05 June 2009
Just when you think it can't get any sillier
I mentioned the Eurovision Song Contest briefly in a recent post. I realized when I wrote it that if you've never heard of Eurovision, you'd be baffled by my passing reference to it.
There is an exhaustive Wikipedia entry about it here, but in its simplest terms, think American Idol meets the Grammy Awards. European countries that are members one of the Europe-wide broadcast networks send entrants to compete at a contest, which is broadcast live throughout Europe over 3 nights. Most countries hold a contest to determine who will represent them, and have very specific rules about who can and can't enter.
In Sweden, they hold a contest called Melodifestivalen, quite literally, the Melody Festival. I remember almost nothing about Melodifestival, so I looked it up, on the ever-reliable Wiki. Turns out it wouldn't matter if I remembered how it worked, since they changed it in 2002. I have no recollection of who won while I lived there in 1992, but it appears that the final of the whole Eurovision was in Sweden that year, as 1991's winner was Swedish pop artist Carola. Hmm. No memory of that, either. Clearly, this made a big impression on me.
Or - y'know - not.
Melodifestival is a big damn deal in Sweden, as is Eurovision. I'm not sure why, although perhaps the facts that the contest begins in Sweden in February, when sun is in short supply, the nights are long, and the weather is crappy probably have a whole lot to do with it.
This year's contest for all of Europe was held while I was visiting Sweden. I watched the first of two semi-finals live with my Familjen Svensson, and the second I ignored. The final was on a Saturday night. Mr. & Mrs. Svensson took me with them to a stand-up comedy show that night, and so we only saw the end of it.
Watching the first semi-final had me in hysterics. Poor Daughter Svensson. She's 15, and this all matters a great deal to her. Her mother and I laughed our way through it, especially after the first act, Gipsy.cz.
If I'm supposed to take that seriously, sorry. Not so much. The superman costume was just too much. Once back home, though, I've been reading about the artists involved in Eurovision, and it turns out the Gipsy.cz has been influential in opening a dialog with the Romany people in the Czech Republic, and are highly respected there. Huh. In'trusting.
Although much of this contest is sung in English, the songwriters are mostly not native English speakers. So there are hilarious song lyrics that rhyme or work into the rhythm of the song, but make absolutely no sense. Or, even better, there is a blend of English and whatever the native language happens to be, just like "Aven Romale" above.
This year's winner, Alexander Rybak of Norway, is absolutely adorable, although it wasn't my favorite song of the contest by a long shot. The opening riff on the violin is unmistakable, though, and very catchy.
I liked several others much better, among them Turkey with the very silly Dum Tek Tek, Portugal's Todas As Ruas Do Amor, Iceland's Is It True?, Romania's The Balkan Girls, which was just as silly as Turkey's entry, and my favorite, Armenia's Nor Par (Jan-Jan), sung brilliantly by sister act Inga & Anush. I like listening to them sing, and shocker, they are actually classically trained musicians. Plus, check out the costumes.
Jan-Jan doesn't have any more intelligent lyrics than the rest of the bunch, but even better, it has a dance. I wish I had instructions in English, but there's only Armenian.
How can you not like a song that has its own dance? Nor Par (Jan-Jan), by the way, translates to New Dance (My Dear).
As if that wasn't bad enough, hustling through the Copenhagen airport to catch my flight home, I stopped in an electronics store and bought the Eurovision CD, with every song in the contest on 2 discs. To the tune of 221:-SEK, or roughly $30. Who was I saying was silly? The Europeans for getting all wound up in the contest, or me, for spending $30 on a CD full of trashy pop with no real redeeming qualities. Tough call, that.