I would like to talk to you about Eurovision.
If you live in Europe, obviously you don’t need to hear me talk about Eurovision. If you don’t, Eurovision is a song contest held annually with representatives from, as of last count, 42 countries. Each of the countries hold their own domestic competitions to determine who they will send to the contest, and each of the participating countries get to vote on their favorite of their competitors, which is how the winner is determined.
Despite the diversity of nations represented, I’m sorry to say that Eurovision isn’t usually the festival of linguistic diversity I would like it to be. Most entrants sing in English; this is a pop contest after all, and you’re trying to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. When I watched the show from my host mother’s kitchen in St. Petersburg, I specifically noted every entrant who purposefully sang in their native languages – all three of them, if memory serves. And no, Russia was not one of them.
This year, however, Russia didn’t send their usual pop starlet or dreamy dark-haired pop hunk. Instead, they sent six grandmothers from a rural village.
And they came in second! In all of Europe! No offense to the winner from Sweden, but Buranovskiye Babushki are probably my favorite thing I’ve ever seen on a Eurovision stage. From their traditional garb to the sight of an 80-year-old woman telling me it’s time to party, they take the cake. And yes I tend to root for the Russians any way, but I swear it’s not just that. Plus they’re singing in their native language of Udmurt! Plus they’re donating all of their concert profits to rebuilding their village church which was destroyed under Stalin!
If the point of Eurovision is to put your country’s best foot forward, I think Russia really nailed it this year.