Some time ago -- actually, (gulp!) this was nearly a year ago -- my parents were both highly amused over a New Yorker article on the Eurovision song contest and kept pressing me to read it.
I think my parents simply enjoyed the article as they had not thought about the Eurovision song contest in a long time, and it made them nostalgic about living in Europe/being European. Which is fine. But I simply couldn't stand this particular article, though I didn't take the time to deeply analyze why.
For your reference, most famous product of said contest:
When my parents asked what I found so objectionable about the article, all I could articulate was that I found it too condescending. It's all very well to write about something you affectionately find tacky or awful, but there's a fine line being light-heartedly snarky and simply being a patronizing ass.
Recently, a few things have brought the Eurovision song contest to my attention again, and I decided to write a blog about these new perspectives. But in order to do so, I had to go back and read the article online (bless you for your amazing online archives, New Yorker).
Reading the article again, I got so angry that a) my jaw actually popped, due to my unconscious clenching of it; b) at one point, I grabbed two chunks of my hair and pulled, causing myself physical pain. This article actually made me try to pull my hair out.
Anyway, here it is. It was so anger-making that it derailed my entire post, which was simply going to be a few links to different perspectives on the Eurovision contest. Instead, the other articles and links and perspective will be incorporated within this rant. You've been warned: it's a rant. I'm about to get all polemical up in here.
Let's begin at the beginning, shall we? Lane begins with that old trope of comic writing: the humorous contrast (note: the article was published about a year ago):
By any measure, Thursday, May 27th, was an important day for the stability of Europe. Two decisions, at different ends of the continent, did much to calm the nerves of anyone perturbed by its recent crisis of confidence. In Madrid, the Spanish parliament voted to approve an austerity package, proposed by the ruling Socialist Party, which is designed to cut the country’s budget deficit by fifteen billion euros ($18.4 billion). In Oslo, meanwhile, an eighteen-year-old girl named Sieneke, from the Netherlands, singing “Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-la-lie),” was voted out at the semifinal stage of the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest. Reaction to both events was swift. The euro rose 1.6 per cent against the dollar...No less dramatically, those of us who cling to Europe as the cradle of the Enlightenment, and who therefore applaud each triumph for probity and justice, went to bed with lighter hearts, knowing that never again, in public, would we have to listen to this:Translated into what one hesitates to call English, this means:
Shalalie shalala ’t gaat niet uit m’n kop
Shalalie shalala ik sta d’r ’s morgens mee op.
Shalalie shalala, I can’t get it out of my head
Shalalie shalala, it’s there when I get up in the morning.
Get it? Get it?
There's IMPORTANT stuff and then there's this contest, which silly people care about AS IF IT WERE IMPORTANT.
....IT'S TOTES NOT THOUGH!
Okay, fair enough, Anthony Lane. Sure, a kitschy songwriting contest is not as important as the economic crisis. Point taken. You didn't have to condescend so strenuously that I feared you would pull something...but okay.
Also, he points out, we think of Europe as cultivated and cultured, but this contest is not. Europe is the "cradle of the Enlightenment" and somehow people doing this stuff debases that cultural legacy. Just as the lyrics debase the English language ("what one hesitates to call 'English' ").
For those of you following at home:
European intellectual culture of the seventeenth and eighteenth century = GOOD
Political policy = WORTHY OF ATTENTION
English spoken by native speakers = GOOD
Current European popular culture = BAD
Eurovision song contest = SILLY TO CARE ABOUT (GUILTY, SHAMEFUL PLEASURE)
English spoken by/interpreted by non-native speakers = FUCKING HILARIOUS
[This is all very subtle in the article itself, so I thought I'd break it down for you.]
Anyway, he goes to explain what the contest is and give some background. Fine. He even has some legitimately funny lines!
Think of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, add a blast of dry ice, and you get the idea.
I'm not made of STONE, y'all. He can be funny.
