In my house there is no other live television event as hallowed, as cherished and as worthy of decanting a sharing bag of posh crisps into a big bowl than the Eurovision Song Contest. My wife being Swedish it could hardly not be – Swedes take Eurovision so seriously that their entrant selection competition, Melodifestivalen, is the most-viewed TV show in the country. But over the years I’ve become hooked in my own way. In the annual transnational bitch-fest, I derive not only premium entertainment, but hope for humankind.
I like to think of Eurovision as a yearly act of intercontinental catharsis – a safe, inclusive and tolerant forum in which to snark and laugh at our neighbours and ourselves in a camply good-natured manner that vents hostilities and finds common ground in bad taste. Hours of mainly shit music, worse banter, naff cultural posturing, exposed cleavage and the occasional stage invader, culminating with the semi-mystical voting – in which fickle opinion and capricious geo-politics play out in a protracted and arcane process that seems to last until dawn, by which point everyone is hammered drunk and has long since lost track of the scores and a winner seems to just get picked at random. How many of the world’s real problems could be solved thusly?
In the annual transnational bitch-fest, I derive not only premium entertainment, but hope for humankind
Following chicken-dancing body-positive Israeli cat-fancier Netta’s victory in Lisbon last year, the 2019 contest takes place in Tel Aviv against a backdrop of religious and political controversy, and promises to be extra spicy. Predicting a victor is often impossible, but if years of studious Eurovision watching have left me with anything, then it’s a few solid criteria by which to at least spot a contender.
1. Big personality
It’s tempting to deduce that Eurovision saw Brexit coming years ago, such is every other nation in the competition’s unwavering “nul points” disdain for our entry each year. But more likely it’s got to do with Britain’s disinterested habit of picking performers with all the personality of a soggy Digestive biscuit. Eurovision loves a character! Look at cosplay Finnish shock-rockers Lordi, or perma-smiling Norwegian fiddler Alexander Rybak, or bearded Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst. In the personality stakes it’s go large or go home.