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.

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Someone give them a microphone…

I can get how Azerbaijan placed 5th in 2010. ITV invested a lot into Safura’s performance and promotion, the country’s best friend Turkey was there to vote, and overall the act had a decent song and singer. (Also this was only the first year of collaborating with Swedish composers, so no one was complaining about that yet).

Though it was the highest placing ballad of the year, I still think there was something missing from the song, or at least the story the song portrays. Safura’s character accuses her SO for leaving for 3 weeks, zero communication, and possibly having an affair (or at least that’s what we’re supposed to assume). But for the entire act, it’s 3 minutes of one-sided angry rant, and the only person who could respond (the dancer) doesn’t have a voice.

After a few listens wondering if there was a version involving the second character to speak, the answer came up 3 time zones away in Serbia: Željko Joksimović’s promotion/Balkan ballad remix. The SO finally had a voice (despite just going uhhhhhh the entire time they were given the chance to speak)

Unfortunately it took the couple 5 years to actually decide to work things out, after they found out that living in uncertainty forever wasn’t a good idea. But thanks to Czech Republic, I think it’s likely to be a happy ending.

30 Days of Eurovision Challenge: Day 19

Prompt: A song that gives you chills

I’m tempted to just write EVERY BALKAN BALLAD AROUND, but that’s not going to work. So I’m just going to mention how much I loved the Montenegrin entry this year.

Hi everyone! We have life outside the magical world too!

 

Prior to the performance I was worried that the song wasn’t going to qualify because of the bookies’ bet values and how Knez’s performance in Amsterdam and London looked kind of empty. The voice was there, the spirit of the song was there, but something seemed missing, as if a Željko Joksimović composition not performed by the composer himself was going to tear the performance down a notch.

And then then came his performance at Eurovision. Before the performance started I was wondering whether to take a bathroom break, and the answer was no. As the song described a person not wanting to give up memories of their loved one, I loved how the screen started out like a dark version of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 2006 performance of “Lejla”, and how backing singers were all standing in the water like ghosts, gradually gaining strength to dance and showing how the memory was still there and solid. I just sat there frozen, wondering what else Knez and Co. had to magnify the feeling. And both the memory of the lost loved one and the feeling of the song turned out as solid and strong as a corporeal Patronus.

Though what would the Patronus look like?

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2015 Review: Serbia

When RTS announced that Serbia was withdrawing from the 2014 contest, I felt extremely disappointed. This was the country that had not yet sent a song that I didn’t like, whether the song was turbo-folk, Scandi-pop, or a Balkan ballad. All that really mattered was that the song was good and that the lyrics were written in Serbian (and maybe Željko Joksimović would hopefully be involved in the contest in some way, shape, or form). In this case, it’s a Crisalide-esque song that changes from one song to another.

As a result, when RTS announced that Bojana Stamenov’s national final entry “Ceo Svet je Moj” was going to be performed as “Beauty Never Lies,” I freaked out more than when the EBU announced Australia’s participation. The lyrics aren’t bad, but they turn the song into a cliché pride anthem. It’s kind of hard not to ignore when the refrain goes “Beauty never lies, never hides, never gives a damn. Beauty never lies; no it cries, ‘Here I am!’” I also ended up asking myself, “Is the Charlie Mason who wrote the lyrics to Austria’s winning entry last year the same Charlie Mason who wrote the Serbian entry? Because one seems more thought out than the other.”

“Well I never said you had to like the song…”

 

Even though the song was written by Vladimir Graić (who composed Serbia’s debut/winning entry), I can’t see this song making the top half of the scoreboard. Maybe it will qualify. But either way, I see points going to Macedonia (FYR) and Montenegro from ex-Yugo ties and Mr. ex-Yugo Eurovision.  Now let’s see if they give points back…

“They all know I’m Mr. Ex-Yugo Eurovision. This year I wrote for Montenegro and my X-Factor mentee’s representing Macedonia.”

I wonder if they’ll vote for me….

 

 

2015 Review: Montenegro

The world found out back before Skopje Fest that the artist Knez was representing Montenegro. And then he disappeared from the blogosphere, only to show up a few times to report on a birthday cake to announce that Balkan ballad wizard Željko Joksimović was going to compose his entry. Suddenly he re-appeared to present his entry, “Adio.” And if I hadn’t watched the video, I would have guessed that it was Željko himself instead of Knez.

Given the composer, I don’t think anyone’s surprised that it’s another Balkan ballad. And yes, Knez can sing them. (That’s actually where I first found him: singing “Lejla” on the Serbian version of “Your Face Sounds Familiar.”

 

This entry’s tune sounds a little more upbeat and optimistic, somewhat like last year’s Montenegrin entry. It’s got the same ethnic instruments, but it’s less stringy and has more drums. As a result it reminds me of some of Željko Joksimović’s non-ESC songs: I don’t want to say turbo-folk-y, but more folk-pop-ish than his entries from previous years.

Anyways, congrats to being the only ex-Yugo participant not singing in English. Here’s your cake.

It’s actually his birthday cake that he posted on Twitter… aesj.

30 Days of Eurovision Challenge- Day 3

Prompt: Your favourite 2nd placed entry

I don’t like making decisions, because they tend to take way too long to make. For example, I’ll look at my refrigerator and want to go to the nearby Asian market to buy food. I’ll walk the 1 hour to the market (no one wants to drive me there), spend an hour looking at the junk food. During those 2 hours I debate whether to buy [insert food here] and can’t make up my mind until it’s too late and I have to head back to uni. Suddenly in class I remember that I should have bought the stuff and then that’s the only thing that sticks to my mind. Anyways, I’m torn between three entries: Serbia and Montenegro 2004, Turkey 2010, and Netherlands 2014 since all of them mean something important to me (as in excuses for me to rant about relationship issues with the ex-refrigerator).

I had to choose Lane Moje because I’m a sucker for Balkan ballads, and the way that Željko Joksimović crams too many well-selected syllables into one line really fit the way I felt about my ex-refrigerator (because ex-not-ex sounded really clunky, and the person was cold, so he’s now ex-refrigerator). At the time I still loved him (or at least the perceived version of him) even though he quit talking to me for over a year, and I didn’t know how to tell anyone what was going on. But when I heard the song, it was as if someone placed words in my mouth. I could express my feelings without really knowing what the words meant because the sounds already told the story, I could have a 3 minute zone to have a meltdown, and I could lose control of my emotions for those 3 minutes. (Granted, I had to force myself to listen to the song at first since Balkan ballads are as much an acquired taste as salmiakki, fermented tofu, or coffee is, but then I found out that I liked it more than the winning entry).

Even though I’m only supposed to choose one entry, I’ll cheat a little and throw in the Netherlands 2014 entry because it works literally as the “calm after the storm” (meltdown/years that I felt confused about the above issue). Yes, I still think about him sometimes, but it’s not like back then anymore. The memories are still there, just like the annoying blotch on my foot when I sit on it for too long…

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