“Aina Mun Pitaa”, by Finnish band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (PKN), is the first punk song to be performed at Eurovision – and that’s causing some tension in the Eurovision fan community. This gnarly punk track has entered the bright shiny world of ESC fans and the results haven’t been pretty. But is the song really all that terrible? Or is it just a good punk track? Let’s delve into some musical history.
Punk vs Eurovision
Punk has been around for 40 years, but it has largely kept away from Eurovison. There have been rock songs, angry songs, metal songs, political songs, punk-pop songs, but never a straight-up punk song. Until now.
The genre of punk rock developed in the mid 1970s, with groups like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols leading the charge on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s said that punk was a reaction to the increasingly bland pop that was filling the charts – some of which could also be found at Eurovision. Punk shook things up and changed the sound of popular music.
But its revolutionary influence never directly reached Eurovision. In 1977, when the Sex Pistols unleashed the angry “God Save the Queen” during the silver jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s Eurovision entry was the quirky but inoffensive duet “Rock Bottom” by Lynsey De Paul and Mike Moran. And punk stayed well away from the ESC for the next four decades.
“It’s meant to be like that”
There has been criticism about the way “Aina Mun Pitaa” sounds: it’s shouty, it’s not melodic, the singer can’t sing, it’s too short. The response is this: it’s meant to be like that. That’s what punk is and that’s what the people of Finland voted for. Complaining that “Aina Mun Pitaa” is short and shouty is like complaining that “Rise Like a Phoenix” doesn’t have a banjo solo in the middle.
Punk is the genre of music that ripped up the rule book of what “real” music had to be. Can’t sing? Can’t play an instrument? Doesn’t matter. Grab a guitar, figure out three chords and you’re good to go. Something bothering you in life? Shout about it and those are the lyrics. It’s brutal, it’s raw. It’s not supposed to be pleasant and melodious.
While the EBU puts the maximum song length at three minutes, there’s no minimum. The record for the shortest song is currently held by the UK’s 1957 entry, “All” by Patricia Bredin which clocked in at 1:52. “Aina mun pitaa” beats that by 27 seconds. And hey, if you can say what you need to say in 85 seconds, why make the song any longer?
Punk comes to Eurovision
While rock bands have long been part of Eurovision, the closest there’s been to a punk entry is Andorra’s Anonymous, whose punk-pop song “Salvem el món” gave the microstate its best ever score in 2007.
But then along comes this group of middle-aged men with learning disabilities, who go right back to basics with raw punk that’s packed with attitude and energy. The fact that they’re getting push-back from some ESC fans is a sign that they’re doing something right. Suburban parents of the 1970s, Eurovision fans of the ’10s – punk isn’t punk if someone isn’t bothered by it.
So, 40 years after the advent of punk, it has finally made its way to the Eurovision Song Contest. If you’re not used to the style of this music, it can be a challenging genre to embrace. And if it’s really not your thing, there are plenty of ballad-warbling ladies in lovely gowns to choose from.
But in few weeks’ time, those crusty punks Kari, Pertti, Sami and Toni will be on stage in Vienna performing an in-your-face song about the annoyances in their lives. Whether you’re hiding under a throw cushion or rocking out along with PKN, one thing’s for sure – the Finnish foursome will be having a blast.