Saturday 18th May 2013 saw the return of the much anticipated Eurovision Song Contest; the annual event in which Europeans can distance themselves from political squabbling and economic hardship by enjoying, or possibly enduring, the musicalities of their surrounding nations. The Contest has been striding emphatically onwards for fifty eight years after first emerging as a fresh, continental extravaganza in 1956, designed to showcase the variety of musical input from Europe’s melodic hopefuls.
This year, the Contest was hosted in Malmö, Sweden, following 2012’s victorious act, Loreen, with the arguably anthemic ‘Euphoria’. 2013 promised to be a similarly extravagant yet toe curling spectacle, prompting even the most open minded Euro-pop enthusiast to ask themselves whether they’d wanted more cheese with their burger. Irish funnyman and chat show host Graham Norton provided the commentary from the British camp, although when faced with the more extreme entries, even his tone dripped with satirical amusement which mirrored that of his Eurovision predecessor, Terry Wogan.
The wondrous element of Eurovision is how it can instantly banish the more pressing dilemmas facing Europe in the modern world. The recent economic struggles, failures and metaphorical punch-ups between Euro leaders leave much to be desired, although on Eurovision night, it is irrespectively muted. As hard line evidence of this theory, in Sweden the Contest’s big wigs formulated the slogan; ‘We Are One’, designed to highlight the unity and equality between the competing countries. In front of a sea of various flags, there were plenty of entries masterfully criss-crossing the dynamics of scatty lyrics with forced smiles and questionable choreography. Belgium’s Roberto Bellarosa, with ‘Love Kills’ moved and shook in front of two female dancers whose moves were potentially directed by someone heavily under the influence.
In similar fashion, the syrupy warblings of Russia’s Dina Garipova came dangerously close to forcing viewers to reach for the anti-emetics. However, it wasn’t just song choice and delivery which caused Norton to comment; the Icelandic long haired lothario Eythor Ingi touchingly sang in his native language with a song titled ‘Ég Á Lif’, although to English-speaking audiences this sounded amusingly close to ‘Yellow Leaf’. Romania’s male singer Cezar left nothing to the imagination with a shockingly unnatural yet jaw dropping act which involved singing at a soprano range whilst embroiled in a sea of red fabric. Krista Siegfrids of Finland brought a vibrant yet apocalyptically awful approach, with ‘Marry Me’, ending controversially with perhaps Eurovision’s first game of lesbian lip-locking.
Despite the cringe inducing offerings of the more traditional Euro contestants, there was a smattering of surprisingly demure and, dare we say it, likeable entries which wouldn’t be out of place outside the Eurovision camp. Hungary’s answer to radio DJ Zane Lowe took to the stage with a simple yet charming piece named ‘Kedvesem’. Appearing in a leather jacket, teamed with a beanie hat and glasses, ByeAlex looked more like he was nipping out for a coffee than representing his country in front of millions. Although unorthodox, his husky tones and basic accompaniment of a head-bopping acoustic guitarist, together with a lone female backing vocalist, heralded a new approach to Eurovision and subtlety proclaimed that it doesn’t have to be cheesy to be liked.
Gianluca’s ‘Tomorrow’ again proved simplistic yet effective; the folksy vibes of the accompanying ukulele highlighted the Maltese doctor’s spirited, upbeat rhythm. Anouk, a singer-songwriter from the Netherlands, stood alone away from the stage with a microphone and seemingly a shared sense of casual appearance to Hungary’s Alex Márta. Clearly, 2013 partly projected itself as a breakaway from the traditional display of Euro-trash common for the Contest but so vilified in outside nature.
The United Kingdom’s entry materialised in the form of old favourite Bonnie Tyler. Her cosmetically enhanced features broke into a triumphant beam as she took to the stage to perform the American-penned power ballad ‘Believe In Me’. Although eventually rising on a plinth as she approached the finale to the song, her leathery tones and energetic gusto could not reel in more points than twenty three, seven of those being graciously awarded by neighbouring Ireland who took up last place. In an example of a surprising decline, Germany could not emulate its success with winner Lena in 2010 and finished unsettlingly with a measly eighteen points.
In comparison, Denmark streaked ahead with two hundred and eighty one points, naming them the winners and anchoring the Danish place in the victory books. Emmelie de Forest’s ‘Only Teardrops’ captured Europe’s attention through its incorporation of the flute and drums with de Forest’s innocent, vulnerable tones. It was a catchy, Shakira-like tune which no doubt will be played countlessly in her native country.
Eurovision is over for another year and Sweden bid farewell to an age old tradition in preparation for Denmark’s 2014 Contest. Although an expected company of pop-bopping, stomach churning lyrics and energetic jigging to techno beats, Eurovision allows Europe to compete innocently on a whole separate level of cultural dynamics. Judging by this year’s offerings, we certainly won’t be disappointed when it comes around once more. As de Forest sat barefoot on the stage ready to begin her final, triumphant performance, Norton so fittingly said from Malmö, ‘Goodnight from Sweden’.