The only thing I love more than MRR (Eurovis’!) – Mrs Routledge

This is my favourite time of year. But why? Do I enjoy seeing teenagers stressing about exams? Am I excited for Mr Routledge’s birthday? No! One word: EUROVISION.

Now, the moment I announce that I am a Eurovision fan to people, I immediately get disgusted looks like I’ve just declared my undying love for a dead slug. Interestingly, when I dig a little deeper, invariably the person giving me these looks has never even watched it. And yet, this person still feels qualified to tell me that it’s rubbish music, can’t believe you watch that trash, it’s so sad blah blah blah…bored. However, allow me to run through what’s great about it, from my perspective…

43 countries compete in this year’s competition

1. You can make a night of it: my family and I watch Eurovision every year; even if we’re not together, we text each other about the performances. When I lived at home, we would watch it together, having some international nibbles and during the voting my mum would make bacon sandwiches and it was just a really nice night. It was the one night I pretty much religiously took off from revising for exams without feeling guilty (yes, I even revised on a Saturday!). These days, I host Eurovision parties – Euro-food, Euro-drinks, scoring cards, voting games, fancy dress, the whole shebang and it’s a really good laugh!

2. It’s not necessarily a talent show: when I say I love Eurovision, people tend to assume that means that I take it seriously. Absolutely not, you couldn’t and be sane! If you accept it for what it is I.e. a music competition where the music doesn’t reeeeally matter with an unbiased voting system which is 100% biased, then it’s brilliant! The ESC was set up to help a broken Europe come together after WW2 through music and to inspire countries to appreciate and embrace their similarities and their differences, which, on the face of it, it does.

3. It’s utterly bonkers: while there are some very serious acts in Eurovision, what I love is the variety and the fact that, every year, there’s at least one that’s completely insane, either in their song name, their lyrics, outfits, choreography… Some of my favourites include…

“Papa Pingouin” (Luxembourg 1980), because why would you NOT sing about a daddy penguin while a middle aged man jumps around the stage dressed like one?

“Danzig” (Ukraine 2007) – Ukrainian comedian Verda Serduchka dancing round a stage dressed in tin foil with a shiny star on her head (designed by Dolce and Gabana apparently!), singing in a mélange of Ukrainian, English, Russian and German!

“Cake to Bake” (Latvia 2014) – this song, sadly, didn’t get through the semi-finals BUT the lyrics are cracking! It’s a really catchy tune too but, again, who sings that the only thing they can’t do is bake a cake?…well…

I raise you “Moustache” (France 2014) – a song about a guy who has everything he could ever want…except a moustache.

4. The music!: Obviously music is a very personal thing and not everyone has the same tastes, but what I love about Eurovision is that there are so many different styles and there’s bound to be at least one song that you can get behind (or at least hate a little bit less than the others if it’s a really bad year!). From Scandinavian schlager to Brit-pop to Finnish hard-rock to Swedish pop-era to Romanian yodelling!

Lordi, the only rock band to win so far, winning in 2006 with, at the time, a record number of votes or “Hard Rock Hallelujah” – at the time they were accused of promoting devil worship!

5. It’s a linguist’s dream!: “But how can you like a song that’s in another language?” Easily! And not just French! I like entries in Serbian, Russian, French, Portuguese, Spanish…do I know what all the lyrics mean? Not at first, but the BBC has subtitles and with the wonders of the internet, it’s very easy to find an English translation on sites like Saying you don’t like something because you don’t understand it is pretty lazy really. So many people who learn a second language agree that listening to songs in that language will help you find your “ear”, pick up vocab (day-to-day but also slang) and help with pronunciation.

The Brits miss out on so much good music because we’re unwilling to listen to foreign music!

6. The politics: on the surface, it’s a music competition but it is oohhhhh so much more than that! From the songs to the voting, there is so much politics involved it’s untrue. Could it really be a coincidence that the UK haven’t received many points since the early 00’s because of the invasion of Iraq? Possibly…or it could have been because there was a period of time we just sent rather daft acts (Daz Sampson, Scooch…).

But it gets so much more obvious than that!

It started quite subtle, with lots of songs about peace and love and, following the destruction of the Berlin Wall, a lot of songs about there being no walls and no borders.

But, in 2009, Georgia entered a song called “We don’t wanna put in” which was such an open dig at President Putin following a Russo-Georgian conflict – including the line “I’m just tryn’a shoot in”(sounding suspiciously like “him”)*pause*…some disco tonight”. Oddly enough this song was disqualified when the band refused to change the lyrics…strange that.

