Eurovision 2021: Anxhela Peristeri, Daði & Gagnamagnið, Måneskin, Senhit

Generations of Genres

For many years the Eurovision Song Contest has been seen as a campy pop contest and while it is true that Pop music has almost always dominated the playlist every year, there are dozens of other genres of music represented throughout the contests history

Now that most of the songs for this year are in place I could not help but to notice how musically diverse this year seems to be as compared to recent years. Listening to the songs for this year got to me to wonder about all the different genres that have been heard on the Eurovision stage. This article will take us on a short musical journey.

Listening to the songs from the early years our modern ears would tend to categorize that music as "oldies" but nothing could be further from the truth. Eurovision has always had an uncanny ability to stay current or at least quickly find it's way back to the current in a relatively short time. Listening to Lys Assia sing Refrain might sound outdated to us but in 1956 she was a pop singer. After all, pop is just a shortened version of 'popular music'. In 1956 Lys Assia sang the popular music of that time. But of course as time went on and music grew, changed and evolved so did the contest. The 60's brought a change to pop music that today we may find comical but was massively popular in it's day, what I call "Bubble Gum" pop, that happy-go-lucky up-tempo sound epitomized by singers such as Lulu in 1969 (Boom Bang-a-bang).

United Kingdom 1969: Lulu
Lulu 1969

Moving into the 70's the contest found itself steeped in Disco much as the rest of the world. Pop music still dominated and a good ballad was always popular but the beat of the discotheque was a tough thing to combat. As early as 1974 this style found it's way to the winners circle when the contest introduced the world to ABBA with Waterloo. Disco would continue to permeate the contest throughout the decade and in 1979 Denmark took 6th place with a song titled Disco Tango although in 7th place that same year was what I would consider the contest's first introduction to Rock music when Black Lace from the United Kingdom took the stage with Mary Ann. Rock music made it's way into the contest even more throughout the 80's and by 1989 the winning song was titled Rock Me which would be Yugoslavia's only win.

United Kingdom 1979: Black Lace
Black Lace 1979

Like most of the world, the 90's was a time of musical confusion for the ESC. Pop music was still the standard but dance music such and Gina G and Imaani found it's way in the scene and was very popular. Both of these were from the UK and while Imaani was more successful in the contest itself bring the UK a second place finish, Gina G with Ooh...Aah...Just A Little Bit gained a huge international success with the song. (I remember skating to it when I was a kid). The 90's also saw the introduction of Neo-Classical music with the success of Secret Garden in 1995 and I feel this sparked a renewed interest in the classical sound and had a great deal to do with the reintroduction of Opera into the contest in later years. The 90's also saw a resurgence of Folk music which reached it's fullest height in 1996 when Eimear Quinn won with The Voice.

Ireland 1996: Eimear Quinn
Eimear Quinn 1996

The 2000's brought us into what to many may feel like a dark time for ESC. Troll acts began to inundate the contest and to this day I feel as if they are much of the reason why the contest is so derided today by critics. Acts such as Silvia Night (Congratulations), Verka Serduchka (Dancing Lasha Tumbai) and Dustin the Turkey (Irelande Douze Pointe) were never meant to win but were solely intended to keep their nations name on the roster for Eurovision. Unfortunately this only had the effect of degenerating the image of the contest into a campy circus show and limiting it's credibility as a legitimate Music contest. But that topic is an article unto itself. One bright spot of the this first decade of the 2000's was the introduction of the very american Country & Western style when Texas Lightning took the stage in 2006 with No, No, Never which would eventually be followed by artists like The Common Linnets in 2014 (Calm After The Storm), ManuElla in 2016 (Blue and Red) and Waylon in 2018 (Outlaw In 'Em).

Germany 2006: Texas Lightning
Texas Lightning 2006

Fortunately in recent years the contest has managed to regain it's musical footing once again. Once again a change in decade brought a change in music to the contest. In 2010 Lena showed us that the contest can still be relevant with her song Satellite. While the lyrics were rather unimaginative the music and sound of the song was ultra modern as was the staging, which saw Lena in the 'little black dress', simply enjoying herself onstage. A stark change from the bright costumes and huge stage productions of years prior. Eurovision 2021 seems to be the culmination of all this growth. Nearly every one of these genres is represented this year and in greater numbers than usual. While pop has always dominated the winners circle it does not own it. It will truly be interesting to see what sound Europe embraces this year. Good luck to all the participants.

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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