One of the advantages of not being in the host city and outside the Eurovision Song Contest bubble is that you get a wider selection of views from casual television viewers and the perspectives of people who actually vote in the Song Contest. The era of Twitter and Facebok means you can instantly see how a song is resonating with potential televoters as people tweet their thoughts during the show.
Something that I hadn’t noticed until the first semi-final of this year’s contest is how the repeated mention of the slogan “Celebrate Diversity” would play into people’s thoughts. Anyone following the #eurovision hashtag on Tuesday night would have noticed that the irony of the slogan contrasted with the fact that 17 of the 18 songs were performed in English. Many took to Twitter to complain about the takeover of English and how Portugal stood out, being the only song performed in another language.
Far from being a disadvantage, as many might have thought, Salvador Sobral’s mesmerising performance in a language that few understood, was actually enhanced by the fact that people paid more attention to the melody and his body language. Viewers may not have understood what he was saying, but he managed to convey the message of the song far more eloquently, than English lyrics might have done. Far too often Eurovision songs are damaged by poor English lyrics or pronunciation.
So where might that lead, in the second semi-final and in Saturday’s Grand Final? Two obvious potential beneficiaries of the “Celebrate Diversity” tagline are Hungary and Belarus. Hungary’s entry is 100 percent in Hungarian, for the first time since NOX came 12th in 2005 with “Forogj, Világ!” and Joci Pápai who is part the Romani community also emphasises diversity in wearing traditional costume.
Since first entering the contest in 2004, Belarus has never performed in their native Belarussian, but this will change when Naviband perform ‘Historyja Majho Zyccia’ (The Story Of My Life). While this may be a language virtually unheard beyond Belarus, the duo’s energy and sense of fun, may also make it irrelevant and again take advantage of the contest’s tagline.
Whether Hungary or Belarus qualify, Portugal won’t be the only non-English song in the Grand Final. The bookmakers and fan favourite ‘Occidentali’s Karma‘ sung by Francesco Gabbani is sung almost entirely in Italian. The French and Spanish songs are bilingual, but arguably neither of these ticks the diversity box as well as Portugal, Hungary, or Belarus.
So can a song that isn’t in English win this year? The question may actually need to be reversed, given the momentum of Italy and Portugal. This is the year that the tagline may get demonstrated in the musical results.