The knock-off ‘American Song Contest’ is coming later this yr.
Euny Hong is a journalist and the author, maximum recently, of “The
Power of Nunchi: The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success” (Penguin,
2019). She has lived and labored withinside the U.S., France, Korea and Germany.
PÉZENAS, France —Throughout maximum of its sixty five-yr history, the
Eurovision Song Contest has been a strictly European spectacle. But now,
in an extraordinary case of popular culture journeying westward throughout the Atlantic,
the quintessentially European bad-flavor extravaganza is headed to
Eurovision’s plan to level an “American Song Contest,” pitting the 50
U.S. states in opposition to every different for first-rate — or at least “first-rate”— tune.
Delayed through COVID-19, the occasion is now scheduled for the vacation season.
That leaves pretty much 1/2 of a yr for someone, somewhere, to save you
the American Song Contest from taking area.
There are many motives to guard Eurovision from the Americans. For
decades, the tune contest has been one in every of only a few symbols of
continental cohesion to rise up from famous lifestyle (as adversarial to, say,
First staged in 1956, Eurovision became the brainchild of the nascent
European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which became itself based from the
ashes of World War II. The spectacle became pitched as a manner for 20th-century Europeans to sense the frisson of countrywide contention with out resorting to fighting, as that they’d too often that century.
That makes Eurovision a yr older than the European Economic
Community itself. It’s greater set up than the euro and greater reliable
than frictionless inner borders. Its closest rival as a image of
European consensus is Nutella.
Eurovision’s staying electricity is great given how an awful lot Europe has
modified withinside the sixty five years on account that its conception. As European politics
evolved, the tune contest ably verified it can too — and emerge as
even greater significant for it.
The access of Russia and 6 different former Eastern Bloc countries in 1994
represented a step farfar from the Cold War. When Estonia hosted
Eurovision in 2002, years earlier than it joined the EU, government
officials, which includes the president, gave shifting speeches approximately the competition’s that means and their country’s area in Europe.
In 2016, then-U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron felt the want to publicly reassure concerned Britons that Brexit wouldn’t mean Eurovexit.
“I suppose for the reason that Israel and Azerbaijan, and absolutely everyone everywhere near
Europe appears to have the ability to [participate], I suppose we’re quite secure from
that one.” Cameron intended what he stated, however the mocking tone he used
found out his essential false impression now no longer simply of Eurovision, however of
Watching Eurovision with out taking it seriously, but additionally loving it,
is woven into the competition’s tradition. The overdue Terry Wogan, who
furnished the BBC’s insurance of the competition for years, grasped this
higher than Cameron, protecting the occasion with brilliant seriousness and probity yr after yr, even as drunk.
That’s why the American invasion into this maximum European of
traditions is so dangerous. Many Yanks don’t always have an ear for
Wogan’s twin register, that’s why mockery is so frequently perilous while
the U.S. is doing the mocking. And then there’s the Heisenberg Principle
of U.S. Observation — while America observes some thing to your lifestyle,
the discovered item isn’t always going to break out unchanged.
Case in point: After the American pop big name Justin Timberlake gave a -tune visitor performance at Eurovision 2016, complete of diamond-reduce dance movements and Elvis-ish savoir-faire, it didn’t simply entertain us for an wonderful 5 minutes. It caused a diffused Americanization of all next contests.
In the years A.T. (After Timberlake) the competition have become slicker —
its vital chaos became decreased to sporadic, wonderful callbacks to
less complicated times. Italy’s 2017 tune, “Occidentali’s Karma” — which included
a man dancing in a gorilla suit for no cause that became ever defined nor predicted to be — has emerge as the exception, now no longer the rule.
Because Eurovision became by no means supposed for American eyes, it additionally had
the impact of making a secure area for the relaxation of the arena to trash
communicate America. Eurovision press meetings are one of the uncommon fora for
performers to let out anti-American tirades with impunity — precisely
due to the fact they’re sure no Americans are watching.
In 2003, amid traumatic debates over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq,
Poland’s frontman stated some thing withinside the press convention approximately the
“fucking Bush problem.” I became there protecting the competition and requested a
follow-up question, introducing myself as a contract journalist writing
approximately the Contest for the New York Times. The Polish singer slowly sponsored away.
There are such a lot of components of Eurovision that won’t adapt nicely to the
lifestyle throughout the Atlantic, that it’s really well worth pulling collectively a short
listing of the whole thing that’s probably to move incorrect with the American Song
1. Eurovision balloting regulations won’t make experience to Americans, due to the fact
they restrict human beings from balloting for his or her own. (Voters are restricted
to helping different countries’ entries, to save you populous nations from
monopolizing the competition.) Americans who’re fanatical approximately their
state, like Texans, would possibly as an alternative now no longer vote in any respect than forged their lot for
one in every of their rivals.
2. Eurovision is a nonprofit undertaking. This will make no experience
in any respect to Americans — in particular as tens of thousands and thousands of greenbacks in
marketing and marketing sales emerge as to be had to be spent on ground suggests and
costumes. The first-rate tune, now no longer first-rate performance, is supposed to win, however
that is a diffused difference with the intention to be tough for Americans to make as
they busy themselves calculating returns on investment.
3. America has most effective one legitimate language. One of the appeals of
Eurovision is its linguistic range, and that’s already being eroded:
In the A.T. era, a number of the songs’ English lyrics have started to
improve, leaving in the back of traditional lyrics like “Hello, is it God? What’s
up, dog?” (Iceland, “Congratulations,” 2013) or “Do you wanna play cyber-intercourse again?” (San Marino, “Facebook, Uh, Oh, Oh,” 2012).
(As a facet note, the latter access became without a doubt banned from that
yr’s broadcast, and now no longer for sexual content, however as it mentioned
Facebook, a company brand. Eurovision regulations forbid name-checking
brands. What are the percentages The American Song Contest will?)
4. Musical range is one of the matters that offers the competition its
spark. America’s nearby musical traditions, like country/western or
hip-hop, have lengthy long gone countrywide — that means the competition might be a miasma
instead of a show off of various nearby traditions. In Europe, the
Easterners convey different minor keys, even as the French excel at
warbling, including the range this is the spice of Eurovision.
5. In the worst-case scenario, America will make Eurovision cool. If
the American Song Contest succeeds, the European model of the competition
will by no means be the same. It might be: Hello, Jennifer Lopez, goodbye, Verka Serduchka (Ukraine, “Dancing Lasha Tumbai,” 2007); hey expert choreography, goodbye, human hamster wheel. (Ukraine, again, “Tick-Tock,” 2014).
Eurovision became a secure, socially ideal manner for Europeans to draw back. But while Americans draw back at you, the amusing is over.
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