Eurovision: The Story of a Confused American Singer
It was about a year ago that The Scientist and I began to see Vilnius as a solid choice in our next move - and not only that, but an actual front contender. This was a paradigm shift already, knowing our lives were about to change in a huge way no matter where we ended up, but happening contemporaneously was last year's Eurovision contest.
Our new friends in Lithuania (who we hadn't even met yet!) were extremely busy celebrating The Roop's success on the show, last year's offering from Lithuania. I remember so many yellow-themed social media stories, even one showing the famous statue of the Grand Duke of Lithuania getting in on the fun.
I hadn't even stepped foot in Europe yet, but I was very curiously watching all of this unfold from the sidelines. (The Roop didn't win, but they definitely seem to have inspired some joy!)
My only other experience with Eurovision prior to that happened on a pandemic-infused road trip across the country to Virginia for the wedding of two of our friends. This was peak pandemic, so there was absolutely no way we were flying - and the groom happened to be one of my husband's best friends, so there was also no question we were going: we just had to be as careful as possible.
But then Nature just laughed at our plans, because we happened to be driving across country at the same time as a huge hurricane, blasting its way east across the United States. As we made our way through Louisiana, we managed to meet the exact center of Hurricane Laura - and it was absolutely terrifying. So what did we do to distract ourselves from the Category 4 storm? We watched Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, the Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams movie about two Icelandic singers looking to win the big prize. Was it ridiculous? Yes. Did it help me emotionally survive the hurricane tunnel we were stupidly traveling through? Also yes. So, Hurricane Laura aside, I feel like I got a pretty good understanding of the absolute spectacle that is Eurovision, even though it was obviously heightened for the movie screen.
Lithuaniaaaaaaa! (Her performance was verrry Kylie Minogue.) Photo: EBU / Sarah Louise Bennett
And now we're here, in present day. But neither of us knew that Eurovision wasn't a months-long competition (like American Idol or The Voice), so we didn't even think to join in on the Eurovision viewing earlier this week. I mean, it was clearly a big deal in Vilnius this week, but we just thought it was because the season was starting. (Rookie American mistake, I guess!)
So we got to our friend's Eurovision viewing/birthday party last night (such a good idea!), and come to find out: not only were we viewing the next episode of Eurovision, we were viewing the finals where the winner would be announced. What!? Eurovision is that quick!?
Okay, so I may have been a bit distracted by a super-storm during the timeline explanation of the Eurovision movie, but damn, just one week? It took me a good few minutes to get my bearings, especially after learning that the Swedish group ABBA won Eurovision in 1974 - how did I not know that? Learning this made me even more excited - and Lithuania was being represented in the episode! I actually really loved the whole thing - except the end that kept getting dragged out and didn't end UNTIL 2 IN THE MORNING. I guess it's normal for a finale to be three or four hours long, but we're two hours ahead of Italy (where it was being broadcast), so it didn't even start until 10pm our time. The performances definitely reminded me of the Eurovision movie: some of them were absolutely absurd, pure entertainment, while others were more touching, or the best: a mix of both. (Favorites: Ukraine, Moldova, and Germany!)
Ukraine and Moldova's performances were a really interesting blend of modern music with their own traditional music (Ukrainian woodwind instruments!), which I loved, while Portugal had a more intimate group of women singing in a circle. (Don't even get me started on Norway!)
As the results finally began to roll in, my friends and I were so pissed that the acts we didn't like kept getting points (United Kingdom, Greece, etc.), but we loved Ukraine and Moldova's performances (and Portugal, Serbia, and Germany!), so we lost our mind when Ukraine won. A hugely symbolic win for these Ukrainian artists who received temporary visas to perform in the competition before heading back to Ukraine to continue fighting the Russian invasion. (Absolutely crazy!) But it wasn't just a symbolic win - they were actually really good, a consistent performance.
Maybe next year I'll get my act together and watch all of the week's performances, but right now, I just have to say: I love how Eurovision brings a whole continent together (plus Australia, for some reason?). And it's kinda got me thinking: America's states are kind of like countries of their own (looking at you, Texas and California!)... What if America created its own version with states competing against each other? ("And now for the finale, Kentucky vs. California! May the best act win!") I'd love that.
I feel like it would just become a reason for people to become even more divisive, but I'd like to think it'd bring at least some people together.
I don't know - what do you think, Americans? Should we have our own Amerivision? Would it cause the next Civil War? (Has one already started?) I think it's worth a shot...
We could all use a bit more unity these days.
And with that, I'll see y'all next week - viso gero! Slava Ukraini!