Hosted by Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey
Founded in the 1950s, the Eurovision Song Contest was initially aimed at promoting a harmonious Europe, rebuilding the fractured continent in the wake of World War 2. 63 years later and Eurovision still tends to be this strange Neverland of entertainment and politics combining. It’s a sparkly package of kitch, camp and outrageous fun with a rich undercurrent of political messages and national alliances. It’s the statecraft and social fabric of Europe reflected by a disco-ball, and Lisbon didn’t disappoint.
For Australian audiences, perhaps the biggest sting came with realisation that we are no longer the fresh, new, shiny thing. Despite a good performance by Jessica Mauboy, she was not as dynamic as she was for the semi-final, and in a night where almost every other performer managed to exceed their previous attempt, she ended up in the lower middle of the pack. A bit of a shock to be sure, but this could well be the new norm for the Australian act. Without a block of neighbouring countries to vote with us, we are really going to have to have something phenomenal to get votes.
However, there was a whole range of grist for the mill in terms of interest. From Chinese broadcasters censoring LGBTI content, to the plethora of anti-bullying songs following in the wake of the #metoo movement, the ever present booing to obvious block voting, claims of cultural appropriation, and a security breech allowing a protester to interrupt the English performance – it was a pretty juicy show, for those with a taste for the circus surrounding the event.
But for the competition that debuted ABBA, Buck’s Fizz, and Celine Dion (well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad… maybe… 1 out of 3), it was all about the music – good, bad and indifferent. The night saw a rather divisive song take out first place for Israel. Netta’s Toy was a wondrously quirky number that stood out from the pack. Inspired by the #metoo movement it’s a strident anthem for respect and consent, sandwiched into a bizarrely catchy pop number, and delivered by a K-pop inspired Jewish diva in front of a wall of waving Chinese kitties. It’s kitch, odd, disorientating and different – everything that a good Eurovision number should be about.
Which is something of the magic of Eurovision. That sense of daggy fun, that feeling of community, tolerance, and a shared experience, as well as just a touch of drama. It’s what makes it a magic night of viewing (or morning for the particularly enthusiastic). Hence it’s the contest that has launched a thousand parties, and long may it continue to do so.