Moacir P. de Sá Pereira on March 10th, 2010

Well, the wheels seem to be in motion. The European Broadcast Union, the people behind Eurovision, is “investigating” the lyrical content of Lithuania’s entry to the song contest, InCulto’s “Eastern European Funk,” to see if it’s “political” in nature. Though I’m certain that my 3000-word meandering on the political content of the song over the weekend in no way tipped off the EBU, I’m still sad that they’re going through this bit of kabuki theater.

By Monday, the head of the Lithuanian delegation, Andrius Giržadas, had already responded to letters that complained about the political content by explaining that the response could be generated by the song’s being a deviation from the usual love ballads that make up most Eurovision fare. This is inarguable, and it is also much to InCulto’s (and the Lithuanian televoting population’s) credit to have still had the song reach this level. Giržadas further argues that the lyrics don’t denigrate any specific group and reference historical facts that are commonly discussed in the European Union. Finally, he speculates that the whole thing is little more than a possible prank.

But what the EBU fails to realize is that their own show is a political undertaking–the way the competition is set up reinforces the very economic issues brought up by InCulto’s song, as the “Big Four” (Germany, UK, France, and Spain) have bought their way straight into the finals each year, avoiding the shame of having to pass the hat for televotes twice in one week. ((PIGSy Spain is, of course, in this case an outlier, but, as Almodóvar showed in a brilliant parodic TV commercial embedded in ¡Átame!, the Spanish will always find the money for aesthetic pleasure now and put off saving for later.))

Furthermore, the contest relies on the structure of the European nation-state to provide it with competitors. I don’t know what the history is of national minorities having their voices heard at Eurovision, but the deck is, to be polite, stacked heavily against them. It encourages national unity (in the name of a fantasy of European unity) which doesn’t feel political only since it has been so normativized. So trying to decide what, lyrically, counts as “political” is a rather useless exercise.

The letter Giržadas received referred specifically to the lines about having “survived the Reds and two world wars” and about how “we’re” not “equal” despite both being in the “EU.” The first line is ridiculous, referring to a historical fact, and I like the S/M tones it takes on in the song as a whole, as I explained over the weekend. If that line is grounds for disqualification, then Abba should have their award rescinded for “Waterloo.” The second line is also obviously a fact, depending on how one measures equality. If the EBU insists on some kind of fuzzy “we’re all just people, man” sense of equality, then the whole contest is a sham, since some people (French performers, who skip the semis) are clearly more equal than others.

On the other hand, maybe a future Eurovision sung entirely in Vonlenska might not be such a bad idea. Then we get to the politics of music itself, divorced of lyrical content. Oh boy…

[Originally posted, with proper formatting, to Lithchat.]

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