Eurovision Retrospective: The Good, The Bad And The Gay

Stuart Forward

Recent graduate living in Leeds. Lover of the Caribbean, obscure books, beer and things people don't give a toss about. Aspiring publisher. Wannabe Belgian. @StuForward

I have a dirty secret. One so deep and pressing that it threatens the self-constructed bubble of literary pretension,  reggae and ale I surround myself with. I relapse every May. It’s a problem. My name is Stu, and I bloody love Eurovision.

When it was announced the other day that the UK’s Euro offering this year would be the iconic, faded, but feisty diva of yesteryear Bonnie Tyler, I was overcome with a mix of excitement and reminiscent guilt. Eurovision always conjures up special memories for me. Whether a childhood sat around with my dad cheering on Bosnia & Herzegovina, the last goodbye night to my Erasmus friends, or the night I passed out in the garden dressed as a leprechaun, it holds a ‘special’ place in my heart. It’s the annual guilty pleasure that captures the public imagination and leaves us all a bit passive-aggressively ambivalent to our European neighbours for the next few months, as we inevitably fall short. For me at least, it’s an institution.

This year’s Song Contest will take place in Malmo, Sweden (famous to any readers familiar with The Bridge). It’s set to be a night of spectacle, glitz and bizarre multiculturality, which will make you question how much we really do have in common with the rest of the continent. Whilst I can’t believe many will rate Bonnie Tyler’s chances highly, writing her off to the same old, not quite there mould of last year’s Engelbert Humperdinck, her entry ‘Believe In Me’ is a valiant and heart-felt attempt at the crown. It has a whiff of country about it, but country steadfastly framed in the voice and knee-length boots of a suburban cougar lusting after her toy-boy. Not awful, but lacks the charm and KAPOW that usually marks the winning song. Judge for yourself:

 

In this vein I bring you a whistle stop tour of my best, and perhaps gayest, iconic tunes of Eurovisions gone by. Brace yourselves.

 

5. Les Fatals Picards – L’Amour a la Francaise (France, 2007)

Adorned in flamboyant, Jean-Paul Gaultier designed, outfits, this camp French offering brightened up 2007 with their franglais inspired song. You’ve got to love the bald guy.

4. Sandra Kim – J’aime la Vie (Belgium, 1986)

Whatever it may seem, this is not a trashy crowbaring in of the time I met and grinded the only ever Belgian winner of Eurovision in a Belgian gay club, no, it is a tribute to the mullet. Wandering around industrialised Belgium, the scandalously young Sandra Kim, just can’t help but love life, oversized ice creams and kissing men in the street…

3. Ruslana – Wilds Dances (Ukraine, 2004)

Perhaps my most memorable choice, Ruslana brought Xena to the Eurovision stage with her tribal, drum thumping, winning song Wild Dances.

2. Dana International – Diva (Israel, 1998)

Taking the crown for my first ever Eurovision, the Israeli transgendered musical icon Dana International set the tone for the next 16 years of guilty evenings in May. Powerful, fabulous and later remixed to a hot beat, ‘Diva’ marked a sea change in Eurovision and culture.

 

1. Verka Serduchka – Dancing Lasha Tumbai (Ukraine, 2007)

The undoubted queen of Eurovision camp in recent years has to be Verka Serduchka, a Ukrainian drag icon, who with her glitterball exterior, shrill vocals, and epic dancing, mesmerised a continent. Finishing second behind the equally queer Serbian emo offering ‘Molitva‘, it marked a truly bizarre yet awesome year for Eurovision. How this has not become a club classic, I’ll never know.

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