Then he starts getting into the Grand Theme of the Article, which is: European Countries Should be Ashamed of the Song Contest and It Is Baffling That They Are Not. He beings to sketch various examples -- laying the groundwork for further themes (Things That Are Shameful) that will be developed later:
Singers and groups don’t win the Eurovision Song Contest. Countries do. You are entered by your proud nation, just as a swimmer or a relay squad is entered for the Olympic Games. That said, swimmers tend to be chosen for their stamina and fitness, and relay runners for the dexterity of their handoffs, whereas the criteria that govern the selection of Eurovision contestants seem altogether less exact...
To gaze upon this year’s Bulgarian contender, for instance, was to learn what would have happened to Tintin if he had decided to retrain, in bleached middle age, as an Elvis impersonator*. And which choreographer, back in Sofia, had ordained that the presence of two male dancers, writhing around the singer with oiled torsos and what appeared to be shimmering incontinence pants*, would truly be in the national interest? More startling yet was a woman named Hera Björk, bellowing for Iceland, who looked like Meat Loaf with a henna rinse. Once she opened her mouth, at the start of “Je Ne Sais Quoi,” what emerged made Meat Loaf sound like Judy Holliday. Afterward, backstage, as if to lend concrete form to the thought that was hovering in all our minds, she held up a model volcano.
*These are legit funny lines. Again, not made of stone.
But, what's shameful about these country's offerings? 1) Bleached middle age. 2) Oiled male torsos. 3) A woman who looks like a man.
Let's break it down:
Middle age = BAD.
Oiled male torsos = Very gay. BAD.
Woman who looks like a man = Possibly gay? Also, she's not young or attractive, so: BAD.
How could anyone think people like this could represent their country? Why aren't they ashamed??
And for those of you at home who are doing the "you are over-reacting" dance, all of this becomes very explicit later in the article. So: I stick my tongue out at you.
Lane goes on to explain that the country who wins the contest hosts the next year's awards. This has the potential to be hilarious, according to Anthony Lane, because can you imagine if some little, funny-sounding country won?
There was much talk, as Saturday’s final approached, of Azerbaijan coming out on top: not just because its entry, “Drip Drop,” delivered by the energetic Safura, sported the most mystifying line, in English, of the whole competition (“You smell like lipstick”) but because of what victory would mean. Imagine the valedictory shout: Roll on, 2011! See you in Baku!
Wow, that would be funny/weird, wouldn't it, Anthony Lane? And LOL the bad English in the song!
And here we take a time out and point out the articles that led to this post in the first point. My friend Dan writes here in The Harvard Crimson about his Harvard Kennedy School classmate, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who is currently jailed in Azerbaijan, ostensibly for dodging military service:
Hundreds of Azerbaijani dissidents, even simple protesters, have been arrested since Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” first placed Islamic autocrats on guard. The charges used to hold them have ranged from the vague (“sedition,” “behaving dishonorably”) to the outright absurd (“using of abusive words”). Yet with Bakhtiyar the Aliyev Government has cultivated an illusion of legitimacy by focusing on his status as a conscientious objector, which is treated as a criminal offense in Azerbaijan.
And here, Dan writes about -- guess what? -- the Eurovision song contest (here it is in Azerbaijani). The contest is going to Baku this year (such a funny name, eh, Lane?). And will thus draw intense media attention to Azerbaijan, funny name and all:
The thousands of international reporters who will descend on Baku for 2012’s Eurovision Song Contest should be aware of the irony that the host government routinely imprisons journalists. The media outlets that will be transmitting the show to nearly 50 countries should remember that they are broadcasting from a country that rigidly restricts and controls its own people’s access to media.
So this event is actually a unique opportunity for Azerbaijan; the incredible popularity of the Eurovision song contest actually indicates the shifting nature of what is "Europe":
For more than 50 years, Eurovision -- in all its kitschy splendor -- has pitted Europe’s best pop acts against one another for the cause of national glory. And while easily sloughed off as an exercise in the lowest of popular culture, the success of Eurovision has mirrored the evolution of Europe itself. Just as the geographic conception of the continent has changed, and its population diversified, so too has the pool of Eurovision winners, expanded to include representatives from the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, and even Turkey (in 2004).
