Eurovision: under the kitsch, the rhinestones and the sequins, the weight of geopolitics

By Anne-Francoise Hivert

Published on May 13, 2022 at 12:09 p.m. – Updated on May 14, 2022 at 6:54 p.m.

Stockholm, Saturday May 14, 2016. For two weeks, the Ericsson Globe, a sports hall in the shape of a gigantic golf ball, in the south of the Swedish capital, vibrates to the rhythm of Eurovision. It’s finally time for the final. Arriving from all over Europe, fans expect to be amazed. We are here on conquered ground: the Swedes love Eurovision and assume it. Starting with the ABBA’s victory at Brighton in 1974 with Waterloo, the Scandinavian kingdom has won the competition created in 1956 six times. Each year, Melodifestivalen, the selection program for the national candidate, easily attracts 3 million viewers in this country of 10 million inhabitants.

At 9 p.m., the first notes of the Te Deum H. 146 by Marc-Antoine Charpentiercomposer of the 17thand century. And off we go for a four-hour show… Of the forty-three countries registered, twenty passed the semi-finals. Six are automatically qualified: the big five – France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain – as well as the host country, Sweden, therefore. The artists parade on stage. According to the rules established by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), organizer of the competition, each performance must not exceed three minutes.

One of the most watched non-sporting events in the world

Nothing is missing: rhinestones, sequins, flaming decorations… Pop, rock, folk: the genres mix. Some sing in English, others in their language. In a dress with a light blue ruffle, bow ties in her hair, the German candidate seems straight out of a manga, while the Cypriot rockers, in a cage, float above a cloud of smoke. In a fascinating mise en abyme, the two presenters of the evening, Mans Zelmerlöw, winner in 2015, and comedian Petra Mede launch into a frenzied parody, titled Love, Love, Peace, Peace, where they mock all the kitsch quirks of Eurovision, which remains one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world, with 200 million viewers.

For the intermission, the Swedes made a big splash: Justin Timberlake made the trip to Stockholm where he performed the world premiere of his new hit, Can’t Stop the Feeling!, co-written with Swedish songwriters Max Martin and Shellback. The American star brings a touch of glamor and modernity. We would almost forget the diplomatic controversies that have been going on for weeks: a case of banned flags, a banner brandished by a very assertive candidate, a song that enrages Russia…

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Eurovision: under the kitsch, the rhinestones and the sequins, the weight of geopolitics

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