Hello, it’s Scott again, your friendly
American correspondent. I’m so excited to peer over the wall to see what
Eurovision has in store for us this year. My first review is for Leonora from
Denmark. I love her. I love her voice. I love her lyrics, and how she
simplifies all conflict in a way only a bland white European pop star could. I
love her hair. I love that adorable giant Ikea chair of a stage prop, it really
highlights the emptiness of our wilting capitalist society. I love the way her
undead stare peels away all pretenses.
As she summarizes the zeitgeist of 2019 so perfectly: “Travel the world to see the ruins of what has been. Learning our history, but still, we don’t take it in. Don’t get too political.” And such a boppy tune! Love is Forever, she cheerfully reminds us, and forever is a whole lot longer than any land claims west of the Jordan River. I’m confident this postmodern classic will sail past any entry that bores viewers with protest, or substance, or self-awareness. Leonora has no time for politics, she’s here to make Eurovision great again.
Montenegro’s entry is a high-minded character study in how the concept of heaven varies between whomever envisions it. For the song’s writer, heaven is watching a jumbled collection of sweet literal nothings elevated to national champions. For the stage director, heaven is the essence of simplicity, embodied by angelic white robes and a complete lack of attempted choreography. For the music video director, heaven appears to be a laundry detergent commercial. For me, heaven is a Eurovision final without this song. I’d make a Pascal’s wager on it.
Zena says we are going to “like it”. 32 times if I am not mistaken. In any case, what matters is that this really catchy chorus is built on a reggaeton basis: a rhythm that has been influenced by American hip hop, Latin American, and Caribbean music, coupled with vocals that include rapping and singing, typically in Spanish. In Zena’s case the lyrics are in English though, of course. After all, she is representing Belarus. That’s one of the things I love about Eurovision — the privilege to get exposed to mixtures of cultures that should have never really been mixed in the first place. I guess the lesson is: the fact that some things can be put together does not mean they should be put together.
Conan and his sidekick bring a mind-blowing visual performance. It is proper strange, and it leaves you with more questions than answers. Why do they have “Edward scissors hands”? Or are those handy and trendy multi-chopsticks to eat what seems to be a golden Gyoza? And are these hand apparatuses related to the Hannibal-inspired masks? But let’s not read too much into the visual performance and focus on the lyrics for a minute. I love the originality of singing in a mostly dead language — Portuguese. A quick visit to google translate tells you that this song is all about mobile phones, so clearly a thought provoking exercise focused on the effects of these devices on our daily lives — Conan asks us: “what happens if I break my phone”? This will certainly have an impact on the younger generations.
In terms of diversity, Bilal has the whole package: born in France to a Moroccan Muslim family, Bilal is transgender and sings a powerful song with a mixture of French and English lyrics that deliver a message about self identity. To bring it to the next level, Bilal wears a somewhat military uniform. The whole performance is complete with a slide show of Bilal’s childhood in the background — it is moving and beautiful, but I must admit it is a risky strategy that could cause the audience to wonder whether Eurovision and weddings have more in common that we anticipated.