Lane's reaction throughout his article seems to be "LOL so many of these countries are NOT EVEN EUROPE WAT?" ("Ha ha, the contest could be even be in Azerbaijan! Can you imagine? Was Azerbaijan the cradle of the Enlightenment? I think not! I mean, I don't know anything about Azerbaijan, but it sounds funny, no?").
Dan points out the Azerbaijan (like many countries in that geographical area currently), finds itself at a crossroads; the Eurovision Song Contest might be a way not only to draw attention to the particular abuses of this particular regime, but also maybe to nudge the hearts of a country away from autocracy:
The Eurovision spectacle has at last gives Baku a chance to prove its “European-ness” in the eyes of the world. The international community should make clear that attaining this seal of approval is not merely a matter of building a flashy stadium or putting on an impressive light show. To earn its place in Europe, Azerbaijan should show that the country that once staked a claim as the world’s first Muslim democracy can stay true to the core values that modern Europe represents: democracy, the freedom of expression and, above all, the sanctity of human rights.
Dan, you're confusing me. Why you implying that there might be more going on than a LOL-worthy pop show? Why are you being thoughtful and putting this in a greater context?
My brain hurts! Didn't you see the dichotomy I outlined above? POLITICAL POLICY is worthy of attention and EUROVISION SONG CONTEST is not (except to LOL!). Why are you implying that the two things could be possibly be connected? That one could reflect the other in an interesting way? It's not that complicated, Dan. Read this Anthony Lane article. The song contest is dumb. And bad. And dumb, bad, gay, ugly people from funny-sounding countries like it and perform in it! Dan, the songs are bad! And the silly, gay, ugly (and not even European!) people can't tell that they are bad and baffling unashamed of being silly, ugly, gay, and not-really-European!
Okay, Laura. Breathe. Breathe.
This was the point at which I stopped reading the Lane article the first time (the "next year in Baku!" line -- and I didn't even know shit about Azerbaijan at the time; I was still annoyed on their behalf). But FOR YOU GUYS, I kept reading this time.
Lane outlines some of the allegiances/policies behind the show and starts to break down the "To sing in English or not?" question. Okay. I'm listening. He's still condescending like whoa and annoyingly gleeful about "Eurovision English" but this stuff is not does not make me start to nostril-breathe.
Then comes this (when discussing songs in English written/performed by non-English speakers and how "delightfully absurd" they are):
By and large, philologists date the golden age of gibberish from the collapse of the Communist bloc. This brought a surge of fresh, unjaded contestants into the fray, hitherto unexposed to the watching world and avid to make their mark. (Of the thirty-nine contenders this year, eighteen did not exist as independent entities when the contest was first held.) I tried to interview Alyosha, who was in Oslo to sing “Sweet People,” for Ukraine, and hit a wall. She could learn English phonetically, and howl it convincingly into a wind machine, but speaking it one-on-one was another matter. Run your eye down the first semifinal of 2008, and you find what Donald Rumsfeld used to call Old Europe being gate-crashed, in style, by Ukraine (“Shady Lady”), Latvia (“Wolves of the Sea”), Lithuania (“Nomads in the Night”), Bulgaria (“DJ, Take Me Away”), and Belarus (the ambitious “Hasta La Vista”). How could veterans like Turkey (“Deli”) or Switzerland (“Era Stupendo”) compare with that? My overriding concern, of course, was that 2010 would mark a hiatus of calm and common sense in this ritual massacre of the English language. I needn’t have worried.
Hey guys? Did you know that some people can't even speak English, even if they can "howl it convincingly" in a song? What a world, eh?
And I know that when I'm looking for a funny bon mot, I always go straight for ol' Donald Rumsfeld! Oh, that Rummy.
