In a famous series of artworks, Banksy boldly wrote that “people who enjoy waving flags don’t deserve to have one“. If they heard about it, the artist must have had a bitter laugh at the quarrel between North Macedonian singer Andrea and MRT, the national broadcaster of her country.
On May 8, the 22 years old came under fire for throwing the North Macedonian flag to the ground at the Eurovision 2022 Turquoise Carpet. “The delegation was really far away from me,” she declared “and I decided in a moment to drop the flag”. But Andrea’s candid gesture was met with dismay. And MRT is now considering the possibility of having her withdrawn from the contest.
Whatever one may think about the dispute, it brings to light a crucial aspect of Eurovision — the one element that sets it apart from any other similarly-sized festival. The centrality of national identities. With such a delicate premise, it should not come as a surprise that broadcasters and performers are precluded from making political statements during the event.
A stage for all
During their press conference, Ukrainian performers Kalush Orchestra stated it out loud. It’s always a huge responsibility to represent your country — all the more when your country is at war. And they are eager to make Ukrainian music heard at a global level: because it deserves it. In the words of the band’s founder Oleh Psiuk:
Speaking about Ukrainian music, it is really diverse. It has this ethnic code in it. It has its special signature that is different from any other musical sphere. Indeed, if you look through the Ukrainian music, which is also very well seen in the underground Ukrainian music scene, you see that it is so easily identifiable. It’s different and it doesn’t look like anything else. It doesn’t sound like anything elseKalush Orchestra
In a similar vein, Georgian contestants Circus Mircus invited the audience to expect great gigs from Georgia in the years to come. The scene may be developing, but the ground is as fertile as it gets.
We have pretty good bands there [in Georgia]. Good artists. The music industry itself is not that settled and good and things like that… it’s not huge but it’s diverse. And it was uprising but because of the Covid Pandemic everything was freezed for two years or more. But right now there are signs that the industry is coming back so most probably you will hear some notable Georgian acts in the following years. We are hundred percent positive about that”.Circus Mircus
And since Circus Mircus wrote one of the most original tracks in the competition, it is not hard to trust them.
Sharing the spotlight
But Eurovision is not just an occasion to make the scene of a certain country more visible. It is also a place to find shared languages and wink at other cultures as well. This is the case of the Norwegians Subwoolfer. Ever since they landed in Italy, they tried to interact with Italians as much as they could. On May 7, they performed a free live show in Piazza Vittorio for their fans.
They even released a new song, Turin — and even without competing, it won’t pass unnoticed. It’s not just because of the base they chose: Dolly Parton’s Joleen. It’s all about the lyrics. “These yellow ears beyond compare with breathing in Italian air”.
Subwoolfer’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to Turin is not just fun. It grasps a crucial element of Eurovision. Or at least of the expectations of Turin’s inhabitants. After all, the 40 artists competing are not the only ones in the spotlight: the city is waving its flag high as well. All of a sudden, the beautiful profile of the Mole Antonelliana is popping up on the screens of half the world. And with an expectation of millions of spectators globally, the festival is the opportunity to relaunch Turin’s brand in the world. As the city’s mayor Stefano Lo Russo declared to La Stampa:
We recovered the Olympic spirit. That event was able to unite us all.Stefano Lo Russo – Turin’s mayor
Indeed, Eurovision is the first global event that Turin has hosted since the 2006 Olympic Games. And in the city, the ferment is palpable. Wherever you go, you’ll hear a group of young people speaking a language you don’t know.
The lively atmosphere of the event is engaging the entire city. In addition to the Palaolimpico, the arena that hosts the Eurovision Song Contest, the main artists are also performing at the Eurovision Village these days.
This area has been set up along the banks of the river Po, in the center of the city, and hosts a large stage on which 200 artists will play in one week. The event is free admission and has already attracted the attention of thousands of Italian and foreign people.
This transcultural dimension is what makes Eurovision so peculiar and appreciated. It is not global. It is glocal. Or at least, so it seems. Glocalization is a hot topic in contemporary sociology. It describes the “simultaneous occurrence of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies in contemporary social, political, and economic systems.”
But whether a venue like Eurovision encourages its artists to bring local sounds on a global stage is questionable. Many artists tend to adapt their sound to make it more international. Others were simply just born in those sounds. And more folkish tracks like Moldova’s entry end up sounding like a fish out of water. Yet, as flawed as it might be, Eurovision still has an indisputable virtue: it puts everyone on the same level.
The Eurovision Song Contest 2022, with the theme The Sound of Beauty, begins on May 10 with the first semi-final, which will feature performances – in order of appearance – by Albania, Latvia, Lithuania, Switzerland, Slovenia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Moldova, Portugal, Croatia, Denmark, Austria, Iceland, Greece, Norway, and Armenia.
The second semi-final on May 12 will feature performances by Finland, Israel, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Malta, San Marino, Australia, Cyprus, Ireland, North Macedonia, Estonia, Romania, Poland, Montenegro, Belgium, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.
On May 14, an emotional moment dedicated to the power of music to evoke peace will open the grand finale. During the event, the qualified countries will be joined by the so-called Big Five – Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom – who will have direct access to the final and will also have the right to vote in the semi-finals (Italy and France in the first, United Kingdom, Spain and Germany in the second). And 2021 winners Måneskin will be back as super guests.