Eurovision 2015 final contestants: Countries to watch out for from Sweden to …

23 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Eurovision 2015: the Guardian’s data-driven prediction.

Our model is not based on the quality of the songs (or the lack thereof), but on an average of votes each participating nation received over the past 12 years, which is then adjusted for factors that include present day geopolitics, form in more recent editions, past performance and tempo.

We have now spent the last two years tinkering with the model and hope the improvements we’re introducing mean that our projected winner will be the one to take it all. The night before, Conchita — the drag persona of a male singer named Tom Neuwirth — had sparred with a homophobic politician on a popular Austrian chat show. It was originally called “Don’t Deny” – Turkey still contests that it was not a genocide, and this title was deemed too political by Eurovision organisers. She says that her debut album “is about finding yourself or sleeping with somebody.” And she explains that she initially refused the many book offers that came her way after she won the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in May 2014. “I said, ‘No, I don’t really feel that anybody is interested in a 26-year old,’” she says.

The effusive male interviewer disagrees, pointing out that, as a result of her win, Conchita is now the world’s most famous Austrian. “Well,” she says, “there is Mozart.” Mozart notwithstanding, Conchita Wurst has emerged as the biggest, if most unlikely, symbol of modern Austria. The reunion of boyband Blue and an appearance by Andrew Lloyd Webber have helped drag up Britain’s median score (contrary to what the popular press might say). Nevertheless, our model does still expect the UK to join France in the lower end of the table along with Lithuania, Germany, Cyprus, Estonia and Slovenia.

She voiced an owl for the German-language version of the animated film “Penguins of Madagascar,” and was the guest of honor at Vienna’s Life Ball (attended by Bill Clinton and Ricky Martin, among others). She is perhaps the only person in the world who has walked the runway for Jean-Paul Gaultier, sung for Ban-Ki Moon at the United Nations, and delivered a speech before the European Parliament.

Among her personal triumphs is having a chance encounter with the actress Felicity Huffman in the women’s restroom at the Golden Globes. “She came up to me and wanted to wish me all the best,” she says. “I was just standing there with my chin on the floor thinking, ‘You are the star!’” But, if Google metrics are any indicator, the world was far more interested in Miss Wurst in 2014. Other close relationships include Slavic countries, Greece and Cyprus, Ireland and the UK, as well as a bloc comprising several – but not all – former Soviet nations (or what some may refer to as Russia’s customs union). In the BBC TV show Father Ted, two inept priests are chosen to represent Ireland at a Eurovision-style competition because the country cannot afford to host another contest. A similar joke was made about the austerity-hit nations of Europe following the financial crisis and, indeed, Portugal was one of a few countries that dropped out of 2013’s event.

Watched by nearly 200 million people, it’s the world’s most-viewed non-sporting event and a huge opportunity to recast Vienna, known primarily for its dusty imperial grandeur, as a hip city with an avant-garde edge. As part of their strategy, the tourist board went on tour with the ViennaSphere — an inflatable, 360-degree dome, which displays projections of Vienna — in Barcelona, Berlin, London, Milan and Paris in February and March. At Eurovision this week, organizers honored her by including sausages wrapped in plastic in the official press kits for the 1,800 journalists covering the event. Her Eurovision victory came at a time of mounting tensions between Western leaders and Russia’s Vladimir Putin — including the annexation of Crimea and ongoing furor over Russia’s anti-LGBT laws. Her winning song “Rise Like a Phoenix,” an Old World ballad that smacks of Shirley Bassey, came off as autobiographical and became a battle cry for those living on the margins: “Waking in the rubble/ Walking over glass/ Neighbors say we’re trouble/ Well that time has passed … Once I’m’ transformed/ Once I’m reborn/ You know I will rise like a phoenix.” During Russia’s performance at the contest, which is known for its sizable LGBT fan base, the audience unfurled gay pride flags, and hissed and booed.