Don't you guys agree that it is so fucking hilarious that all these "unjaded" (?) countries are like "trying to be European"? LOL THEY ARE GATE CRASHERS TO OUR FANCY PARTY. WE ARE OLDER AND WISER (AND MORE "JADED") AND THEY ARE INNOCENT AND STUPID AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN, PATERNALISTIC? WHAT DOES THAT WORD MEAN?
Lane gives us more of the HILARITY of these other countries that, like, think they are real countries:
...As the Telenor Arena filled up, screens above our heads flashed greetings in a Pentecostal rush of different tongues: Pac Fat! Edu! Xewqat sbieh! (The latter is how you say “Good luck” in Malta, and, for all I know, in Middle-earth.) To the inexpressible joy of the audience, a tribute band—not in the first flush of youth, and schooled, one suspects, in the rigorous schedules of the cruise liner—warmed us up with a medley of old Eurovision winners.
I do quite agree! Other languages are like fantasy languages! Totally. If you don't know it, it as well be from a fantasy book! Way to get another sly dig at the old and the gay, too! I see what you did there.
On page four, he finally stops giggling behind his palm about the gay issue and makes it explicit. He spends a while snarking on the frequent nudity in the performances, and then goes into for the Gay Kill:
That, at any rate, remained the most thoughtful act of disrobing until the start of the second semifinal this year, in which five Lithuanian lads, known collectively as InCulto, began a song in plaid trousers and ended it in jewel-encrusted micro-shorts. Not content with going from Lee Trevino to Liberace inside three minutes (the strict time limit for all Eurovision songs), they also instructed us to “Get up and dance to our Eastern European kinda funk!” How sad that “kinda” sounds to wiser ears. Lithuania, like Greece (another semi-naked, all-male affair), was an important player this year, because, along with a couple of brazen divas from Ireland and Iceland, it will have secured the loyalty of the gay vote. Without Eurovision’s gay following, the contest—with its reliable deployment of camp, whether sly or unwitting—would be nothing. I spent the final in the company of four gay Frenchmen, one of whom wore jeans, a pressed white shirt, and a fake multicolored mohawk solemnly clamped to his scalp. They cheered patriotically for Jessy Matador, needless to say, but the highlight, as one of them confessed to me afterward, had been the arrival, in the arena, of a real princess—Märtha Louise, the daughter of King Harald of Norway—to wild applause. She was all in pink. “It is Barbie!” my French neighbor said.
Like those silly ex-Communists, the gays are portrayed as touchingly sweet, childish, and crass in their enthusiasms.
Now, camp/kitsch is a big part of gay culture, pretty much everywhere (I'm not some sort of sociological/history of gender and sexuality expert, but I think that's pretty safe to say). And I don't think there's anything inherently wrong or homophobic in pointing out the massive gay following of Eurovision Song Contest. That's fine. It's not thoughtfully expressed here, but it's fine.
But the equation Lane sets up here is:
Eurovision Song Contest = tacky, dumb, infantile, terrible, unworthy of Old European culture (degenerative), baffling, embarrassing, something to be "ashamed" of (this word comes up several times).
Gays = Hardest core Eurovision song contest devotees!
Apply the transitive principle here, and it's uncomfortably hard to avoid the implications.
And, like I said, Lane portrays all the fans as being incredibly earnest, naive, and "child-like"; there's no sense at all that Ze Gays or Ze Europeans or Ze Gay Europeans could be aware of the campy nature of the song contest and like it for that reason. He acts like no one has ever pointed out to the gay community that the Eurovision song contest is tacky and campy. I think the gay community gets it. (The author here is also pretty dismissive of Eurovision, but he manages to be more funny, personal, and nuanced than Lane in 1/8 of the space. His Lady Gaga/Eurovision Song Contest point is well-observed, too, though I Have Thoughts There.)
Okay, moving on from that for a second. Lane continues to underscore his Paternalistic Why These Gays and Foreigners Be So Dumb? theme when he actually asks why there is no "serious" music in Europe.
