Sunday, May 27, 2012

Your Worst European Nightmare... called Eurovision. This is where Europe (East, West, Israel and Turkey included) show what it's made of. And to judge from this pop music contest from hell, it is made of bad, cheesy, tacky, Europop and then some. It's a mighty important contest, as we found out last night when we went back to our hotel in Barcelona, turned on the TV and happened upon a recap of the final night of the proceedings by three experts of Spanish TV, all of which had at one point been contestants and who were discussing performances, attires and songs as if the fate of the world depended on them. They extolled the performance of the Spanish competitor, a woman called Pastora, who sported a hairdo out of the original Star Trek and decided to wear her bedding to the event, looking like a cross between a toga and a tornado. Her dress was horrible, she was horrible and the song was horrible, but the Spanish commentators thought she showed the world that she was capable and she was a número uno.

Then to our endless delight and astonishment, this play by play was followed by the most comprehensive recap of Eurovision through the ages (it started at the end of the 1950s) put together by an enterprising spirit that seems to suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder or some sort of genius autism. It was divided by segments per country, costumes, stage decor, men, women, duets, groups, the unheard of, the famous (Abba, Julio Iglesias, Cliff Richards, Katrina and the Waves and other international famouses who nobody knows), dances, ballads, versions, parodies, songs in English (many of which were not in English), number of victories won by country... it looked like it was never going to end. Most of the time our jaws were hanging low, our brows furrowed high in utter shock. This must be the greatest display of unintended hilarity known to man.

If you must know, Abba, which is to this contest like Bach is to Milli Vanilli, won with Waterloo, launching their now legendary career in pop. Waterloo is the quintessential Eurovision song, except that it is actually good. Peppy, buoyant, and utterly senseless. But whereas the guys in Abba were actually pop music geniuses, and their songs have a je ne se quoi that elevates them a notch up from classic pop garbage, the Eurovision song is the worst kind of song. Let's say that if Barry Manilow had entered with Copacabana, he'd have won hands down. Fake happy songs, the kind  that turn people into misanthropes. It's either that or treacly ballads that all sound the same, whether in Estonian, Uzbek or Turkish. The relatively recent inclusion of a bunch of former Soviet republics hellbent on showing who is king of bad taste and a relentlessly depressing enthusiasm, has upped the ante of garishness. Tackiness is a universal human condition that exists the world over to the delight of the observant traveler, but in my view, European tackiness is the gold standard; the most appalling kind, because there is no excuse for it. Underdeveloped countries can claim poverty, ignorance, cluelessness, but the cradles of the Renaissance and the Illustration? I mean, is there anything worse than German pop? I rest my case.
The best part is, playback is allowed.
You know who else came out of Eurovision? Two words: Celine Dion.
It's that bad.

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