Eurovision Song Contest will return to Globen in Stockholm in May in 2016. The last time the contest was held in Stockholm’s biggest golf ball of a venue was in 2000. And in 2000 two gentlemen from Denmark named Jørgen and Niels “Noller” Olsen came on stage, performed their sing-a-long entry with a big amount of charisma and star quality and out of the blue (after being outside of top 15 with most of the bookmakers prior to the contest) actually managed to win the whole thing. Olsen Brothers’ victory is one of the last times when a completely surprise act won. And also, the last time that an act older than 40 won. Which leads me to the question – has Eurovision become ageist lately?
To be honest – my answer is yes. Moreover, apart from being ageist, it has also started to pigeonhole acts based on their age and everyone who stands out from the “formula” is automatically written off. One particular example – Baku 2012. We had Buranovskiye Babushki representing Russia and Engelbert Humperdinck representing the UK. When the former were a YouTube sensation for doing covers of famous songs, the latter had a legitimate pop career in the 60s and early 70s and was famous for his powerful vocals. When the latter had a crooner ballad, not entirely different from his previous back catalogue, the former had a novelty song in Udmurt/Russian with a chorus in English. The latter actually wanted to be taken seriously and wanted to have a bit of a comeback with his song, while the former were presented as a novelty act and thus also went viral globally prior to the contest itself. The latter finished second last, the former finished second in the grand final, also narrowly losing out to eventual winner Loreen in the televoting. Basically – do performers who are 40+ have to be presented and treated as a novelty act in order to stand a chance result-wise and is this approach right?
Now, I do understand that TV has changed since 2000. In the age of talent shows like X Factor or Got Talent and streaming services like Netflix, the way we watch television has shifted and the pressure is put on broadcasters to keep their existing viewers and to favour younger audience. But is potraying older and experienced performers as desperate wannabes really the way to go? I also think that the mood in the fandom has changed in this perspective as well. The older performers (in most cases Nordic schlagerdivas) are often ridiculed by the fandom online and the way fan hypes go lately, it’s clear that even the fandom prefers younger, fresh acts over aging artists. But since when is being older and experienced such a crime to write off a whole generation of performers just because “they’re not cool for the kids”? How come there is no gap in the music market to give older and experienced performers an actual chance to score a decent hit? Will we ever get a shock winner of older perfomers like the Olsens again or will streamlining the contest to the younger population continue and only get worse? Lots of questions to be answered here. Now I actually liked Engelbert’s song in 2012, I found it a decent timeless ballad and it’s a shame he got a bad draw and therefore failed to attract the voting audience and if it were up to me, I think he should have done better than he did. I also liked Bonnie Tyler’s song a year later and I think she deserved a bit more than she got. And I hope the ageism in Eurovision and among Eurovision fandom fades soon. I don’t think writing off performers based on their age is the right way to go. I think every performer deserves to be taken seriously. Even us, millennials will get older eventually. And I don’t think we’ll enjoy it when younger generations will say “awww such cute grannies!” at us. So we shouldn’t patronise older performers in Eurovision either.