Sunday, May 14, 2023

We Watched Eurovision 2023 (from the US. Texas, no less.)

I will be accused of only watching Eurovision 2023 because this edition was co-hosted by actor/ singer/ performer Hannah Waddingham of Ted Lasso fame.  First - how dare you.  Second - she looked amazing.

We've all heard of Eurovision, but until recently, it didn't air here in the US that I'm aware of.  In recent years we'd see twitter going bananas for it, but it was during daylight and work hours in the US, and it was very unclear what was occurring over there.  But folks of all ages and walks of life seemed into it, so I think that piqued the curiosity of some of us.

Right at the start of COVID, I remember watching the Eurovision movie starring Will Ferrell, and it gave me *some* clue as to what was happening and how it worked, but, honestly, raised more questions than it answered.

what needs no explanation is Hannah's gown on Night 2 of the semi-finals

One of the challenges of Eurovision, much like soccer here, is that it airs on commercial-free TV.  Asking American TV to carry something they can't break up with commercials every few minutes is unheard of.  Or was until the advent of streaming platforms.  And now I get soccer and Eurovision.  And probably detective shows about like, British cookie-tasters solving polite murders in quaint small towns.

Then, two years ago, now with Peacock as a carrier, Jamie left me alone at home in the middle of the day - and I cannot imagine where she went, because this was *prime* COVID-hiding time.  But, left alone, I saw on twitter that Eurovision was happening.  I planned to tune in for fifteen minutes to check it out, but wound up sitting totally locked in for probably 3.5 hours (the finals this year ran 4:15).  Returned home, Jamie caught a bit of it, but didn't get the full deluge of sitting, trying to figure out what the hell we were looking at as act after act took the stage.

Some of you will know the winners from that year (2021), Italian rock outfit MÃ¥neskin.  They're pretty solid!

Last year we had a multi-day family event and missed the whole thing.  

But this year, nothing was going on. And, again, Waddingham was there, so I tuned in.

I've mentioned to a few (US) people that I was watching, and to a person, they've said, "So, what is that?  Like... American Idol?"  

That's not a dig on the people who put it that way, but it is very hard to explain the scope of Eurovision to Americans who have spent two decades bombarded by terrible singing and talent competitions that mostly rely on your knowing who the judges are and listening to bad covers of music you previously liked.

I would judge all gowns here a smashing success

Eurovision is the final round of about 37 participating countries from Europe and Australia.  It's more like the World Cup of song competitions as each of these performers has already been selected by their country in local competition.  Of course, local competion means one thing in England and another in San Marino (which has a population of 30,000+ people).  

The finals see 26 countries, and - friends - I have no real idea how this works.  Like, UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain just show up for the finals but not the semi-finals?  

The music is pop, but it's not necessarily what Americans think of when they think of pop.  Not that, here at age 48 and with zero kids (I'm aware of) to my name, that I would know what current pop sounds like.  But I am pretty sure, based on the fact I live a part of the country where Cumbia and Tejano are gigantic going concerns, "pop" is different for different people.  So, across, 37 countries, you get some interesting stuff.  That's to say, don't necessarily expect (checks Billboard) Miley Cyrus. But get an Albanian family-band dressed in disco versions of local folk-wear and turning an anthem into a banger. 

It's also worth noting, the music swings between folks looking for radio stardom and folks putting it on the line as House or, really, Novelty acts.  I may vote for someone because they're entertaining as hell on this show, but I may not put them on my everyday playlist.  And that's fine.  We aren't making any life or death decisions here.  

what is a great decision was the wardrobe for the first part of the finale.  Great jacket, Graham.

Eurovision is a *friendly* competition that happens when you live in a place with actual history and less monoculture, and the overall competition is deeply not-American.  No one here gives a flying @#$% about the US and our pop scene.  But what they are celebrating is that they all bring their best game, everyone gets a chance, and you basically get to party in the audience for 4 hours.  

There are no judges influencing voting or destroying the souls of the contestants.  There is some weighted voting before the popular vote is counted that's a bit like the Electoral College where countries send their 12 votes in.  Oh, and, by the way - you can't vote for people from your own country.  Just imagine.  We'd burn the show down here in the US.

The performances have set pieces, light shows, screen shows, dancers.  It's big and it's... a lot.  And that's kind of the fun of the thing.  Everything is cranked up to 11, and it's pop songs, so even if one song isn't your bag, it's only going to be 3 minutes and out.  But the musicians/ artists really need their act together.  So every song is a little bit of performance art as well as delivery of a single.  

speaking of art: Hannah's final look from Eurovision 2023

Do they lip-synch?  I assume so.  There's a lot of dancing and rolling around and other things that make live singing seem unlikely.  Nor do people have instruments in hand all the time, or are bands seen.  And that's fine.  Who cares?  It's performing to a song as much as performing a song.

Whichever country wins then hosts the next year's competition, which, to be honest, does not seem like enough time to get all of this together.  But I'll assume they know what they're doing.  

However, this year's Eurovision was held in Liverpool, despite the fact the UK was runner-up in 2022.  The winner of 2022 was Ukraine, and...  Americans could do well to see how this was handled.  

Yes, the UK provided three hosts (including Waddingham and Graham Norton), but they also very much included Ukraine in the proceedings, starting with a Ukrainian rock-star host, Julia Sanina (who was really good, and realized she could also cut loose like Waddingham by show's end).  But there were also Ukrainian acts who played the voting interval and other segments, and repeated call outs to Ukraine.  

If Russia wasn't feeling isolated before, seeing dozens of European countries in complete support of Ukraine (and never mentioning Russia directly) had to have felt like a massive PR problem that no psy-ops are going to erase.  And, after the war in Ukraine has dragged on, it's a welcome reminder of the continued war and need to maintain and demonstrate support for Ukraine.

The show also both implicitly and explicitly made calls for inclusivity and equality.  And, friends, that's something I hope we can all agree on.  

I am unsure if I'll watch both semi-finals and finals next year.  It'll depend on time available.  As Sweden's Loreen won, Waddingham won't be involved next year (I assume).  But that's not a deterrent from watching.  But watching both semi-finals and finals is a commitment.

By the way, (a) it seems like non-Ted Lasso fans discovered Waddingham this week and are here for her, and (b) at least two guys who were announcing who their countries were voting for clumsily attempted to flirt with Waddingham.  Shoot your shot, king.

The voting is dramatic and stressful, and much more interesting than the hammy results delivery on most American reality gameshows.  The combo of scores to a total feels immediate and less...  architected.  And, I have no idea what the demographic is for the show, because Non-Threatening Boys did not do well, but hyper-real weirdos did fantastic.  

My personal favorite acts were Croatia, Austria, Moldova, Lithuania, Finland, and, yes, winner Sweden, who I had to keep my mouth shut about because Jamie was not having a previous winner coming back to win again. Also, all things being equal, the Italian guy was good but not my favorite.




RHPT said...

detective shows about like, British cookie-tasters solving polite murders in quaint small towns

The show is amazing and you should be watching it

Then, two years ago, now with Peacock as a carrier, Jamie left me alone at home in the middle of the day - and I cannot imagine where she went, because this was *prime* COVID-hiding time

Sounds like you need a British, cookie-tasting detective in your service

mcsteans said...

I've actually had the damn Sweden song stuck in my head the past 2 nights while trying to go to sleep.

The League said...

@rhpt: I am writing the pilot of The Biscuit Murders even now. And I was hoping Jamie would remind me where she was, but she has not.

@mcsteans: so... it's stuck on you like a tattoo-oo-oo?