Proper Gander: Ballads And Beards

Across Europe, spangly strapless dresses and snazzy tailored waistcoats are being packed away again until the next Eurovision Song Contest. This year’s competition, accompanied by Graham Norton’s sardonic commentary, was watched on BBC1 by over ten million people, with hundreds of millions more tuning in overseas.

The latest crop of pop showed how homogenous music has become, being mostly either migraine-inducing jaunty dance numbers or ballads which start out dreary and end up overblown. Nearly all the countries’ songs had English lyrics, as this traditionally attracts more votes. France’s song was sung in French and came last, although it would have been merde in any language. Reassuringly, the performances included lots of kitschy stunts like a giant hamster wheel, trampolines and a circular piano keyboard. However, Austria’s decision that their song would be performed by a bearded drag artist, Conchita Wurst, turned out to be more than just another gimmick. There were petitions in Russia and Belarus for their TV stations to edit out footage of Wurst, claiming that her performance would turn the contest into a ‘hotbed of sodomy’.

Wurst’s song was voted as the best, not because her power ballad was much better than any of the other power ballads, but because she came to represent, in her words, ‘respect and tolerance’. This nice enough message seems directed towards Russia, who received boos whenever points were awarded to its entry (sung by two blameless seventeen year olds). Apart from Austria’s win, and the usual trend for neighbours to vote for each other, it might be hard to discern much political significance in the scoring. Russia gave five points to Austria, suggesting that objections to Wurst weren’t particularly strong after all. And it’s anyone’s guess whether the situation between Russia and Ukraine is reflected by Russia ending up in seventh place, with four of its points coming from Ukraine, who received seven back.

The UK finished towards the bottom of the ranking, as has been the norm since the Iraq War. The scores each country awards are only partly made up by the number of viewers phoning in to vote, with panels of never-seen judges making the final decision. So at least the contest reflects the lack of real democracy in capitalism, only with more sequins.


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