Pop meets politics at Eurovision song contest

“I’m a beautiful creature”: Israel’s Netta Barzilai is one of the favourites to win the contest.

Is Eurovision silly or serious? European nations are facing off in this year’s singing contest, performing everything from hip-hop to opera. For some, it is about more than just singing…

What’s happening

An Estonian classical singer. A German-Maltese duo rapping about Twitter. An Israeli woman in a colourful dress doing chicken impressions. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Eurovision, Europe’s yearly singing contest. Semi-finals were held last week; the final will follow on Saturday, May 12.

Find out more

The first Eurovision was held in 1956, as the continent was still recovering from the second world war. Only seven nations took part (all from Western Europe), but the contest has since expanded to 43 countries.

Eurovision aims to bring Europe together in a spirit of fun, using slogans like “We are one”. It is hugely popular — 182 million tuned in for last year’s final. The winner is chosen by viewers and juries from every country.

Political lyrics are banned, yet politics still creep into the competition. Some acts make a statement about their identity: two transgender singers have won. Others refer to global issues. This year, France’s entry is a song about an African refugee coming to Europe.

Should we take Eurovision seriously?

Some say…

Not at all. The music is silly and cheesy. The competition is a joke, as people often vote for countries they are friendly with, rather than the best acts. It does not even reflect Europe’s diversity: most songs are Western European-style pop tunes, often sung in English. As kitsch entertainment, Eurovision is great, but it is no more than that.

Others think…

Nonsense. Eurovision sends out the inspiring message that people can compete without being aggressive. It allows countries to express themselves in a fun, peaceful way — many acts still reflect their nation’s traditional culture in some way. At a time when Europe is divided over Brexit, the migrant crisis and more, that is very important.

You Decide

  1. Does it matter whether the UK wins Eurovision?

Activities

  1. Your government has asked you to write the UK’s Eurovision song. In groups, come up with lyrics. Make sure that they say something about British culture.

Some People Say...

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

What do you think?

Word Watch

Slogans
Short, catchy phrases that express the purpose of an event or organisation. They are also used in advertising to sell products.
Statement
When someone expresses their beliefs through the way they look or act, they are said to “make a statement”.
Transgender
When someone believes that they do not belong to the gender they were born with, they can call themselves “transgender”.
Kitsch
Something that is cheesy or low-quality, but still fun.

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