Music is an universal art form (or so I keep introducing my work with). Independent of personal tastes, some songs seem to be appreciated by everyone. It may even happen that you think you don’t like a certain song because it doesn’t fit in with your sophisticated tastes but your “primitive” brain reacts differently, sending embarrassing chills down your spine or provoking goose-bumps.
Pop music producers are, in my opinion, the world’s experts in using sound to manipulate bodily reactions associated with certain emotions, turning their songs into the addictive (and annoying) musical cocktail that we are forced to listen to in most shops, radio stations and parties.
So maybe that is why Azerbaijan won the Eurovision contest last night, closely followed by similarly poppy annoying and meaningless songs, while France and Iceland (beautiful yet not pop songs), legged embarrassingly behind. Or perhaps it was a backlash of the masses against what they think is elitist music. But I am more keen to think that something, along the way, went terribly wrong with the Eurovision song contest.
I am under the impression it started as part of a strategic effort to rehabilitate a continent that had just spent years massacring itself, had lost faith in its humanity and had witnesses the extent our species can go despite its claims to “civilization”.
From my point of view, biased as it is by my scientific interests, doing a music contest to break barriers and bring people together sounds like a great idea!
But I believe the goal was not so much to focus on the competition side of things but more to highlight the cultural diversity within the continent, allow people from distant countries to get in contact with one another, let them get to know each others’ differences and let them realize that, despite these differences (language, cultural musical taste, clothes, etc.), they were also humans, they also enjoyed singing and music. And wasn’t that a common feature?! Didn’t that make them just like us?!
But whoever thought of that underestimated the power of competition. And somewhere along the way, competitors realized that in order to win, they had to abandon the tendency to showcase their countries’ culture, and attempt to sell what’s mainstream and ordinary.
And the first thing these competitors abandon is their own language. Under the assumption that if people understand what you are saying they will connect better with your song, they started singing in English. From the moment Abba wins the competition singing in a language that wasn’t theirs, a language that was becoming the main language to communicate with, they demonstrate the advantages of abandoning your own language in order to win.
I know all too well about that! If I want more people to be able to read my blog I have to write in English! And I speak and write three more languages but English it has to be…
But, coming back to topic, nowadays, everyone seems to use English in the competition. That is sad. In my view, music is an universal art form! We will be able to understand it even if the lyrics are difficult to comprehend. Alas, how does Azerbaijan sounds like?! How does Swedish, Danish, Turkish, Georgian, Croatian???
Together with their language, they also abandoned their national identity. It seems it became a requisite of participation to leave any sort of national or cultural identification at the door. And if you don’t you’re heavily penalized by not going to the final or not ending in the top 10 (not to mention being called “crazy” for trying to show a bit of your country).
Again, Abba are a good example of that. They sang a song with lyrics that touched personally the country the competition was taking place in!
Portugal, Italy, Spain are the few who still choose to sing in their own languages (although this year Italy had some English words in there). And every year there are people who say (like my dad the other night when Portugal didn’t go through) “Why did they sing in Portuguese?? No one can understand!!”.
Why wouldn’t day? It’s such a rich language, with such rich musical cultural, why would we need to sing in English to tell others about our good music? The same applies to all the other countries.
Thinking of the Portuguese example, this year was a bit different (as in, the problem was not just the language). The Portuguese song was by a group who had the courage to take to the contest a display of Portuguese culture that everyone (in Portugal) was sure no one (in Europe) would understand.
Many were embarrassed. I was really proud. A display of cultural and musical heritage, the recycling of 1970’s intervention songs applied to the current generation’s needs and struggle. Of course, anyone who did not grow up in Portugal in the last 20/30 years would not immediately recognize that they are dressed not like crazy people, not like communists, but as the 70’s generation who took part in the revolution, who struggled for different reasons but the same way we do. It was a way of honouring their struggle and identifying with them in a time when inter-generation union is most needed in the country.
But Eurovision has lost its diversity, and every year rewards the ordinary.
The theatrics became a must. Anything that can distract from the music. The more you jump around with flashing lights, the better. And, if you’re a woman, you better be showing some flesh! Who cares about your voice when you can have boobs jumping out of your tight corset??
It’s such a shame. I mean, I don’t even mind Azerbaijan is not part of Europe, geographically speaking. I do mind that I do not know anything about them. Not what their language sounds like, how they dress, what they treasure…nothing…As far as I can tell from last night’s performance, Azerbaijan people are all white, blond, British men and women. No signs of any other culture in there.
But it seems Europe is walking towards a homogenization of its population. The more we look like a norm designed and desired by someone, somewhere, the better, it seems.
Isn’t that ironic for something that started as a way to fight what Hitler had planned for Germany and Europe?