Sunday, May 15, 2016

Eurovision is a kitschy, politically controlled pseudo-contest

Last night, I spent an hour by watching a part of the Eurovision song contest finals and now, when the results are known, I am confident that it was the last time I did anything of the sort. There were lots of expensive colorful light effects in the big hall but the content was weak and not terribly entertaining.

Among the 26 finalists, Sergey Lazarev was expected to win by the bookmakers. His You are the only one was an average song, I think, but at least the effects were expensive (paid by the Russian government) and he had by far the largest number of viewers etc. (And it was a song compatible with all the prevailing European fashions such as the pro-gay attitudes etc.) If you want to know, the typically Central European entry, one from Australia LOL, was very good.

To make the story short, Lazarev won the voting by the regular viewers. The winner was a Ukrainian Tatar contestant – I have a trouble to call her a singer – who ended up at the 2nd place both in the popular vote and the vote by the more murky national committees (new rules of voting were applied for the first time). The contribution named "1944" (that some people call a "song") was said not to be about the expulsion of Crimean Tatars from Crimea in 1944 but everyone understood it in this way, and that's what mattered (and it was almost certainly the purpose).

If you count it as music, it's an extremely bad piece of music, at least according to any European standards of quality. That's true even if you "generalize" the European music to include some themes from the Middle East. She's whining, she is out of tune and out of touch, the "song" has no melody, harmony, or idea. The lyrics is unrefined and it's incomprehensible, too. The screaming about killing lacks context, seems artificial, ahd her emotions are visibly faked. It's not surprising that the video above has gotten 8,000 upvotes and 7,000 downvotes. The usual up-to-down ratio is 10:1 for similar videos.

How could it win? Well, yes, indeed, it's all about politics. Two years ago, Crimea was logically reintegrated with Russia and it has became politically correct to say bad things about Russia and great things about Ukraine, especially when the topic is Crimea. So you may say that this "song" was optimized for this kind of a political distortion of a music contest. Was Eurovision capable of defending itself against these unartistic power interests? Well, not at all. It seems that the organizers didn't even want to defend their contest.

No contestants were allowed to sing about politics. This is a sensible rule for such an international contest because there's always a high risk that the political interests correlated with the message of the songs overwhelm the artistic, musical, and entertainment qualities. Jamala was given an exception – and the contest was overwhelmed by dirty politics.

It would have been much fairer to allow political songs to everyone.

Meanwhile, I find the political message of the song unacceptable by itself. In 1944, the Tatars were expelled from Crimea simply because they co-operated with the Nazis (although Stalin also wanted to get rid of a possible fifth column in a future confrontation with the leftovers of the Ottoman Empire – something that could be considered a sign of his 20/20 vision these days). The Soviet Union finally paid 20 million lives in the war provoked by Tatars' German friends. When the country won the tough battle for survival, it surely had to make some rearrangements. It expelled the Tatars in a human way. An alternative could have been to execute most of these Tatars for treason because that's exactly what they pretty much collectively committed. If that obvious alternative solution had taken place, Jamala would probably not be screaming in Stockholm last night.

Fine, someone may think that it's just OK to be a friend with the Nazis during the World War II. I respect that some people may have different opinions – they may be violent racist killers. But those things simply shouldn't affect a contest that claims to be a song contest.

The Eurovision program was surely watched by lots of people who have a refined musical taste and (sometimes) perfect pitch. Some of them have paid dollars to support a contestant whom they have carefully chosen, according to their unusual expertise. But they were totally beaten by mobs – among the regular people as well as those in the murky committees – that have no understanding of music or no respect for music. It must be terrible when an expert or even "amateur expert" spends the time and money and at the end, he's beaten by a bunch of low-quality racist aßholes who agree that it's right to befriend the Nazis as long as the Russians are the target.

It just can't work like that. A contest is ultimately one in which music and meritocracy have an upper hand, or one in which various petty political and ideological goals prevail. I would say that even during communism, Czechoslovakia's music contests etc. were meritocratic. Eurovision has belonged to the latter category for many years – as the victory of various transvestites and similar contestants have suggested – but the 2016 contest hit a new low. Some Czech commenters have compared the event to the (unimportant) "Festival of Political Songs in Sokolov" in communist Czechoslovakia.

I think that the influential people linked to music in all the relevant countries – those who still find music more important – should boycott this despicable competition in the following years. Sadly, not only the Eurovision contest has been distorted in similar ways. Almost everything that is linked to the European Union is being bastardized in highly analogous ways.

P.S.: If you doubt that the voting for the winner was motivated politically, check the detailed voting results. You will see that the Ukrainian contestant got huge votes from (in this very order) Lithuania, Belgium (Brussels), Latvia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia (but also Israel, host Sweden, Hungary, Bulgaria), with the obvious overrepresentation of anti-Russian post-Soviet countries.

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