In class Thursday, we discussed the way music functions to represent a nation at the Eurovision contest and in some other contexts. As far as Eurovision is concerned, blatant nationalism is counterproductive to the goal of winning the contest; Dr. Weinstein mentioned how songs with obvious references to the nation of origin rarely win the contest, and the point was made with Celine Dion’s entrance winning for Switzerland and Finland’s hair metal performance also winning the contest for them. The accepted strategy, then, is to just put forth the best music possible, regardless of whether or not it represents the country submitting it. This is something that I find somewhat strange, given how important the contest is for each country. Winning seems to be a big point of pride for whichever country does so, so why shouldn’t the songs have any nationalistic aspects? A contest that pits countries against other countries (just like the Olympics) must be closely intertwined with nationalism, and yet this nationalism is not reflected, and in fact discouraged, in the voting process.
On the one hand, I can see why this might be the case. Voters for the contest come from every country involved, and voters from other countries may not appreciate overt nationalism in another country’s music. More moderate music designed for wider audiences will understandably garner more praise from opposing countries. It certainly makes sense that if a country makes music specifically to appeal to its own countrymen, it will not do as well with other countries. On the other hand, one might say that discarding nationalistic aspects in favor a more neutral performance is just a tactic for pandering to voters. If a country really aims to receive some sort of validation through winning Eurovision, it certainly sacrifices something by masking its identity in its music. If every country was to submit a song that represented itself, then there wouldn’t be any of the more neutral entries to win a larger portion of the vote; nationalism would then have forced its way into the music and become an inseparable part of the contest. Of course, it’s impossible to say if such a change would be for the better or the worse. Perhaps it would lower the quality of the music, or make voting more political than it already is. Perhaps the nationalistic music should be left within the individual nations and not submitted to international competitions featuring countries with wildly different political and social settings. But then again, maybe not. There are certainly some legitimate arguments to be made for more overt nationalism in the entries, but if no one is dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, maybe there’s no need to change them.