The Eurovision Song Contest is always one of the craziest events of the year, with weird and wonderful acts turning up from all over Europe year after year to join together and put on a show. But this year Eurovision somehow found a way to top itself. If you had told me in January that a bearded drag act was going to win Eurovision this year, I would have laughed in your face. Nevertheless, many have championed 25 year old Conchita Wurst from Austria as a Jesus-like figure representing all marginalised groups in Europe, which is all well and good, but was she really a worthy winner of Eurovision?
The early favourites to win Eurovision this year were Armenia and Sweden, both classy dub-step influenced ballads. However, after having seen most of the songs performed in the semi-final, two entries surged up the bookie’s lists, Austria and the Netherlands. The two songs couldn’t be more different from each other. Austria’s Conchita Wurst elected for a dramatic, James Bond-esque power ballad drenched in soaring strings, which stretched the singer’s vocal chords to the limit. The Dutch however, opted for the understated Nashville-inspired country ballad “Calm after the Storm”, which was very simply staged using a monochrome motif and featuring just the two singers doing what they do best. Due to the simplicity of the performance, this entry managed to slip under the radar until the very last minute and it wasn’t until we saw it performed that we realised what a lovely, heartfelt song it really was. Conchita’s song, in contrast, was at first overshadowed by her less-than-usual image, which put many people off. However, the epic staging and her powerful vocal performance in the semi-final quelled many haters and established her as the favourite going into Saturday’s final, ultimately proving that Eurovision’s priorities have shifted to focusing more on performance than music in recent years.
Of course, when Conchita was announced as the winner (and by a considerable margin might I add) the victory was pronounced to be in the name of tolerance and acceptance. It was at this point also that it became clear that Conchita’s song, “Rise like a Phoenix”, in actual fact had been ruthlessly manufactured, not to make a political statement, but instead for the sole reason of getting attention and winning the competition. That was when I realised that Europe had essentially voted for Miley Cyrus’ twerking to win Eurovision. Conchita’s beard is no more than a thinly disguised gimmick used in order to scandalise and therefore, grab headlines. Using a gimmick is a common tactic which many public figures, from politicians to Miley Cyrus, employ in order to attract attention to their cause. Does this mean that we should accept it though? Hell No!
The sad truth is that Conchita is extremely vocally talented and I listened to “Rise like a Phoenix” without the visual performance several times before the competition and, while I liked the tune, it definitely didn’t stand out as one of the best. The bookie’s clearly thought the same, initially placing it low in the rankings to win the competition. It was only after she performed it that her stock rose dramatically. Therefore, there is no doubt that the Austrian’s image was the only factor which allowed her to secure her Eurovision victory. It’s a shame that a cheap trick cheated better songs out of getting the attention that they were due. After Conchita’s victory was announced social media was immediately flooded with complaints that she would not have won if she didn’t have a beard. Several people shared a picture of the Little Mermaid with a beard on Twitter and some Russian Eurovision fans even photo-shopped beards onto their own entry, the 17-year old Tolmachevy Sisters, claiming that if they had been sporting bushy beards like Conchita that they would have taken home the Eurovision crown instead. And, to be honest, it’s hard to argue with that logic.
While it is true that “Rise like a Phoenix” is a good song and that Conchita performed it well, the same is also true of X Factor veteran Ruth Lorenzo’s performance for Spain of the epic ballad “Dancing in the Rain” or the Russian Tolmachevy Sisters who sung about sending out a message up above/telling all the world to show some love. I defy anyone to say that Conchita wouldn’t have won if she had sung this song, which actually has an even stronger message of unity than her own. Even the UK’s own entry 27 year old Molly from Leicester, who has just as good as voice as Conchita, made a similar statement with the anthemic tune “Children of the Universe”, but that ended up finishing in 17th place, despite positive predictions. All these songs suffered because they didn’t have a gimmick as strong as a bearded woman. For many years now people have been comparing Eurovision to a circus, but Eurovision was able to withstand these accusations due to the strength of recent winners such as Loreen’s “Euphoria” and Emmelie De Forest’s “Only Teardrops”. But without a respectable winner to back it up this year, Eurovision’s name is being dragged further through the mud.
However, it looks like the real winner of Eurovision 2014 is yet to be decided. The Dutch band The Common Linnets, who placed second on Saturday, are experiencing great success with their song “Calm after the Storm”, which is currently outselling Conchita’s “Phoenix” in almost every market worldwide. “Calm after the Storm” is currently sitting at No.4 on the UK download charts, whilst the two versions of the Conchita’s single occupy the 19 and 25 positions, which would probably place it in the lower regions of the top ten. In fact, this was the case before the competition even began as Conchita’s “Rise like a Phoenix” actually only managed to peak at No.51 in her native Austria before the competition, while the Dutch track peaked at No.1 in the Netherlands. This just goes to prove that the Austrian’s song wasn’t popular at all before the visual performance came into play, whereas the Dutch track was a bonafide hit, which begs the question as to whether Eurovision has its priorities in order. If the Netherlands had won this year, Eurovision would have at least managed to save the little face it had left. Too late now.
Whether you agree or disagree with my opinions I’d love to hear from you. Take a look at the videos of both the Netherlands “Calm after the Storm” and Austria’s “Rise like a Phoenix” and make up your mind. Thanks for reading.