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This weekend, a strange European phenomenon will arrive on American television for the first time i...

Eurovision 2016: A Guide for Confused Americans

By 17:13:00

This weekend, a strange European phenomenon will arrive on American television for the first time in its 60 year history.

On Saturday, Logo TV will be airing the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between “The X Factor” and the Miss Universe pageant that offers Yanks a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a culture that doesn’t have jazz and blues as the foundation of its pop music.

Surprisingly, Justin Timberlake is slated to make a special guest performance after all the contenders have taken the stage in their bid to bring glory to their home country.

For those who’ve never seen — or even heard of Eurovision — before, here’s a quick primer to get you caught up.

What exactly is this contest?
Eurovision began as an idea back in the mid-1950s as a way for Europe to come together after World War II had ripped it apart. It was a pretty revolutionary effort for its time. Television was still the wild west of communications and the Olympics hadn’t yet become an international broadcasting event. Eurovision was one of the first major attempts to hold an event that people from a wide range of countries could watch. With that in mind, the organizers wanted each country to showcase a song that was indicative of their culture.

That sounds like a pretty noble goal
Yes … but it was also very out of touch with what was happening with music at the time. Rock and roll was beginning to take root and The Beatles would take the world by storm just a few years after Eurovision’s inception. This meant that Eurovision’s lineup of ballads and cultural pieces quickly felt antiquated compared to the rock revolution that was going on in the charts. And that was six decades ago … the entries would only get weirder from there.

How weird?

For starters, there was once a rule implemented on and off over the years stating that participants could only enter songs that were in their country’s main language. When that rule was in effect, some countries found a loophole: make the lyrics completely gibberish. In 1968, a Spanish singer named Massiel won with a song that just consisted of her singing “La La La” over and over and over. Songs with titles like “Boom Boom” and “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley” poured out while the home-language rule was in effect.

Then there’s the artists themselves. As Eurovision has evolved, more and more ridiculous acts have come out of the woodwork. Finnish monster rock bands, Russian grandmas and Latvian pirates are among the acts that have performed for a TV audience of hundreds of millions in recent Eurovisions. And that Finnish monster rock band actually won.

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