Today, Australia rejoices, because for the second year in a row, we are in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Our contestant, Dami Im, smashed it in the semi-final, and will go on to potential Eurovisual glory later this weekend.
I hope she does well. Her song is ideal – it sounds like she assembled scientists in some high-powered audio lab and asked them to blend Adele with Stock Aitken and Waterman, plus a twist of ABBA. Perfect for Eurovision.
But even more sincerely, I hope that her performance in the final achieves another landmark for our proud, musical land. I hope it’s our last-ever appearance in the Song Contest.
We are ruining Europe’s most treasured annual spectacle. Both for European contestants and viewers, and for our own, previously arm’s-length enjoyment of it. We are like overeager scientists who, in the process of observing a fascinating foreign society, have accidentally infected it, leading to its destruction.
Early this morning, my Twitter feed was full of joy at Dami’s triumph. There was pride and delight in abundance, along with a burst of the kind of good ol’ Aussie patriotism that we should be saving for the Olympics.
Feelings of pride in antipodean battlers nailing it on the world stage are not something that we should ever feel when watching Eurovision. We’re treating it like the America’s Cup, instead of a multinational karaoke competition designed by Liberace.
We Australians are supposed to observe these proceedings with a detached sense of amusement, and cheer ironically for the most entertaining contestant. As a nation, we should be getting behind the likes of Mr Lordi, or the Russian grandmothers, or Conchita Wurst, not applauding our own. And worse still, we should not be standing in other, more entertaining candidates’ way.
If we must compete, our tendency to select competent representatives is thoroughly inappropriate. I’m glad that SBS, as our multicultural broadcaster, has chosen to showcase artists who represent the changing face of modern Australia. But did they have to choose entrants who are so damnably talented?
Making the final once might have been an amusing fluke, but two years in a row seems downright rude. Icriticised Guy Sebastian last year on the basis of his extraordinary dullness, but if anything Dami Im is a more disturbing entrant, because whereas Guy brought a bit of R&B to the table as a point of difference, her song is a thoroughly chart-friendly piece of Europop worthy of a Scandinavian entrant.
Even the lyrics about Dami’s heart beating with the sound of silence suggest a thoroughly mangled metaphor worthy of someone who never learned to speak English – quite unlike Im herself. They also betray a bizarre ignorance of Simon and Garfunkel’s similarly-named masterpiece that would be more appropriate for someone who grew up in the Soviet bloc. We are in genuine danger of being like dinner party guests who bring along a dessert that’s infinitely better than anything the host has prepared earlier.
Taken together, our three Eurovision singers have been so thoroughly straight that European viewers could be forgiven for concluding that Australia hasn’t an inch of outlandish flamboyance to offer. The nation who gave the world Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Catherine Martin’s everything ever is letting its reputation for over-the-top exuberance down.
If we win, it will be a terrific achievement, but it will also help make Eurovision just another generic stop in the music industry’s endless promotion machine where once there was genuinely unique, bizarre splendour. Our inclusion makes it less likely that some quirky act from Lithuania will make it to the final night, and that cannot be good news for Eurovision. The rumours of America’s potential involvement are even more disturbing.
There may be a place in our entertainment landscape for a serious international song contest where excellent performers duke it out, although some might argue that the regular charts are exactly that. But Eurovision has only ever been a legitimate contest in the minds of its organisers and its legions of fans in the irony-free regions of the Continent, which is one of the reasons why so many of us have grown to love it.
Besides, can a Eurovision free of glitter cannons even truly be called Eurovision?
The obvious issue of geographic incongruity aside, it’s time we stopped spoiling Eurovision with our dour, tasteful involvement. We can watch talented, slickly-packaged pop stars every other weekend of the year. Eurovision is meant to be better than all of that, because Eurovision is meant to be worse than all of that.