Don’t blame coronavirus for this one. Eurovision 2020 was canceled because gods hated Azerbaijan’s entry: the godawful Cleopatra by Efendi. Gods were right. It is an abhorrent mess of cultural appropriation set to cheap beats. Baku can do better. It has done better. This was not the year to mess with the immortals. Cleopatra is done being whitewashed.
Adding cultural insult to musical injury, Armenia submitted a Beyoncé wannabe Athena Manoukian. How much not-trying went into this shoplifting of the vocals, staging and style from Ms. Knowles-Carter?! I previously examined White Imagination’s unsettling comfort level with literally impersonating black identities at Eurovision. This was next-level. Y’all, we deserved the plug pulled on Rotterdam. I say this as a longtime enthusiastic f*ck-buddy of the kitschiest Song Contest on Earth.
Yet, the appeal of this annual show is in the smorgasbord of ridiculousness, high & low. Here are six 2020 entries that get my twelve points, each. In no particular order:
Alicja – Empires (Poland)
Category is “James Bond Soundtrack”. Every year there is that song. Oh, the double-edged sword of geopolitics in having Poland sing about empires; its history welded to the back-and-forth of its East/West neighbors. Stylist Iwona Piotrowska purposefully kept the look decorative, unassuming, at the service of the performance.
Tornike Kipiani – Take Me As I Am (Georgia)
Y’all know I’d dance for Georgia anytime … I would have been cool to witness this anti-assimilation anthem broadcast across the European Union and beyond. “Why do you want me to talk like an Englishman? Why do you want me to smell like a French homme? Why should I dress like an Italian? I guess you don’t love me.” But I do. I do.
Damir Kedžo – Wild Winds (Croatia)
So, missing this made me upset. I’ve been a fan of Damir since he emerged on YouTube in 2013. (Check out his wow P!nk and Lykke Li covers) … the Balkan countries defiantly continue to sing in national languages as opposed to the generic default English which makes my polyglot heart skip a beat. Wild Winds, bring Kedžo back to Eurovision!
Jeangu Macrooy – Grow (The Netherlands)
Ah, this made me reminisce about the greatness of Benjamin Clementine, Jacob Banks, or the Dutch Sinatra
if you’d rather. Follow this artist to marvel at his inevitable growth! Jeangu knows fashion and gives fashion credit where it’s due. Here, stylist Clyde Semmoh managed to make a trench coat look not creepy. Kudos all around.
Daði og Gagnamagnið – Think About Things (Iceland)
The benefits of staying in one’s lane: behold the glorious awkwardness of whiteness that has embraced the offbeat. Napoleon Dynamite & his iconic dance, Jamiroquai (minus all the feathers), the entire Kings of Convenience catalog. There is even self-referential merchandise to give hipsters style boners and wet dreams. Well done.
Destiny – All Of My Love (Malta)
This. Is. Everything. Drop-dead-gorgeous couture in a wildlife sanctuary, check. Masked parkour through urban apocalypse, check. Underwater nakedness, check. Orgiastic self-affirmation around the bonfire AND in the rain, checkmate. Malta maybe small, but my heart for its entry is big in 2020. We have a Post-Paris winner, folks!
Who did y’all feel the most? See you at Eurovision 2021!