American Idol and similar vocal performance shows are all the rage back in the US, but I didn’t know until last month that they all have roots you can trace back to Europe. I first started to hear mentions of Eurovision during trivia quiz night at the pub, but I had no idea just how big it was until the competition aired last month. That’s when all the blog posts started- I follow a lot of blogs from other folks who live in Germany, and after the finals were aired, there were lots of wrap up posts.
I wasn’t going to write about this, because so many other people have, but then I started to read up on the history of the contest, and I started to listen to the music.
It started in 1956. After Europe started to rebuild itself following World War 2, the European Broadcasting Union based in Switzerland tried to come up with ways of bringing together their member nations. They came up with Eurovision, an experiment in live broadcasting of a music contest that was based on an existing music festival from Italy. I say experiment because a multinational live television broadcast in 1956 was kind of a big deal.
The first Eurovision was held in Lugano, Switzerland in May of 1956 and it included just seven countries- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland. 2012 was the 57th year of the Eurovision contest, and 42 nations competed.
The format is simple- each competing nation presents a live song, often with elaborate choreography, and the winner is decided by vote. The winning country typically hosts the following year’s competition.
Sometimes, the competition launches careers. ABBA won the contest for Sweden in 1974 with “Waterloo.” Celine Dion won the contest for Switzerland in 1988, so blame them for her continued presence.
Speaking of Celine Dion, the winner this year sounded a bit like her. Loreen, representing Sweden, performed “Euphoria.” With her jumpy choreography, it’s kind of like watching Celine Dion having seizures.
I’ll include a few more of the competitors in this post, but with more than fifty years and more than fifty competing nations in that timespan, this is by no means inclusive. Just go to YouTube and search for Eurovision, and you’ll find more new music.
Ireland was represented for the last two years by Jedward, which kind of reminds me of Nelson, but without the cool mullets. Or the talent.
Every conversation I heard about Eurovision this year mentioned the Russian grandmothers who were rocking out. This was Buranovskiye Babushki performing “Party For Everyone.”
I kind of liked Switzerland’s act this year. Sinplus sounds sort of like a mix of U2 and two or three other bands that are pretty successful. I’m curious to hear more of their stuff.
Iceland was super intense, with Greta Salóme & Jónsi singing “Never Forget.”
I’ve been listening to a lot of Eurovision music in preparation for writing this post, and I’ve actually become kind of fond of the artist who represented Germany in the 2010 competition. This is Lena, performing a song that I keep hearing on the radio now, “Satellite.”
I’ll be humming this one for the rest of the night.