The 2014 Eurovision Song Contest goes down in Copenhagen this Sunday, and will feature a historic, out-of-competition performance by Aussie Jessica Mauboy. In order to get a feel for this year’s instalment of the always quirk-filled European institution, we got two of our writers — Nastassia (Eurovision lover) and Greg (not quite) — to discuss some of the more notable entries.
Watch: Eurovision, Sunday on SBS
Nastassia: Eurovision is actually my favourite time of year. Birthdays are fine and I can take or leave Christmas, but in my eyes nothing comes close to offering the kind of magic and joy Europe’s annual spectacular offers. What’s not to love about it? Competition, sequins, wind machines, costumes, strange languages, key changes, robots, drag queens, a guy with a cat on his shoulder, turkeys. Plus it’s such an interesting observation of the changing state of Europe (and Israel), it’s politics, gender issues, and economics – all wrapped in glitter.
Yeah, there’s the questionable music part of it, and I can’t honestly say I’ve ever bought any records because of it, but that’s really beside the point. For all its campy craziness, Eurovision is a spectacle of pure saccharine joy. And while the music may not endure, for me, it’s all about that single magic night, that comes but once a year.
Greg: My “magic nights” were something like this. Me, my mother, and my grandmother positioned equidistant on a couch in front of a large Panasonic CRT television. My family clapped along to a winning performance by Ukrainian sensation Ruslana, who if I recall correctly, was born not far from where my paternal grandfather grew up. I, 14 years old, could scarcely manage to keep awake.
With the lights off, the gaudy, technicolour horrorscape being projected on the TV was absorbed by the black of my Reign In Blood Slayer t-shirt, as the rest of me reluctantly absorbed a sense of hometown pride. This was spurred partly by the slightly unsettling, Black Hole Sun-like smiles on my family’s faces, but also by the idea I belonged to something larger, which in turn belonged to something even larger (y’know, Europe), which was presently watching the same thing I was.
So, ABBA notwithstanding, I guess I can’t begrudge Eurovision too much. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try.
Ukraine: Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick-Tock
Greg: Patriotically, I hope she wins. Linguistically, I hope she wins even more so. This song’s use of metaphor is pretty impressive. “Tick-tock, my heart is like a clock” – that’s good because that’s the kind of sound clocks make. “And steady like a rock” – And that’s good because rocks are famously steady. Besides the fact that the song is well-written, I think she’s a good bet to win it because a lot of people will think they’re voting for Ke$ha.
Nastassia: How Eurovision responds to/completely ignores current geopolitical crises is one of the most interesting aspects of the whole event. If anyone has something to say about the whole Russia-Ukraine thing, it’s probably not Mariya Yaremchuk. Also, this will own in European clubs.
Russia: The Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine
Greg: Y’know, if you slow this one down and add a little reverb, it’s basically a Lana Del Rey song. Just make ‘Shine’ the name of an LA barfly with a heart of gold and love for her daddy. These two actually won the 2006 Junior Eurovision contest and I’m inclined to dislike them because they kind of remind me of Prussian Blue, but I hope they win just so they’re not forced to return to their careers as Ellie Goulding body-doubles.
Nastassia: I counted at least 20 cliches and as per my favourite drinking game rules, that counts for at least a sip a pop. And they’re twins, so you’re already having to double everything. Concessions may need to be made this year.
Armenia: Aram MP3 – Not Alone
Nastassia: This did not go where I was expecting, which is a rare Eurovision feat. Though considering his name, I should have guessed that this guy doesn’t shy away from technology. There’s no question why this is the bookies’ favourite. It’s uplifting, there are strings, a dubstep breakdown. Something for everyone.
Greg: I like this dude because the video for his entry used the same set as Korn‘s Freak on a Leash video, and recycling is important. From what I could tell, a lot of people are eyeing this guy’s croon as a strong potential winner. It’s really quite a beautiful song until around the two-minute mark, where a drunken Skrillex broke into the studio demanding he have input on the production.
Austria: Conchita Wurst – Rise Like a Phoenix
Nastassia: OK, yes, she has a beard. Let’s just get this out of the way. Conchita Wurst is 25-year-old Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, who performs in drag. Making statements about gender identity and even artistic expression is where Eurovision shines, and while her image may be bucking the trend, her song does not. This reads pure Eurovision, and it sounds like it was lifted straight out of a Disney classic.
Greg: Yeah, if Disney produced a Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond film and that was a classic, which, how could it not be? And I honestly didn’t even notice the beard until you pointed it out, I was too busy checking out those bulletproof shoulders. As for statements on gender identity, if I recall correctly, Israeli trans woman Dana International won the whole shebang back in ’98, and Conchita’s song isn’t any shabbier.