Needs More CGI Unicorns: Your Weekend Soundtrack, Courtesy of Eurovision 2013
by Abby Waysdorf
The Eurovision Song Contest is like nothing else in the world. Once a year, every country in Europe (give or take a few) sends a song and performer to a televised competition. The performers, representing their respective countries, compete against each other. Europe votes. The country (and song) with the most points wins.
It’s easy to make a superficial comparison here to reality singing competitions like American Idol or The Voice, but it’s actually substantially different. For one, Eurovision is a one-off battle — it doesn’t construct a weekly narrative of any kind — and the songs are all originals. In practice, Eurovision is bigger, glitzier, and far crazier than any Idols; it’s a true camp spectacle. It’s like the Olympics with glitter, wind machines, big hair, and cheesy pop music.
The finals air tomorrow night. You can be forgiven for not following along this year (or any year, really), but for those experiencing Eurovision FOMO, we’ve curated your weekend soundtrack below.
Ukraine: Zlata Ognevich, “Gravity”
Perfect For: Waking up with the sunrise on Saturday morning and doing yoga while on MDMA.
Ukraine is one of my favorite Eurovision countries, and while this isn’t an all-timer, it’s enough: the music video is Lisa Frank in space. There are metal flowers, butterflies, computer-generated forests, and not one but two unicorns. It’s a shame that the semifinal performance didn’t quite live up to the spectacle, because for a schmaltzy ballad, it’s just over-the-top enough to work for me.
Azerbaijan: Farid Mammadov, “Hold Me”
Perfect For: Wrapping up a threesome.
This would simply be another typical Eurovision ballad, but the performance takes things to a surreal level. There’s a guy in a box and a woman in an extravagant red dress and a climactic ending. Should we be concerned about the guy in the box?
Romania: Cezar, “It’s My Life”
Perfect For: Inspiring your next hip hopera project.
My Romanian friends are so embarrassed by this entry, but I love it. “It’s My Life” has Eurovision’s strange alchemic formula perfected: all you need is some minor populism and a statue of a Romanian dude singing in an operatic falsetto for three straight minutes. Cezar is Klaus Nomi as a contemporary pop star.
Serbia: Moje 3, “Ljubav je svuda”
Perfect For: Drinking a bottle of champagne each with your friends and having an informal mosh pit in your living room in which the head-banging is actually sort of disarmingly aggressive.
Serbia failed to qualify in the first semifinal, and it came as a bit of a shock. The Serbs have a strong Eurovision pedigree, and the initial versions of “Ljubav je svuda” were fantastic. But it failed in later rounds, and it’s a shame, because the version from the Serbian final is everything I want: classic girl-group Europop with a few diva belts, a loud chorus, and choreography that would fit right in on a RuPaul’s Drag Race runway challenge.
Finland: Krista Sigfrieds, “Marry Me”
Perfect For: Convincing a party you have an exclusive Ke$ha leak.
The music video converted me on this one. It’s a work of genius. The leather-clad girl group! The kidnapping! The wedding scene! It’s like a particularly demented Bridezillas. The song is maddeningly catchy (try to get that “oh-oh, ding-dong” gibberish out of your head), and Krista’s been compared to Ke$ha or Katy Perry quite a bit, which is valid, but it also strikes me as something off the new Tegan & Sara album — except with a sense of humor. (The performance is worth a watch, too.)
Germany: Cascada, “Glorious”
Perfect For: THE CLUB.
One of the reasons I love Eurovision is because I adore poppy Eurodance music, and Cascada are known for taking regular pop songs and making them Eurodance pop songs. The result is pure, over-the-top, glittery madness. I can’t listen to it without doing hand motions. If I were a drag queen, this would be my theme song.
Ireland: Ryan Dolan, “Only Love Survives”
Perfect For: Drumming, shirtless, while wearing leather pants.
Shirtless drummers in leather pants!
Montenegro: Who See, “Igranka”
Perfect For: Drugs?
Rap rarely ever does well in Eurovision, but this is the best entries I can remember. I love the belting stutter chorus, and the video is suitably bonkers. I was pulling for it, but unfortunately, it didn’t quite do well enough in its semi performance. I’ll miss them on Saturday.
Bulgaria: Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankulov, “Samo shampioni”
Perfect For: Reminding yourself that, yes, pop music can always get worse.
Another one of those only-in-Eurovision sort of performances. You’ve got a two-stepping bagpipe player, a three-piece on backup vocals, and two sets of vertically-mounted floor toms with glow-in-the-dark sticks. I have no idea what’s going on here. Neither did the Eurovision voters, and it didn’t make it to the final.
Greece: Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis, “Alchohol is Free”
Perfect For: Sweating it out on Sunday morning.
Rock is a difficult sell at Eurovision — standing behind your instruments/mic stand doesn’t always go over well. You need energy to win. Ska, on the other hand, which is all energy and mugging at the camera, is a pretty good fit. With “Alcohol is Free,” Greece mixes ska with Greek elements, adds an old guy with a David Crosby mustache, and comes out with a pretty fun song. It’s certainly got the most aspirational chorus of the night. Say it with me now: Alcohol is free, alcohol is free. (Except when it’s not.)
Eurovision’s Grand Final airs at 9 p.m. CET (3 p.m. EST) on Saturday — the perfect brunch time in most of the states. You can stream it for free here. You might want a mimosa.