You might have noticed: I’m very quiet this year. Besides real life keeping me busy, there are also not a lot of things that I have to say about Eurovision 2023, considering all the circumstances. But there is one topic burning inside of me, and that also explains my lack of engagement: How my relationship with Eurovision turned into a complicated one. Here we go.
I have been in a relationship with the Eurovision Song Contest for four decades now. The 1980s were all about getting to know this magic event. The 1990s turned me, an excited viewer, into a massive fan. The 2000s were all about transforming my lonely fandom into a togetherness with fellow fans from all over the world, mainly thanks to the internet and this chat. In 2010, my fandom was taken to the next level, with building up escgo! and its predecessor, experiencing the contest in the fan media bubble, getting to Euroclub and all kinds of parties, meeting the artists. My love and my passion for the contest seemed to be unbreakable. And then the 2020s came and proved me wrong: Eurovision and I have gone from a devoted marriage to “it’s complicated”.
And the problem is so complex to begin with. First of all, I wonder to what extent Eurovision and the EBU can be looked at separately, if at all. Can you have a fulfilling relationship with Eurovision while having an alienating one with the EBU at the same time? I doubt it. Can you view Eurovision as one entity that covers all times from the 1950s to now? More likely, but it’s difficult to consider Frankfurt 1957 and Turin 2022 as… comparable. And okay, while I certainly enjoy watching the early contests, there is no love involved until maybe 1967. So yes, if the contest history had times that didn’t get my love yet, it can also eventually reach times that don’t get my love anymore. But while my lack of emotions about the pre-1967 years related more to the mostly inaccessible music, my emotions now are more triggered by the decisions of the EBU since 2013, beginning with the abolition of the random draw, including the deformation of the once iconic voting sequence in 2016, the misuse of the Eurovision stage by inviting international stars such as Justin Timberlake, Madonna or now Rita Ora, the permission of recorded backing vocals, and finally ending with questionable partnerships and the rejection – and hence the destruction – of the fan media bubble. Why should we keep loving something that clearly doesn’t need nor want us any longer?
Nowhere is it written that the EBU have to give fans access to the first or second rehearsals. And nowhere is it written that we have to keep supporting the EBU’s decisions. Just like we have no power over the EBU, there is no Eurovision fandom law book that defines who’s a good fan and who’s a bad fan. While some fans defend the actions of the EBU no matter what, I decided that I can express disapproval. I can decide to not write anything throughout the season. I have no obligations whatsoever towards the EBU. And I’m free to be bitter, if you will.
It’s true, the music has changed too, but I still find my pieces of love in this year’s line-up, even though they have nothing to do with the general fan consensus nowadays anymore. But it’s indeed mostly the way how Eurovision is run nowadays what makes me frown, and not necessarily the musical or visual offering itself. And that’s why I can’t say I don’t love Eurovision anymore – because I still certainly LOVE Eurovision 1967 until 2013, that’s almost five decades of its history, and that won’t ever change. Nothing can ever make me not love “De mallemolen”, Toto’s hosting in 1991, or the 2003 contest in its overall perfection. Nothing can ever make me not love my memories of Euroclub 2010, various delegation parties – especially when Georgian wine was involved – and nothing can ever make me not love the European togetherness on the night. And I still feel passion in following the national final season, including its big players such as Festivali i Këngës, Benidorm Fest and finally (and obviously) Melodifestivalen.
But the Eurovision Song Contest of our time itself? It became complicated. And while I’ve always mostly tried to end critical articles with a positive outlook, I can’t find this much positivity this year. Without having watched any rehearsal clips (because of reasons), I can only say that I’m curious about the show tonight, and whether it will reignite any fuego in me.
And like another wise woman once sang: Wunder gibt es immer wieder, and maybe one day I’ll be a more passionate fan again. Just these years, I’m not.