(Up) Yours in Songs

Well, the 52nd Eurovision Song Contest is history. That it is also politics was once again apparent in the shamelessly biased attacks on our nerves during the announcements of the televoting results. The face of Europe is changing, and that of anyone tuning in west of Latvia likely to get longer. Perhaps, last year’s Finnish win was the traditional song contest’s swansong. This year, it was the revenge of what the west regards as Europe’s ugly ducklings. From now on, or until further notice from Russia, the contest is going to be one big Eastern Euro-paean after the singing of which most of those precious “points” are being traded by former Communist countries voting for each other’s representatives in a series of mostly predictable not-so-foreign flag waving gestures. When you live on what now looks like a remote island way to the west of it all, “Flying the Flag” is a pointless exercise; the UK’s Scooch, who misfired with said camp number, could only rely on major points from a minority anglophisle like Malta.

The night proved the might of the new Russia, whose brass girlband screamed something about “want[ing] your money, honey,” and the animosity our younger and poorer relations in the east feel toward the western founding fathers of the old love-thy-neighbor fest. Perhaps, voting is still a novel concept to them, which is not to say that the winner of the evening, Serbia’s Marija Serifovic was inferior to the imitation swing from Germany (crooned by a smarmy and charm-deficient Roger Cicero) or the pink mess that was supposed to convey “L’amour à la Francaise.”

Had the runner-up (Ukraine) walked away with the trophy, I would have attributed the success to the outrageous if too-silly-to-be-offensive drag act that thumped its nose at the contest, just as Finland’s provocative monster metal medalists did last year. This time around, winning the contest was not a matter of sending or shaking it up (Denmark’s “Drama Queen” and Israel’s “Push the Button” did not even make it into the finals; nor did Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

The natural selection of favorites and the survival of the allegedly fittest or finest was a matter of ethnic myopics, of turning Eurovision into a bloc party in which the eastern front now far outnumbers the west. It wasn’t exactly hostile (the audible resentment of the results by the audience in the hall notwithstanding)—but it sure wasn’t impartial.

Afterwards (and a few Black Russians later) I signed off from the politics of schlock pop-rock with a screening of The Dolly Sisters (1945), in which a musical act from Eastern Europe (Hungary, in this case) gets the full Hollywood treatment. Speaking of Hungary, even at the risk of undermining my east/west dialectics, I thought that Magdi Rúzsa’s “Unsubstantial Blues” ought to have fared better.

Meanwhile, I did not get to continue my Radio Vs. Television series, my plans having been thwarted by yet another broadband brownout; nor was I able to tune in many of the previously announced new drama series airing on BBC 4, relying, clearly overmuch, on internet radio rather than the old wireless. And now, after permitting friends to celebrate another one of my many happy returns, I am turning by back on Europe for a trip to Gotham. As much as I resent having to pay for wireless access by sipping overpriced java at a Starbucks, I’ll try to report from there . . .

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