Sunday, May 21, 2006

Monsters Inc.

They did it! As BBC put it, "Lordi came. They rocked. They conquered."

The first ever victory for Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest, and it was a sweeeet one. It's so easy to be cynical about the ESC; how the music is so bad, the performances so cheesy, how it repeats itself year after year and is just a waste of time and money. In one word, it's Eurotrash.

What these cynics forget, is that ESC is entertainment and a bit of tongue-in-a-cheek fun. It has immense camp-value for exactly the above-mentioned reason: the songs and performances are cheesy. We like to hear the mock-ABBA -tunes, the johnnylogan-esque power ballads, the freak shows and hare-brained entries from "weird" countries. We like the fact that the show follows a clear formula, and that we can mock the frocks and laugh at the jerky dance moves and banal choruses.

This doesn't mean it's all a joke. No, you have to take it seriously enough, but not be serious about it. It's about entertainment and putting on a show people can enjoy. Lordi did just that. For too long the Finnish ESC-establishment has had a false idea that it's about the tune. But, ESC is not a competition for composers, it's a competition for performers. And the Finnish acts before this year have been bland, boring, and insignificant. Some of them might be good artists, some of the songs have deserved better than the 3 points they got, but now for the first time we sent a full, proper show.

To win the ESC you need to grab the attention of the masses, make yourself known.
Finns are usually not very good at that, but this time the show was so strong that they didn't need to push themselves - the media was after them. Rather than trying to do it with sex, they did it with fire and a hell of a stage show.

Undoubtedly there will be copycats. But as much as people like the repeating formula of ESC, they like uniqueness, and the more outrageous your idea, the more likely it is to work only once.

Just like any entertainment, ESC can be seen as more than it is, a symbol for - well, many things. For example, for the Estonians and the Ukrainians, winning the ESC was about belonging in Europe, being accepted as a nation after decades behind the iron curtain. While that's a bit grand, it seems that the ESC has often been seen as a force that brings Europe together, promoting understanding and plurality. The freaks and weirdos have been knocking on the doors of Europe and the Europe has welcomed them in. Odd countries, strange LBGT-types and Nordic monsters, all in harmony with the pretty boys and girls in white suits and their good old three chords.

(cynical post scriptum: I wonder how valuable the ESC victory will turn out to be for Lordi commercially...)

Edit: The Eurovision website has a nice interview of Mr Lordi that ends in a typical way: a quote from Mr Lordi: "‘Kitos’ means ‘bye-bye’ in Finnish.” ESC replies: "Kitos, Mr. Lordi."


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