We’re one week away from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest (ignore the dreary semifinals leading up to it) and I feel as conflicted as ever. The shows are simultaneously ridiculous and glorious. The quality is often shoddy, production-wise and musically, and the shows always go on too long. The obvious answer would be to cap the number of participating countries to 20, at the most, but that would make the contest (even) less relevant in a lot of European countries. We’ve also now reached a stage where Australia is a participant, not because the continent has somehow become European, but because of Australians’ inexplicable obsession with this silly spectacle.
This year, Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Kiev, Ukraine. This cheesy clip is exactly what we expect from the show. For a tune called “Celebrate Diversity”, the clip is however surprisingly void of that – everybody’s white and where are the gays? This is after all the gayest event on Earth after Pride…
Here’s my take on a few spectacularly campy acts from years past:
Dschinghis Khan: “Dschinghis Khan” (Germany, 1979, 4th place) – Not many pop songs celebrate medieval warlords, but this amazing tribute to the man who founded the Mongol Empire in the 1100s is nevertheless one of Eurovision’s most classic tunes.
Lordi: “Hard Rock Hallelujah” (Finland, 2006, 1st place) – There was a time when this sort of entertainment, a masked metal act, couldn’t possibly win Eurovision. But Lordi shocked (and apparently charmed) the crowds with a performance that truly stood out compared to the rest.
Conchita Wurst: “Rise Like a Phoenix” (Austria, 2014, 1st place) – Not a favorite of mine, this overbaked James Bond anthem still had the benefit of a “bearded lady”, dragshow performer Conchita Wurst, helping define Eurovision as particularly important to LGBT audiences.
Verka Serduchka: “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” (Ukraine, 2007, 2nd place) – Eurovision at its most ridiculous, the song was nevertheless a hit (especially at gay bars). I had forgotten all about the comedian who performed it until suddenly he made an appearance in the Melissa McCarthy comedy Spy (2015).
Buranovskiye Babushki: “Party for Everybody” (Russia, 2012, 2nd place) – Belongs in the same category as the last song. A group of elderly Russian women perform ethno-pop that is just the right kind of annoying. The women are adorable, all from the village of Buranovo. They’ve also recorded covers of several classic pop songs, including “Hotel California”.
Cezar: “It’s My Life” (Romania, 2013, 13th place) – Not the No Doubt hit (although it could be inspired by it), this godawful tune is operatic in the worst way possible with a singer who tries to channel his inner Dracula.
Pirates of the Sea: “Wolves of the Sea” (Latvia, 2008, 12th place) – Maybe Latvia thought that if Germany could send a Genghis Khan group to compete back in the ’70s, why not a band of pirates? Horrible song, made even worse by the inept singer and the embarrassing fact that the song is credited to four Swedes, my countrymen.. Should have walked the plank.
Dustin the Turkey: “Irelande Douze Points” (Ireland, 2008, failed to move past its semifinal) – And if Germany and Latvia could send… and so on. This was the year when Ireland, which had won several Eurovision Song Contests in the past, decided that enough is enough and just sent a Muppet reject to represent them.
LT United: “We Are the Winners” (Lithuania, 2006, 6th place) – They really set themselves up for failure with that title, didn’t they? This boy band consisting of what looks like middle-aged men delivered a horrible song that somehow ended up sixth. I can understand the appeal of some of the jaw-dropping tunes above, but this one is just mystifying.
Let’s hope the contest next Saturday have a few tunes that deserve to be on this list. And a few good ones as well.