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A look at Eurovision contestent Bulgarian Kristian Kostov

At this year's Eurovision Song Contest, Bulgaria will be represented by Kristian Kostov, a 17-year-old best known as a finalist on the first season of The Voice Kids Russia – the country he was born and raised in.
Kristian Kostov from Bulgaria performs the song "Beautiful Mess" during rehearsals for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky)
Kristian Kostov from Bulgaria performs the song "Beautiful Mess" during rehearsals for the Eurovision Song Contest, in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky)

At this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Bulgaria will be represented by Kristian Kostov, a 17-year-old best known as a finalist on the first season of The Voice Kids Russia – the country he was born and raised in.

It is just the latest step in the teen’s canny strategic realignment – last year the songbird switched market allegiances, claiming the title of runner-up in the fourth season of X Factor Bulgaria.

With a Bulgarian father, and a fluency in the language, Moscow-born Kostov might have an ample claim to represent his cultural heritage onstage in Kiev on Saturday (May 13) – but nitpickers might call into question the cultural credibility of many other previous Eurovision representatives.

Thankfully, the world’s population cannot always be easily defined by labels of nationality more appropriate to canned food than human beings. Yet critics have repeatedly questioned the logic of Eurovision’s open-door policy – which places no official restrictions on nationality.

In the past, rules were in place stipulating performers must sing in the country’s native language – but since 1999 even this clause has been lifted, an oddly ambiguous state of affairs which, over the years, has seen dozens of performers singing for the countries they have notably more tenuous national links with than Kostov.

The most famous controversy arguably came at the 2009 contest, which saw Russia field Ukrainian singer Anastasia Prikhodko – singing a partly Ukrainian language song, Mama.

Celebrity starlet Celine Dion famously won the Eurovision for Switzerland in 1988 – despite describing her nationality as French-Canadian.

Caribbean born Dave Benton lived in both in the US and the Netherlands, yet in 2001 lifted the Eurovision trophy on behalf Estonia.

Yet the genuine Estonian girl group Vanilla Ninja were turned down bids to represent their homeland twice, so in 2005 defected to Switzerland. Go figure.

The United Kingdom’s last win, in 1997, came courtesy of Katrina and the Waves – a band fronted by American singer Katrina Leskanich, which was drifting into obscurity before they authored winning entrant Love Shine a Light.

A year earlier the UK fielded the nauseating plastic pop of Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit – sung by Australian singer Gina G.

And this is far from a recent trend. Way back in 1968, Norwegian singer Wenche Myhre represented Germany with the pop ditty Ein Hoch der Liebe, while in the same year Czech crooner Karel Gott took to the stage for Austria.

Despite winning the contest in 1973 for Luxembourg, Anne Marie-David switched sides to represent her native France six years later, without the same success.

With a modest population of less than six million, Luxembourg has understandably proved most eager to poach foreign talent – most notably winning the prize twice with two entrant from neighbours France; in 1983 with Corinne Hermès’s Si la Vie est Cadeau, and in 1965 with France Gall’s Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son.

The people of Luxembourg also twice picked Greek starlet Vicky Leandros, competing in both 1967 and 1972. Despite winning the second time around with Apres Toi, she tried unsuccessfully to represent Germany in 2006.

Based on these precedents, there is little ground for calling Kostov’s national credibility into question. And besides, if he doesn’t take home the prize this time, the teen can always throw his hat in the ring for his native Russia next year – or any country, for that matter.

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: May 11, 2017 04:00 AM

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