The credit for today’s united Europe should go, above all, to the Eurovision Song Contest. Just a decade after World War II, it brought the people of that continent together to celebrate their belief in love, hope and appalling pop songs.
French and German alike put aside their differences on that historic first Eurovision night in 1956.
When they voted for the Swiss entrant, Refrain, ahead of the morbid Belgian runner-up, The Drowned People of the River Seine, they were really voting for a brighter future. And once the power of music had joined the people of Europe, today’s all-encompassing European Union was but a small step away.
This year’s broadcast reaffirmed the song contest’s status as Europe’s most important political forum. Sertab Erener’s win has boosted Turkey’s chances of EU accession immeasurably, while the zero points score by Britain’s Jemini has been viewed as a condemnation of that nation’s stance on Iraq, rather than the deserved shellacking of a dreadful performance it actually was.
Again, Australians were left to jealously watch as the Europeans congratulated themselves on their shocking musical taste. (And hats off to SBS for Des Mangan’s dignified “no humour” approach to the commentary, which really showed up that sarcastic Terry Wogan.)
Sadly, the closest an Australian has been to Eurovision glory was Gina G’s appearance for Britain in 1996. And those few who remember Ooh Ah Just a Little Bit will agree that it wasn’t close at all.
With SARS and Bali, we in the Asia-Pacific have had a tough 12 months. So it’s time we, too, came together as a region and healed. We need our own Asiavision Song Contest.
After all, thanks to the karaoke craze, singing tunelessly has become the region’s preferred way to make friends. And as strange as our very own song contest would doubtless sound, there is no way it could be more unbearable than an intoxicated Japanese businessman murdering My Way.
Eurovision may have brought us such icons of kitsch as ABBA, Nana Mouskouri and Riverdance, but I believe they are nothing compared with what Asia could offer. The weird Japanese punk bands, the glamorous Bollywood dancers and the hilariously earnest Singaporean bureaucrats-to-be would blow Eurovision out of the water, while the massive sugar overload that is Hong Kong Canto-pop would make even the most bubblegummy Scandinavian popstar seem downright sour.
We’d outdo Eurovision for weirdness too – the accordion player who represented Austria this year would hardly seem bizarre at all next to a solemn Vietnamese hymn to Ho Chi Minh. And faux lesbians Tatu would be seen for the limp marketing ploy they are next to a real Aussie drag queen.
My dream may sound fanciful, but it could be realised with a snap of Rupert Murdoch’s fingers – he already owns all the pay TV in the region.
I’m thinking of Pyongyang, North Korea, for the inaugural event. Our agents could surreptitiously dismantle their nuclear program during the dress rehearsal, and the leftovers from the opulent banquets would stave off the country’s famine for months. I wouldn’t be surprised if dippy dictator Kim Jong Il himself represented the host nation – I hear he does an excellent Elvis.
An Asiavision Song Contest would substantially improve the region’s political and economic ties. It would remind us of the American culture that, thanks to Hollywood, we all share.
More importantly, it would give us a chance to all come together and celebrate a lot of hilariously awful music. After all, we gave Asia Savage Garden. It’s time they got their own back.