13 May 11 | Chad W. Post

As anyone with a heightened sense of irony already knows, tomorrow the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest Finals will take place. For the poor few out there who aren’t keyed into this annual event of epic nationalist absurdity, basically, this is Europe’s version of American Idol, but with even shittier songs (impossible, I know!), weirder costumes, and no Ryan Seacrest. Every year, each country gets to put up one song for the competition, and then over two-days of semi-finals, the final 25 countries are chosen to compete for Eurovision winner.

And by “winner,” I’m just going to point out that previous winners include ABBA and Celine Dion. That is all.

For more information, you can check out this Wikipedia entry, or the official site, or you could read some of Dubravka Ugresic’s pieces about this.

I really don’t give a shit about the voting rules or the crazy politics behind this event. What I am jacked about are the weird, disturbing videos and the fact that 90% of the entries sound like songs that I heard on easy rock stations back in the 80s while I was interning in offices. (And before anyone questions my elitists tendencies, yes, I realize that secretaries deserve music too.)

Anyway, I’ve gone through a ton of this year’s videos, and, since it’s officially summer—which you can tell, because the St. Louis Cardinals are in first place, kids are graduating and being told to seize the day, and I smell like bike sweat—it’s the perfect time to break out of all this “book” stuff and bring you some Euro culture in the form of questionable music videos.

First up is my prediction for the 2011 Eurovision winner. I don’t know about this song, or anything at all about this performer, but I like the breaking glass, and she’s pretty hot. And pretty hot—in a sophisticatedly sexy sort of way—is what brings together nations. Which, if I understand correctly, is the purpose of the Eurovision.

The other country that I think has a pretty good chance is Spain. Infused with that Spanish warmth and joy, this totally has a beat you can dance to. Which is also what I believe Euro culture is all about.

But back to that breaking glass motif for a moment . . . Enter Sweden, whose totally misguided take on NKOTBSB (and not to digress much, but WTF? the whole appeal of boy bands like the New Kids on the Block is that they’re slightly too old for the junior high girls who long after them, and just old enough to provide afternoon fantasies for mothers of these fans. Now that their in their late 30s and move with the stiffness of one too many nights at the bar, they’ve lost that certain something . . .) features both a waredrobe designed by a Euro-Midwestern Michael Jackson and more shattered glass. Apparently, becoming “Popular” is somehow tied to destruction. And yes, the opening lyrics really are “Stop, don’t say that it’s impossible / cause I know it’s possible.” (Have you caught the Eurovision fever yet?)

With The Sugarcubes, Sigur Ros, and Múm all hailing from Iceland, I had some high hopes for this enchanted island. But . . . well, it’s not that this song is bad, but Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy it’s not.

One thing that was very disappointing about yesterday’s semifinal was the total lack of appreciation for Belarus’s self-congratulatory “I Love Belarus” rocker. Seeing that most of these songs are from washed-up boy bands (I’m looking squarely at you, United Kingdom) or soft-rock ballads (really, France? Have some self-respect), it’s nice to see someone rock out just-a-little-bit, kind of like she’s Joan Jett, but a bit more angular . . . and about 10 years after Joan Jett sort of peaked . . . That said, I dare you—dare you!—to listen to this entire song without getting “I LOVE BELARUS!” jammed into your mind . . . (And once again with the lyrics: “I love Belarus / Got it deep inside” sort of sends a secondary meaning to the English-speaking world.)

One other eliminated band worth mentioning: Portugal. What happened to you, Portugal? I just can’t fathom what you were thinking when you sent this huge pile of crap to Dusseldorf to embarrass your country in front of the world. You have art, architecture, cathedrals, good wine, nice football, and this? Really? It’s as if these people just stumbled home from a bar around 8am and were all, “So, you wrote the Eurovision song, right?” “Wait no, I thought she . . .” “Do we at least have some ridiculous costumes that will distract everyone? Something that will invoke memories of godawful high school plays maybe?” “I like to dress like a plumber!”

Since this post is dripping in sarcasm and bad jokes, it’s probably best to end on something upbeat and life-affirming. Or, as acerbic intern Kaija put it, “a song that makes me want to gouge my eardrums.” Yes, Finland, it’s your turn to change the world through song and melody and lyrics like this:

When Peter is nine
his teacher tells him that this planet is dying,
that someone needs to put an end to it all
and so when Peter comes home
he tells his mom:

I’m going out in the world
to save our planet.
And I ain’t coming back
until she’s saved.
I’ll walk my way to see
the King and parliament.
If they don’t help
I’ll do it by myself.
I don’t wanna be
Da da dam, da da dam
da da da da da da da

Remember, the finals are tomorrow. Three pm East Coast time. And yes, you can watch it live online and share in the joy and irony. Just don’t forget to buy a few gallons of booze and to bring your snark.


Comments are disabled for this article.
Rambling Jack
Rambling Jack by Micheál Ó Conghaile
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
“A novel. Novella, I guess.”
“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
“Sorta. It’s a duel language book, so really, only about… 50 pages total.”
“50 pages?”
“Including illustrations.”
“And this—what. . .

Read More >

The Things We Don't Do
The Things We Don't Do by Andrés Neuman
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Many authors are compared to Roberto Bolaño. However, very few authors have the privilege of having a Roberto Bolaño quote on the cover of their work; and at that, one which states, “Good readers will find something that can be. . .

Read More >

Private Life
Private Life by Josep Maria de Sagarra
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:

When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .

Read More >

Dinner by César Aira
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .

Read More >

We're Not Here to Disappear
We're Not Here to Disappear by Olivia Rosenthal
Reviewed by Megan C. Ferguson

Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .

Read More >

The Queen's Caprice
The Queen's Caprice by Jean Echenoz
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .

Read More >

French Concession
French Concession by Xiao Bai
Reviewed by Emily Goedde

Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .

Read More >

Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .

Read More >

The Cold Song
The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
Reviewed by David Richardson

Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .

Read More >

This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >