Playing with Numbers?

It’s official: 43 countries will participate in 2016’s contest, tickets are out on sale (for the equivalent of Black Friday shopping in the USA), and national final buzz is starting to creep up on the news. But what will be the other numbers seen at next year’s contest?

The voting (1-12):

1: Excluding 1969, number of winning acts per year

2: Number of semi-finals since 2004

3: Number of times Stockholm will have hosted Eurovision (1975, 2000, 2016)

4: Number of returning countries in 2016

5: Excluding the host, the number of countries that will pre-qualify to the final

6: Number of times Sweden has won the contest (1974, 1984, 1991, 1999, 2012, 2015)

7: Record number of wins from a single country (Ireland-1970,1980,1987,1992,1993,1994,1996)

 

8: Number of hosts at Mello 2016 (Top: Gina Dirawi, Petra Mede, Charlotte Perelli, Henrik Schyffert, Bottom: Sarah Dawn Finer, Ola Salo, Peter Jöback, William Spetz)

   

   

10: Number of countries that can qualify from a semi-final

12: Highest number of points a country can receive from another country

And then there’s always the other statistics people seem to bring up:

43: Largest number of countries participating in Eurovision

387: Highest number of points earned by a single entry

18: Highest number of douze pointe awarded to a single entry

0: The dreaded nul pointe

61: How many times the contest will have occurred once Stockholm is over

26: Number of countries that will be in the final in 2016

23: Number of Eurovision entries Ralph Siegel has composed

365: Number of points Sweden earned this year

16: Number of stick people on the screen for “Heroes”

 

And the winner is…Malta!

After trying to avoid following news about Junior, I caved in and ended up binge-watching JESC 2015 top 17 rankings on YouTube for weeks before live-streaming the contest for the first time. Though, because my family’s still not keen on having a Eurovision fan in the house, I ended up listening to it on headphones while trying to look productive and gutting a pumpkin to make pie.

(It turned out ok, at least that meant post-show desserts)
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One major complaint: the YouTube stream had no sound outside of the commentators for 5 songs, and the sound only came back halfway through Australia’s song. That meant approximately 20 minutes spent looking at the background and occasionally hearing a (somewhat) loud refrain in one earphone, but it wasn’t such an issue that I had to switch off the contest.

So how did they do?

  1. Malta- 185 pts
  2. Armenia- 176 pts
  3. Slovenia- 112 pts
  4. Belarus- 105 pts
  5. Albania- 93 pts
  6. Russia- 80 pts
  7. Serbia- 79 pts
  8. Australia- 64 pts
  9. Bulgaria- 62 pts
  10. Georgia- 51 pts
  11. Ukraine- 38 pts
  12. Ireland- 36 pts
  13. Montenegro- 36 pts
  14. San Marino- 36 pts
  15. Netherlands-35 pts
  16. Italy- 34 pts
  17. FYR Macedonia- 26 pts

Congratulations Malta for a second victory in 3 years, and congratulations to Team Muxu and Zarb for writing 3 top-4 entries. I wonder if they’ll be back next year. Will they turn into Malta’s equivalent to Siegel and Meinunger though?

Let (only) the music win?

While the kids were preparing for and having fun at Junior, the senior Eurovision world had a drama blip: Germany selects artist, public complains, Germany retracts artist.

NDR announced on November 19 that Xavier Naidoo was internally selected to represent Germany. From a musical standpoint only, NDR didn’t have a major problem: Xavier Naidoo’s been on the music scene for nearly 20 years, and all his albums have charted gold or platinum. I might have complained that the songs were kind of dentist-friendly rather than stadium friendly, but I’ve only listened to “Alles kann besser werden” (Thanks, HS German teacher for spamming it for a month in class), “Schau’ nicht mehr zurück”, and his band Söhne Mannheims’ “Und wenn ein Lied.” The broadcasting station’s also done internal selections in the past, like in 2009.

