From the crooners to the kitschy, some Eurovision acts to watch

22 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How Europe changed its tune- 60 years of Eurovision.

Ireland’s Molly Sterling with last year’s winner Conchita Wurst Singer Maria Olafs from Iceland Monika Linkyte and Vaidas Baumila representing Lithuania The singer wowed the audience with her performance of ballad ‘Playing with Numbers’ at Vienna’s Wiener Stadthalle, but for the second year in a row Ireland failed to qualify. “I’ve had the time of my life,” she said last night. “To be in the final would have been a bonus but to get to Eurovision and represent my country in the first place has been a privilege.” RTE’s head of delegation Michael Kealy added: “I think I can speak for the whole country when I say how proud we are of Molly. It was an absolute pleasure to work with this talented young songwriter and it goes without saying that she has a fantastic future ahead of her.” “There are so many great songs this year. As it hits its 60th year it has gone through several versions of magnificently foolish — from its origins as a serious exercise in postwar peace to the festival of camp excess it has become.

Eurovision is more than just a song contest- its history tells us much about the way Europe has changed politically, culturally and economically since the mid-1950s, and how the changes have not always been for the best. It’s fantastic being in Vienna for such a historic year; it’s the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision and Ireland’s 50th year of competing.” Russia’s entry, ‘A Million Voices’, performed by Polina Gagarina is another frontrunner. Eurovision predates the formation of the European Economic Community (EEC) by several months, but came about from the same desire to bring the countries of Europe (or at least Western Europe) closer together and help prevent future wars.

Countries that have close trade links with one another and take part in singing contests together, can’t really go to war against each other, can they? The first contest, held in Lugano, Switzerland on 24th May 1956, saw just seven countries compete and for the first and only time each country was allowed two entries. Ironically, in this pre-globalization era, there was more genuine cross-cultural fertilization in Europe than there is today, when globalization too often means Americanization. Millions of people across the continent bought the song which only came third for Italy in the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest – Volare, (Nel blu, dipinto di blu, ) sung by Domenico Modugno. Myself and Greg are going to focus now on working on the album, which will be coming out in the autumn.” Marty Whelan added: “Molly’s performance was marvellous.

The quality of the songs was very high in Eurovision in its first twenty years-reflecting the richer cultural life that we had on the continent in the pre-neoliberal era. Les Trente Glorieuses- but just how glorious on so many different levels the period 1945-1975 was, only became fully apparent with the passage of time. Swinging Britain, a happy, vibrant place to be under Harold Wilson’s progressive ‘old’ Labour government, won in 1967 and 1969, and should have won in 1968 too with the upbeat ‘Congratulations’; it’s claimed that Spanish dictator General Franco rigged the contest in Spain’s favor.The 1970s was another vintage decade for Eurovision.

The Seventies started with a first win for Ireland, with the lovely ballad ‘All Kinds of Everything’, with the UK again doing well, finishing a close second. It was great to see the contest become a genuinely pan-European event, but sadly, the expansion of Eurovision coincided with the era of turbo-globalization, a period which has seen national cultural identities weakened, and the contest, despite the participation of new countries, is arguably not as interesting as it once was. Only a small minority of acts sing in their native tongues and instead of a genuinely European cultural experience, where we can learn something about other countries, we’ve got a competition in which too many of the contestants are trying desperately to sound and look American. Modern Eurovision has become a much-hyped high-cost television spectacular, watched by around 180 million people, but they don’t have anywhere near as much charm as the old contests had when the sets were creaky, and it was all about the songs and not the flashing lights.

Britain had an excellent record when its foreign policies were relatively peaceful, (the UK won it four times between 1967-81 and finished in the top four in every contest between 1967-78, but its last win was in 1997, the year Tony Blair – with his ‘liberal interventionist’ foreign policy, came to power. The UK has only had one top ten finish in Eurovision since 2003; and in the last three years, despite having reasonable enough songs, songs, has finished 25th, 19th and 17th.

If the UK does want to do well in Eurovision again the answer is clear: kick out the neocons and ‘liberal interventionists’ from the corridors of power and show Europe we’ve changed by putting Tony Blair on trial for war crimes. The country won two years running in the late 1970s, at the time when Israel’s international image was fairly positive on account of the peace agreements with Egypt brokered by US President Jimmy Carter.

But it has only won once since then, in 1998, a sign perhaps of how European attitudes to the country have changed in the light of Israel’s wars against Lebanon and Gaza, and the activities of the pro-Israel lobby in cheerleading for US-led wars against Israel’s ‘enemies‘. The advance in LGBT rights is an undoubted positive, but while we have gained equality in some important areas, at the same time economic inequalities have widened. Because of the economic changes that have taken place since the late 70’s, the feelings of solidarity and comradeship between people are not as strong as they once were. Rugged ‘me first’ individualism and the rise of identity politics have led to more fragmented societies in Europe, particularly in countries where neoliberalism is most entrenched, such as Britain.

He protested about the song because one of the captions in the song’s video contained the words: “2014 – Gaza – two-thirds of the victims were civilians, including more than 500 children.” I’d call that censorship, but the West’s free speech anti-censorship crusaders weren‘t at all interested. Keith Walker, of Euronews, did though pick up on the irony ‘Israel who’s PM marched in Paris defending free speech, protests’ Hungary’s Eurovision entry’ Just imagine the furor if the Russian ambassador had intervened to try and get changes made in another country’s Eurovision entry. Then we’d have been treated to a plethora of unbearably pompous oped pieces in neocon and faux-left publications expressing ‘outrage’ over how Putin was trying to destroy “free artistic expression at the Eurovision Song Contest” and calling for Russia to be banned.

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