Israel may have submitted the most politically controversial acts in its time. In 1998, Dana International, the first transgender act on ESC, attracted death threats and protests from ultra-orthodox Jews back in her own country (even though she had an amazing win!). Israeli acts regularly appeal for peace on ESC and in 2000, when Israel were officially at war with Syria, the band Ping Pong waved Syrian flags during their performance in a bid to promote peace. Unfortunately the Israeli government disagreed with the sentiment and refused to pay their expenses. Finally, in 2007, the Israel’s act Teapacks sang “Push the Button”, about “crazy rulers” and a “world full of terror”, supposedly a reaction to anxiety about Nuclear war with Iran!

In 2014, Vladimir Putin branded Eurovision a “Europe-wide Pride parade” in reaction to the Austrian entry, Conchita Wurst. Conchita was already a favourite to win with her song “Rise like a Phoenix” and she stormed to victory! The Russian act, on the other hand, was met with booing from the audience on the night. Not quite fair on the band, however it was generally accepted that the boos were more directed at Putin than the band.

This all moves very nicely to…

7. …the messages: if there’s not a political message then there is often some kind of social statement to be made with the song, the singer(s) or the background. From Dana International and Conchita Wurst campaigning for Transgender Rights to Finland’s Krista Siegfrid’s song “Marry Me” calling out Finland’s ban on gay marriage to the dangers of social media (“The Social Network Song”).

Dana International (Israel) and Conchita Wurst (Austria) stormed to victory in 1998 and 2014 respectively bringing attention to Transgender Rights around the world.

8. The voting: a little bit like politics but even more obvious. Whilst in theory it’s all very democratic and, in recent years it’s been better, bloc voting definitely still happens: the Balkans, the Scandinavians, the Mediterraneans, former USSR countries, Cyprus and Malta. Possibly another reason why countries like the U.K. no longer get the votes?

9. The presenters!: Terry Wogan was the king of Eurovision; his comic, cutting, sarcastic (if not slightly tipsy…) remarks about the hosts, the outfits, the songs, the dancing but more specifically about the voting…really did make the night. Arguably, his “mockery” of the contest made it so much more appealing for British fans who don’t take it seriously. Terry presented ESC for 35 years; In 2001 he introduced the show with “who knows what hellish future lies ahead?…I do, I’ve seen the rehearsals…”. There was more than one occasion where he had to apologise for his comments (and rightly so), for example when he likened the 2001 hosts to “Dr. Death and the Tooth Fairy”. And Graham Norton has just as much sass in his commentary…

10. People who like Eurovision: people who like Eurovision are awesome. They appreciate it for what it is – a massive party to celebrate what’s great about music and different cultures. They don’t take it seriously and they embrace its madness!

To conclude with a quote from Terry Wogan: “Eurovision is an exciting, camp, foolish spectacle,” he told delegates. “You can’t top it. It is fun, light entertainment. It is not about politics or asserting your place in the community, not even about national pride. It is not an opportunity to show your neighbours how much you love them. It is about picking the best popular song in Europe.”

If you want to watch a couple of videos, here’s this year’s UK entry and “Peace, Peace, Love, Love”, the interval act at Malmo in 2016 about how to create a perfect Eurovision song. If you’re already a Eurovision fan, see how many references to previous acts you can spot!

SuRie flying the flag for the U.K. this year – will Europe vote for us? – “Storm” – “Peace, Peace, Love, Love”

If you want a glance at this year’s offerings but don’t want to sit through the semi-finals:

And to get you in the mood further, here are 10 of my favourite Eurovision songs and my favourites of this year! (In no particular order…) Narrowing this year to 10 has been difficult and doesn’t include the bookies’ favourite Israel!

Top 10 ESC songs of all time
Top 10 ESC songs 2018
Hard Rock Hallelujah – Finland 2006
Monsters – Finland
Ooh Aah, Just a Little Bit – UK 1996
Fuego – Cyprus
Occidentali’s Karma – Italy 2017
Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente – Italy
Fairytale – Norway 2009
We Got Love – Australia
Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi – Switzerland 1988
Toy – Israel (the favourite to win!)
Rise like a Phoenix – Austria 2014
X my Heart – Azerbaijan
Euphoria – Sweden 2012
Lie to Me – Czech Republic
Yodel It – Romania 2017
Higher Ground – Denmark
Molitva – Serbia 2007
Tu Canción – Spain (this is beautiful!!)
Only Teardrops – Denmark 2013
My Lucky Day – Moldova

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