Photo credit eurovision.de

Unfortunately, there was a lot more to the story. Not only was the German public upset about their tax dollars going towards an internal selection where they had no say in who would represent their country (sounds like “taxation without representation”); they were also upset about Xavier Naidoo’s political views, as he was accused of racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia: English Wikipedia claims that he “is a 9/11 truther, blames the Rothschild family, and is part of the Reichbürgerbewegung,”, while a song that he released in 2012 could have been interpreted as equating homosexuality with child abuse and satanic rituals. As a result, NDR’s announcement led to a major uproar on Twitter, to the point which his name was trending as a hashtag in Germany, and an online petition was written to get him off the Eurovision stage. 2 days later, NDR withdrew their decision and announced that someone else was going to represent the country.

I wonder what would happen if Marcel Bezençon were still alive to see the contest he created in 1956 after 60 years. Even though the most of the participating countries aren’t at war with each other, the “no politics” rule has been broken countless times with countries raising the middle finger at other countries under smoke machine and glitter rain. With Dana International’s victory in 1998, LGBT+ issues have become the biggest constant political issue in the contest. Sometimes the audience or jury will vote against a country (e.g. Russia) simply because it would make a poor host and damage the contest’s LGBT+ safe space bubble, and not because of the song or performance. Instead they’ll look for the country whose host city will drape itself in rainbows, loosen up marriage license regulations for the month of the contest, and change the traffic signals to images of same-gender couples.

malmoe goes gay

Probably why a lot of fans love going to Sweden for ESC: Because they care about both the songs and the audience members. Screenshot from Eurovision.tv

Vienna’s new traffic signals made for Eurovision. Photo credit: independent.co.uk

Even though it is important to maintain the safe space, it’s gotten to the point that the song and performance aren’t always the top priorities in choosing an entry. Now with all the press’s dirt-digging going around, the delegation has to make sure that the artist will be accepted by the community, that they haven’t said or done anything offensive and not apologized enough, that the audience isn’t going to boo them at every single press event.

They also can’t be offended if the camera’s view is obstructed by multiple rainbow flags

Maybe NDR was trying to make a point to direct the contest back to Marcel Bezençon’s idealized contest. In the end, it doesn’t matter if the countries don’t always get along as long as the song and stage act appeal to the audience. If Russia could get points from including 19 Western European countries in 2015 despite the Russian government’s recent actions, and Armenia could give its political enemy Azerbaijan even one point in 2009, then the politics shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be such a major focus in the contest. If Xavier Naidoo was representing Germany for Eurovision 2016, it would have been a controversial choice, but eventually the focus would be the song and performance. And if I had the chance to vote at Eurovision, I wouldn’t vote for him. It wouldn’t be because of his beliefs and past actions, but because I don’t like his songs.

Junior Eurovision 2015: 5 Word Challenge

Okay, so it’s November. Daylight savings time has ended and now it’s dark outside at 17:00. Someone’s going to have to call Sanna Nielsen to undo my S.A.D. A few acts have been internally selected, some countries have posted their national final schedules, SVT’s announced the hosts for Mello, but there isn’t really anything major happening in the Eurovision world. At least, not for the adults….

In Bulgaria (land of Viktor Krum, epic drummers, and water), it’s a different story. 17 countries with artists between 10 and 15 are competing at the Junior Eurovision on the 21st. You never know, maybe they could end up, like the Tolmachevy Sisters and Nevena Božović, performing on the adult stage in a few years.

Since I’ve been really busy doing nothing (Procrastinators unite tomorrow!) lately, I had to do something quick before the contest starts. So here’s all 17 acts described in 5 words (Challenge stolen from Lady Jenevia, starts at 3:40). Some might accurately describe the song or performance, others not so much…

  1. Serbia: Lena Stamenković- Lenina Pesma (Lena’s Song): Small girl, angsty Balkan drama

  1. Georgia: The Virus- Gabede (Dare): Bzikebi Studios does it again

  1. Slovenia: Lina Kuduzović- Prva Ljubezen (First Love): Kid’s in love with Frozen

  1. Italy: Chiara & Martina Scarpari- Viva (Live): Twins are singing about life (Yep, I didn’t really try here…)

  1. Netherlands: Shalisa- Million Lights: Austria 2015 but with dancers (Let’s hope it’s not as major of a fire hazard as the MakeMakes’ in Vienna)

  1. Australia: Bella Paige- My Girls: We really want to stay

  1. Ireland: Aimee Banks- Réalta na mara: Irish-language operatic ship’s prayer

  1. Russia: Mikhail Smirnov- Mechta (Dream): Three years’ worth of dreamers (No seriously: 2013 they sent the song “Mechtay/Dream on”, 2014 they sent “Dreamer.” And now it’s another dream?)

  1. FYR Macedonia: Ivana & Magdalena- Pletenka (Braid): They wrote their own song

  1. Belarus: Ruslan Aslanov- Volshebstvo (Magic): Magical voices and magical screens

  1. Armenia: Mika- Love: Minecraft hearts and Michael Jackson

  1. Ukraine: Anna Trincher- Pochny z sebe (Start with yourself): Everything’s on stage, no war

  1. Bulgaria: Gabriela & Ivan- Colour of Hope: We’re not sending Krisia again

  1. San Marino: Kamilla Ismailova- Mirror: Russian sings for San Marino (because there aren’t enough artists in San Marino, and we can’t make clones of Valentina, so SMTV can choose anyone they want. And they choose a Russian because she’s been to the country for vacation once?)

  1. Malta: Destiny Chukunyere- Not My Soul: Jam to some Motown funk

  1. Albania: Mishela Rapo- Dambaje: Hello! Addition to dentist’s playlist (a.k.a. I like it, but it’s something my dentist would play to calm people down)

  1. Montenegro: Jana Mirković- Oluja (Storm): I’m dancing on the beach (from her music video)

Now all we have to do is wait for the show to start and leave everything in the hands of televoters and jury…

Safe space for everyone?

RFSL, one of Sweden’s most prominent organizations for LGBT+ rights, is suggesting a “pride park” safe space in Stockholm during Eurovision season. While I’m not opposed to the idea, it could mean worse traffic issues in the city (not that hosting ESC ever meant great traffic conditions anyway). Given all the political issues and locational bias towards participants and fans, I also wouldn’t be surprised if someone (outside of RFSL) put a sign by the park excluding fans from much of Eastern Europe.

We don’t want this happening.

Ever since Dana International’s victory in 1998, the Eurovision Song Contest has been viewed as a haven for the LGBT+ community. It’s as normal to see a rainbow flag in the audience as it is to see other countries’ flags, and Alexander Rybak called the contest the “world’s biggest pride parade.” However, the community isn’t equal in its treatment towards participants in the contest, and the contestants are still judged by the country they represent. For an LGBT+ friendly country, the artist is usually welcomed with open arms, until a tiny incident results in negative press to reject them. For a less LGBT+ friendly country, the artist has to prove themselves to the community, though any incident is simply blamed on the conservative country’s influence.

Prior to winning Melodifestivalen 2015, Måns Zelmerlöw said (while possibly drunk) on a TV show in 2014 that LGBT+ people were “avvikelse” (deviant). Though he apologized multiple times for the incident in Sweden (and most parties accepted the apologies), the incident was dug up by the press again after his victory at Friends once the bookies claimed he would win Eurovision: How could someone singing about childhood bullying and being a hero say that LGBT+ was unnatural? The press claimed that he could be a homophobe based off the one minute of drunken speech on TV and the YouTube commenters immediately followed, claiming that they weren’t going to vote for him anymore. Even while he was in Vienna, the press kept bringing up the incident, ignoring that he had also performed at prides and hosted the 2014 QX Gaygalan. After his victory either based on the song/staging/claiming a week before the contest that he would date a guy if he woke up one day and felt attraction to guys (logic class people: that’s a conditional statement written as “q if given p”), the negative press against him suddenly disappeared outside of a few angry audience members on social media.  Once again, he was viewed as a hero and an ally.

On the other side of the Iron Curtain, the non-LGBT+ press doesn’t really do anything.  During the first season of X-Factor Adria (for those people in ex-Yugo countries), Željko Joksimović made openly transphobic statements at Fifi Janevska, a transgender woman, during her audition (e.g. using the term “trandža/tranny,” questioning why she used female pronouns when she used a male name in audition paperwork, then using plural “you” to refer to her, saying that “there are two of you”). He and the broadcaster Channel Pink later claimed on Twitter that no apology was necessary and that he was entitled to his own opinion. However, this incident was pretty much ignored outside of raging LGBT+ groups within Serbia with only minor coverage from international LGBT+ sites and Eurovision news sites. Despite Željko Joksimović’s participation as an artist/composer/host in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2012 (note: all after 1998), the ESC press did not dig up the incident when he re-appeared in the contest to compose Knez’s entry in 2015. Instead, the press simply noted that the ex-Yugo region was still much more conservative with gender/sexuality minority rights and chose not to bring up the incident. Both acts related to him (Macedonia (FYR) and Montenegro) didn’t have very high chances of winning the contest either anyways.

The X Factor incident isn’t even written on his Wikipedia page, while MZW has a section on his page specifically about the TV show incident.

For Russia, Polina Gagarina was dealing with a double edged sword. Due to the Kremlin passing the law against “LGBT+ propaganda,” and the state-owned Channel 1 internally selecting her to sing another “ironic peace song”, she was booed simply for representing her country, even when she made it clear on social media that she herself didn’t represent the government’s policies and appeared to be an ally. The media might have enjoyed her performance, but after the 3 minutes they returned to side-eying the country’s participant, especially after she took on a lead in the voting: if Russia won the contest, the contest’s reputation of being a safe haven for LGBT+ could be damaged. Even during the performance, members of the audience silently protested by waving rainbow flags, blocking her performance on camera. At the same time, she was criticized in by members of the Russian government, as politicians in Moscow voiced concern about her posted images of her and Conchita Wurst.

If RFSL’s plan for a safe space/pride park does go through with SVT and the city of Stockholm, then the safe space cannot discriminate people for country of origin or their country’s LGBT+ unfriendly policies. Though politics and bookie statistics might mar the contest’s “neutrality,” SVT can at least try to keep most of the issues out of the city during Eurovision Week.

That Sounds Good to Me…

The UK didn’t deserve last place in the final. They should have come in second last in front of Belarus, but Georgia had different plans for the scoreboard. Either way, I didn’t like the song very much. It might have been somewhat catchy, but it was still cheesy enough that my opinion wouldn’t have changed even if I had taken a mouthful of lactase pills before listening. As a result, my sister really loves to annoy me by playing this song. To make things worse, she decided to play it while I was dropping off someone at the uni dorms on freshman move-in day. The police had blocked all the routes planned by the GPS, I had to drive on the highway at night during a thunderstorm, and my sister decided to skip all the good songs and play “That Sounds Good to Me” on repeat. It did not sound good to me.

So what does sound good to me? Since I can’t find my headphones and my family’s not keen on me blasting music in the house, so the next thing around is food: the sound of stir-fry on a super-hot propane stove. It’s impossible to do in the kitchen without the smoke detector going off, so we’re stuck using the propane stove outdoors on non-windy days, sometimes even when it’s raining or below freezing. (And yes, if you fry bacon in the rain, you need someone else to hold an umbrella). It doesn’t really matter what’s in the pan, as long as the pan is hot enough with a good amount of oil. Once the ingredients go into the pan, everything starts to sizzle, crack, and pop, often as if the food’s plotting revenge against getting eaten. Sometimes it’s falling out of the pan because it hasn’t cooked down yet. Sometimes it’s hiding a drop of water ready to burn me. Or sometimes it’s hiding a drop of oil ready to fall into the stove and create a fireball rarely seen outside of the Food Network. But all I can do is keep stirring and listening to sizzle, sizzle, pop, because I know this dish, a mere 3 mm away from the flames, going to taste so much better than safer, lower temperatures indoors. And if the noise is good, the food will be good.  Forget the ketchup (or whatever condiment’s in the kitchen); I’m eating it straight off the plate.

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Yum, food off the stove outside!