Image Credit: NETFLIX
The Eurovision Song Contest- some might say it’s the closest to ‘marmite’ a television show can get, but love it or hate it, it has become an institution in European culture. Even if you don’t watch it, it is difficult to escape the endless memes created in the aftermath. But apart from a slightly disturbing ‘hand costume’ and the political tensions, what’s really at the heart of Eurovision is a sense of community and unity...and of course, music.
I don’t think anyone can feasibly say Eurovision is boring; even if it’s not your cup of tea, there’s humour to be found, even if it’s simply in our consistent failure! Joking aside however, as a lifelong Eurovision fan, I’ve always been interested in the way Eurovision manages to bring all these countries together. When you begin to look past the gimmicky costumes and some of the more irritating songs, there is another level to this show. There is the aspect of cultural education and it's not always merely in the music; it is woven into every aspect of the production. One element that always stands out for me is the ‘postcards’ that are put together to represent each entry in the introduction. Graham Norton always manages to put a lighthearted spin on them but within those small bursts of information about the acts and the origins of the songs, we often find ourselves learning a little more about that country’s cultures and traditions, without even realising it. Yes, there are the very blatant and over-the-top cultural nods, but there are also layers of subtlety and wisdom.
What makes Eurovision special is the way it brings people together.
When you look at the songs themselves, with the odd exceptions that are completely without merit, there is power in the music. On this one night of the year, we are exposed to a variety of styles, genres and sounds that we would never normally be in dialogue with. You only have to look at the influence music has had on British culture across time to understand the way that music can encapsulate elements of identity, history and society, as well as functioning on an emotional level. We tend to forget that a large percentage of these songs are actually very good pieces of music that are the result of incredible artistry. We find new interests and we are introduced to new artists that we hadn’t previously heard of. I still have songs from previous years scattered within some of my playlists that have become part of my regular listening, and in some cases, half of the song is in another language that I am not familiar with. How incredible is it that you can be so moved by a performance, yet not understand a single word of it?
The power in a song lyric, as well as in performance, is much underestimated. One of the highlights for me this year was Bulgaria’s entry, ‘Growing Up is Getting Old’ byVictoria. The lyrics reflect on the process of growing up and remembering your roots.The song itself is rooted in contemplations about family members and friendships, after the artist's family was confronted with illness.There was a warmth and a familiarity to the subject matter that is relatable, no matter where you are from across the globe. The things we learn about our-selves and others are not always obvious right away but slowly emerge as time goes on.
From the small snippets of language, the way the staging and choreography reflects cultural traditions and the power of the songs themselves, there are masses of exciting things to learn from Eurovision. Sometimes we learn as much about ourselves as we do others, as we surprise ourselves with the unexpected. This year’s winners became the first Italian artist to break into the UK charts in 29 years, which is truly astounding when you think about it. Perhaps not every song may be to your personal taste, but you might be pleasantly surprised and discover a new aspect of your palette. I for one never expected it’d be artists like Hooverphonic (Belgium 2021) or The Black Mamba (Portugal 2021) that got me through the assessment period.Whether you are frustrated or amused by the UK’s regular ‘nil points’ result, there is more to Eurovision than the flamboyant costumes and the ‘cheese’ factor it is renowned for. In this age of the individual, what makes Eurovision special is the way it brings people together.