I love Eurovision. It’s not even one of those so-called ‘guilty pleasures’ (a term I strongly disagree with), I just truly love it, and with every year, my love for this song contest intensifies further.
For most people, Eurovision is one magical night of the year, but I increasingly allow myself to lean into ‘Eurovision season’ as a concept: the various national finals, the new batch of songs being released months beforehand, then the semi-finals, and the excitement of which countries will qualify in the first place. The grand final is still just as magical, though.
In March 2020, Eurovision was cancelled for the first time in the contest’s 64-year history, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, as May 2021 crept closer, with the pandemic still raging across Europe, the fate of the contest seemed uncertain this year as well. However, Eurovision bosses made sure that the show would definitely go on, with artists recording live-on-tape performances that would be shown if they were unable to travel to host city Rotterdam – which ended up being the case for Australia’s Montaigne. It was a contest like no other, with reduced audience capacity in the arena and delegation bubbles, but Eurovision returned to our screens with one of its strongest ever finals.
Viewers were treated to a diverse range of songs, including from Iceland’s Daði og Gagnamagnið – whose song for the cancelled 2020 contest, Think About Things, became a viral hit, teenage powerhouse Destiny Chukunyere from Malta, and even an appearance from American rapper Flo Rida who collaborated with San Marino artist Senhit. This year’s Eurovision was won by Italian band Måneskin, with their entry Zitti E Buoni becoming the first rock song to win the contest in 15 years. Måneskin sit outside the mainstream music scene, yet since their win, the band have taken the world by storm, climbing into the UK top 20 and disproving the myth that ‘Eurovision’ is a genre in itself; the best performances are always rewarded, regardless of style or language. What’s more, four of the top five songs on the scoreboard this year were in a language other than English, including Italian, French and Ukrainian.
And as for the UK… well, we finished on zero points for only the second time ever, a score which is almost impossible under the new scoring system. James Newman did us proud, from his fun performance to his typically British celebrations upon the announcement that he hadn’t received any points. However, I feel it is the British attitude towards Eurovision that could do with some work. No, Europe doesn’t hate us, and no, it’s nothing to do with Brexit (lots of the countries participating aren’t in the EU either). We view the contest as silly and beneath us, whilst also continuing to send bland and safe entries, leading to a string of poor results and the ‘too political’ excuse being dredged up year after year. If the UK took Eurovision a bit more seriously, and used it as an opportunity to showcase our rich musical landscape, we may stand a better chance.
I sometimes wonder whether Eurovision for me is what the World Cup feels like for football fans. After all, both evoke a sense of communal viewing that stretches far beyond the realm of a single country. This year Eurovision was watched by 183 million people, proving that music has the power to connect people, and Eurovision provides the perfect outlet to do this.
Once again, there are calls for the UK to withdraw the money they contribute to the Eurovision Song Contest, or even to stop competing altogether, but I feel those people are missing the point entirely. Eurovision is a celebration of music and culture, which to me represents community, inclusivity, and joy, and to dismiss Eurovision is to reject these values. The song contest was sorely missed last year, but Eurovision is back, and the world is a better place for it.
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