I admit it; I had not been looking forward to the annual spectacle/train wreck that is the Eurovision Song Contest. Last year’s win by Azerbaijan depressed me, and all the 2012 entries that I saw either bored me to tears or caused me to shake my fist in rage. We get it, Ireland; you don’t want to win. Please don’t send Jedward anymore. You know something is wrong when you start thinking Englebert Humperdinck is the best entry.
But then I saw this:
This is Russia’s 2012 entry, a group called Buranovskiye Babushki, and yes, they are old women (the name means Buranova Grannies according to Wikipedia). The song, if we are kind enough to think of it as a song, is called “Party for Everybody” and it is sung not in Russian as one might expect, but in English (gasp!) and Udmurt, the Uralic language of the Russian republic from where the Grannies originate. Whatever money the Grannies win will go toward building a church for their town. And most likely we will never hear of them again.
Like the great “Wild Dances,” Ruslana’s winning entry from 2004, “Party for Everybody” has to be seen to be believed. There’s something so unbelievably odd and endearing about it. Don’t get me wrong; it’s all gimmick. The Grannies stand in front of a smaller version of a traditional Russian oven (which I believe is called a pech) and bake muffins for the duration of their song. The Grannies themselves are like the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir (better known as Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares) except that the Bulgarians are actually talented and sing beautifully weird and complex songs while the Grannies poorly sing a barely disguised Eurodance number with hints of the music from Tetris. I don’t think the Grannies are worried about breaking into the American market. And I am certain that the American market will not get Granny-fever.
And yet there is something so absolutely endearing about the Grannies. First of all that they are old village women singing in the world’s biggest, showiest, tackiest song contest. The disconnect is too marvelous. Second that they are just so darn adorable. How can you not root for old ladies in peasant garb? And third and most important, at least for me, to get to Eurovision they beat a duet between Dima Bilan and a former member of t.a.T.u. (I cannot say enough how much I dislike Dima and his horrible, wretched, ear-offending, winning song.)
In a year with a good (or at least better) song selection, I may not have had this much affection for a gimmick act that is stubbornly non-musical. Nevertheless, we are stuck with what each country enters. As of right now the Grannies are my favorite. Having said that, I reserve the right to change my mind. Not that it matters; living in the US, I cannot vote.
And now for my shameless plug. Any Americans who are thinking of watching Eurovision for the first time but have no idea what is going on, here is my guide:
And my thoughts from last year’s contest.
Eurovision is the opposite side of the coin of European football. Whereas the latter tears people apart and promotes tribalism (despite what Sepp Blatter wants us to believe), Eurovision is the real way of bringing everyone together for a night of good cheer and harmony. At least until Greece and Cyprus give each other 12 points. Again.