The Eurovision Song Contest was established as way to bring European countries together after World War II. The first competition was held in the town of Lugano, Switzerland, on May 24, 1956. Since then, it’s become a sprawling behemoth that makes American Idol, The Voice and X-Factor look downright quaint. The first year, seven countries entered. Now in its 58th year, 39 countries are competing for the top prize.
To participate, musicians must submit an original, unpublished song. Since residents of their home country can’t vote for them, the goal is to woo an international audience. As a result, language, content and staging is all up for interpretation. Read: This is a contest of big, bigger biggest.
eMusic’s Laura Studarus complied a fantasy Eurovision Song Contest lineup. How would artists and songs stack up against each other if the laws of time, space, and competition were suspended in favor of good taste and outstanding musicality?
Song submitted: "Zookeeper's Boy"
Odds of winning: 4:1
Mew may be the most likely to catch viewers off-guard with their sneaky combination of ethereal hooks and grinding guitars. "Zookeeper's Boy," from the band's 2005 album And the Glass handed Kites, mixes prog with just the right amount of whimsy, making it perfect for mass consumption. (Sample lyric: "If there's a glitch, you're an ostrich.") Add to that the band's propensity for Edward Gorey-style visuals and frontman Jonas Bjerre's doe-eyed charisma, and right out of the gate you've got a band to beat.
England: Chad Valley
Song submitted: "Fall 4 U (feat. Glasser)"
Odds of winning: 20:1
For his debut full-length Young Hunger, producer Hugo Manuel (aka Chad Valley) brought quite a collection of friends with him, including Twin Shadow, El Perro Del Mar, Active Child and Glasser. And what does a gathering of pals plus music equal? A party. Which is completely in line with Eurovision's reconciliatory nature. While any song on the album could be a competition-worthy single, Manuel will bring along Glasser to perform restrained electro love duet, "Fall 4 U." Will top awards to go the ghost of 1980s film soundtracks past? With a coupling this chemistry-heavy, it's not impossible.
Estonia: Maria Minerva
Song submitted: "Sweet Synergy"
Odds of winning: 600:1
Estonian sound-collage artist Maria Minerva isn't your standard Eurovision song competitor. But if Belgium can enter Telex — a band whose idea of a chorus is chanting "Eurovision Eurovision Eurovision" — surely there's a room to think outside of the box. Minerva's debut album Will Happiness Find Me? is a series of atonal experiments, woozy minimal disco, and cascades of samples. Underneath it all beats a spooky, fractured-pop heart. Let's be honest: Minerva's chances of winning are slim. But she won't go down without a fight.
France: Daft Punk
Song submitted: "Get Lucky"
Odds of winning: even
There's a subgenre in music known as "schlager." In German, it means "a hit." But loosely translated in Eurovision Song Contest speak it means, "A pop song with a hint of cheese you gladly overlook because it's so damn catchy." No song in this year's fantasy field comes close to Daft Punk's recently-released single "Get Lucky." The helmeted Frenchmen have combined 1970s disco funk, handclaps, Pharrell glitter-glam vocals, and just a whiff of vocoder to create the kind of tune you can imagine kids little kids getting down to and adults, er, "getting down" to. You might want to start engraving the winner's trophy now.
Italy: Porcelain Raft
Song submitted: "Unless You Speak From Your Heart"
Odds of winning: 100:1
Eurovision is Porcelain Raft's (Mauro Remiddi) chance to show the world that he's about more than hazy pop choruses constructed from drum loops, gently strummed guitars, whispered vocals, and tape hiss. Strange Weekend single "Unless You Speak From Your Heart" combines the dream pop hallmarks with a hip-hop beat, and crisp pace that splits the difference between Beach House atmospherics and Jam-style posturing. Bedroom recording wimp? Hardly. Here's hoping the one-man-band brings a few friends to help him fill the big stage.
Norway: Sondre Lerche
Song submitted: "Two Way Monologue"
Odds of winning: 7:1
A Norwegian scene stalwart, Sondre Lerche's eight albums have covered a lot of ground: from pop to garage rock to film scores to bossa nova. Which pretty much means Lerche can be anything we want him to be — including a Eurovision champion. Single "Two Way Monologue" (taken from the 2004 album of the same name) is his greatest chance to take home the title. Striking a happy medium between singing and crooning, Lerche isn't just out to perform for the audience, but seduce them. And you know what? It just might work.
Song submitted: "Melt"
Odds of winning: 70:1
Eastern Europe's answer to Friendly Fires, Polish dance trio KAMP! gravitate towards slick production, bouncy Balearic beats, and lush beds of electronics. It might be a hard sell, since generally the competition favors more straight up pop-driven fare. (Just don't tell the 2006 winner, Finnish death metal band Lordi, that.) But if anyone can sweep viewers up in their undeniable wave of ready-for-primetime dance club energy, it's a band so vibrant they had to include an exclamation point in their name.
Song submitted: "The Mother We Share"
Odds of winning: 16:1
Eurovision favors the over-the-top statement. Backup dancers, feathers, light shows — these are people who are likely to laugh at the suggestion that you merely "put a bird on it." No one's music lends itself to embellishment quite like electro-pop outfit, CHVRCHES. Like The Knife rendered in primary colors, the Scottish trio favor icy electronics and ambitious musical gestures. CHVRCHES lean towards the emotional though, their tales of love and hate framed by frontwoman Lauren Mayberry's fairytale-worthy vocals. Sure they've been known to stand still when performing, but that just makes it easier to frame them with rings of fire and chorus girls.
Spain: Devendra Banhart
Song submitted: "Mi Negrita"
Odds of winning: 150:1
Fun fact: There's no rule that an artist has to actually hail from the country they represent in Eurovision Song Contest. Which is why, in 1988, Céline Dion won on behalf of Switzerland — despite being Canadian. With multi-genre provocateur El Guincho in perpetual hiding, the nation will tap Spanish-influenced Devendra Banhart to fill in. The laid-back folkie may not have the razzle dazzle factor of other acts, but Tropicália-accented balled "Mi Negrita" won't go completely unappreciated.
Sweden: Jens Lekman
Song submitted: "The World Moves On"
Odds of winning: 2:1
In 1974, ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with their rendition of "Waterloo," which went on to appear on the band's second album of the same name. Who better to carry on the tradition than Jens Lekman? The closing track of his 2007 album Night Falls Over Kortedala "Friday Night at the Drive in Bingo" contains the same simple syrup-laced pop that saw Benny Andersson and the gang to victory — right down to a horn-filled chorus and nostalgic location name-checking. Bonus: Lekman squeezes in an offhanded mention of rabbit sex. Let's see the dancing queens try to do that.