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Eurovision 2010 Opens in Oslo

May 26, 2010

It’s that time of year again. All across Europe, people are gathered around their television sets, at home and in bars. Enjoying the company of friends, families and strangers, they make score sheets and eagerly await….Eurovision.

This year marks the 54th year of the European song contest and will be held in Oslo, Norway. Over the years, Eurovision has seen many changes as Europe has. Originally, the contest was dominated by West European powerhouses such as France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The 1990s saw an unprecedented three consecutive wins by Ireland. In more recent years, it has been Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and East European countries such as Serbia, Russia and Ukraine that have taken the lead.  Concerned that these countries were participating in “block voting,” Eurovision instituted a controversial “pot” system.  This system ensures that countries from similar regions compete against each other in the semi-finals, so that no one region will dominate the final.  While this is seen by many as unfair, further stoking the controversial fire is the fact that five countries get automatically sent to the final round: United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, and the current year’s host country.  Why these countries are privileged with an automatic in comes as a surprise as they have not been strong contenders in the past thirty years; indeed, the last win by one of these countries was by the United Kingdom in 1997.

Tonight is the first semi-final of the contest. The seventeen countries featured in this “pot” are: Moldova, Russia, Estonia, Slovakia, Finland, Latvia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, Belgium, Malta, Albania, Greece, Portugal, FYR Macedonia, Belarus and Iceland. Of these, Serbia’s Milan Stanković has received a lot of buzz for his song Ovo Je Balkan (This is the Balkans) composed by the world renowned Goran Bregović. Iceland, who came in second in last year’s competition, will be represented by songstress Hera Björk and her song Je Ne Sais Quoi. Finland’s accordion playing duo Kuunkuiskaajat will no doubt get a strong reception from their fellow Scandinavians.

From this first pot, my top two picks are Serbia’s Ovo Je Balkan and Greece’s OPA by Giorgos Alkaios and Friends. Both are energetic performances that incorporate their countries’ folk influences with contemporary pop music. While English has been the most winning language, the assertion of national identity, both musically and in their performance sets and costumes has become increasingly en vogue. Will a folk inspired pop song make it to the top of the 2010 Eurovision contest? Tune in tomorrow night to to see the second semi-final performances!

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