Last night, about 200 million viewers in the world were watching the Eurovision Song Contest. This huge number sounds utterly incomprehensible to most Czechs. Last year, when a would-be transvestite Conchita Wurst won, the Czech TVs didn't air the contest at all. This year, people could watch it on an obscure Art Public TV channel, and 1% of the Czech population (100,000) did it.
The contest is often semi-jokingly dubbed the most successful result of the European integration and unification. And various Czech journalists compare it to the summits of the European Union. It's boring, dull, each country of Europe (including Australia) has a representative, all of them try to search for the universal common denominator of likability, almost everyone tries to be as close to the average as possible, and if someone is just a little bit further from that, he is disproportionately celebrated for his or her "courage".
And everyone seems to be dead serious about the contest. No irony or jokes can be found anywhere. Just like an EU summit.
Last night, the musicians competed in Vienna, Austria. A Swedish guy won, followed by Ms Polina Gagarina of Russia. I have also watched the Italian bronze model winner (unusually depressive for an Italian) and a female truck of Serbia (a beauty that never lies, it always rolls). The event is a template for political correctness by its efforts to "unify" Europe and give a chance to all sorts of "minorities". (The transvestite who won in 2014 wasn't even real; it was a childish drag act.) But in 2015, they brought another fad popular among the stupidest consumers of the EU mass culture: the anti-CO2-flavored environmentalism.
The organizers decided to minimize the carbon footprint of the event. So the electricity was supplied by a special "green grid", whatever it exactly meant. The tickets to the concert could also be used as tickets for the Viennese public transportation. Special guards were hired to protect bicycles of those visitors who chose this kind of transportation. All food that was sold (plus included in catering) was organic food from nearby farms in Austria. All beverages were served in cups that are returned and reused. Only classical, non-trash knives and forks were allowed. And trash cans were separated for recycling, too.
And I could go on.
Vienna is clearly good in appreciating similar things. What it's much less good at is appreciating good music. That's why Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had to travel to Prague to get some support. Mein Prager verstehen mich.
A huge amount of money is spent on this contest but I think that the musical outcomes are poor. In Czechia, people sometimes mention that Karel Gott, the most celebrated pop singer of Czechoslovakia and Czechia of the last 50 years, competed in 1968. This guy from Pilsen represented Austria, however. ;-) I don't think that his chosen song was among 20 of his best songs.
Most famously, ABBA (which has been my favorite band for years) won with Waterloo in 1974. It's a good song although I wouldn't place it among ABBA's top 10 songs, either. More importantly, this win didn't become an instant ticket to ABBA's fame. ABBA was growing to its superstardom years later – between 1976 and 1981. That why one could argue that its Eurovision win was an accident of a sort.
Celine Dion who is Canadian won as a representative of Switzerland in 1988. Otherwise I haven't heard any winners or top scorers who were memorable. To make things worse, some great songs, like Slovak Kristian's Horehronie, competed in recent years, but got nowhere.
In Czechia, the most appreciated musicians haven't thought about representing their country so "we" have sent bands like Gipsy.cz and, now, Marta Jandová and her Mr Bárta (I've never heard of the latter, the song is OK but some kind of average, anyway). The previous contenders were a top (perhaps #1 Czech) rock band Kabát [Jacket] and Ms Tereza Kerndlová, a rather unknown singer. And I tend to believe that it must be similar in other countries. Moreover, the people who do compete there aren't really "new musicians", either. They seem like some randomly selected bunch of average musicians from all the countries. I am just not getting the point of it. Is the winner supposed to be the best musician or the best entertainer? Or the most politically correct one? Or what does the winner represent? The highest number of the votes from the viewers who don't really know what they're doing?
When I say that the Eurovision Song Contest is an ultimate template for kitschy mass culture, it's actually a meaninglessly redundant expression. The word "kitsch" means nothing else than "mass culture" (in German). The songs try to stick to the "traditionally successful", unimaginative slow dance music format. And when an interpreter is very different, he's like Yanis Varoufakis in the leather jacket who attends an EU summit. That's something!
The reason why so many people are watching this contest in other countries must be kind of "political". It's the people who want to be "hip" and "cosmopolitan" in some of the cheasiest ways. I do think that the Czech audiences are more sophisticated than that – they demand some actual quality and not just mediocrity or just a simple deviation from the average. None of these things carries a currency here. It's probably not the complete explanation why the contest is such a complete non-event in Czechia but I do think that it's a partial explanation.
Another point is that we're not obsessed by the idea that we should listen to "international music" – in other words, with the opinion that the "culture should be globalized". Even when one listens to national or regional music, for example songs in Czech, they may be much better than some bizarrely selected conglomerate of Eurovision songs from the whole continent (and beyond). I tend to think that the Eurovision addicts must disagree with the previous sentence.
Despite 60 years of efforts, this is still the best Eurovision composition. The piece from "Te Deum" was composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1634-1704). ;-)