eurovision journal 2002


eurovision journal 2002

by roger mraz

when american me used to hear the word eurovision, I thought primarily of abba and that their career as pop superstars began by winning some song contest held every year “over there”. I also assumed that it such a contest did exist, it was certainly a thing of the past. but, oh no…

the eurovision song contest is alive and uh…well. the latter description really depends on who you talk to.

mention eurovision to any european (that includes great britain, whether they like it or not!) and they tend to bow their heads sheepishly, like they were sorry for starting the whole thing back in the 1950s. kind of like how you imagine they’ll do 20 or so years after the european currency is in full swing. however, when pressed, most can most forthcoming with at one or two vivid memories, most pleasant, some heinous. everyone seems to remember the last time their country won the contest, or how many times, or if they ever have at all. ireland once won three years in a row (and managed to spawn riverdance in the process). spain only once, in 1968, with the innocuous “la la la”. the uk took the prize one year with a number where the women in the featured singing quartet, buck’s fizz, spun off their long skirts to reveal much shorter ones (ah, the 1980s). and of course, everyone remembers abba’s triumph with “waterloo”

this is my second eurovision “in the flesh”. it is televised the world round (except in the us) with reported millions of viewers. I have seen it here in london on the “telly” a couple of times, but seeing it live is quite a thrill; in that thrilling/embarrassing kind of way. what can I tell you? I’m a big fan of pop. and kitsch. and well…shit. it’s complicated.

in 2001 it was held in wonderful, wonderful copenhagen, as they were last year’s winner. the danes had only won it once before, back in the 1960’s, so they were thrilled (really) to be hosting. banners were all over the city, welcoming the attendees and performers. and out of the shops and bars, the sound of previous year’s winners (and near winners) can be heard for blocks. eurovision was everywhere.

and admittedly, I am a true souvenir whore; buying every bit of memorabilia I can get my kroners out for; the t-shirt, the program, the cd of this year’s entries, the backpack, the lighter (!!!).

there really isn’t enough space to go into detail about each and every country’e entry (there are 23, after all), so below I list some of my personal highlights of this year’s performances:

  • the stadium chosen for the event is entirely too huge. reports are that one third of the audience cannot see properly. I bought my ticket last november and still managed to be in the nose bleeds. damn. thank god for those big video screens.
  • the evening gets off to a sloooooooooow start. where are the big beats???
  • sweden have decided to channel abba in their entry this year. it’s embarrassing…and everyone knows it.
  • russia’s entry, by some act called “skamp” are a nightmare. cringing in my seat. and they are reportedly the top act in their country. can the iron curtain go back up?
  • lithuania — what are they treating the ecstasy with over there???
  • spain is really trying for a win this year, with a ricky martin-esque number, complete with some latin hotdog in painted on leather pants.
  • latvia — see note above for lithuania
  • france is also desperate for a win. channelling celine dion. even the singer is french-canadian.
  • the uk entry is a 17-year-old girl with a big voice. shame about the song. there’s a rap section. need I say more?
  • slovenia — a big blond cher giving up the big beats I was asking for earlier. I like it, in a perverse way.
  • estonia — remember that lame kool and the gang cover band at your prom/christmas party? were they waving an estonian flag, by any chance?
  • denmark’s number is brilliant actually; a country pop tune with all the right hooks. so angry about my seat though, that I want them to lose.
    the voting is a long process (in short, viewers in every country vote by phone, for any country’s entry except their own) but it does generate a considerable excitement. denmark and latvia (?!!) run neck and neck through most of the evening, which drives the predominately danish crowd wild. in the end though, latvia, shockingly, win the contest, and take the stage again to perform their winning number once again. I run for the exit while they do so, ever wanting to beat the crowds.

    so it’s off to tallinn for me next year, to indulge in this guilty pain/pleasure that doesn’t look like it’s going to stop for a good long while. maybe, just maybe, another abba will emerge from all this tacky mess, but trust me…not this year.