I lived in London as a tween, and back then Eurovision was all everyone cared about around May. It didn't matter that "Eurovision" is bit of a misnomer—non-European countries (such as Israel and now, Australia) also participate. And while the visuals are essential to the aesthetic Eurovision experiences, it is mainly a song contest. Every year, Brits enter with their most "alternative" artists, return with close to zero points, and then the entire country erupts into furor accusing Eurovision of being too "political." Is this the real motivation behind the Brexit? *Gasp*
Imagine my surprise then, when I came to the States for college and realized that no one has ever heard of Eurovision (because 'Murica); yet despair not, for this year, for the first time, Eurovision is available for live-streaming in the States (and my home country, China, too!). And for the first time, Americans find themselves exposed to this hot mess of...wild costumes, impossible high notes, over-enthusiastic backup dancers, seizure-inducing stage lights. However, whether you liked your first taste of Eurovision or not, here I have compiled a list of Eurovision performances you absolutely cannot miss, from past to present—the good, the bad, the weird and the wonderful.
1. "Dschinghis Khan" by Dschinghis Khan Group (Germany, 1979)
I wonder why the Germans are celebrating this Mongolian conqueror in the usually pop-and-electro-infused Eurovision. I'm not exactly sure what's going on here, but with its late 70s stage design, live musical accompaniment, dramatic dance routine, colorful costumes and an epic reenactment of Genghis Khan's entire life...no more from me; the rest, you'll have to see for yourself.
2. "Shake It" by Sakis Rouvas (Greece, 2004)
Greece has always been an old favorite, but did you know that in 2004, Sakis Rouvas ripped off his backup dancers' outfits on stage? And he was able to do a backflip while singing?!
3. "Tick-Tock" by Mariya Yaremchuk (Ukraine, 2014)
I suppose the stage visuals are trying to suggest Mariya racing against time (hence the title), but my (and everyone else's) first reaction is a hamster wheel. That guy is running in a hamster wheel. Doing backflips in a hamster wheel. Mariya climbs onto the hamster wheel. One wonders what would happen if the hamster wheel rolls off stage.
4. "It's My Life" by Cezar (Romania, 2013)
Sparkly, sexy, gay vampire Cezar growls one minute and immediately hits all those high notes, underneath a net of red crystals and engulfed by a sea of blood, while backup dancers effortlessly hold each other up and backflips across the stage (why is Eurovision all about backflips?). And wait for 1:50, you won't be disappointed.
5. "Rise Like a Phoenix" by Conchita Wurst (Austria, 2014)
Conchita shows off her impeccable voice while gigantic projections of golden wings flutter in the background. Sparks, dazzling lights, flames. Her performance made her one of the few drag queens to gain mainstream recognization in Europe, and she even starred in an experimental film, currently on show at MoMA.
6. "Ne partez pas sans moi" by Celine Dion (Switzerland, 1988)
We all know Celine Dion from her beautiful rendition of "My Heart Will Go On," but did you know that Celine Dion participated in Eurovision? Just 20 years old, she enchanted everyone with her beautiful voice—but what really caught us is, of course, the introductory video showing her riding a train and climbing onto a tractor.
7. "Flying the Flag" by Scooch (United Kingdom, 2007)
"Flying the Flag" doubtlessly wins the "most cringe-worthy lyrics of all times" award. With singers dressed up as flight attendants, bopping along to a sugary pop instrumental, listing random names of cities in Europe to make lines rhyme and a sexually suggestive bridge verse, this performance will mark the most disorienting three minutes of your life.
8. "Popular" by Eric Saade (Sweden, 2011)
I'm not sure why there is a giant Pokemon ball in the background (gotta catch all the votes?), but Eric Saade is determined to get popular—and nothing but popular—so let's help him get popular, by contributing as many views as possible.
9. "Fairytale" by Alexander Rybak (Norway, 2009)
Sure, this one has all the classic elements of a Eurovision performance—dancers doing backflips, crazy stage lights, uniformly-dressed backup singers—but how many singers can sing beautifully and play the violin at the same time? Not many, and Alexander Rybak is one of them.
10. “I Am Yours” by the Makemakes (Austria, 2015)
I am yours. The piano is obviously not yours, because you set it on fire.
Yes, they are playing the piano, and then they set it on fire. Best stage lighting of 2015. Smell of burning wood included as a bonus.
11. "Baila el Chiki Chiki" by Rodolfo Chikilicuatre (Spain, 2008)
This one has to be my personal favorite; I remember coming back from spring break and this was all everyone talked about—not even the U.K.'s disastrous performance. This also happens to be the first Spanish song I can sing from beginning to end. In 2008, Spain selected its contestant for Eurovision through a democratic process—voting on MySpace! (If you don't know what MySpace is, congratulations, you're young.) Out of all the entrants, this guy with his ridiculous beard, tall hair, pink clothes and toy guitar, came out top.
If nonsensical lyrics, suggestive dance moves, and backup dancers who forgot their dance routines aren't enough for you, then how about the fact that this is the meta-Eurovision song—a song that spoofs the cheesy themes, the impossible body contortions, the revealing clothing, the outdated pop-culture references, the obsession with English lyrics and the seizure-inducing lights—the extravaganza known as EUROVISION.
Acknowledgement: This article would not have been possible without the recommendations and support from Sanjana Chetia, my one-and-only American Eurovision fan.