This year’s Eurovision was one of the best in recent memory, with the worst possible result.
Eurovision is a song contest between countries from the European Broadcasting Union. Each participating country sends one original song to an hours long concert, and then through a combination of a jury of music professionals and a live televote, an overall winner is chosen. It’s a yearly celebration of big, stupid pop songs, and I try to never miss it.
I never expect Eurovision to give first place to the song I’m rooting for. Last year, when I was rooting for the Italian Francesco Gabbani, it ended up going to the Portuguese Salvador Sobral, who at least sang a lovely song. In 2016, Ukranian Jamala’s “1944" was a powerful song and deserving winner, but I was secretly stanning Malta’s Ira Losco’s “Walk On Water.” There have been times when the winner has confused me—I will never understand all the fuss over 2010 winner “Satelite”—but I’ve never caught feelings over a winner. This year was a little different. I absolutely, 100% hate “Toy,” the winning song by Israel’s Netta, and I have ever since I first heard it.
I do admire’s Netta’s confidence, and I think it’s pretty cool that a song built around samples and loops ended up winning Eurovision, where those skills are sometimes maligned. Those are the two obligatory nice things I have to say about this song, which blows.
Where to begin? With the clucking noises? With the Meghan Trainor level commercialized empowerment feminism? With her kimono? One of the worst aspects of “Toy” is there there are so many incongruous elements that the whole thing is a muddle. Take the lyrics, which songwriter Doron Medalie says are inspired by the #MeToo movement:
Look at me, I’m a beautiful creature
I don’t care about your modern-time preachers
Welcome boys, too much noise, I will teach ya
Hey, I think you forgot how to play
My teddy bear’s running away
The Barbie got somethin’ to say
Hey! My “Simon says” leave me alone
I’m taking my Pikachu home
You’re stupid just like your smartphone
Wonder Woman don’t you ever forget
You’re divine and he’s about to regret
He’s a baka boy
Which parts of this are about a movement to weed out men in positions of power who repeatedly assault and abuse women? Is it the part where she calls him a “baka boy,” a Japanese word for “idiot” that teenage non-Japanese people like to spam on message boards when they first get into anime?
On a songwriting level “Toy” is obnoxious. Songs made out of looping vocal tracks are something I think is pretty cool, but the particular vocal tracks that loop in “Toy” are all noises I actively try to avoid hearing. Even if Netta is purportedly singing an anthem that is supposed to be feminist in some way, her milquetoast gestures towards feminism make me fear that this is what anti-feminists assume what feminism is: a woman making chicken noises and screaming at you. Granted, my favorite song of Eurovision 2018 wasn’t all that deep. It was Eleni Foureira’s “Feugo,” which featured the lyric “He’s got me pelican, fly fly flying.” It’s a sexy, catchy pop song about feeling hot and wanting to bone. She sets a car on fire in the video. If you’re going to try to sell me female empowerment I’d prefer it come with glitter and fire.
Although Eurovision attempts to be apolitical to the point of banning song lyrics about current events, it isn’t as if politics aren’t present. Ukrainian Jamala’s “1944" is a song about the ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tartars by the Soviet government, and it would be naive to think it was coincidental that it won in the same year that Russia annexed Crimea. Israel’s presence in Eurovision is already controversial—Tunisia, Morocco and Lebanon don’t participate in the contest even though they’re eligible because of Israel’s presence. Netta’s speech post-win about “celebrating diversity” was uncomfortable to hear given the turbulent situation in Israel. The memory of it felt even more uncomfortable after today’s news of dozens of Palestinians being killed in Gaza during the unveiling of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem. It’s socially irresponsible to overlook these troubling politics, but if you have to, at least send a song as good as the all-time Eurovision classic, Dana International’s “Diva,” an entry from Israel that won in 1998.
Despite how mad I am about the results, the overall quality of songs this year was amazing. Up until the final minutes of the show, I was having a blast. We got this incredible Hungarian screamo band:
I loved this extremely talented and really hot Austrian, who quite rightly got the highest score from the Eurovision jury:
Ukraine sent the vampire Lestat:
These Bulgarian goths blew my mind:
I slowly fell in love with this former Prada model from the Czech Republic over the course of the competition:
If this Finnish song is not a Lip Sync For Your Life on Drag Race soon, I’ll be super mad:
Estonia sent this mesmerizing Fifth Element nonsense:
It truly was one of the best years of Eurovision I’ve ever watched. I’m just mad that the winning song sounds like warmed over ass.