This weekend, over half the population of Europe will tune in to witness the wonderful and bizarre spectacle of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. I’ve been looking forward to this year’s musical extravaganza with more voyeuristic glee than ever, because the competition will take place right in my backyard.
I’ll be in Copenhagen when it all goes down Saturday, and though I won’t have the privilege of attending the show, I’m looking forward to the energy in the streets as tens of thousands of visitors from across Europe make their way to the arena for the final showdown.
If you’re not from around here, you may not be familiar with the glory that is Eurovision. What began in the 50’s as an initiative to foster goodwill among European countries has since become an annual pageant of lavish musical numbers that range from earnest, to cheesy, to absolutely bonkers.
Case in point is Romania’s 2013 entry, and my all-time Eurovision favorite, “It’s My Life” as performed by Cézar.
If this year gives us anything half so good, I will be delighted.
I’ll share highlights after the dust settles Sunday, but for now let’s take a look at the home team. Sweden’s 2014 entry is “Undo”, performed by Sanna Nielsen who is the favorite to take the whole competition this year. If she’s successful, it would mean Sweden’s fifth Eurovision win and their second in just three years.
When “Undo” narrowly took first place at Melodifestivalen, the national contest that determined Sweden’s Eurovision submission, there was some controversy around whether the lyrics should be modified before the song went to the big leagues. The crux of the debate was whether to change the poetic but ungrammatical “Undo my sad” to the alarmingly angsty “Undo myself“. Happily, the songwriters stayed the course, and their commitment to the song’s artistic vision might just be what puts Sweden over the top Saturday night.
I personally have nothing against Sanna, though I had dearly hoped rival number “Blame It On The Disco” would be selected to represent Sweden.
The dance moves. The costumes. The AMAZING KEY CHANGE. I was devastated when they came in third and were relegated to the dustbin of Eurovision history.
With 170,000,000 viewers last year, Eurovision’s popularity is undeniable, and yet it stirs strong and complicated feelings in the average Swede. Pretty much anyone you ask will tell you it is cheesy, silly and irrelevant, but almost everyone watches it. During Melodifestivalen’s regional and national elimination rounds, the water cooler at IKEA buzzed for weeks with commentary that was at once derisive and painstakingly detailed. Everyone agrees that the songs are horribly uncool, and yet I have witnessed Swedish girls flooding the dance floor upon hearing the first strains of Melodifestivalen runner-up Ace Wilder’s “Busy Doin’ Nothin'”
Wilder came in second by a mere three points, but despite the timeless universality of her song’s message, the dream of unearned personal wealth didn’t capture the European psyche as well as Sanna’s lovelorn anthem. I’ll admit, the songwriter and marketer in me is strangely fascinated by the Eurovision songs and what makes everyone love/hate them so much.
So like a good Swede, I’ll tune in Saturday before bed just to see what happens. Not that I care or anything; I’d just hate to miss out on the wave of secret, shameful pride that sweeps Sweden when Sanna wins it all.