European Idol

Right now, we’re in the thirteenth season of American Idol. A few weeks from now, the 58th annual Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Copenhagen.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Contest started out as a way to promote television across Europe. Member nations of the European Broadcasting Union send one musical act each to the competition, and the winner is chosen by a combination of a panel of judges and viewer votes. It’s different from American Idol in that it’s open to groups as well as individual artists, and the artists are already professionals. It’s something like an international “Battle of the Bands”. Also, it’s the song that’s being judged, not the artist.

(I understand that the ratings for American Idol have been dropping lately. Maybe they ought to try something similar to the European Song Contest. Instead of “open auditions”, have each state do its own audition. Group the fifty state winners into regions for semi-finals, then do a national final. Run the state contests in the summer, the regionals in the fall, and the nationals in the spring. At the very least, instead of just giving the finalists first names in all the promotions and advertising, give their full names and tell us where they are from. You might not care much about the show, but if there’s a finalist from your state, you’ll definitely be more interested in how things turn out.)

There is, of course, some usual controversy. People complain about “block voting” – though you cannot vote for the song from your home country, people still think that regions band together to support each other. Scandinavians only voting for other Scandinavians… Then there’s the gripe that everything sounds the same. Look, the artists and songwriters are trying to appeal to as many people as possible. Of course they’re going to tend towards a common denominator.

All those complaints are pretty much irrelevant. The artists all get some good exposure, and the winner gets… well, the winning country gets to host the contest next year.

It’s one of the most-watched non-sport events in the world, but gets barely any notice here in the States. Obviously, that’s because we aren’t involved in the contest. But it’s a great way to catch up on the pop music scene on the other side of the Atlantic. Almost all the songs are in English (common denominator…), and the “official” videos are already online (keep in mind that at the competition, the artists perform live…). Perhaps it’s a good thing that the U.S. isn’t involved in the voting. We can just watch, listen, and enjoy all the great music, free from any worry or concern.

Among the entrants this year are a Bruno Mars soundalike from Denmark, prog rock/jazz fusion from Georgia, an accordion in the German entry, Latvia checks in with a cheery little bit of bubble gum pop, Malta’s got a folk-pop thing going on, there’s a strong Celtic vibe in Montenegro’s song (must be the flute), a “drag queen” is the performer from Austria, and no spaghetti were harmed during the production of the official video for the entry from Switzerland.

There’s a heck of a lot of musical talent there. Check it out!

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