Every year I sit down and watch Eurovision. Judge me all you want, but I fucking love it. Europe (with a few extras) comes together, despite political differences, and celebrates music, creativity and life. We get to see an insight into other cultures, and see the true beauty that is humans coming together as one.
Over the past few years I’ve noticed it become more political, from booing the Russian entry to Conchita Wurst winning with Rise like a Phoenix.
This year, we saw Ukraine’s entry Jamala win with her political song 1944, which focussed on the deportation of Crimean Tartars under Stalin in World War Two Russia. This song reflects with current politics in Ukraine, and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. While most read this as a political statement, Jamala herself denies that this is an attack on Russia and their actions, but is a personal song about her own experience and feelings. When Jamala won, we smiled, went to bed and that was it. Right?
It seems not: this song is having far more of a political impact than I first thought. Russia has protested this win, arguing the votes were unfairly cast due to the politics involved with the entry. Ministers in Russia have reacted, saying next year they will send a nationalist entry, when the contest is held in Kiev, Ukraine.
Jamala said her win “will mean that modern European people are not indifferent, and are ready to hear about the pain of other people and are ready to sympathise.” She went on to say, regarding the politics of her song, “Of course it’s about 2014 as well. These two years have added so much sadness to my life. Imagine – you’re a creative person, a singer, but you can’t go home for two years. You see your grandfather on Skype, who is 90 years old and ill, but you can’t visit him. What am I supposed to do: just sing nice songs and forget about it? Of course I can’t do that.”
As a creative person myself, I completely understand this. You can’t just create pretty things that are nice and forget about what’s really happening. Her win shows the public’s solidarity across Europe along with, and let’s not forget this, her talent as a singer! It shows us that, while we can enjoy our freedom, others cannot, and we must recognise that.
The controversial politics of Eurovision don’t seem to end with Russia and Ukraine either. Just today, I saw something on my Facebook timeline. During the semi final of the contest, the presenters dedicated a tribute to the current refugee crisis, an incredibly prominent issue for Europe and the world right now.
This tribute served as a reminder to everyone who was comfortably sat watching the song contest in their homes that people out there are suffering, and that we shouldn’t forget. Unfortunately, the dance was not available to UK viewers, and instead we saw a comedy sketch. The BBC apparently decided that comedy was more important than human lives.
The Mirror quoted one viewer, “as much as I do sympathise with the refugee crisis, I would prefer to see Mel stuffing meatballs in the mouth.” It’s understandable. It’s much easier to pretend these tragedies doesn’t exist, that we can all just sing and dance and laugh. But it isn’t always about what’s preferable. I’m certain refugees would prefer to be welcomed into our countries than left in appalling, inhumane camps. Eurovision recognised this, yet we failed to.
I don’t watch Eurovision because I love singing contests. I hate them. I watch it because there is something beautiful about a continent coming together as one, about the celebration of life, the acceptance that it comes in infinite different shapes and sizes and the recognition of politics and that knowledge that something should be done. There’s something you can’t quite put into words that happens when a continent votes a song the winner of the contest with such a political background.
There is something incredibly emotional about a winner asking for “peace and love” as they collect their trophy.