5 things we learned from Eurovision 2024

5 things we learned from Eurovision 2024

Film & Visual Culture Lecturer Dr Barbara Leon outlines five key themes of this year's Eurovision Song Contest and explains the wider context.

In 2024, as Eurovision commemorated the 50th anniversary of ABBA's historic victory in Brighton, the stage was set for what will be remembered as the most contentious year in the contest's history.

The anticipation surrounding the event in Malmö was palpable, with protests mounting weeks prior to the festivities. Even at the pre-parties, dissenting voices due to Israel’s participation made their presence felt, foreshadowing the tumultuous days to come. The controversy reaches a boiling point with criticism and calls for boycott from various quarters, including artists and nations alike.

Yet, the discord didn’t stop there. As delegations arrived in Malmö, accusations and tensions escalated, thrusting the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) into the spotlight as it grappled with the challenge of maintaining the integrity of the competition amidst the growing discord.

Amidst the backdrop of music's unifying power as the slogan now reads United by Music, and the prevailing calls for peace, the Eurovision stage witnessed a historic first: the disqualification of the Netherlands ahead of the Grand Final, marking a sombre departure from the competition's legacy of camaraderie. Details surrounding the incident involving a member of the press and the Dutch representative, Joost Klein, remain shrouded in mystery, casting a shadow over the proceedings.

In a show of solidarity, several nations chose to boycott the final rehearsals, including the iconic flag parade, a poignant display of national pride. On the same day, Italy's Angelina Mango graced the press room with a rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine," a timeless anthem for global harmony. Meanwhile, France's Slimane seized the moment to deliver a stirring speech reaffirming the unity at the heart of Eurovision during the second rehearsals of the final.

Representatives from Lithuania, Silvester Belt, and Ireland's Bambie Thug, echoed the sentiments of struggle and hardship in navigating this tumultuous edition. As tensions mounted, multiple delegations convened with the EBU to voice their concerns, teetering on the brink of withdrawal from the competition, as was the case of Norway and Portugal.

In a bold move, Finland predicted the turmoil with their entry "No Rules," forging ahead amidst the uncertainty. With the EBU acknowledging breaches of Eurovision conduct, investigations are underway, paving the way for pivotal decisions shaping the future of Eurovision in 2025 and beyond.

As anticipated, Switzerland clinched the jury vote, while Croatia emerged triumphant in the popular vote. Thus, Nemo, with their captivating performance "The Code," made history as the first non-binary individual to claim the coveted crystal microphone. The symbolism of Switzerland, renowned for its neutrality in political conflicts, emerging victorious amidst the geopolitical theatrics of Eurovision, is nothing short of poetic.

This year's Eurovision spectacle has served as a poignant reminder of several key societal and cultural lessons:

  1. Celebrating Diversity: The victory of Nemo underscores the importance of celebrating diversity and breaking societal codes. Their win sends a powerful message of inclusion and acceptance. Let’s break the code together
  2. Eurovision's Relevance: The Eurodramas that unfolded throughout the competition have garnered headlines, highlighting how Eurovision reflects and intersects with broader political and social dynamics. Contestants become de facto ambassadors for their nations, embodying their country's ethos through music and performance.
  3. The Symbolism of Flags: Despite EBU regulations, the incident involving Nemo's non-binary flag raises questions about the limitations placed on flag displays. The prohibition of the use of the European Union flag and the censorship of certain national symbols hint at broader debates surrounding unity and representation within Europe. While Toto Cutugno sang for a unified Europe in 1990, the spirit of an Europapa appears to have faded in recent times.
  4. Dispelling Political Myths: Contrary to popular belief, Eurovision voting patterns are not actively driven by politics. Switzerland's victory, devoid of any geopolitical favoritism, underscores the contest's essence as a celebration of music and culture rather than a political battleground. Over the past decade, Eurovision has showcased a remarkable diversity of winners, with seven different countries claiming victory. This trend underscores the competition's essence as a celebration of music and culture. It reaffirms that Eurovision is, at its core, a contest between public broadcasters, where artistic merit and audience appeal reign supreme.
  5. Eurovision's Cultural Tapestry: Beyond its status as popular culture, Eurovision serves as a platform for cultural and gender expression. The winning entries, including themes of gender identity (Switzerland and Ireland), cultural heritage (Croatia, Lithuania, Greece, Norway, Armenia), empowerment (Ukraine, Spain), and acceptance (Finland) highlight the rich tapestry of stories and messages conveyed through music on the Eurovision stage.

In essence, Eurovision transcends mere entertainment; it embodies the complexities of society, culture, and identity, serving as a mirror to the diverse and evolving landscape of Europe and beyond.

Dr Barbara Leon’s research explores the representations of cultural identities through popular culture images in wider media and visual culture, such as the Eurovision Song Contest and music videos.

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