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.
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.
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .
From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Egypt was going through a period of transition. The country’s people were growing unhappy with the corruption of power in the government, which had been under British rule for decades. The Egyptians’. . .
Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .
Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .
While looking back at an episode in his life, twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro remembers what his friend Kumamoto Akira said about poetry.
Its perfection arises precisely from its imperfection . . . . I have an image in my head. I see. . .
The central concern of Sorj Chalandon’s novel Return to Killybegs appears to be explaining how a person of staunch political activism can be lead to betray his cause, his country, his people. Truth be told, the real theme of the. . .
Spoiler alert: acclaimed writer Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte kill themselves at the end of Lauren Seksik’s 2010 novel, The Last Days.
It’s hard to avoid spoiling this mystery. Zweig’s suicide actually happened, in Brazil in 1942, and since then. . .
To call Kjell Askildsen’s style sparse or terse would be to understate just how far he pushes his prose. Almost nothing is explained, elaborated on. In simple sentences, events occur, words are exchanged, narrators have brief thoughts. As often as. . .
After a mysterious woman confesses to an author simply known as “R” that she has loved him since she was a teenager, she offers the following explanation: “There is nothing on earth like the love of a child that passes. . .