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Eurovision Explained: Love, Love, Peace, Peace

23 October 2020 at 17:00 CEST
Måns and Petra take to the stage in Stockholm Thomas Hanses (EBU)
In this series we explore the Eurovision world by allowing the history of the Competition to explain itself. The first installment of this series was inspired by Stockholm 2016 hosts Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw who managed to largely summarise the entire Contest in one bite-sized interval act. Their memorable performance of "Love, Love, Peace, Peace" anecdotally described what it takes to make a winning song and prompted the question: do songs about love and peace really conquer all at Eurovision?

Admittedly, both of these themes are really common among the competition. In fact, one of the major reasons why the festival was created in 1956 was out of a desire to unite European countries via televised broadcasts following World War II. The first ever song performed was ”De vogels van Holland” (The birds of Holland) with Jetty Paerl. She finished in second place behind Lys Assia who sang about, you guessed it, love (actually, more like love lost) in the Eurovision classic Refrain.

The first winner of the Contest, Lys Assia, secured her win in a dark, formal dress, fitting for the time. EBU

As Eurovision began to develop over the decades, the message of peace and love reoccurred. In 1974, ABBA famously sang about the battle of Waterloo. Not quite a love story, but there was definitely a peaceful ending and a happy one at that for Sweden who went away with their first, and arguably most well-known victory in the history of the competition.

And it is not only just the competitors themselves that get involved. Aside from Måns and Petra in 2016, there have been many other interval acts who sung about love and peace, although with some more heavier, somber tones.

Ruslana's 2017 interval act It's Magical ironically sung "I am the only one without someone" while heavily surrounded by 4 men and several other leather-clad dancers.

Others would say that being completely devastated by love lost isn't any easier either, which Iceland's Yohanna knew all too well back in 2009 with her entry that reminded us that nothing hurts quite like a broken heart.

Or bruises quite like damaged trust as Safura's entry for Azerbaijan in 2010 showed us. As the feelings of betrayal and anguish "drip drop" out of her lyrics, it seems as though nothing quite hurts like disloyalty either.

Or stings quite so sharply as unrequited love, which was so eloquently portrayed by the Eurovision classic What's Another Year by Johnny Logan. With lyrics like "I've been crying such a long time with such a lot of pain in every tear" it's hard not to empathise with all his suffering. Poor Johnny.

OK, so we all know that "love can be hard sometimes" and the Contest tends to remind us of this quite often. What's more common than a love-gone-wrong song at Eurovision is a song about 'the comeback' and how you can make it out of a breakup even stronger than before. Maria Haukkas's Hold On Be Strong for Norway in 2008 reminded us that "there's always someone out there who'll be there for you" and we all just need to "hold on" and "be strong" until then.

Audiences from around the world and with different cultures and ethnicities can all relate and connect with one another through the shared experiences of love gained, lost and the self-discovery one can achieve from coming out of it. Eurovision is the platform that reminds us all that love truly is a universal language.

As an international competition, Eurovision has displayed love songs in all kinds of different languages over the years, from Spanish to Swedish, Danish to Dutch, and French to Finnish just to name a few. For long periods of time, the Contest actually had rules set in place about who could sing in what language. From 1966 to 1972 and again from 1977 to 1999, entrants were required to sing in their country's official languages. These days you can sing in any language, like Leonora, who took this quite literally with her act Love Is Forever for Denmark in 2019 which had a total of 3 languages (English, French and Danish).

For many, love is also followed by marriage. And yes! Somehow, even nuptials were a part of the Contest. In 2017, live on air during Eurovision 2017, Jana Burčeska was proposed to - much to her own surprise (and ours). Anything is possible at Eurovision!

And there was also a live wedding in 2013. Well, kind of. We understand if you don't count this as an example, but it's probably as close to a wedding that Eurovision will get.

Alas! We should not forget about the overarching question of the story: Does singing about love or peace secure your spot at the top? According to the numbers over the past decade, an impressive 6 out of the last 10 winning songs were about - you guessed it - love. Just like Basim's act for Denmark in 2014 - what a "cliché"!

We guess there might be some truth to what they say: love conquers all. Or in this case 60% of the time it does. But let's not forget about the other commonly used themes found at Eurovision. Next month we will dive into a new Eurovision subject and continue to explain the Contest using its own history.