertisement. ‘Twasn’t all bad though, I assure you. Linda Martin’s “Terminal 3” (Ireland), is pure diva class with a good old instrumental element which is pleasing to my own ear. Additionally, who will forget Céline Dion’s befrocked spectacle? From an immature perspective, I often find the 80s to be a transition period towards a modern Song Contest we all know and love – most likely due to the abhorrent, but mildly practical commercialisation of the contest.
In the most frank terms possible, I am not afraid to admit that I am a 90s baby, and being born in this turbulent decade is perhaps a shame – such magnificent performances were brought to millions of TV sets across Europe. The openness and fame of Riverdance in 1994 is, from personal evaluation, the most noteworthy spectacle which demonstrated Eurovision’s “coming of age”. Although we see a Europe healing its wounds, inflicted during extended social and political division, MeKaDo’s “Wir Geben ‘ne Party” (Germany), despite its goddamn addictive awfulness, is truly representative of the hidden will to have a good time for one night in a year. If you’re looking for the finest specimen of campness and fabulous, may I introduce you all to a certain Mr. Paul Oscar?
I’ve asked fellow Wiwibloggers to give their thoughts on their favourite decade(s) and also to reveal any secret passions they have for any particular entries. These were their responses:
Katie Wilson: I’m probably not the best person to ask when it comes to ESC history as I’ve only been alive for 14 Eurovisions. When I’ve watched pre-2000 stuff, I’ve always found it a little boring. It doesn’t have the huge stage, euphoric atmosphere and general craziness that I associate with Eurovision. Most of my best Eurovision memories are from the noughties; an entry that comes to mind when I think of songs that I secretly love was Latvia’s 2008 entry. It seems like ages ago to me, but it probably doesn’t to most. “Wolves of the Sea” was such a happy song that you couldn’t help but love and sing along to. It makes me smile whenever I hear it! I didn’t know a lot about Latvia when I first heard the song, so whenever someone mentions the name “Latvia”, even today, the song immediately song starts playing in my head as it is the only thing I know to associate with the country!
Bogdan: The 2000’s were the most flamboyant and spectacular Eurovision years so far; I blame Dana International for this, since I believe she single-handedly rescued the contest from the long slumber party that lasted throughout the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of 90’s artists gave some amazing songs and performances as well – I’m looking at you, Amina – but few could ever dream to reach Verka Serduchka’s level of fabulosity and all-around camp craziness. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, but I will say this: I am not very proud to admit that I enjoyed the Olsen Brothers’ “Fly On The Wings Of Love” A LOT at the time. Now I look back and I wonder, what the hell was I thinking?!
Padraig Jude: The first seeds of the modern contest were actually sown way back in the 1960s. In fact I would even say that it was in that decade that Eurovision underwent the most radical change. For instance, how many Eurovision songs from the 50s can you think of at the top of your head? “Refrain”, “Volare”…that’s probably it. Virtually every song was performed by a soloist, with no dancers or special staging. And all the performances were as dull as dull could be. But then the 60s arrived, bringing with it such timeless classics as “Poupée de cire, poupée de son”, “Puppet on a string”, “Boom Bang a Bang”, “L’amour est bleu” and “La, la, la”. There are normal guilty pleasures, and then there are Eurovision guilty pleasures, which even die hard Eurovision fans balk at. I’m thinking of Silvia Night’s 2006 performance for Iceland. She probably had one of the campest performances of all time, yet fans at the time hated her. But I think she deserves enormous credit for managing to cram streamers, slides, hot pants and a direct call to God within her 3 minute ode to herself. And so what if she managed to piss off the whole of Greece in the process…
What say you, WiwiBloggs readers? Which decade floats your boat?