Eurovision fascinated me so much, that by 2016, I decided to watch the entire grand final… live. In Australia, this means waking up at 5am, watching the contest through bleary eyes as the sun rises outside. And what a show I decided to watch!
By: Joshua Mayne
For me, it all started in 2013. The nightly 6pm news bulletin was on the television, and there was a very short segment about the latest winner of the Eurovision Song Contest (that being Emmelie de Forest from Denmark, with her song ‘Only Teardrops’). I downloaded the song the following day, and couldn’t get enough of it for the remainder of the week.
Slowly, I began to learn more about the contest. And when Australia competed for the first time in 2015, it sparked my interest. However it was more than that which really drew me to the contest.
Watching bits and pieces of the show in Vienna from SBS’s broadcast, I was able to see the diversity of music, people and nations, which characterise the Eurovision Song Contest. Many songs including Slovenia’s ‘Here For You’, Sweden’s ‘Heroes’ and Australia’s ‘Tonight Again’ immediately made it into my playlist, on repeat for the following weeks. The contest fascinated me, and I wanted to learn more.
Eurovision at 5AM in Australia
In fact, it fascinated me so much, that by 2016, I decided to watch the entire grand final… live. In Australia, this means waking up at 5am, watching the contest through bleary eyes as the sun rises outside. And what a show I decided to watch! If anything was going to wake me up, it was that brilliant song contest held in Stockholm.
I was encapsulated in the spirit of Eurovision for all twenty-six songs, enjoying the wide selection and high quality of music that Europe had to offer. As I anxiously waited in the living room for the voting to commence, I was reminded that I needed to leave in the next five minutes, to go to a previously planned event.
Fortunately, my ‘crisis’ was averted. I found a live broadcast on SBS radio, which let me listen to the live votes unfolding as I travelled in a car. With Australia so close to victory, my heart rate reached a point it never has before. It spiked when hearing “the country that got the 8th highest score… with 120 points…. is…. Austria!”. I immediately thought that ‘Austr’ was going to be ‘Australia’!
My new passion: Eurovision
The final result didn’t go Australia’s way, but that was beside the point. After what I had seen (and heard), I knew that this contest was for me – my new passion.
Nearing the end of 2016, I integrated my newfound passion for Eurovision into my writing. For the past two years I’d been writing for sites, focusing on football. I sent an opinion piece to ESCDaily about possible artists for Australia at Eurovision 2017, and was fortunate enough to have had it published.
From there, I continued to write further material for the site, learning more about the contest every day. 2017’s contest in Kiev reaffirmed this for me. I was able to follow the preparation, tactics, selections and dramas involved with staging the Eurovision Song Contest. It really has all the interesting aspects that a big sports event should have!
The Eurovision Song Contest is exactly that – a sports event for music. I was first drawn to Eurovision because of its music, and it still entertains me today.
Sam Pang, one of Australia’s former Eurovision commentators for SBS, described the contest as a “food court of music”, a line that has resonated with me. After all, Eurovision offers such a large and diverse variety of artists, songs and composers, each with their unique style or flair. There is something for everyone, and, just like a food court, it can be extremely difficult to choose just one favourite… Watch just one grand final, and you will witness a broad selection of genres, whether it is pop, rock, ballad, alternate, rap, ethnic/indigenous music or even yodelling.
Not only can the music landscape be viewed in one show, it can be viewed across decades (six of them, in fact). Through sixty-two years of the historical contest, the shift of musical genres and styles can be seen. Eurovision acts as the perfect medium for one to view the progression of music in Europe, which, in many cases, is reflective of social change.
There’s not one musical genre that I’ve always listened to. I don’t sit down to listen to rock, or buy an album made by just one artist. Personally, I find that limiting. I open up and listen to a diverse range of music. This is why Eurovision has connected with me.
Generally, the quality of songs competing at Eurovision is high, as they share the common goal of wanting to create the best song possible. There are, of course, exceptions, but nations are there to win, and send their best entries in order to do so. If the song is enjoyable, regardless of its genre, background, performance or artist, I’ll listen to it, and Eurovision is home to an abundance of these kinds of songs.
Sport and Competition
At the age of four, I would pick up the Sunday newspaper, flip straight to the back, and start reading the sport section. I couldn’t read much at that age, but I could understand sport. This strong connection with sport, combined with a love of music, has blended perfectly to form my passion for the Eurovision Song Contest.