In Lane's schema, all good music originated in American and England; some of managed to "get to" Europe, and some of it didn't.
Why did pop music never get as far as Europe? Where did it stop? Jazz reached Paris between the world wars and found a home there, so the French had no excuse for not realizing that serious music could draw a crowd and still break ground. A brief trawl, however, through “The Eurovision Song Contest: The Official History,” a meticulous survey by John Kennedy O’Connor, suggests a willful infantilism in the French-speaking nations during the early years...
I can feel the hair pulling coming back! It's coming back! Nostril breathing! Nostril breathing!
I don't even know where to start. The "serious music"? The "willful infantilism"? Again and again, this is what happens:
America and England = serious = grown-up = GOOD
Europe = kitschy = childish = gay = BAD
In fact, not only is Eurovision music bad, all European music is bad:
You could say that these nightmares belong to the past, but what is most frightening about Eurovision is its reluctance, even now, to wake up....
The stuff you hear in the back of Belgian taxis, on German radio, in Sicilian bars, and in the lobbies of Danish hotels: it was all created by the great god of dreck, and Eurovision is his temple. P. J. O’Rourke, surveying the dancing at a club in Warsaw in 1986, deplored what he called “the tragic lack of black people behind the Iron Curtain,” and there is no doubt that, had Motown opened up a branch in, say, Bratislava, Europe would have been a happier landmass. But the want of taste runs deeper than that—deeper, even, than the puzzling way in which pop loses every trace of kick and soul when sung in anything but English.
You guys, I can't. I can't even. I can't even deconstruct this for you. I can only bold it. At least P.J. O'Rourke is...a step up from Donald Rumsfeld? There's got to be a joke in there somewhere, right?
England, Lane takes pains to point out, is exempt from this childishness of Europe because "pop happened there." So English people laugh at the others, but it's not because they're xenophobic! It's because the foreigners are just so ridiculous!
At this point, a friend who knows his music texted me from London: “Brilliant. It’s like pop never happened.”....
London, of course, was the one place in Europe where pop did happen. And the United Kingdom is the one place that, although it dutifully dishes up dreck of its own when Eurovision comes around, realizes that there are greater gods to serve. Other countries despise the U.K. for this heresy, and believe that it is yet another instance of British xenophobia at its most insolent and thuggish, but what arouses British mirth is not funny foreigners but funny foreign songs, as well as the grave respect in which they are held by the foreigners, who become funny as a result.
Ooooooooooh, thank you for clarifying that, Anthony Lane! I was getting worried for a second. It's not snobbery or xenophobia when the foreigner sings funny! I get it now.
This is what Lane seems to find, ultimately, so "childish" and sweetly stupid/mildly offensive about the Eurovision song contest: It's a place where different nations in Europe come together and are happy, despite bad things going on in the world. Differences are put aside. People at the contest, for instance, didn't shun Greece's contestants because of Greece's financial collapse (Lane derides this earlier in the article). Lane interprets this, of course, as stupidity or "willful infantilism":
I asked a man named Seppo, from the seven-hundred-strong Eurovision Fan Club of Norway, what he loved about Eurovision. “Brotherhood of man,” he said—a slightly ambiguous answer, because that was the name of a British group that entered, and won, the contest in 1976. I tried again. “What does it symbolize?” He thought for a moment. “It goes with my political beliefs. Everybody comes here to be happy.” I mentioned the problems besetting Europe, from the financial slump to fractious border disputes, and he immediately swiped the flat of his hand, fast, up across his brow and into the air. “You mean it all goes over your head?” “Yes.” “Because of Eurovision?” “Yes.”
Heaven fucking forfend that there would be a place people came together and felt happy despite all the terrible problems in the world. That vision of a peaceful, united Europe? How incredibly fucking childish.
[I also can't possibly imagine what appeal a glittery world where everyone was treated equally and played around with gender roles would have for the gay community. Nope, nope, nope. It must be because the gays dress funny and like Barbies.]
