In 2015, Mika, the famous performer of “Relax, Take it Easy”, told RTL in 2015, on the program “Let yourself be tempted”, that “most songs [de l’Eurovision, ndlr] bring shame”. He adds, very elegantly: “It’s shit! […] I think that’s part of the game, to make songs that are terrible.” The height of irony, this year it presents the famous European song contest which takes place in Turin. The eurofans (name given to the very involved and passionate community of fans of the event) could not let this pass. Asked about these remarks by our colleagues from “Télé 7 Jours”, the singer backtracked by invoking an argument that we hear more and more: “The competition has been modernized, over time, the show has considerably increased in quality, while keeping its soul, and it is this soul that appeals to me and has always appealed to me. So, is it true that the Eurovision Song Contest – so decried by those who find it “cheesy”, “kitsch” or “old-fashioned” (we’re going through some of the best…) – has had a facelift? Can we really say that Eurovision has got rid of its outdated image or is it simply that public opinion is finally interested in it? We are on site, in Turin, to carry out the investigation.
Read also :Eurovision: we have classified the French representatives since 2000
The biggest musical event – and precursor – in the world
Because we have to put the church back in the middle of the village: let’s remember what Eurovision is. Of course, you have all already watched… Although. Before preparing this article, the editorial staff of ELLE met during its weekly editorial conference and the author of these lines realized that ¾ of the journalists had never watched Eurovision. Sacrilege! When you think that he has been fed up with this musical show since he was 8 years old… A devouring passion that thrives, and which wakes up every December (yes, Eurovision lasts about six months of the year if we consider really interested) with the first national selections of each participating country. But how can we be so passionate about this program broadcast on France 2, you will tell us? Because first of all, it’s a competition, with a winner and losers and that: it’s an unstoppable concept. Then, we already know all the participants. Or in any case, the banners under which they sing. Did you love your vacation in Greece? You should love Amanda Tienfjord’s melancholy this year with her song “Die Together.” Do you have a Portuguese ancestor? Maybe Maro’s performance performing “Saudade Saudade” will touch your heart. And then, if you’re chauvinistic, of course, it’s perfectly acceptable – and that’s an understatement – to be fully behind the electro-mystical-Breton of Alvan & Ahez, the French representatives of 2022 ( even if you can’t vote for your own country). All these artists, often at the start of their career, or trying to revive it (we remember the Bonnie Tyler shipwreck in 2013 which ended 19th), see this competition as a real chance to make their music known to the world. Cornelia Jakobs, Swedish representative for this edition, confirmed it to us: “Three months ago I was almost unknown, even in Sweden. I was an indie artist. Today I get support from all over the world. I find it hard to find the words to express my happiness to be here. Yes, because Eurovision is 183 million viewers in 2021, or 40.5% of viewers from the 36 countries who broadcast the competition. And to those who would say that there are only Hervés and Moniques who would be stuck in front of their television set: we retort that the audience share is close to 53% among 15-24 year olds. Even more impressive, in Iceland, the final was watched by 99.9% of viewers. A real religion in these Nordic countries, for example, which take competition very seriously.
An inclusive show well anchored in its time
It’s obvious, the show knows how to speak to the younger generations. In addition to the ultra-slick production, the fireworks and the impressive range of musical genres represented, Eurovision is also the sanctuary of all diversities. If the slogans are always a little more silly every year: “Open Up”, “Dare to Dream”, “The Sound of Beauty”, “Building Bridges”… The message is present, and inclusive. “If there is no competition like that, what is the voice of these artists? Where can we find these artists and such modernity? “Questions Alexandra Redde-Amiel, head of the French delegation to Eurovision. During which other competition of this scale could we have witnessed the coronation of Dana International, transgender singer, in 1998 for Israel? His participation and his victory had earned him criticism and death threats from Orthodox Jews and conservative politicians. Four years later, it was the group of drag queens/business women Sestre who represented Slovenia… But it was in 2014 that the competition took on another quasi-militant and political dimension: Conchita Wurst, drag queen with a beard, won the contest with “Rise Like a Phoenix” for Austria. It was at this time that a whole new generation, Gen Z, became interested in Eurovision. Shedon Riley, competitor for Australia this year, also mentioned it this Thursday evening during the press conference: “I grew up in a very religious family and when I was a child I was diagnosed with Asperger’s , and I was told that I would not be able to express myself, to have a partner… And I remember, in 2014, when Conchita (Wurst, editor’s note) won, I felt loved and understood. I know she has helped many young people like me. Being here at Eurovision changes my life. Much more concerned with these issues of equality and representation, she sees this competition as an international platform for artists from all walks of life. In France, it is the young Bilal Hassani, an openly homosexual singer with a gender-fluid look, who has the honor of representing the country in 2019: “I come from a Muslim family. I am gay, I am Arab. And I’m going to Eurovision in Israel,” he said proudly. “There are a lot of performances at Eurovision that we don’t see in society, which are under-represented. We are thinking in particular of the LGBTQIA+ community, brilliantly represented by Conchita Wurst in 2014 then by Bilal Hassani in 2019”, insists Marine Lavigne, one of our representatives in Turin.
