Eurovision 2013

“So do you think all the Eurovision Parties in Sydney will always be shit, or do you think they’ll ever get better?”, a friend of mine asked me as we shared a drink last night. She’s from England, she’s attended Eurovision, and for the last few years she’s been living in Sydney. That’s how we met, actually.

“I think the problem is that in Australia we’ve fallen for the UK-mindset about Eurovision. That it’s camp, it’s trashy, it’s tragic, and it’s terrible”, I told her. In many respects, I think the media coverage of Eurovision treats the contest as a bit of a joke. It’s ABBA. It’s Disco Balls. It’s Mardi Gras. It’s all of that “stuff” you laugh at if you want to re-inforce an insular world-view.

Having been to a few of the bigger parties in Sydney over the last few years, I’ve yet to find one that takes the contest seriously. A contest where they don’t rely on the usual cliches about tacky costumes, bad English, and so-called “voting blocks”. The reality of this year’s contest is that Eurovision is generally speaking very slick, sophisticated, and definitely not the “amateur hour” that’s it’s often portrayed to be.

This is particularly the case with this year’s contest hosted by Petra Mede, who I think should be made the permanent host of Eurovision. She’s such a class act. She delivers the script beautifully, but then she can also deliver a wonderful dead-pan remark right off the cuff. For example, when one of the country officials was delivering the votes and was gushing about how good the contest was, she simply said “Oh that’s nice”. And when it was clear next year’s contest would be held in Denmark, she simply said “That’s twenty minutes down the road”.

One of the great highlights of this year’s concert was the interval act. Through a song and dance number, Petra sought to explain Sweden to the rest of the world. Of course, there were lots of jokes about ABBA, IKEA, Vikings, The Muppet Chef (and so on), but there were also some very funny jokes which probably made little sense outside of Scandinavia. The recycling, the queues, not talking on public transport, meatballs “seasoned with a bit of horse”. The bit about milk? It’s because something like 60% of the Swedish population is lactose intolerant, the highest level in the world, apparently. I’ve watched the clip several times now, and every time I watch it, I pick up a new line. Fantastic stuff, which showed the Swedes could laugh at themselves with sophistication.

The last time I really enjoyed an interval act was when Norway hosted the contest and they staged an international flash mob. In stark contrast to the humour of Petra’s half-time act, this was a beautifully touching moment about Europe coming together in song.

I eschewed the ritual of watching the SBS delayed Sunday night telecast of the Eurovision Song Contest this year and instead got up early to watch the contest live. As the votes from the different countries coming through were beginning to indicate Denmark was probably going to win I faced the dilemma: I couldn’t actually remember the song. In contrast, there were lovely sweet songs like “Tomorrow” by Gianluca Bezzina from Malta and “Love Kills” by Roberto Bellarosa from Belgium; the vocally amazing performance of “It’s My Life” by Romanian counter-tenor, Cezar; and the pop protest, “Marry Me” by Krista Sigfrieds from Finland. Despite the earlier memory-loss, I finally remembered the winning song. It’s quite good, though I doubt it will go down in history as one of the great moments of Eurovision.

Having watched it earlier in the morning, I was able to spend my Sunday in a fairly normal way. I didn’t have to avoid the media all day for spoilers and I didn’t have to sit up until nearly mid-night to find out the results. Personally, I would love to see SBS do what they’ve done with the Academy Awards, The Grammys and so on, and run it live, and then replay it later at night. The media world has changed, and the idea of people having to wait twelve hours to know the results is all a bit silly. They could run the version without commentary at 5am, and then have Sam and Julia on, as per usual on Sunday night. I doubt it would have much of an impact on night-time viewing figures.