Conchita drew the largest applause. “The atmosphere in the arena reflected political tensions, and Conchita was really taken as the strongest symbol of Western values at Eurovision, partly because of her team’s marketing strategy,” says Dean Vuletic, a historian at the University of Vienna. “They As the host of this year’s green room — where Eurovision contestants sit while waiting for the points to roll in — Conchita plans to reduce the tension, and she hopes for a less politically charged atmosphere. “I’m going to have to become everyone’s grandma,” she says of the potential booing. “I’ll say ‘don’t you dare!’” Born Tom Neuwirth to two hoteliers in the summer resort town of Gmunden, Conchita says that classmates always had a sixth sense of Tom’s otherness. Talent agent Rene Berto, who had previously worked as a taxi driver and curtain fitter, began working with Conchita on the show. “After the final I wrote a concept for her: ‘From candidate in a talent show to world star!’” he says. “I asked her where she sees herself in five years. We shared our goals, dreams and wishes from the very beginning.” In 2012 Conchita entered Austria’s national selection contest to sing at Eurovision with a song called “That’s What I Am,” a dance number. This is how she explained her name ahead of the show: “The funny thing is that ‘Conchita’ stands for femininity and … ‘wurst’ is German and means ‘sausage’ and that is the nicer word for penis here in Austria.” Fast-forward to the fall of 2013, and Berto had successfully lobbied ORF, Austria’s state broadcaster, to send Conchita to Eurovision.

By then Berto and Conchita had rebranded her sexualized surname as a play on the German-language expression, “Das ist mir wurst.” Literally, “It’s sausage to me,” it means “It’s all the same to me” or “I could care less,” which fit nicely with her theme of tolerance and acceptance. In Belarus, disgruntled citizens wrote to the Ministry of Information calling on the government to edit Conchita out of the live Eurovision broadcast, to prevent their children from seeing “a hotbed of sodomy.” Petitioners in Russia soon followed suit. “We’ve never been that busy with haters and hostilities,” says Berto. “We always focused on our path and looked at the bright side of life. Besides that we never had the time for those issues.” The pair traveled 30,000 kilometers around Europe promoting the song, and gave around 500 interviews to outlets of all sizes, from small Eurovision blogs to mainstream news channels. Even so, he says she does not aspire to become a politician or political activist. “She is just a drag artist, who wants to empower people, tell them to live a happy life and that there is no reason to be ashamed of what and who you are,” he says. It’s a simple idea, but one that not all Austrian politicians have fully grasped. “Political parties have to make press statements when an Austrian artist wins Eurovision,” says Schreuder. “So the progressive parties congratulated Conchita, while the conservative parties, who still don’t understand drag art, sent out congratulations to Mister Neuwirth.” Vuletic, the academic, believes that Austria’s tight embrace of Conchita is in some ways a reaction to the country’s history with right-wing politics. “She’s very much what the left of Austrian politics would like the world to see of Austria,” he says, “considering the right has forged a certain negative perception of Austria abroad in recent times.” He cites two examples.

In 2000, Austria became the first EU member state to have diplomatic sanctions imposed on it after Jörg Haider’s far-right Austrian Freedom Party formed a national coalition government with the centre-right Austrian People’s Party. The second is the election of Kurt Waldheim, the former UN secretary-general, as president in 1986 — despite the fact the World Jewish Congress had uncovered details about his role in the German army during the World War II. He served his full term, even as foreign governments gave him the cold shoulder. “Conchita’s win was and remains a very patriotic, if not nationalistic, moment in Austria,” Vuletic says. “They call her the queen of Austria.

It’s an allusion to Austria’s time of greatness.” Amid all the noise and invitations and talk of politics, Conchita’s team remains focused on her goal of winning a Grammy. And while her status and celebrity are certainly on the rise, her private life remains largely unchanged: Until recently she still lived in a shared apartment. “People tend to ask me now, do you feel better now?” she says. “I’m, like, ‘I felt fabulous before’.”

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