The Eurovision Song Contest comes around very quickly… This year’s contest is this weekend, in Dusseldorf.
If you’re interested in an academic take on the competition, the book A Song for Europe is a good starting point!
In the book, an international group of scholars from a variety of disciplines, including musicology, communications, history, sociology, English and German studies, explore how the contest sheds light on issues of European politics, national and European identity, race, gender and sexuality, and the aesthetics of camp.
For some countries, participation in Eurovision has been simultaneously an assertion of modernity and a claim to membership in Europe and the West. Eurovision is sometimes regarded as a low-brow camp spectacle of little aesthetic or intellectual value.
The essays in this collection often contradict this assumption, demonstrating that the contest has actually been a significant force and forecaster for social, cultural and political transformations in postwar Europe.
‘This carefully ordered, interdisciplinary series of essays on the Eurovision Song Contest yields some strong, perhaps counter-intuitive arguments. Ethnicity, of course, in its many manifestations, proves a key issue, but so do relationships between centre and periphery, here frequently characterised in terms of campness – an indication that the entire collection is theoretically rich. The essays, whether detailed studies of individual songs, of the changing strategies of individual countries, or of the larger context, explore how Eurovision is so much more than just a song contest – it is a stage on which various political games are played out and, contrary to the way the show is packaged ‘on the night’, observing the strategies pursued by some countries over the years really does raise questions about whether Eurovision is about winning. This is a refreshing collection, another valuable demonstration of the deep cultural understanding available through consideration of the supposedly banal, which is one reason why so many of us became academically interested in pop music in the first place.’ Allan Moore, University of Surrey, UK