Eurovision: Europe’s greatest cultural achievement?

What is Europe’s greatest cultural achievement? Is it the art of Michelangelo? The Magna Carta? French cuisine?

For me, there’s no question—it’s the Eurovision Song Contest.

For nearly 70 years, singers and bands across the continent have battled for the title of Best Original Song.

I’ll admit, mine is an unusual passion.

I can state without fear of contradiction that I’m the only person I know who loves Eurovision. My French friends consider it vaguely embarrassing, a relic of the past “that only my grandmother watches.” Even my wife edges away when I start babbling about “that great song from Moldova.” Or maybe it’s Macedonia? I always mix them up.

What makes Eurovision great?

It’s not the music, because most of the songs sound alike.

No, it’s the performances, and especially the cheesy ones (some might call them campy.) Who can forget the Bearded Lady? Or the man running inside a giant hamster wheel? Or the bare-chested fellows prancing about wearing sparkly gold shoulder pads?

Not everyone appreciates the true artistry of Eurovision, but I do. So you can imagine my disappointment when Eurovision was canceled this year due to the coronavirus. Luckily, the official videos for the 31 finalists have been posted online, and I’ve watched them all. For those who want to experience the magic of Eurovision, here are a few to check out-(follow the links below.)


First is the entry from Bulgaria. It was favored to win the contest, so you can watch it to see what the voters prefer. I’ll admit that it’s a nice song, and the singer has a lovely Billie Eilish-type voice, but it’s much too straightforward for my taste. No cheese! Boring!


Of course, I have to include France’s entry, sung in a nice mix of French and English. The singer is a handsome homme with a nice voice, playing the guitar, but that’s it. Zzzzzz….


Latvia makes a bid for greatness, with a song that’s a weird combination of 1984-style totalitarianism and The Ladies’ Home Journal. Women wearing leotards and visors, all ironing in unison? Then peeling potatoes together? I like it but I’m not sure it qualifies as cheesy. Maybe just odd.


Then there’s Azerbaijan. I can always count on them. Let’s see, did their video include the classic Azerbaijani elements?

  • Outlandish outfits? Check
  • Lots of gold? Check
  • Shirtless men? Check (I think the country suffers from a shirt shortage)

The song begins with Cleopatra taking a gold-flecked bath on a dusty hillside. Then she slinks around in a revealing outfit before being joined by backup dancers and Jeeps. (Jeeps? I guess I slept through history class the day we learned about the ancient Egyptian auto industry). My favorite part is when the mummies start dancing. And the flaming torches are a nice touch.

Eurovision: who can compete with Russia?

But no one can compete with Russia this year. If you want to see why I love Eurovision, this is it. The tacky outfits! The goofy dancing! The round little guy doing…err…whatever that is! And why the heck are they singing in Spanish? This is cheesiness in its purest form.

Bravo Russia, you are keeping alive a great European tradition!

Breaking news: netflix

Netflix has just released a comedy starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as the group Fire Saga, the Eurovision entry from Iceland. It’s a silly and funny movie and I loved it. The performances by the different groups in the movie capture the spirit of Eurovision perfectly. You can see the movie trailer by clicking the image above or here.

Are you a Eurovision tragic? Share your favourites and thoughts about the Eurovision song contest… Let’s have it out right here! Join the conversation below in comments or on twitter @MaVieFrancaise

Image credits:
Images and videos via
Eurovision Song Contest YouTube channel

About the Contributor

Keith Van Sickle

I am a lifelong traveler who lives part of the year in Provence. I am the author of Are We French Yet and One Sip at a Time, as well as the upcoming An Insider’s Guide to Provence, all available at Amazon. You can follow me on Facebook,  Twitter and

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