The Importance of Eurovision
The continent of Europe is home to many different countries, cultures and ways of life, making it a hotbed of creativity and innovation. It’s also home to some pretty strange traditions. One of these is Eurovision, a singing competition held every year and broadcast on TV and radio. It might not sound like something that is of vital importance to the state of the world, but there is an argument to be made about just how significant this seemingly silly contest is. Themes of connection, coming together and friendly competition crop up time and again amongst Eurovision competitors, and it is the perfect opportunity for countries to learn more about their neighbours.
What is the Eurovision Song Contest?
If you’re scratching your head and wondering what the Eurovision Song Contest actually entails, let’s take a minute to recap it for you. The competition was first held in 1956 and has taken place every year since. The premise is that countries (generally restricted to those found in Europe) enter an original musical composition to the contest by performing it on live TV; the performance is then broadcast to an audience of millions of people. The audience size has grown and grown over the years until the competition has reached the level of an international phenomenon, watched by people from all over the world. Votes are cast by both elected judges and the viewing public; the winner is decided by merging the results of the two separate votes and seeing which country has the highest combined score.
The current ruling champions are Ireland, with seven wins, then comes Sweden, with six wins, and then France, the UK, the Netherlands and Luxembourg tie for third place with five wins each. The winner of Eurovision 2019 was the Netherlands with the song ‘Arcade’ presented by Duncan Laurence but notable past winners include ABBA, Céline Dion, Lulu and Bucks Fizz. The contest has launched careers for several notable musicians but is generally recognised these days as the arena of one-hit-wonders.
Why is Eurovision good for Europe?
Eurovision is a great form of TV entertainment loved by many, but how does it really help Europe as an institution? The answer to that question lies in its ability to encourage friendly competition between different countries, transcend language barriers with music, and introduce distinctive cultural concepts to the wider world. There are a lot of old rivalries and unresolved clashes in Europe; the countries that make up the whole continent have long histories with each other, and not all of it is happy or fair. A singing competition gives these countries the opportunity to compete with each other in a silly, harmless and fun way, helping to heal old wounds and open up new partnerships along the way.
The contest also introduces the cultural quirks of different countries to the rest of the world; again, this helps to demolish established barriers and instead build new relationships. When Lordi won the competition for Finland back in 2006, it was the first time some people had seen Scandinavian heavy metal performed and it did spark an increase of interest in the genre. The global phenomenon that is Riverdance actually started as an interval performance at Eurovision 1994 and showcased traditional Irish dancing to the world; clearly, it was a big hit.
In recent years, Eurovision’s reach has increased even more. Once the internet became widely available in people’s homes, it meant that those further abroad from Europe could still check in on the competition’s results and, as things progressed further, listen to the competing songs for each year. Just as other popular forms of entertainment were able to ‘go global’ using the internet, Eurovision was able to reach out to new fans in Asia, the Americas, Australia and beyond.
Of course, the format of the competition is what helps it appeal to such a wide and varied audience; without the ability to translate into different languages, cultures and mediums, Eurovision would not entertain the popularity that it has. Entertainment such as live music on the BBC Sounds app, classic casino games at Poker Stars and tv and films on Netflix transcend borders and barriers in order to appeal to an international audience. Eurovision has this same thing going for it and has recently struck a deal with Netflix to make it even easier for American fans to access the show through the popular streaming service.
Australia and beyond
Despite the competition’s title, it has been known to accept competitors from further afield. Israel, Cyprus, Armenia and Morocco have all competed, and the newest non-European to join the roster was Australia, situated about as far away from Europe as it’s physically possible to get. Countries that have so far remained unsuccessful in their attempts to participate include Tunisia, Lebanon, Lichtenstein and Qatar; however, it could just be a matter of time before we see these nations and more swell the ranks of what could fairly be named the greatest song contest on Earth.