Eurovision Song Contest

by john on May 16, 2004

Saturday night in Stockholm was spent like “many”: “others'”: “across”: Europe: having a small dinner party at a friend’s flat and settling in to watch the Eurovision Song Contest.

The ESC pits 36 different European nations together in a song contest somewhat similar, but mostly different, than American Idol. Each country ran separate contests to pick the best contestant who would then represent their country in the ESC. Some countries took a different approach – Greece had their runner up perform the song of their winner, relegating the winner to backup singer status, because they felt the runner up was more sexy. Given the reaction to the girls I was with I would say they made a good decision. Malta chose to split their contest into best song and best singer and then sent the best singer to sing the best song. The contest is hosted each year in the previous years winners country and this year it was hosted in Turkey.

Last night was the finals which was the last 24 countries. Each contestant performed for 4 minutes or so and once every country had finished the televoting began. The only stipulation was you could not vote for your own country. I noticed that the Swedes were honestly planning to vote for the performances they thought best despite wanting their own country to win. When I suggested that it might be better for them to make their votes for the worst performances they quite seriously looked at me like I was an evil genius for coming up with such an idea, but then summarily dismissed the idea and voted for their favorites. Perhaps the Swedes aren’t so “evil”: after all. The production of the show was actually quite good and fast paced. No commercials other than pictures of Turkey between each performance.

The Swedes seem to take this thing very seriously. Everyone knew each of the four winners they have had in this contest dating back to the fifties, which included ABBA being discovered by winning in 1974. When Norway was performing they noted that the song was given to them by the Swedes to use this year, sort of implying that it was something that didn’t even make their own national contest but that it was better than anything Norway could come up with. Once the voting was complete it was confirmed that was probably true as Norway did not get a single vote other than a 3 from Sweden.

The bulk of the contest was then seeing the votes come in country by country, from each of the 36 original contest countries. The top 10 vote getters from each country were allocated 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10 or 12 points. It was quite funny to hear them complain about how Greece gives the 12 points to Cyprus every year but to see on the “final tally”: that the four countries that gave Sweden 12 points were Iceland, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

In the end the winner was Ukraine, who I thought did put on the best performance. Sweden finished tied for fifth which everyone blamed on having to perform in English – to their ears it sounds much better in Swedish.

I don’t listen to much music these days and I certainly don’t watch any MTV, but this was a fun exercise in European nationalism at it’s finest and it really was quite enjoyable.

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