I want to confess to you that pop music is only at the introductory fringe of my wheelhouse when it comes to talking about music that I love. Though pop dominates much of my current discourse and listening, it might take a little more time and attention to fully revive some of my older tastes. My heart’s core rumbles to spin-kick-to-the-face hardcore and circle-pit punk. I still love this music, but The Bled and Hellcat Records Give Em the Boot Vol: 1-3 are not usually on rotation for me anymore. Black Flag and Bad Brains, maybe, Walls of Jericho and Opeth, not really.
This then begs the question of why I write about tacky, saccharine, silly pop music. I could say that pop music isn’t actually that silly, but then I realized that Pitbull exists and that in nearly every song he produces he shouts the word “Culo!” One day white people are going to figure out what that means, like they did with skeet, and they will say “Oh, my”.
I do this because no matter how many people try to tell me it’s squishy bubblegum waste, pop music can be earnest – and the most pure incarnation of this began again this week: The EuroVision Song contest.
Here is the barest explanation of the contest rules: All countries in the EBU (European Broadcasting Union- which includes Russia, most countries of Northern Africa, and Israel) are eligible to submit an unreleased song performed by a resident of their nation. They are then performed in concert in a two day semi-final, at the end of May and ripe for summer jam consumption, and voted on through televotes in a strange 12-point televote system. This same system is used on the third day finals, where the victor is chosen. It’s basically if The Huger Games were to express the excesses and joys of all people rather than quash rebellion, and nobody got killed.
If you have Googled anything of EuroVision 2012 by now to see what these people look like, you might be feeling like you can readily invalidate most of my arguments. I would agree with you, especially if all you saw was the Irish duo Jeward, who look like ADD Klaus Nomi’s with no point of reference and an 8-day unfilled Ritalin prescription. Please let me steer you towards to better parts. Like the atherial Nordic Goddess Loreen with her song “Euphoria.” I will work to make this woman a US cross over. She is a mystical yoga siren, and I want her to teach me her ways. Also this year, Russia has one upped the American trope of rapping Grandmas and selected as its representatives Buranovskiye Babushki, a group of nine traditionally garbed grandmas who four bars or so into their song bust into a late disco synth boogie, “Party for Everybody.” I won’t even mention the wars I have almost accidentally declared, cloaked only in a wolf pelt against icy winds, all for the name of Iceland, due to this song.
The essence of this yearly event is celebratory semi-competitive grandeur. The English (yes many perform in English which will come up in another article) might be broken but the heat is twice as big as an Americans. I know it’s difficult to believe someone’s heart is bigger than the heaving cholesterol caked innards of the States, but trust me. In 2010 Eva Rivas, the Armenian delegate, performed an epic tale of “Apricot Stone” while a dancer performed and interpreted all of this, miming watering a sedan-sized apricot stone and the occasional bust of pyrotechnics. These people get three minutes on stage to be remembered, why would they practice restraint?
That said, some do, and it does bode well occasionally. Even with little electrified pomp and fun, sometimes there is sweetness and near stoicism in EuroVision. Ballads are staples, and though they fair less than well in voting, they are still enjoyable. Rona Nishliu’s “Suus” is a thick and daunting sounding beauty. Do I understand any of what she is saying? No. Did I cry after she hit that high note? Yes. Stoically; It made me feel like a modern painting. Even the UK’s Engelbert Humperdink, chosen name—the British are not cruel enough to give another such a name – produced a sparse and stirring song that I will more than likely make friends listen to if we drink gin and want to sway.
I understand there are flaws to pop music, especially in the gloss-tastic. Though I am unsure there is self-awareness of kitsch value with some EuroVision participants, performers, and voters, I know there is something stronger than that with them. The feeling of “Why the fuck do you want to rain on this parade?” I encourage you to look through and listen to as many of this and past years’ participants as you can, and if they let me I will be writing at least two more articles on this phenomenon then we will have a basic lexicon we can banter in. Watch their videos that are set in darkened futuristic skyscrapers or vacant concert halls with perfectly angled shots on the hair wind machines, or their hyperactive stage shows, hear their clipped English or native tones. You’ll hear and see, they don’t give a fuck about your sarcasm. They just want to have damn good time and get a 12 point vote.