Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Round 2!
(Revisit Round 1)
As you can see, I have finally accepted, as unthinkable as it was, that my Eurovision smackdown will simply not get the numbers that my Westlife smackdown did. This is what happens when normal reader attrition over time is matched by a lethargic attitude toward making new friends. I thank everyone who did vote from the bottom of my ambivalently eremitic heart, and I hope we can keep together for the rest of the smackdown.
Switzerland vs. Ukraine --> Winner: Switzerland
Sweden vs. United Kingdom --> Winner: United Kingdom
France vs. Luxembourg --> Winner: Luxembourg
Netherlands vs. Spain --> Winner: Spain
Denmark vs. Germany --> Winner: Germany
Ireland vs. Norway --> Winner: Norway
Italy vs. Yugoslavia --> Winner: Italy
Austria vs. Belgium --> Winner: Austria
Since people seem to like discussing Eurovision results more than Eurovision songs, I am optimistic that there will be more comments this time around. I mean, we did lose the two biggest ESC winners, Sweden and Ireland, in the very first round. The UK beat Sweden fair and square, I think; but I feel that Ireland's huge loss to Norway happened because I didn't choose the right Irish entry. When I put The "Insieme" Sixteen together, I picked a possible Round 2, Round 3 and Round 4 song for each country; and there were two really good Irish songs I wanted to save for later. But Rock and Roll Kids, for all its polish, should probably have given way to the fluffy, easily-underrated All Kinds of Everything. Ah, Eurovision regrets . . .
They're almost as bad as the regrets you have when you don't vote in a Shredded Cheddar smackdown when you have the chance. (Just saying . . .)
Luxembourg vs. Switzerland
While I can never predict how smackdown voting will go, I'm not really surprised that Luxembourg beat France: nearly every French-language Eurovision song I knew about before I became an unabashed fan of Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson came not from la belle France, but from her neighbouring grand duchy. That includes Poupee de cire, poupee de son. And yet France didn't really lose that face-off, if you look at where most of the singers who won for Luxembourg were born and trained. This includes the singer (and the composer!) of Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son. (Quelle injustice? =P) Anyway, I'm not quite sure why I can't say the same of the French-language songs out of Switzerland. If I had to hazard a hypothesis, it would be that French media hardly ever comes to me via Canada. Several Canadian-born singers have sung for the Confederation suisse--one of whom launched a successful career as a bilingual international superstar with the victory of her song Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi. But there can be only one country representing the Francophones in the Final Four, and it will have to be the one with the stronger record.
Winner: Luxembourg--because even its non-winning entries have reached more ears, in Europe and beyond.
Austria vs. Germany
Now which country shall represent the Germanophones? Never mind that both of them sing only in English these days (Seuftz!): there are worse crimes against creativity. And I wish that were a segue to that stunt Austria recently pulled with Rise Like a Phoenix . . . except that most people had thought there would be such a backlash against its cross-dressing singer that it stood no chance at winning. Its victory may not be the first time Eurovision chose making a statement over picking a good song, but it's the example everyone will always remember. After all that, it's hard to believe that a German Sangerin was once told she couldn't represent the country in trousers. But that was decades before the winning song Satellite, which is so likeable that we forgive it for having no melody whatsoever. Indeed, it is one of the few modern Eurovision hits whose success isn't tied to geopolitics: it seems to have won, beating honest odds, simply because music lovers all over Europe genuinely liked it. And I know which victory makes me more optimistic about the future.
Winner: Germany--and not just because it's hard to take Austria's second win seriously.
Norway vs. United Kingdom
It will be a long time before another ESC country will be able to pull off what Norway did with the folksy Fairytale, composed and performed by a Belarusian singer-violinist who grew up Norwegian. For both the ex-Soviet countries and the Scandinavian countries have a tendency of sending their highest points to their neighbours--and in one big go, Norway cornered both bloc votes and amassed enough points for a record-setting landslide. But I'd like to think their energetic, ethnic-sounding entry would have done very well even without that edge. Perhaps the UK, now with a two-decade unlucky streak, could try a similar strategy. Alternatively, it could remember its own winning moves from years past. Take the gimmicky choreography of Making Your Mind Up, a truly fantastic song that will always be associated with the shocking moment the boys rip the girls skirts off in the middle of the performance. (What?) Again, I like to think it would have won entirely on its own merits--but there's nothing wrong with a little cheekiness now and then, right?
Winner: United Kingdom--because the failures of the present will never diminish the triumphs of the past.
Italy vs. Spain
Has Italy hit the sweet spot for culture or what? It has some of the most beautiful art, awe-inspiring churches, impeccable style, delicious cuisine, and of course, classical and romantic music--treasures that are valued as highly by the rest of the world as by the Italians themselves. It may not have the ESC stats that other countries do, but no one can say it's because the land of bel canto, which can also produce worldwide hits like Non ho l'eta, isn't good enough for Eurovision. Many might even argue that the reverse is what is true. As for Spain's Eurovision entries, they never fail to bring back memories of my late grandmother, who spent nearly a decade of Saturday nights doing what we might call "live karaoke" with insulara and mestiza friends. They were the last generation of Filipinas for whom Spanish was the proper language for music--and boy, did they love (the arguably robbed) Eres Tu. Had they also been Eurovision fans, I'm sure they would have chalked up the cool reception so many stellar Spanish entries have received to all the countries east of it just not knowing what good music is.
Winner: Italy--because it didn't need Eurovision to convince the world it was a light of culture.
* * * * *
And now it's your turn again! Voting in the following mini face-off will let you earn another point on the Rafflecopter for the Philippine Literature Giveaway.
Monaco vs. Portugal
Having examined Luxembourg's record more closely, it seems a little silly now to have disqualified Monaco from the Insieme Sixteen because it owes its only Eurovision victory to a composer and a singer who are citizens of competitors. The entry Un Banc, une arbe, un rue is one of the most perfectly arranged songs in the history of pop music. Can't beautiful things just be beautiful without politics muddying the waters? Note also that there is a price to pay for authenticity: Portugal is as true to its special sound as Spain, but after forty-eight tries, it has never won an ESC trophy. Its highest-placing entry, the spirited O Meu Coracao Nao Tem Cor, only placed sixth. But would you rather have very well executed strategy that sows the seeds of beauty further in the world or a sincere sound that may never get the votes (and the ears) it deserves?
a Rafflecopter giveaway