I just love sport and the competition it provides. That competition lasts 8-10 months a year! Although many see Eurovision as a one-week, or even one-night contest, it really is a long and gruelling process. Each country must carefully select an artist, a song and the way in which they wish to deliver their entry. And when the voting sequence commences after each country has sung at the grand final, the adrenaline associated with competition starts to kick in.
Olympic games or drinking game?
For some, Eurovision is a serious competition, which plays a vital role in European society. For others, it’s a light-hearted affair, nothing to be taken seriously. Steef van Gorkum discussed this idea in an editorial a few months ago.
Personally, I view Eurovision as a serious competition, but I appreciate how holistically enjoyable the contest is. I started watching because I enjoyed it. And as I continue to learn more, I appreciate and acknowledge the importance of Eurovision in terms of celebrating diversity, promoting acceptance and strengthening bonds within Europe.
Like sport, it is an opportunity for a team (in this case, a nation), to promote themselves in a way they wish. The goal is not only to win, but also to improve the team, and relationships with the teams surrounding them. Sport has the power to do just this. And so does Eurovision, hence, why I’ve connected with the concept so well.
The other aspect of the contest, which makes Eurovision so unique, is the performances. Entertaining, bizarre, boring or plain stupid – Eurovision has it all, and it results in varied reactions across Europe and the world. Some ‘unique’ entries that immediately come to mind are ‘My Słowianie’ from Poland in 2014 and Moldova’s ‘So Lucky’ in 2011…
Then, you can move to other unique entries that focus on social justice (for example, Conchita for Austria in 2014, Sanja Vučić for Serbia in 2016). Each act is presented uniquely to advocate a unique, important message. Eurovision is the perfect, public platform for songs like this.
The unique format of Eurovision blends perfectly with unique entries to create an extravaganza that can question, relate with and support European people. Nowhere else in the world can you find a continent-wide singing competition between nations, where entries vary from soft ballads sung by a jazz artist in a suit to dance songs where singers wear cones on their head. That is quintessentially Eurovision, and I love it. Europe is such a unique place, and Eurovision is the perfect reflection of this.
The Eurovision Song Contest is incredibly rich with history. Created in 1956 as an attempt to unify Europe after two world wars, the contest has played a historic and important role in Europe for over 60 years. The contest has embedded itself as a key aspect of European society. Not only as an entertainment show, but also as an annual historic event.
The evolvement of European society can be seen throughout each decade of the song contest. Values emerge and disintegrate, evident in the entries selected by each nation, and the manner in which the host city stages the show. Changes including language use, technology, voting and judging help to define the history of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Political protests are also prevalent in the contest. There are some that send a clear message or some that are more subtle. Including Jamala’s 2016 winning song ‘1944’, which was heavily disputed. Nations have the chance to represent themselves, and some do that in different ways to others…
Relating back to the idea of Eurovision as a ‘food court of music’, the contest is also a ‘food court of cultures’. Forty-two nations competed at Eurovision 2017, spanning across all corners of Europe. Apart from a lengthy and specific search on YouTube, in which setting can you sample and enjoy music from Finland, Azerbaijan, Australia, France, Ukraine and Germany?
Music enables us to view and appreciate new cultures, improving us as global citizens. Eurovision has not only taught me about European geography, but also the relations between nations, and the values they withhold.
Multiculturalism in Eurovision has captivated me so much. Next year, I will be researching how Australia has projected itself through the notion of multiculturalism in the contest. This will make up my major work in the subject of ‘Society and Culture’ in my final year at high school.
Multiculturalism characterises Europe, and makes it such an incredibly beautiful, diverse and accepting place. Eurovision has enabled me to learn about, appreciate and view the cultures that make Europe the continent it is today.
Eurovision is a genuinely positive event. Some nations utilise the opportunity for different reasons, but overall, this song contest is an enjoyable, fun and happy occasion. That’s exactly the way it should be. Since it’s origins as a contest to unite Europe, the core values of peace, acceptance and entertainment have remained. Even through to the 21st century.
Now, I remember back to watching the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest live at 5am. Belgium was first on stage, with Laura Tesoro performing the disco tune ‘What’s The Pressure’. That one performance contained the essence of Eurovision. Eurovision is a medium to achieve positivity. The main focus of the song – and ultimately, the contest – was positivity, something that the world needs more of. Eurovision, however, already has it. And that is why I love it.