The Year of Singing Politically: Eurovision Song Contest 2024, Sweden

The 68th Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Malmö, Sweden

By Philip V. Bohlman at OUP: Welcome to the show. Let everybody know I’m done playin’ the game. I’ll break out of the chains.

—Nemo, “The Code,” winning song of Eurovision 2024

Breaking out of the chains had emerged as a central leitmotif and call for activism at the Eurovision Song Contest long before Swiss non-binary singer, Nemo, performed it as the winning song, “The Code,” at the Grand Finale on May 11 2024 in Malmö, Sweden. Though the lyrics could and did allow for different interpretations when the 2024 national entries first began to circulate on the internet—whose show, whose game, who’s everybody, who’s playing—ambiguity had been stripped away by the height of the Eurovision season in April. Nemo’s own breaking of the code became an allegory for direct engagement with the most unbreakable of all Eurovision codes: performance of politics, understated or overt, is strictly forbidden.

Violating the code would lead to rejection of a national entry by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the largest broadcasting network in the world and the organizational infrastructure for the Eurovision itself. In extreme cases, when the politics of a song mirrored the geopolitics of Europe, violation of the code could lead to banning a nation from competing entirely, as it did in 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. The Eurovision Song Contest, in a word, should be apolitical. It should channel a cultural democracy for Europe heralded by an annual motto, this year “Unity by Music.” Such lofty goals for song may well be cause for celebration, but the reality of the largest music competition in the world, in which nation vies against nation on the global television stage, undermines the myth of a world without politics.

More here.