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Eurovision: Camp or Class?

Eurovison: Celebration of European music and culture or Campy pop festival?

Some time in the 1950s Sergio Pugliese saw the Sanremo Music Festival. Living in a Europe still struggling to recover from a series of devastating wars he wondered what such a contest might do for morale on a larger scale. Taking his idea to Marcel Bezencon, head of the European Broadcast Union, the Eurovision Grand Prix was born. In the beginning the contest was small having only seven contestants but it has since grown to mammoth proportions. With over 40 nations participating in recent years the contest has become one of the largest and most watched televised events annually.

Obviously the contest has gone through many changes and advancements over the years. Some good and some not. Most famously, of course, was the introduction of the semi-final in 2004. With the number of participating countries this was a practical necessity even though it has been cited by some countries as the reason they no longer participate. Other changes included the languages, time limits, voting types and various other minor rule changes.

Eurovision stage 1959

Despite all these the contest has endured mainly because of it's ability to adapt and grow with the world around it. True there have been years where the contest seemed to be a bit behind the times but it would quickly catch up and become a major event again. That being said perhaps being a reflection of the current culture is not always a good thing. Maybe it is better to be a vessel of change rather than a vassal of conformity.

In the early years of the contest it was a classical gala event. Men wore tuxes and top hats and women wore gowns with their finest furs and jewels. Even into the 70s and 80s while the music kept up with modern times the viewership remained upscale and Eurovision was considered a highbrow event. So much so that it was powerful enough to launch the massive careers of ABBA, Celine Dion and Cliff Richard. However, those days are long since gone.

Sweden 1974: ABBA

In recent years with the inception of troll acts and special effects the classiness of the contest has been replaced with pure camp. This is made obvious by the derisive critics of the contest who continuously refer to it as 'that pop contest'. Nothing could be further from the truth and indeed the only song from last year I would classify as 'pop' would probably be Belarus. There are many songs that are well written and sung with power and passion.

Belarus 2019: Zena
Photo: Andres Putting / EBU

As a gay man I am glad to see how inclusive the contest is, again being able to adapt with the times. That being said it is almost becoming more of a Pride celebration than anything else. Long gone are the days of classy ladies and dapper gents. The jewels and furs have been replaced with face paint and sequins. If you want to be taken seriously than you need to act like its a serious event. I'm not saying you can't have fun with Eurovision, quite the opposite actually, just keep it off the camera and don't make a fool of yourself. As a long time fan, well before Conchita, I fear that this will only lead to the end of the Eurovision Song Contest and the resignation of all the great music past and present to the annals of history.

About the author: Christopher Carlson (United States)

Christopher Carlson is our American correspondent. His interest in Eurovision began in high school when his Spanish teacher would often play "Eres Tu" by Mocedades for the class. Later encounters with Eurovision occurred upon discovering Secret Garden's "Nocturne". As a fan of history as well as music Christopher enjoys writing articles that discuss the roots and foundations of the Eurovision Song Contest. Topping the list of his favorite songs are "Heel de wereld" by Corry Brokken, "Eres Tu" by Mocedades, "Inje" by Vanya Radovanovic and "You are the only one" by Sergey Lazarev.

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