The Power of Pop at the Eurovision Song Contest

Pop music, that all encompassing genre of music that dominates the charts, dictates culture and has the power to drive whole markets. At the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s long been held as the pathway to victory.

With glam rockers Måneskin winning last year in Rotterdam with an unapologetic rock anthem, many hailed this as somewhat of a referendum for The Eurovision Song Contest to #OpenUp to other genres. Lordi’s “Hard Rock Hallelujah,” at its core follows a schlager-like format with a kitschy rock flair. That win was back in 2006 and rock music fans have been waiting for the genre to have its day in the sun once more.

Has rock music truly “ARRIVED,” at the Eurovision Song Contest or is a mere token or check box that needs to be marked off so the Contest ultimately reflects what’s happening in the charts?

According to good old, Wikipedia:

Pop is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form during the mid-1950s in the United States and the United Kingdom.[4] The terms popular music and pop music are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many disparate styles. During the 1950s and 1960s, pop music encompassed rock and roll and the youth-oriented styles it influenced. Rock and pop music remained roughly synonymous until the late 1960s, after which pop became associated with music that was more commercial, ephemeral, and accessible.

Although much of the music that appears on record charts is seen as pop music, the genre is distinguished from chart music. Identifying factors usually include repeated choruses and hooks, short to medium-length songs written in a basic format (often the verse-chorus structure), and rhythms or tempos that can be easily danced to.

Keeping that definition in mind, it could be argued that Måneskin, with all of their worldwide success, is POP now. Lest we not forget, their viral worldwide hit “Beggin,” is a pop song originally performed by 60s boy band, The Four Seasons. Reaching #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, there is no denying their pop-street-cred.

So, is the win still a rock win?

In these Eurovision streets: YES.

I am of the camp that believes that no one (except for Swedes *joke*) really sets out to make POP music. Pop music is tricky that way. It’s a genre that is arguably determined by how it is consumed. Mass consumption yields the POP name tag and in a Song Contest, mass consumption is the key to VICTORY.  Where its formula become diluted, is when you start to look closely at some of the biggest pop hits over the years (see video below). It is clear that outside of a few boy bands and pop princesses, there isn’t much of a formula at all— the vocals, instrumentation, performers, and styles all vary.

Pop does have power at Eurovision, but the formulaic pop of schläger or bubblegum pop, seen most recently with Norway’s TIX, doesn’t seem to yield the results for a sure-fire victory. But will that stop many countries from serving textbook pop entries? NO!

Ultimately, one of the best features of the Song Contest is the sense of unpredictability, political play, and spectacle; but aren’t those adjectives somewhat the antithesis of pop music? I can’t count how many times I’ve heard from delegation leads, journalists and fans alike that Eurovision is mainly about showcasing formulaic pop music. The delegations are nervous about their chances to qualify and finish on the left-hand side of the leaderboard, so they play it safe with a pop track.

Bottom 3 Songs of the last 5 years at Eurovision

2021… all pop songs

  • Spain
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom

2019… all pop songs

  • Belarus
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom

2018… 2/3 pop songs

  • United Kingdom
  • Finland
  • Portugal

2017… 2/3 pop songs

  • Ukraine
  • Germany
  • Spain

2016… all pop songs

  • United Kingdom
  • Czech Republi
  • Germany

Clearly, the pop genre alone won’t save you from finishing low or garnering 0 votes from the televote. Instead of these “experts” leaning on a genre for success maybe they should look for artistry and take a little bit of a risk…

What do you think? Are we going to hear more winners in the coming years that don’t fit into the pop music mold?

Published by Alesia Michelle

This talkative girl decided to use her gift of the gab for good. Alesia is a graduate of Hampton University, with a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism. Alesia enjoys singing and actually appeared on Showtime at the Apollo (twice)- and did not get booed. When she isn’t working, Alesia loves politics, reality TV and is your favorite American fan of the Eurovision Song Contest.

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