For Americans, it is mostly an unknown event. The only thing they probably know about it is the fact that ABBA won the contest back in the 70's and that that Italian song "Volaré" came from it.
Wedding receptions wouldn't be the same today
But the Eurovision Song Contest it's a longstanding tradition in the Old Continent, celebrating this year of 2013 its 58th edition. It surely has something to show: a opportunity to showcast artists and bands from small nations that wouldn't have any other chance to make their music known for a huge audience, the "national pride" factor, with competing countries trying their best to claim the victory and the glory...
...well, that's how should be...however, the Eurovision contest is well known for its randomess, kistch factor and a number of oddities could make you question the continent's sanity. Take that in mind next time you complain about some gimmick in American Idol or The Voice. And since Eurovision's coming soon, I'll give you the 6 craziest stories about such an event.
* A VOTE THAT CAN BRING YOU TROUBLES WITH THE JUSTICE
Just like any other television musical contest, the audience can vote for their favorites. In Eurovision, you can vote for any act you like but the one from your nation. Makes sense, right? And in a perfect world, you are able to vote for anyone from any country and don't fall in silly nationalism.
Europeans have a bad record on that nationalism thing
Alright, that was a bad, unfair example, since we all know Europe today is mostly a pacific, quiet place to live. However, not everything can be perfect, and let's not forget that some nations have smoother relations than others.
Like the case of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Who's the best Transcaucasian post-Soviet nation? SAY IY! Who's the best Transcaucasian post-Soviet nation!
In the 2009 edition, a controversy sparked when Azerbaijan's authorities conducted interrogatories to several fans of the contest. The reason? They wanted to know why did they vote for Azerbaijan's greatest enemy, Armenia.
Since it very likely the average reader of...well, the average reader of almost every English language website aren't aware of the situation (or for that matter, where in the world these countries are located), here's a brief explanation: these two Caucasican nations have been in a territorial dispute from a few years now that even scalated to an armed conflict between them in a couple of times, the first in 1917 and the next one in 1988 to 1994.
Making it oficially longer that the grunge style
And that's not counting the several other tensions (not always ending in war) between them.
Being rivals, the contest in those two lands had taken a very politicized and sometimes, hostile tone. It's not only about the music, nor the artists: it's about national pride, it's about try to win over the other, of if it can't be possible, about not ending as bad at the results as the enemy.
One can understand diplomatic tensions; International politics are a hard topic after all. However, one can't stop thinking that maybe the Azerbaijani goverment (try to say it as fast as you can) overreacted a li'l. Can you imagine something similar happening in America? Can you imagine the NYPD trying to prosecute people that voted for the Bostonian singer in "The Voice"?
In sports, on the other hand, it wouldn't be so surprising
The relations between those countries still cold as the Artic. In 2012, Azerbaijan hosted the contest, making Armenia took the choice of withdrawing that year from the event, since while it was said that there were guarantees for the security of the Armenian delegation.
"No! It will be fine! And please, come alone!"
* THE SONG THAT STARTED A REVOLUTION
Many protest songs are famous either for its criticism to the status quo and their smart yet accesible observations of whatever it is wrong with the country, or for being pretentious, smug and at times, just not being very good.
Not everybody's meant to follow the steps of Bob Dylan...
But a song actually has a merit that white kids with guitars and Che Guevara shirts can only dream about: actually have influente in the end of an authoritarian regime.
The Portuguese song "E Depois Do Adeus" (After The Farewell) was one of the signs to launch a movement against the right-wing regime of the time.
The Belgium song was also the sign for the rise of a guerrilla group whose members were kittens, but that's another story
* A TURKEY TELLS IT AS IT
One of the problem the Eurovision Song Contest has faced in the last years was the bloc-voting: countries from a same region (former USSR nations, former Yugoslav republics) tend to vote for each other, giving few points to any outsider, or no points at all. The Western nations, outnumbered by the Eastern contestants, have been the more affected and it lead to the point the voting system was partially changed.
But before that was even considered as an option, but participant from Ireland was not afraid to make his voice be heard and dennounce the injustice in the event.
The participant was Dustin the Turkey...a puppet. You have to see it to believe it.
Still better than last Nickelback's single
And if you think this character's a joke...let me tell you he's a respected celebrity on his homeland, or as it says on his profile: "A multi-talented Turkey, Dustin has enjoyed considerable chart success in Ireland and has released six albums and twelve singles. He’s had numerous number ones and has sung with Bob Geldof, Chris De Burgh, Boyzone and Irish Showband legend Joe Dolan to name but a few and has had Irish sales in excess of 25 times platinum."
Still not as big as "Kevin O'Malley McDoherty and His Band Of Leprechauns"
* GRANNIE LOVES YOU (AND EUROPE LOVES GRANNIES)
So...you think American Idol can get manipulative with your emotions for a sad history about how Alaina was about to lose her home or Jeremy's doctors told him he would never be able to speak, let alone sing? Well, it is true: it's manipulative, however, prepare to meet an even more manipulative act...Russian style.
Here I bring you Buranovo Bubashki...or..."The grannies from Buranovo".
Still better than...no, this is really shitty...
A troupe of eldery women singing in (barely) English that somehow, maneged to earn a second place in the 2012 contest. For some unknown reason...
...oh, let's be honest, we all know why. I have a granny, just like everybody, and if she was the one singing in front of a continental audience, I'll be the first one clapping (after rubbing my eyes and pinching myself to make sure I'm not in some kind of bizarre nightmare).
And a couple of shots of this
* WELCOME TO AZERBAIJAN! THE LAND OF FIRE, RUGS AND POLITICAL PRISIONERS!
And back to Azerbaijan...
The country that keeps giving!
In 2012 the contest was held in that nation. It was the very first time the event took place in that exotic location, and such a big competition it's good way to promote its image for a huge international market. The caucasian republic tried their best to look good in front of the cameras, and they did it fairy well for the most part.
All they needed was to showcase food (Americans love food)
However, a colourful stage and smart tourism marketing wasn't enough to overshadow a li'l tiny problem...its record on human rights.
I would insert a joke here, but seriously, if you haven't noticed it: human rights violations are BAD, mmmkay?
And then we've got terrorism. Now, it's a ugly stereotype the idea that every muslim nation either sponsor this horrible activity or has problems with it, but then again, we have this little case: Azeri law-enforcement officials killed two members of the armed group,and arrested 40 more; these rebels have links to insurgents in the Dagestan region of neighboring Russia (at least, according to the government version of the story)
The group's idea was to detonate explosives at Crystal Hall in Baku during the Eurovision contest, since these dicks apparently saw it as Western and gay propaganda.
And to be fair, I kind of see where they coming from
* HOW FRANCO WON THE CONTEST
Two things you probably didn't know about Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco: a) He's still dead, and b) He kind of cheated to make his country win in the 1968 contest.
You came kind of late, Chevy
Alright, you probably did know the first fact, but the second, here it comes.
A documentary filmmaker revealed that Spain's only ever Eurovision win was down to behind the scenes negotiations by television executives from Spain's state run channel.
And I sort of see why Spain hasn't won again...
It's kind of petty for a dictator...is it really that important? To win in a campy, kistchy, ol'fashioned, out of touch with the reality contest?
Next time, Iran authorities will try to rig the Academy Awards