The Eurovision Song Contest 2014 was a story of triumphs: Europe witnessed a night of tears, joy and tension at the Eurovision Island, a purpose-built converted shipyard in Copenhagen. Conchita Wurst, the transvestite Austrian winner otherwise known as The Bearded Lady or Tom Neuwirth, faced off tough competition from Sweden and the Netherlands in what’s been one of the closest finals in recent years.
A popular winner with the audience, Conchita is a symbol of tolerance and unity in Europe, dedicating her win to peace and freedom. The overarching message of the night was that Europe is a continent of one people ready to embrace diversity – a sentiment echoed perfectly in Iceland’s entry No Prejudice.
However, not all of the Eurovision participants agreed: before the contest, Armenia’s Aram Mp3 caused controversy when he said that Conchita needed to “decide whether she is a woman or a man”. Austria’s diva gave a dignified and clear response, and Aram was forced to apologise. Aram Mp3, previously the bookie’s favourite, came 4th in the finals – a humiliating defeat for Armenia.
… Eurovision has combatted music snobbery by consistently having hundreds of millions of viewers from all over the world …
The night had other surprises, too. The Netherlands came second with their country and western inspired track, Calm After The Storm, a gentle tune many believed “too good for Eurovision”. Incidentally, the same was said for The Netherlands’ previous entry by famous Dutch singer Anouk. Eurovision has combatted music snobbery by consistently having hundreds of millions of viewers from all over the world, with songs topping the charts in many countries.
The context surrounding this year’s competition has also proved interesting. With the crisis in Ukraine ever growing and the European Parliament elections coming up, Eurovision reflected the political concerns of the region. Each time Russia’s entry gained points (especially from former USSR countries) the audience’s reaction was to boo and jeer – showing widespread disapproval of Putin.
… it’s clear that the UK just has a habit of sending unpopular entries …
In any previous year, disillusioned UK voters would have attributed the UK’s poor performance to the fact that we’re only bordered by Ireland, therefore lacking the same kind of support as landlocked European countries. Since the introduction of a new system where juries and televoters share a 50/50 vote, however, it’s clear that the UK just has a habit of sending unpopular entries.
One thing that’s particularly interesting is the fact the German televoters placed Greece highly in their rankings while the German jury did not. Politically there’s tension between Germany and Greece, but it could suggest the televoters were willing to see past that and vote for the song whereas the juries didn’t. The people of Europe may be more willing to forgive each other’s differences than their leaders.
… this year’s contest was a complete shake-up …
On a lighter note, I was astonished the UK placed higher than Greece; Greece has a track record of consistently doing well, producing the winner of 2005’s contest and songs such as Alcohol is Free. Considering the UK has nearly always come close to the bottom, this year’s contest was a complete shake-up – not in the sense that the UK did well, but in the sense that Greece did not.
Both tracks had the same political message (uprising and fighting the powers that be), but Greece’s was far more upbeat and catchy. Also, it had trampolines. We just had a woman dressed as a hippy. Furthermore, Greece has been giving Europe subtle hints that it’s unhappy with the state of affairs via Eurovision – what better way to reach the people?
Next year’s contest is one to look forward to. With things going at the rate they are at the moment, who knows where Europe could be in a year’s time? Eurovision never, ever fails to surprise.