May 21st, 2008 15:28 EST
Europe Sings and Pales in Shame
There is a stage where in perfect harmony a heavy metal band competes with a transsexual version of Mariah Carey, and a brunette sex bomb whose main attribute is the lack of any underwear. Once a year, Europe shows its very best " or its very worst according to some " at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Blame European diversity. Each country, even as exotic as Armenia or Azerbaijan, has a right to send anyone it wishes, as the ability to sing or dance has long become irrelevant. In 1998 the Eurovision was won by a woman called Dana International from Israel who soon turned out to have been born a perfect male. Six years later men from all over Europe voted in unison for Ukraine`s Ruslana who, apart from her mediocre voice, also revealed her dislike for underwear. Among this year`s favorites is Dustin the Turkey, an Irish puppet singing in the combination of English and incomprehensible French.
The more controversial you are, the bigger chances of your victory. Hardly anyone knows it better than Lordi, aka the Monsters of Finland, that in 2006 became the first heavy metal band to win the Eurovision contest, until then dominated by sweet pop stars. Dressed in costumes that could make the Kiss guys look like kindergarten pupils, the Fins conquered the old continent with their energetic Hard Rock Hallelujah song. Also this year Finland decided to send similar representatives; however, all they can offer now are old-fashioned naked torsos and long, oily hair. Believe it or not, the Eurovision used to be a real song contest. It is here that such names as ABBA and Celine Dion debuted before setting off to the worldwide fame.
The Swedish super group participated in the 1974 edition and few had doubts that their Waterloo song would make it big. Fourteen years later, the then red-haired Canadian singer charmed Europeans with her Ne Partez Pas Sans (Don`t Leave Without Me) song with which she won the 1988 Eurovision contest as a representative of Switzerland. More than her melodic ballad, however, Celine Dion was remembered for her comic outfit " a ballet white skirt and dinner jacket. After over half a century, some say that it is high time for the Eurovision to gracefully disappear.
This year`s edition in Serbia scarcely resembles the song contest that started in Switzerland in 1956 and was perceived as a way to unite the recently divided continent. But now, it has become a pathetic beauty pageant where votes are cast for a favorite nation rather than the best song. Republics of the former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia vote for one another while countries with no large groups of expatriates in other states usually lose in semi-finals.
The 2008 Eurovision final starts on Saturday in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia whose song won the last year`s contest. Far from songs, though, everyone`s attention will be on how the numerous Serbian audience will receive performers from the European Union member states which only two months ago orchestrated the independence of Kosovo, a historical province of Serbia.
Among them will be an American singer who represents Poland, a risky idea as the hostility for the United States here often equals that in Iran. But the Eurovision is about songs not politics, isn`t it? If you have any comments or suggestions, please write to: