Bulgaria's Eurovision Woes - Why Care?
The victory of Roma chalga singer Sofi Marinova at Bulgaria's Eurovision finals earlier this year unleashed a cannonade of vulgar expletives and racist comments. Doomsayers gladly declared Bulgaria dead.
Sofi's failure to reach the finals at the 57th Eurovision, in Baku, Azerbaijan triggered a new tidal wave of vulgar expletives and racist comments. Doomsayers gladly declared Bulgaria guilty, humiliated and disgraced.
That initial wave has receded, leaving however a multitude of unexpected comparisons and pressing questions in its wake.
For starters, I suggest that we cut the moaning. Sofi showed once again that she has a great voice, positive personality, confidence and a natural, I would even say cool, attitude – this really matters a lot. While many singers were clearly off key, Sofi was not. True, the song was mediocre, badly chosen, hurting your ears at times and concealing the true qualities of her voice. The costume was abominable, while the decision to leave her performing alone on the stage – insane.
But I can't help pointing out that some of this criticism applies to winner Loreen too, although on a much more sophisticated level. Still drawing parallels between Bulgaria's and Sweden's songs - as many Bulgarians felt tempted to do – is comparing incomparables or, to put it not that mildly, absurdly far-fetched.
Sweden won because they have figured out the "formula" it takes to win the Eurovision. That doesn't mean that the song was amazingly good - even though it was good - it just means that the Swedes did the job that they had been working so hard to get to.
The Swedes are infatuated with Eurovision, not least because it is a boon to the music industry of their country, which is the world's third largest music exporter after the US and the UK.
But do we, Bulgarians, have to care so much about a contest that, even in the eyes of its admirers, is of dubious musical merit?
Beside being a frothy, kitsch and cheesy spectacle to many, Eurovision has long been a forum for geopolitical battles. It is ironic that this year Europe's most beloved singing contest was held in Azerbaijan, ruled by an autocratic government, which cracks down on any dissent. It is tragic that there was no word by other contestants on the state of the nation they are performing in.
Truth is, Eurovision would have disappeared long time ago if it was just a song contest. It has survived because it is a competition of nations.
But we, Bulgarians, are a bizarre nation.
John Kennedy O'Connor, author of "The Eurovision Song Contest: The Official History", claims nobody wants to put up their hand and say, 'Actually that was a rotten song, and it was horribly performed.' They'd all rather say, 'Everybody hates us'.
Well, nobody, except Bulgaria. Here everybody says that was a rotten song, and it was horribly performed. Here hardly anyone says 'Everybody hates us'.
We are afraid to admit and candidly approach out paranoid fear of not living up to foreigners' expectations. We are afraid to admit that Sofi's unsophisticated but catchy music soundtracks the lives of many Bulgarians.
Next time Bulgarians - from the public through to the organizers - should do their best to treat the contest as a fun spectacle at least if not as a bit of a joke.
If Bulgaria manages to overcome its inferiority complex and understand that for it Eurovision does not carry higher stakes than its sequins, it will be relieved and free to experiment with more radical styles and ideas. Why not Azis? Or why not hire a couple of Swedish song writers and have them write the song for us?
Until then Sofi and Loreen will have one and the same problem to rack their brains over. They both should pray and work so that their songs do not follow in the footsteps of many other Eurovision acts and slide into obscurity after the applauses in Baku have died down.
The Eurovision song contest is something one should enter for the mere pleasure of being entertained by some of the worst things Europe has to offer. View it as an unintentionally ironic event, laugh at the blatant political voting. Only then can it be enjoyed.
To be fair - I haven't watched it for a long while. Because it is utter crap. But as a tribute to Europe at its most camp I can see why it appeals. Embrace it for what it is, or take my stance and ignore it. It won't go away.
Sofi's song wasn't so bad and it IS supposed to be a SONG contest, not a "look how many dancers/backing musicians/special effects we can cram onto the stage" contest.
It's true that her costume was terrible - although not as bad as those on "Seven Hours Difference" - but overall her performance was good and being alone on stage meant that the viewers could concentrate on her and the music.
Thank God she didn't win, though - why should Bulgaria waste money on such a stupid show when there are so many better causes crying out for funding?