The Yankee Guide To Eurovision 2012

The world’s most prestigious song contest will be happening live from Azerbaijan all day Saturday, and while every little country on the continent’s map will spend the day in celebration, most of the United States will have absolutely no idea what’s happening. The Eurovision 2012 finals– a spectacle of bad techno, worse make-up, and a benign form of the nationalism we know, love, and expect from the tiniest nation’s on the continent– are finally here, full of the over-the-top synth-laden splendor it is known for.

If you have no idea what Eurovision is or why it’s worth taking the time and perusing the entries each country prides itself so much on, here’s a handy guide to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

What Is This Eurovision You Speak Of?

The Eurovision Song Contest is a 56-year-old musical contest in which most of the countries in Europe and some in Asia compete for the honor and glory of representing their country. It is the Olympics of music– or, alternatively, like the Hunger Games, but replace Panem with Europe and instead of tributes fighting to the death, they fling techno beats at each other until the continent crowns a winner. It includes participation from all the usual suspects– France, the UK, Germany, Spain– but all the Balkan and former Soviet countries as well, and some European border countries like Turkey and Israel. The winner of last year’s contest is always the host the following year, so in 2012 Baku, Azerbaijan will be hosting. Yes, the major European countries participate (and, like the UN Security Council, many get automatic passes to the finals), but some of the best entries often come from countries like Moldova and Malta.

Why Should I, An American Who Enjoys Youtube Videos, Care About Eurovision?

For one, Eurovision is taken quite seriously among the competing nations, and will be taking up significant airtime on both television (where each star will be interviewed many times, and national Eurovision history will take to the fore) and radio (the country’s Eurovision entry usually lights up the charts in that country). But more importantly, Eurovision is political. Like American Idol, people vote using their cell phones for their favorite act, which typically results unintentional nationalist hilarity. Greece and Turkey always vote against each other, Spain and Portugal and the Scandinavian countries pair up– Germany has fallen in particular distaste in countries with weaker economies, though recently winning thanks to votes from the former Soviet States. The songs are also often political, the best of the political bunch in recent memory being the 2004 Georgia entry after Vladimir Putin invaded South Ossentia: a disco song titled “We Don’t Want To Put In” (see what they did there?).

I Don’t Have Time To Watch 40 Music Videos Right Now. Can You Direct Me To The Best/Worst Ones?

Sure thing. Have a gander at the must-sees of this year’s competition below (and if you don’t trust my taste in music or care to fall asleep to any of the unlistenable ballads from Finland or Serbia, the full list of entries is here):

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