Unlike last year when we were in Austria for the Eurovision song contest, I did not even have the excuse that we were lacking in English speaking television channels. We were home in London and, yes, I voluntarily watched Eurovision 2016 for the sheer spectacle of it and the accompanying humour on Twitter. In fact, we watched it as a family because the whole thing is good family entertainment. Last year, even though we were in a double-bedroom hotel suite, the kids snuck out to watch the show in the lounge. They were not going to miss it this year either!
Perhaps I had too high expectations after watching Eurovision 2015 for the first time, but this year’s Eurovision was not as good. Hosted by Sweden this year, there were still plenty of good clips to provide a hilarious twitter recap of Eurovision 2016 though. If you want to read more on the background of Eurovision, check out my post from Eurovision 2015.
Not With a Bang but With a Whimper
Eurovision 2016 started off with the promising spectacle of paper origami clothes on spandex-suited dancers. Then it quickly devolved into a string of ballads occasionally broken up by the occasional odd act. It seemed that many of the singers were all trying to channel their inner Adele while dressed as Game of Thrones characters.
This better not be one of those years where the songs are all boring ballads instead of the gaudy disasters people watch for #Eurovision
— ToddInTheShadows (@ShadowTodd) May 14, 2016
Sadly, it was. All that was left was to make fun of the outfits of many of the singers. Luckily, there was plenty of humour to be found.
one more ballad and i’m voting for brexit #Eurovision
— Jade Azim (@JadeFrancesAzim) May 14, 2016
Perhaps it would have been more amusing if they had only let the more outrageous entries go through to the finals. For example, the Belarus entry, a guy named IVAN (yes in all caps), sang naked onstage with live wolves during the semi-final. Perhaps the judges were loathe to upset the new viewers from China and the USA. Americans had conniptions over Janet Jackson’s nipple pastie flash during Super Bowl 2004. Who knows what they would have thought about a naked guy on stage with wolves. even if it was, as IVAN insisted, ‘art’? To be fair, IVAN sang the song crouched over so that his bits and pieces were all covered. But still there would have been a bare bottom.
To the Americans watching: This is what we do instead of wars but it’s no less brutal and cruel #Eurovision
— Mic Wright ✍ (@brokenbottleboy) May 14, 2016
Europe Wants Us All To Come Together
The show’s theme this year was ‘Come Together’. Europe definitely came together in giving Putin and Russia the proverbial middle finger. The Russian entry pulled out all the technical stops (and even had a decent song) but Europe was not having any of it. Instead, they voted a badly-choreographed and sung depressing war-crimes song from Ukraine as the winner. The Ukrainian song, 1944, was about the removal by Stalin of ethnic Tatars from Crimea that year. It’s also a not so subtle reminder that Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014.
Ukraine singer with the distinct vibe of the girl who’s always found sitting on the stairs crying at the end of a house party. #Eurovision
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) May 14, 2016
Eurovision 2016 also saw Australia compete with a rousing song from a Korean-born Australian. That’s about as multinational coming together as you can get when one continent scoots over another continental landmass to be buddies.
— JP Graham (@jpglondon) May 15, 2016
Moreover, the show was broadcast for the first time to both China and the USA. Now a truly global audience can enjoy the bizarre spectacle that is Eurovision. For the last 60 years, Eurovision has been a cult hit in Europe. Americans will now be able to appreciate that European culture really has moved way beyond Old Masters and fancy castles.
I’m also conscious that this whole Come Together shebang is coming weeks before the British vote to remain or to exit the European Union. The referendum is set for June 26 and it’s anyone guess which way the vote will go.
The Good, The Bad, and The Bizarre
Twitter, as always, was where the wits gathered for their dissection of the acts on stage at Eurovision 2016.
Sweden did a good job hosting. Their skit about owning a Eurovision strait jacket did not go over so well with advocates of the mental ill though. Neither did announcing that ‘crazy is the new black.’ huh?
— ABC News (@abcnews) May 14, 2016
Not that people didn’t try to make light of it.
I WANT THE #EUROVISION STRAIT JACKET FOR TOTALLY NOT SEXUAL ACTIVITIES
— Lu (@Motoko_K) May 14, 2016
The announcer created an unintentional meme by asking a previous winner to sing and then cutting her off in the middle of the song. Hilarious. Especially the shocked look on her face.
— Will Hardy (@harday) May 14, 2016
Russia was a heavy favourite to win this year’s Eurovision after last year when they came so close to winning. They brought out all the stops and a pretty good song. Their singer also looked a bit like football favourite, Lionel Messi. Europe, however, just wasn’t buying what Russia was selling. Now, they know how Britain feels about being perennially snubbed by Continental Europe.
— Gordon MacMillan (@gordonmacmillan) May 14, 2016
— ABC News (@abcnews) May 14, 2016
— Vayyn (@VayynWasTaken) May 14, 2016
It’s always sad when the back up dancers (or the drummer in Hungary‘s case) steal the show.
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 14, 2016
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 14, 2016
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?
Austria, for some inexplicable reason chose to sing in French. The British are calling this a victory since all of the other songs were sung in English (even the French entry!).
Austria entry is a pretty blonde who chooses to be French. Because that ended so well for Marie-Antoinette… #Eurovision
— Greg Jenner (@greg_jenner) May 14, 2016
Then, you had the really bad outfits. It’s also really bad when the outfits were more memorable than the song or the singer.
— Gerry Stergiopoulos (@GerryGreek) May 14, 2016
— Jarett Wieselman (@JarettSays) May 14, 2016
— Cosplays (@Otakucosplays) May 14, 2016
— Rоbеrt Górniak (@robert_levyn) May 15, 2016
J.K Rowling though may have won the funniest twitter competition. So far, this tweet was retweeted over 14,000 times and liked by 35,000. I know bloggers that would kill for that level of twitter vitality (or go on stage naked with a wolf).
My husband just told me he voted for Poland while I was making tea. A reminder that you never *really* know another human being. #Eurovision
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 14, 2016
Despite its levity and weirdness, Eurovision 2016 was more political than I expected. I am after all, a newbie to Eurovision. I didn’t realise how much political undercurrent ran through the show (even beyond the bloc voting for your friends-and-neighbours).
Remember when #Eurovision was about music and not politics? Me neither.
— KEVSER (@thekoolkidkev) May 15, 2016
Russia was sent a musical smackdown in a combination reminiscent of two great movies – Pitch Perfect meets Dangerous Liaisons. Russia learned that it can’t push its way to the top like it always does.
— Brian Speer (@BrianSpanner1) May 15, 2016
As a non-European, seeing these countries jostle each other in the spirit of friendly rivalry is fascinating. The tensions that have characterised Europe in the past are still bubbling under the surface of a cauldron filled with history, distrust and received memories. In addition to English, maybe the British have passed along to their European cousins a talent for passive-aggressiveness. Anyway, a message has been sent.
Moreover, lots of people have learned about Stalin’s actions in Crimea in 1944 (including me). The Ukrainian singer/songwriter learned of the events of 1944 from her great-grandmother who was one of the families transported from the Crimea. Now she has told her family story to the world. I may not have been as amused as last year but I am definitely more enlightened.