Read also :Eurovision: the 20 most unforgettable candidates of the contest
A real change of image?
But then why do we persist in saying that Eurovision is corny? Certainly, it is a very French way of thinking. The reason ? For years, we didn’t play the game and decided ourselves that we were bad. Yes, the years 2000/2010 were thankless with the French delegation. But the latter did little to turn the tide. She chose – often internally – unoriginal candidates, with songs that were far too dated, who did not want to invest excessively in the competition. Result, the image returned: “we lose all the time and it’s kitsch”, admits Stéphane Bern, commentator of the competition, to “Liberation”. But in 2015, something changes. Lisa Angell, an almost unknown and protected by Patrick Sébastien (yes, we’ve known sexier, we admit) flies to Vienna and sings “Don’t forget”. A few weeks before, she acts as the favorite, but finally collapses in penultimate place. A poor result which nevertheless awakens the creative forces at France Télévisions. From the following year, we understand that it takes modernity, emotion and budget. We then unearth Amir, seen in “The Voice”, and his song “I looked for”. France obtains its best ranking for 15 years (6th), the song becomes a hit and Amir, a popular star in France. For six years, the worst position obtained by France is 16th place (which is relatively correct). Audiences in France continue to climb, positioning themselves each year ahead of the final episodes of “The Voice”. “We also discover that the image of Eurovision in France is not at all that of Eurovision in other European countries. Yes, I think the event had lost its luster at some point. We saw it as something kitsch because it was not really highlighted in the media”, explains Sterenn Le Guillou, member of Ahez. “Eurovision had a half-fig, half-grape image. is either we love it or we hate it. […] But there was a dislike of Eurovision, above all, because France never won. Bet won with Valentina winning Eurovision Junior and Barbara Pravi coming 2nd. “, analyzes Alexandra Redde-Amiel, and to add:
“There is no trendier than Eurovision, it allows me to analyze the musical trends to come. For me, it’s Music Fashion Week.”
But it’s not just the way the competition is sold to French speakers that has changed. Of course, Eurovision has had a makeover. European infrastructures have been modernized to offer the most impressive spectacle possible: 200 kilometers of cables, several meters of LED screens and floors, flamethrowers, waterfalls and other curtains of sparks… Everything is in place to pass off the Super Bowl as a funfair in the depths of Texas. In addition to the state-of-the-art machinery, the contestants and the songs sent have also undergone a radical transformation. In 2012, Sweden won – once again – thanks to Laureen and her pop-trance anthem “Euphoria” which became a club anthem around the world with almost 2 million copies sold. Same story for Conchita Wurst, Mans Zemerlow, Netta, Mahmood who is the Burberry muse, and her essential “Toy” or Duncan Laurence who has accumulated 500,000,000 streams for “Arcade”. But those who took everything in their path are the defending winners, the Måneskin group, from Italy. Instantly, their title “Zitti e buoni” moved to the top of the charts in many European countries. But, extraordinary fact, they manage to export to the United States where several of their songs infiltrate the Billboard Hot 200. On Tiktok, it’s the tidal wave, in particular thanks to their cover of “Beggin ‘” which they had sung during “X Factor” in Italy. They were even invited to the Grammy Awards this year. Consecration for the Måneskin but also a nice publicity stunt for Eurovision which proves to be “the place to be” for lovers of new musical talents. There is no doubt that some artists will experience the same fate as the transalpine this year. Sam Ryder, for example, one of the favorites, was a recognized Tiktoker before representing the United Kingdom, with more than 12.4 million followers. His title “Spaceman” will surely live on the platform for a long time. “Sam Ryder, I have been following him for a year on social networks!” Exclaims Laurence Boccolini, who comments on the competition for France 2 alongside Stéphane Bern. “He already has his tour dates scheduled, it’s incredible,” she says. Ditto for Chanel Terrero, Spanish mini JLo/Rosalia, who never ceases to panic the view counters of her rehearsals (yes, even the rehearsals fascinate the fans, that is to say!) for the big show on Saturday evening. A promo 2022 which will modernize the image of Eurovision a little more. So, this Saturday evening, invite a few friends, uncork a bottle, take a piece of paper/a pen and savor (or criticize) this great show. You already do it well for Miss France!