Possibly the most iconic international music competition is the Eurovision Song Contest which takes place every year in the hometown of the previous year’s winners. This year, Duncan Laurence took first place with 498 points in Tel-Aviv, Israel. This gave the Netherlands its first Eurovision title since 1975.
With over 189 million viewers across the world, thousands vote every year for their favourite acts in hope that they can bring the title home. I myself am an avid Eurovision fan. This is purely for the music as I’ve always loved discovering new bands from all over the world.
However, do countries that sing in their own language have a disadvantage over countries that sing in English? And most importantly, what is it that makes Eurovision so universally adored?
What is it that makes Eurovision so universally adored?
In 2017, Salvador Sobral won Eurovision for Portugal with his song ‘Amar Pelos Dois’, or ‘Love For The Both of Us’, the first entry that I’d seen win in its original language. ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ is a jazz waltz song with a lyrical theme of heartbreak. Emotion permeates through the lyrics even for the non-Portuguese speaking listener, heightened by the gently swelling tones and fairy-tale-like string accompaniment.
Since the contest started in 1956, 31 acts have won with songs either fully or partially in English, while 36 have won with lyrics either partially or fully in languages other than English, a statistic that surprised me.
It goes without saying that countries participating are supposed to perform in their own languages, but in order to appeal to the masses, more and more acts have taken to performing in English, as these songs will undoubtedly gain more worldwide recognition.
But songs like Salvador Sobral’s don’t need lyrical understanding to convey their message to an audience – the music does the job for it. Lyrics don’t have to be understood to enjoy any kind of music. This is why in Eurovision 2020, I want to see more acts performing their songs in their native language. Who knows, it might improve the quality of the music, and the United Kingdom are never going to win anyway.