When I lived in London I had a Eurovision party every year. For you Americans who don’t know, the Eurovision Song Contest is a cheesy pop music competition that takes up a lot of oxygen each year. Its most famous winners were Abba in 1974 (for Sweden). Their “Waterloo” really was the quintessential Eurovision finger-snapper. Julio Iglesias (Spain) and Celine Dion (Switzerland) were the other two names that are still remembered. Last night I was able to follow it via livestream.
This year featured a mighty cold-war battle between good and evil and I was cheering for the good. Austria’s entry was Conchita Wurst, a queer bearded beauty in a ball gown. She sang “Rise Like a Phoenix” with some strong and appealing pipes and, on every level, gave the best performance. She also represented the forces of progress, saying after accepting the trophy, “I felt like tonight Europe showed that we are a community of respect and tolerance.” People around the world knitted and wore beards in solidarity, including the official representative from Austria. Here’s Conchita's performance.
And here’s an interview with her in which she discusses her sense of identification – not as a trans person, as many assumed, but as a drag artist:
Hungary’s singer, András Kállay-Saunders, on the other hand, wrote a song about child abuse and domestic violence, with a couple of dancers acting out the violence behind him as he sang. Eurovision was a truly unsettling setting for such a thing. It should have come with a trigger warning for all the women trying to have their usual Eurovision night of silly ironic cheer. It was disturbing. I’ll skip the video, even though he meant well.
The evil I referred to earlier was Russia. Every time their strange act got some points (the voting is largely political and each country awards the big points to their patrons and allies), there was an uncharacteristic but massive booing from the crowd. Russia was represented by twin sisters Anastasia and Maria Tolmachevy, former Junior Eurovision winners. At 17, one can’t really blame them for the bizarre staging. They started out attached by pony-tail hairpieces, then sprung free only to land on either side of a see-saw. Pathetic, yes. But clearly the audience wasn’t pissed off at them, but rather at Putin. Eurovision is Europe’s campest annual event and there were apparently a lot of gay audience members feeling out of sorts with Russia. Here's their video, but I wouldn't bother.
Finally, in order not to end on a downer, my honorable mention goes to Denmark’s Basim, whose danceable “Cliché Love Song” was all very Bruno Mars, without Bruno or his choreography.