Oh, silly, silly, silly childish gay Europeans! Don't they know that there is good music out there? I mean, the English made all this good music! DIDN'T YOU KNOW?
In truth, they [The English] have not been capable of taking Eurovision seriously since October 5, 1962, when the Beatles released “Love Me Do.”
....Brotherhood of Man carried off the prize in 1976 with “Save Your Kisses for Me,” on the same day that the Sex Pistols played at a London pub, supported by a band called the 101ers, whose lead singer, Joe Strummer, was so inspired by what he saw and felt that night that he became a founding member of the Clash. In 1981, as half of Bucks Fizz was naughtily ripping the skirts off the other half, you could hear Paul Weller, of the Jam, singing about “A smash of glass and a rumble of boots / An electric train and a ripped-up phone booth.”
Oh, yeah, THE BEATLES. Too bad they never made in in Europe. Quite the local act, those guys. And I've got love for The Sex Pistols, but are you really arguing that there's superior artistry going on with them? I mean, if anyone was performance art with ridiculous lyrics, it was them. It just wasn't glittery and gay, that's all.
I am grateful, however, to Anthony Lane for clarifying what "serious art" is: it's loud and male and depressing, I guess. And lyrics about smashing glass and phone booths are Really Deep, I guess. The smell of lipstick? Now, that's fucking ridiculous.
There's more, you guys. He again complains that the contest is Too Cheerful and heralds as a hero a British commentator who dared to get snarky:
Last year, he passed the Eurovision baton to his countryman Graham Norton, whose note of skepticism is, if anything, brassier still. He was buttonholed by one of the Norwegian presenters as he sat in his broadcasting box at the Telenor Arena. She graciously asked him how he was doing, and he explained that, thanks to nerves, he hadn’t eaten or drunk all day: “Like an Icelandic wallet, I’m empty.” Immediately, all around, there were boos and hisses—the only ones of the entire Eurovision week. This awful person had referred to something that was not happy! And it was in Europe! Kill the beast! At the end of the evening, the United Kingdom came last.
Um, maybe it wasn't that he was being negative, but just that he was being an unfunny asshole? Just a thought. You know, something to ponder.
Towards the end of the article, Lane manages to let The Point Train whistle by him quite hilariously. He quotes a scholarly article that makes the case that the Eurovision song contest is not actually about the quality of song -- it's instead a complex nexus of meaning, having a lot to do with the alliances of the different neighboring countries. And so to look at the songs and snerk that they're bad pop songs is missing the point, because that's not really what the whole thing is about.
Lane is like "LOL, but the song are so bad," and moves along. He then crudely hatchets through the question of Israel being in the contest and Israel's famous transsexual contestant.
And here is where I really, really, really have to summon my inner Sam Winchester and not stab the demon who killed my girlfriend in the face with my magical demon-killing knife.
It's this paragraph:
This year’s winner of the Eurovision Song Contest was, in her own way, the most perplexing of all. Her name was Lena, she was nineteen, and she came from Germany. She was not a transsexual. She was dressed neither as a clown nor as a gladiator. No musclemen capered in her wake. Not a ghost of dry ice steamed around her feet. She wore a little black dress, black tights, and heels. She sang a friendly, hook-heavy number called “Satellite,” swaying along as you do in your own kitchen when something catchy comes on the radio. The lyrics were in English, but they were written by John Gordon, who is Danish, and Julie Frost, who is American, so, apart from a line about blue underwear, there was alarmingly little to be ashamed of. In short, this was the first time in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest that any song has reached out and planted so much as a toe in the country known as cool.
I'm just gonna repeat the line that gets me, just for funsies:
...there was alarmingly little to be ashamed of.
What was so great and non-shame-worthy about this contestant? Well, she was young, she was a conventionally pretty girl, there was no tint of gay or gender-confusion (she wore AN APPROPRIATE OUTFIT, you guys! A dress and high-heels! No mannish ugos here!), the lyrics were in English and written by folks who know English! THERE WAS NO DANCING!
