Eurovision 2018 Preview

You’re probably wondering why Get In Her Ears would indulge me in allowing an article extolling the Eurovision Contest’s virtues. But, whether you watch the contest in a detached ironic fashion, or if you avoid it like the plague, I’m here to tell you why Europe’s favourite TV show is, in 2018, more important than ever.

It’s nicknamed ‘gay Xmas’ – and that still matters.
Massive parts of Europe still either outlaw LGBTQ behaviour, or repress it with violence, whilst politicians condemn gay people and restrict their freedom. Eurovision is family entertainment – like most people, I watched it as a kid – and has also developed a substantial gay following. Giving visibility across all of Europe and making statements of solidarity and universality (if occasionally a little broad and insipid) still matters.

It’s internationalist.
Whether you voted leave or remain in the European Union referendum, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that the UK is drifting towards a position further away from Europe. Eurovision allows different countries, from cultures as diverse as Portugal, Finland, Turkey and Russia to come together. It’s like an Olympics of singing. And when you bear in mind that relations between Turkey and Armenia, Greece and Cyprus, and Russia and the UK, are frosty at best, seeing people from those nations in one place kind of makes you optimistic.

It puts outsiders in the mainstream.
Conchita Wurst, Lordi, Verka Serduchka, Terry Wogan… Eurovision has brought us a world of different characters – and not always what you would expect from their country of origin. As someone who enjoys predominantly ‘alternative’ music, Eurovision has always seemed to be open to the weird and eccentric, and when you look at the history of the competition, they often seem to be some of its most successful entries.

It can still surprise you.
The grand dame might have been going since 1956, yet she still has the capacity to throw up surprises. Just because you think that Georgian ballad is a bit boring doesn’t mean it won’t get 12 points from Latvia and, with such an open field, the winner is notoriously hard to predict. No-one gave Ukraine or Portugal a chance in the 2016 or 2017 contests and they took the prize, possibly because they gave surprisingly honest and real performances in a contest high on glitz and showbiz. What might surprise you most this year? A lot of the songs are actually quite good!

It’s a reality show, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
One thing that reality shows do, constantly, is talk up the ‘journey’ its contestants have been on, with a lot of the crucial aspects hyped up or stretched out for the purposes of giving the show added drama. Not in Eurovision. It zips along at a frantic pace (fitting in 25 performances plus results in 3 or so hours) and is usually happy to poke fun at itself. In a time when even baking is given the full drama of television, Eurovision is self-aware and celebratory.

And some of this year’s best entries include… 

Australia: It’s a bit Ellie Goulding, but the anthemic nature of ‘We Got Love’ might mean Jessica Mauboy brings home Oz’s first win. (Yes, I know Australia isn’t in Europe).

Cyprus: An old-school tacky Europop with indecipherable lyrics, ‘Fuego’ has become the bookies’ favourite largely due to the charming choreography (with an array of hair flicks) courtesy of Eleni Foureira. In a wide open race, it might just light up the contest.

Estonia: If Elina Nechayeva’s soprano voice doesn’t get you, the SFX dress in the performance of ‘La Forza’ just might.

France: This year’s most political entry, the lyrics of ‘Mercy’ were inspired by the true story of a baby born to refugees on a boat in the Mediterranean. Madame Monsieur are the latest in a strand of French pop that acts as a cultural commentary, in the vein of Christine & The Queens.

John McGovern

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