Photo: EBU

Opinion: Follow Steef's road to Oslo (1/4)

The following piece is an opinion article by an independent young journalist. The article and its contents do not necessarily represent the opinion of the organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest, and is meant to challenge you to write down your opinion as well in the comments section below this article.

Honesty in its purest form (1/4)

This year, the Eurovision Song Contest is more than ever about feelings. The theme of the contest is Share The Moment; a theme that comes directly with a feeling as well. A somehow nostalgic feeling maybe, families sitting together watching television, filling in their score sheets, to share this moment with eachother. Many countries have been trying to anticipate on those feelings.

It may well be the most beautiful compliment a song- or lyrics writer can get for his productions: That it's real, pure, or honest. In our modern society that's apparently no longer self-evident. One of the most popular prejudices about the Eurovision Song Contest is that it has become a very commercial event, and let's face it: Songs like that pass us by every year. It's for us voters, and this year also for a jury, to decide whether we appreciate them.

Usually we don't. Because we, voters, Eurovision Song Contest fans, human beings - we don't like commercial stuff at all. Me neither, and that's why this year Belgium is my favorite. Tom Dice, the Belgian artist, is just at the beginning of his career. The Belgian crowd only knows him from his X-Factor cover Bleeding Love, but when he was presented as the Belgian representative of 2010 there were some real doubts. He had never even launched a song of his own. Exactly those doubts are now the basis of his song Me And My Guitar. All of a sudden Tom gets the chance to go all the way in music, instead of just having a nine-to-five job. But that means taking a risk. You can hear the doubts in his voice, without saying that it influences the quality of his vocals. Tell me, did I got it wrong? Belgium is the best example of honesty and realness.

But of course there are a lot more countries that have chosen this path. One of the songs I consider big favorites this year, Israel, touches a real sour spot this year. Milim means ‘Words'; the words with which Harel Skaat now has been left alone. In the text, Harel appeals to his God directly: ‘Elohim, you have left me with only words, only books'. Not the first thing I would consider writing a song about, but maybe that's exactly what makes it pure and touching.

A lot less popular is the song from Estonia, but from my point of view Malcolm is supposed to be in this list as well. Although not always sung so well, the singer managed to give people the feeling it was sung especially for them. For that they really loved the live tape, but I had more affinity with the official video, in which the feeling of a Siren In My Head was brought in a really impressive way.

But then, what to think of Sweden, giving Idols star Anna Bergendahl a chance to perform on the Eurovision Song Contest stage? She reminds us a bit of Belgium of course, also coming from a talent show and with a career just bound to begin. She even sings about pureness and being yourself explicitely: This is my life, and I can't be no one else. The typical Swedish (over)production, the background choir and everything around it make a good sphere during the performance, but also take off the sharp ends of the song. Not completely pure anymore, as the Swedish song has a little middle-of-the-road-radio touch.

Also a little commercial, and smartly enough copied from recent winners as Sertab, Helena Paparizou and Ruslana is the Armenian song of this year. Not really original, one would say, so why put them in this list? The text about the little girl, warned by her mother for the big evil world, touched me somehow more than I expected. Maybe because her family comes from mixed origin, and Eva came to travel a lot already when she was ten years old, doing a lot of talent shows back then. At least I can't eat an Apricot anymore without thinking about Eva and her mother.

The German song Satellite normally wouldn't come across as credible. Neither the style or the text really fits young Lena Meyer-Landrut. Yet also Germany has clearly chosen for pureness. Whether she fits the song or not, no artist this year is really herself like Lena is. The video speaks for itself. Lena dances like she wants to, speaks English the way she wants to and also wears exactly what she wants to (for example a Taizé necklace, which intrigued me). Alternative and real, so let's hope Eurovision fame doesn't make her a complete different person.

Then in the end there are still some countries that have tried to stick to their roots, by describing the beauty of their country through a song. Slovakia is the only one of them that really succeeded, even though the text is sometimes simple (The most beautiful trees are in the Horehronie). Anyway, the song is cheerful and the Celtic tunes fit the theme of the song. What a difference with Finland, that this year chose to take some Greek elements in the Sirtaki song Tyolki Ellaa. Serbia then describes the typical and real Balkan style, but performer Milan Stankovic? Well, there's hardly anything real about him in my opinion.

Before writing this article it seemed to me that a lot of countries want to go back to their roots. The pureness of a song has been reintroduced as an important standard to judge songs from. We want to vote for an artist we believe in, not someone who's just performing a trick. But when writing I realized that maybe I'm being far too moralistic now. People tend not to vote for the songs they say they will. In my journalism studies it's a well-known phenomenon: When asked, people indicate they want to watch more quality news programs, but that never appears to be true when you're looking at the TV ratings!

In that case, I can only think of one cliché song that has  a chance to win this year's contest: Iceland. The 2011 Eurovision Song Contest will in that case lead us to Reykjavik, making me wonder how to afford a real hotel. Unless a volcano comes in the way...

"Thank you, vote for the music!" (Daz Sampson, UK 2006)

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