On The Entrancing Power of the Eurovision Song Contest

Before I came to Ireland in 2001, I’d never heard of the Eurovision Song Contest. From Wikipedia:

The Eurovision Song Contest is an annual competition held among active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), in which participating countries each submit a song to be performed on live television; then proceed to cast votes for the other countries’ songs, in order to find the most popular song in the competition. Each country participates via one of their national EBU-member television stations, whose task it is to select a singer and a song to go forward to represent the country in the international competition.

It’s difficult to understand how influential and strange the contest is unless you’ve experienced it from Europe. It’s kind of like a hyper-intensive, pan-continental American Idol (originally Pop Idol in the UK, I should point out), now in season 51. I still don’t get Eurovision, and this is my third year in Europe.

A number of well-known artists got their start, or made an appearance, in the contest. These include Céline Dion, Lulu and ABBA. I fear those names are pretty reflective of the kind of music featured on Eurovision. For a boy raised on rock and roll, the Europop is a bit hard to take.

Wikipedia says its one of the most-watched non-sports events in the world, citing an international audience anywhere from 100 to 600 million viewers. I don’t know that it ever airs in North America–I’ve never seen it on TV. The coolest part is how each country gets to vote on all the other country’s songs. You get these weird bloc voting patterns.

To give you a sense of how closely the contest is watched, I read an article in The Malta Times yesterday reviewing their entry’s second rehearsal (the photo must be seen to be believed).

No item about Eurovision would be complete without referencing the hilarious Father Ted episode, “A Song for Europe”. Here’s a plot synopsis and Ted and Dougal’s classic entry, “My Lovely Horse” (and the rock video version).

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that this whole entry was inspired by Toni, who’s in Helsinki at this year’s contest.


  1. Maybe as a Brit I’m too well attuned to the Eurovision thing, but I didn’t see anything unusual in that photo 🙂

  2. As far back as I can remember, my sister and I have made a special trip to mom and dad’s to see this live on satellite. It’s a family get together. It’s not always great but it’s always fun. Plus, it’s always fun to cheer for the homeland.

    We’re such patriotic saps.

  3. Ha! Another essential induction into the Malta experience. The Eurovision is a national institution here! People hold house parties every year as an excuse to get drunk and howl at the muzak and spangled costumes and nil points…

    Wait till you get to the festa season in Gozo.. you’ll find Malta’s entry screeching away in your village square.

    And sadly.. the piece in Times was penned by Ariadne, my sister-in-law… need I say more.

  4. Carlos: No, no, that’s not Europop.

    You know, I’ve been trying to fix a particular bias for years. I really have difficulty enjoying rock music that isn’t in English. I’m not sure why. It’s like there’s some fundamental connection between the language, culture and style of music. I’d probably say the reverse about English and opera–they don’t seem to go together.

    Plus, and this is purely my limited anecdotal experience, I feel like the European rock bands I see go too far in the other direction, to uber-heavy metal music. It’s so heavy it’s camp.

    In this case, “Hard Rock Hallelujah” just sounds kind of farcical to me–it sounds like something Spinal Tap might record.

  5. You’re right Darren. Put bluntly, Rock music that isn’t in English, is typically awful.

  6. You will never be able to order “Eurovision” as a TV channel. It’s because it is no TV channel.

    This is an old european tradition. For a very “important” show, all “major” stations are plugged together, and at a special time (just pick up your TV program, if you can read) you will find an entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Just swith on your TV on that channel, and whoa – you have Eurovision!

    It is live. It connects whole Europe. It’s a thing for the whole family, because everybody has his or her own favourite. And it is interesting to see, what and how other countries have chosen what type of interpret and show for this event.

    In the early years, it was a classic singing contest. Later it became a Pop contest, now it seems, the times of heavy metal freak shows have come. – But wait, there is this german, who’s in Frank Sinatra and Big Band sound…

    You see, this contest is like a box of choclates. You will never know what is in there, until you have tasted it.

    The Eurovision is like the Soccer World Championship, only for singing and just european.



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