Okay America, listen up. On the other side of the Pond, there’s a massive party going on, and we just don’t know about it.
Remember that cool French exchange student you knew back in High School? Yeah, she follows it. That Turkish guy in your office? He’s tuning in. That Swedish friend of yours? She may have called her family back in Stockholm to send in a few votes for “Mirakel” on her behalf. (She’s always been a bit odd, hasn’t she?) The Aussies practically put themselves on a national Twitter moratorium to avoid spoilers during those precious hours between the live broadcast of the Final and the recorded broadcast that they show the next day at prime-time on SBS.
Last year, over one hundred and ten million viewers worldwide watched the broadcasts of the Eurovision Song Contest from Düsseldorf, even surpassing the viewing numbers of the Super Bowl, which is seen as the ultimate American ratings juggernaut. With the potential to hear some great music (or at the very least, to witness some great entertainment), maybe it’s time for the American audience to join the party?
There’s Something For Everyone!
Too often, people who are vaguely familiar with Eurovision here in America share the same mental image of the event as some of the more curmudgeonly British fans; namely sequins, awful pop music, bad accents, and pyrotechnics. Let’s be honest here: yes, some of the songs presented over the years fit into that mold – but then so do some of the big Vegas shows or closing number on American Idol.
However the past few years has seen over forty nations submitting entries to Eurovision, with songs running the gamut from pop to ballads to rock to performance art. By focusing on the stereotypical, audiences are letting the truly fantastic pass them by. There is something for everyone at Eurovision, and the potential to find a new favorite artist to add to your mp3 collection is very high.
Do you listen to Michael Bublé or Harry Connick, Jr. at home? Check out Raphael Gualazzi. Do you prefer a bit of a New Wave throwback? Search out Malcolm Lincoln. Do you wonder what Pink would be like if she wasn’t singing in English? Just listen to Poli Genova. Moldova’s Zdob şi Zdub has opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it’s not just because lead singer Roman Iagupov looks a bit like Anthony Kiedis. Eurovision isn’t just glitz and awkwardly translated lyrics; these performers are some of their nations’ biggest stars, and often for good reason.
There’s More Than The Music Going On!
If you’re a dedicated reader of ESC Insight, you’ll know this to be true. While, at its heart, we’ll be gathering in Baku this May for the Eurovision Song Contest, there is so much going on behind the music. Sociopolitical intrigue, linguistics, commentary on race, sexuality, ageism, internationalism…even our own Dr. Paul Jordan earned his PhD by submitting a thesis linking national identity in Eastern Europe with our beloved Contest. Yes, the music and general entertainment is what often draws us to Eurovision in the first place, but just below the surface, there is potential for some deep dialogue if you choose to indulge in it.
There’s an opportunity to celebrate!
We, as Americans, are a pretty unique lot. We often wear our patriotism on our sleeves, but we’re also very tuned into the fact that most of us have roots in other parts of the world. Even if some of us haven’t set foot outside of our borders, Americans recognize the melting pot that is our nation. We particularly embrace this idea with aplomb when there’s a party to be had. We’re Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, German during Oktoberfest, Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, and Cajun during Mardi Gras. And admit it…how many of you got up early and watched the Royal Wedding last year? Eurovision gives the world the chance to both wave their own flags as well as celebrate that which unites us across cultures.
There’s a paradigm already established!
The United States has three networks listed as “Associate Members” of the EBU (ABC, CBS, and NBC), yet the word “Eurovision” is still met with quizzical looks. Even though networks here have the opportunity to show the Eurovision Song Contest no channel has taken that leap yet. Some might argue that because the US doesn’t have a proverbial horse in the race, it’s not worth spending the time, energy, and potential ad revenue showing Eurovision stateside.
In contrast, our Australian counterparts are absolutely wild about the contest, despite the fact that they aren’t competing, either. Australian coverage of the event rivals that of most nations actually participating! For many years, Terry Wogan’s legendary quips for the BBC were broadcast for the audience Down Under. Nowadays, the SBS network provides commentary from their own on-site team as well as audio programming on SBS Eurovision Radio produced by ESC Insight’s own Ewan Spence and Sharleen Wright. SBS holds preview programming, mock votes (they gave Jedward their douze points last year… and oddly enough, Azerbaijan came last…), and even gave out the honorary twelve to all the participants in Junior Eurovision this past December.
If one of the major networks here in the US gave enough of a leg-up to Eurovision programming, there’s potential for an audience. Yearly specials like the major awards shows (Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Tonys, CMAs, etc) garner relatively large audiences, despite their often-specific niche audiences, and musical talent shows such as “American Idol”, “The Voice”, “X-Factor”, and “America’s Got Talent” are still popular here. By hyping the event as a blend of the two, there could be a way to break into the American media consciousness. And on those rare occasions where an American is actually participating (Kalomoira, Isis Gee, Oscar Loya, Katrina Leskanich, Loreen’s Euphoric dancer?), it could be a great boost for his or her careers back home.
So come on, America, the world’s favourite TV show is waiting for you to catch up!
At the time of this article’s publication, there are no plans for an American broadcaster to show Eurovision. However, for those of you wanting to watch this year’s show from anywhere around the world, a live web stream will be provided at eurovision.tv, and it will be available on-demand after the Contest. And might I suggest downloading ESC Insight’s Unofficial Commentary of the Semifinals and Final, hosted by Ewan Spence, to be made available the day of each show?