x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Battle for Eurovision title is better than a quarrel

It's not easy to imagine any other European league table, from GDP to murder rate, that would put Denmark, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Norway, Russia, and Greece in the top six spots, as happened on Saturday at the Grand Final in Sweden.

Europeans, so divided on subjects ranging from national debts to football, joined together on Saturday for their great annual unifying ritual: scoffing at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Jollity and derision seem to mingle in almost equal amounts in the European attitude towards this multi-national extravaganza of mostly-trite three-minute pop tunes.

It's not easy to imagine any other European league table, from GDP to murder rate, that would put Denmark, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Norway, Russia, and Greece in the top six spots, as happened on Saturday at the Grand Final in Sweden, with 130 million people watching.

Of the six, the Greeks best exemplified the tongue-in-cheek, self-referential, quasi-political spirit that has become the hallmark of the contest: hairy men in kilts, singing a rowdy party anthem. Denmark's Emmelie de Forest won with an ordinary techno-pop tune, but other entries were quirkier. A Lithuanian sang something about his shoes.

Started in the 1950s as a way to bolster European unity, the contest has in a sense accomplished that. Some countries take the whole business more seriously than others, but a surprising number seem to enjoy the whole affair. That's a better result than most European meetings have.