Do You Want Cheese With That?: Eurovision

Emily Mulenga
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Good news people. The Eurovision Song Contest is soon! Everyone unbutton your shirts down to your hairy navel, grab a violin, and glue some tin foil and feathers to your legs in place of trousers.

Yes, it’s the one time of year where Israel and Russia are mysteriously part of Europe, you learn that Azerbaijan is a real thing, and it becomes temporarily acceptable to cheer for Jedward instead of wishing death upon them. (Don’t listen to the haters guys. They’re just jealous of your glittery breastplates.)

In other news, the 90s are having a moment. Platform trainers are back in favour (Well I NEVER STOPPED LOVING YOU), there’s bum bags in Primark, and Ant and Dec are busy topping the charts and reminding everyone exactly how terrible they are, except in a more obvious way than their usual ‘simply existing’.

Despite the continued presence of ex-Byker Grove child stars being even less entertaining than ever, this sudden appreciation of the last decade of the last millennium rather pleases me, as, having lived through it myself – I’m totes biased- I have to say it was a wondrous time to be living in, especially as a young child. Everything seemed tailored towards pleasing the small people of the planet, from Furbys to cheesy pop bands. But, alas, while the former is enjoying a revival, this time with flashing LED eyes, there is an echoing, empty chasm that was once filled with the classics I used to shuffle awkwardly to at junior-school discos whilst wearing my best cardigan. I’m talking Vengaboys, I’m talking Whigfield, baby. Where is the 2013 equivalent of We’re Going to Ibiza? Where’s all the goddamn cheese?!

This time around, the 90s are wimping out on one aspect which made it such a fun decade, at the expense of fans of silliness everywhere. What the current movement is missing is a sense of carefree fun. Instead everything’s been moulded into something more tasteful. And as Guardian critic Jonathan Jones ranted, “There is nothing worse than good taste. Nothing more stultifying than an array of consumer choices paraded as a philosophy of life.” He was talking about art, rather than Barbie Girl, but it’s the same principle. In short, the 90s are cool again, but only if you miss out the embarrassingly kitschy, campy bits, in the same way we gloss over Eurovision as if it were a shameful family member.

The way fashions fall in and out of favour time and again is an indication of the non-existence of objective, universal good taste. Rather it is evidence that there is only a time -and culture- specific preference for certain things. So why bend to the will of the taste-makers denying me a new Daphne and Celeste single?  Bubblegum dance music- its popularity peaking around 1999 and whose most popular participant was Danish band Aqua, for me waves an important flag for the antithesis of ‘good taste’. Far from being painfully moody and irritatingly brooding like so much indie music and its desire for ‘authenticity’, the focus instead is on childlike fun, storytelling, innuendo, and often pure nonsense. (See the song Licky Licky by Crispy and its accompanying video if you wish to be scarred for life and amused in equal measure. Or the time bubblegum act Scooch represented the UK at Eurovision in 2007.)

I propose the bringing in of a new wave of cheesy music and fashion. Even if songs about Tarzan and Jane and the wearing of silver bodysuits aren’t something you’d ever contemplate (er, why??) I think everyone can take and utilise a small piece of the philosophy they are built on- don’t take your music, fashion and life so seriously. Anila Mirza, part of the bubblegum duo Toy-Box says “We don’t really care about images, trends or other people’s ideas about what is cool or in. We simply do what feels right to us, write whatever comes to mind, and dive into our own crazy fantasy world.”

Girl, I feel you.

About Emily Mulenga

I am a visual artist and writer, although I should probably have a degree in doing silly faces instead. Despite this, I have some solid opinions on serious things such as consumer culture, the concepts of kitsch and bad taste, and which flavour Fruit Pastille to avoid.

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