And what did he list as things to be ashamed of? Being transsexual. Being dressed "weird." By implication, being old. Being sexually explicit. Being over the top or too cheerful or too demonstrative. Speaking English "wrong" or not being recognizably English or American-looking/sounding.
You know, all the things that people love about Eurovision maybe precisely because The Powers That Be are fucking terrible to you if you are any of those things? Is Lane seriously applauding the fact that the song contest might be embracing the same cookie-cutter mold of "cool" that we already see everywhere in England and America? He seriously thinks that reason the fans love what they do is that they just don't get what is inherently superior about the Anglo/American notion of "cool". There are not enough ITALICS OR CAPSLOCK IN THE WORLD.
At the end of article, Lane looks up, sees The Point Train disappearing ahead of him, and makes a small concession:
But if we must gaze, aghast, upon such antics—if Eurovision has given us fifty-five years of solid kitsch—then that, surely, is a small price to pay for the immeasurable privilege of seeing the peoples of Europe emerge from their long history of antipathy and aggression. The Thirty Years War, starting in 1618, involved combatants such as Sweden, France, Denmark, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, England, Brandenburg-Prussia, and the Ottoman Empire; populations in some central states were almost halved by cruelty, famine, and disease. The Eurovision Song Contest has endured almost twice as long, and no one should pretend that, during its reign, there have not been portions of the Continent mired in conflict; yet even they tend to be ushered back, all sins forgiven, into the bosom of the Eurovision family. Serbia and Montenegro, for instance, entering jointly for the first time, in 2004, came second in the final. They themselves, as you would expect, gave twelve points to Macedonia, but, voting habits aside, the contest goes to ludicrous lengths to protect itself from any storms that rage in the greater world beyond. Inside the bunker, what’s the worst that can happen? Probably the Estonian girl band that performed “Cool Vibes” for Switzerland under the name Vanilla Ninja, in 2005. Three minutes of misery, yes, but nobody died.
He then goes back to snarking (HA HA CELENE DION LOL).
The thing, Anthony Lane, you can have a sense of humor about things and not have to look "aghast." You can laugh and still try to be nuanced and complex in the way you view pop culture. You can try to be maybe a little self-aware about why it is that you view certain things as "good" and certain things as "bad"? You're a smart guy.
People are not "childish" or "infantile" because they like oiled-up muscle men instead of skinny blonde girls or because they live in Azerbaijan and not England and dare--despite this--to take themselves seriously and consider themselves "European."
Something can be silly and kitschy and still important. Gay men might know that something is campy and like it anyway -- not because they have terrible taste, but because it provides a space to express something subversive and fun about gender (also, someone can actually be gender-ambiguous and still attractive, too!) A country can be geographically closer to Afghanistan than France and still consider itself culturally European. I know that might seem like it's exploding all those neat dichotomies you have all lined up to snark about with P.J. O'Rourke, but I promise you that it's true.
There is, in short, nothing to ashamed of. Nothing to be ashamed of in liking a pop song of whatever quality, nothing to be ashamed of about wanting to have fun, nothing to be ashamed of about being gay, or being a mannish-looking lady, or being transsexual, or coming from an ex-Communist-bloc country, or not properly appreciating "serious music," or dreaming of a peaceful, unified Europe, or even enjoying nudity or saucy lyrics.
So if you love the Eurovision Song Contest -- which it is clear that you do -- you don't have to furiously overcompensate.
I leave you with Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," which is delicious fun. It is PINK, full of OILED-UP MEN, CROSS-DRESSERS, and REFERENCES TO BARBIE. It is gay, brightly colored, feminine, cheesy, and sex-positive. It is ashamed of none of these things. It makes me very happy. And yes, many things in the world aren't this simplistically happy, which I am aware of because liking things like this does not make me childish. There are places in the world where people are jailed, tortured, or killed for expressing themselves politically or sexually. I know this. Which is why it is important, sometimes, to turn up the music and say Yes, I did: