ESC Insight

ESC Insight
18
May
2019

Taking Flight: The Upward Trajectory of Australia At Eurovision 2019

Taking Flight: The Upward Trajectory of Australia At Eurovision 2019

Leading into song 9 at the first-ever ‘Australia Decides’ National Final, there was a sense of anticipation on the entry of indie-darling Kate Miller-Heidke, both from those present in the arena and those on the live television broadcast. Treated to some of the best talent within Australia, including the worldwide known drag queen Courtney Act and current chart-topping Brisbane band Sheppard, the standard was high.  Just as the lights went up, most of the general public gasped in delight at the tall shadowy figure of the ice queen scaling the high notes of her entry ‘Zero Gravity’.

Despite momentum for underground dance group Electric Fields, it seemed that the stars were always meant to shine on Kate – a clear favourite of the production team who were glowing with praise at having such an entry in their selections.  Surrounding her with a series of clips of the high camp and spectacular staging from Eurovision, framed her staging nicely.

Even though it was the clear favourite at Australia Decides, most fans – including myself – were quick to dampen Australian expectations at the much-larger 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. ‘We’ve seen this before, and it’s not won yet’ was the general consensus; from the pop-opera vocal stylings to the large-scale dress.  Comparisons to Elena from Estonia 2018 were abound.  How could Australia, now seemingly going for the big prop novelty stage act, possibly work?

A History of Kate

The pop-era genre is nothing new for performer Kate, who has been performing a mix of contemporary pop, folk and opera since for over a decade. She trained at the Queensland Conservatorium as a classical singer and has performed in the genre with the English National and New York Metropolitan operas.

Her breakthrough in Australia however came in 2009, when she reached the top of the charts and double platinum sales for her hits ‘The Last Day On Earth’ and ‘Caught In The Crowd’.  It was used in countless television soundtracks and enjoyed heavy rotation on local radio.

It has been hard to avoid her presence in the music and arts scene since.  From holding a role as Musical Director at the Australian Performing Rights Association, writing comedy songs for fellow friendly acts at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, acting on national television and now composing Operas and also the hottest musical in Australia, to a stage adaptation of cult movie ‘Muriels Wedding’, Kate has a lot on her shoulders.

She decided to submit her song for the national selections after being inspired by Nettas’ winning song ‘Toy’ last year, where she recognised that you can produce innovative music and still bring fun to the stage.

A History Of Australia At Eurovision

Australia’s history with Eurovision begins with the launch of broadcaster SBS in 1983.  Largely aimed at the European migrant community, showing the contest allowed those expats to keep their connections to the homeland by watching the event that they both grew up with and to discover new music in their native tongue.

Whilst there were some haphazard attempts to localise the Contest over coming years, we can fast forward to 2009; the year in which the broadcaster decided that with growing interest and audience numbers locally to send a team to present the commentary from on the ground. Australians loved the combination of comedic and highly appreciative views from our own voices and ratings swelled.  The push to compete on the ground was greater than ever, and finally in 2014, the broadcaster was asked to contribute an interval act to explain the unique love and relationship Aussies have with Eurovision.  2015 saw Australia compete for the very first time, with a fifth placing Guy Sebastian, then Dami Im (second in 2016), Isaiah (2017) and Jessica Mauboy (2018).  Think whatever you like about these acts, all achieved qualification to the finals on the Saturday night on talent alone with little diaspora or cultural relationships to rely upon for points.

Whilst SBS carries the Eurovision for broadcast, the logistics are handled in most part by an external group known as Blink TV.  The production company have long and wide-ranging experience in both the television and arts fields, having produced a comedy special for Adam Hills, an concert special of Kylie Minogue’s Homecoming ShowGirl tour, a large number of Australian comedy panel shows and also Junior Eurovision for the other Australian Public Broadcaster ABC-TV.

Christer Bjorkman (l) and Paul Clarke

Christer Bjorkman (l) and Paul Clarke

Head of Delegation for Australia since 2015 has been Paul Clarke, also lead director of Blink TV.  His experience dates back to the 1980s as a journalist and TV presenter, then head of the arts and entertainment on ABC-TV as a writer, producer-director and co-creator of hugely popular music series ‘Recovery’ and ‘Spicks and Specks’ through the 1990s and early 2000s.  Simply put, his experience tends to understand both sides of what is required in regard to the trio of PR story, music and the televisual experience; thus Eurovision is his perfect playground.

Having this team at the helm always guaranteed that Eurovision relationship with Australia would be a serious one, moving away from being the regularly portrayed kitsch-fest that and negative attitude on the Contest was borne of the decades of Terry Wogan commentated broadcasts carried by SBS.

One thing is certain, when Australia joined, they were always going to mean business.

Stone In My Shoe

The Australian team remained focused but somewhat quiet over the promotion period leading up to this years contest.  ‘Significant changes’ were promised for the stage show with the team working hard behind closed doors and were tight-lipped on anything further.

Miller-Heike’s promotions were in the main locally-based TV chat shows that combined mentions of her participation alongside new dates for her musical ‘Muriels Wedding’.  Internationally, she participated in Eurovision In Concert, due to the convenience of her travelling to nearby Israel for the shooting of the dancing postcard.

Further media appearances were suspended on her return from Europe in April due to a highly infected blister caused from the postcard dancing in inappropriate shoes, seeing her spend a week in hospital to recover.  Question marks hung over her health and PR momentum for the show hit a wall, with betting odds for Australia blowing out at a whopping 140/1, the highest for any Australian act performing at Eurovision.

Kate rests up in hospital prior to Eurovision

Nothing Holding Me Down

Ditching the giant blue dress for which she had to scale a ladder to attach to her waist, she is now resplendent in a fairytale white sparkly dress designed by the same team that were responsible for Dami Ims’ unique flowing dress in 2016 that now hangs in the Australian Music Museum in Melbourne as a significant moment in the history of the nation.

The static feel of the national final stage show also went the way of the dodo, replaced with an ambitious choice to replicate and maximise the element that did draw positives from fans – the inclusion of the Strange Fruit circus team on their bendy poles.

It is this component that ultimately now has people across Europe captivated, with viewers kept bewildered by exactly what they are seeing – an overlay image of the world hiding the surprise of the flowing movements of Kate and her two backing bendy pole ‘dementors’ until a minute into the song.  This wonder is also felt within the arena audience, and the moment where she is wheeled onto the stage continues to draw audible gasps from those in attendance.

Kate takes flight (Image: ESC Insight)

Clearly the unique staging has caught a wind of attention in a year where many of the songs have failed to produce as greater sense of wonder, and in turn, momentum at the crucial part of the race to win Eurovision.

Judging by the coverage it has gathered from mainstream, many are excited for the novelty, but then stay for the narrative. ‘Zero Gravity’ is essentially an auto-biographical tale of Kate’s experience of post-natal depression following the birth of her now 3-year old son Ernie. It makes sense that her own partner and long-time collaborator Keir Nuttall then shares the writing credits on the song; telling of their private journey of emerging from a dark place to literally floating on air, throwing off the burdens to achieve a sense of weightlessness.

The staging concept finally makes sense, leading the general public to be left in a sense of wonder in how it can be achieved – along with utmost respect to control the apparatus whilst delivering flawless vocals on all the rehearsals. And there is now a narrative we have seen play out over the past three months which has captivated everyone from the BBC to Ukrainian television for coverage.  All the elements created by the Australian Delegation are working in harmony, and the momentum seemingly is peaking just at the right time.  In the evening before we decide, odds have dropped to as low as 6/1, holding a second favourite status leading into the 2019 Contest final.

Whether it’s enough for a win, we shall see shortly.

Categories: ESC Insight

18
May
2019

Spotter’s Guide: Eurovision 2019 – The Grand Final

Spotter’s Guide: Eurovision 2019 – The Grand Final

A Spectacular Opening

The opening ceremony always sets the tone for the Eurovision final, and this year is no exception. Leaning heavily into Tel Aviv’s reputation as the party capital of Israel, we get Dana International performing her version of Omer Adam’s Ha Habibi Tel Aviv, Nadav Guedj reprising his 2015 anthem Golden Boy, and Israeli national treasure Ilanit singing the country’s first ever Eurovision entry, Ey Sham. Don’t tune in late, this is a real treat for Eurovision fans of all generations.

Returning Stars

The familiar faces don’t end with the opening ceremony – this year’s Contest is packed with cameos from notable Eurovision stars. Izhar Cohen is back to read the Swedish points, Netta debuts her infectious new single Nana Banana, and there’s a spectacular medley in which Conchita, Måns Zelmerlöw, Eleni Foureira, and Verka Serduchka cover each others’ Eurovision hits before joining forces with Gali Atari for a heartwarming run through Israel’s anthemic 1979 winner Hallelujah. It’s quite the spectacle – particular when Eleni somehow manages to out-camp Verka with a seductive interpretation of Dancing Lasha Tumbai that won’t soon be forgotten.

Nadav Guedj finally delivers on his offer to show us Tel Aviv… (Eurovision.tv/Elena Volotova)

A Long, Long Wait for the Votes

As you might have gathered, the interval performances this year are extensive. You might wish to get comfortable once the competitive songs are over, because there’s a fair old while until the results come through. In addition to the aforementioned returning artists, there’s also an ambitious piece from local star Idan Raichel, the return of Israeli ‘mentalist’ Lior Suchard with some more ‘mind-reading’, a video cameo from Gal Gadot, and, of course, the biggest one of all …

Madonna

Yes, the controversial queen of pop has finally confirmed that she’ll be performing in tonight’s show, after weeks of fevered speculation. She’s strictly rehearsing behind closed doors, so we don’t know exactly what her performance is going to look like yet, but we do know that she’s set to sing her latest single Future and her classic 1989 hit Like A Prayer. Love her or loathe her, it’s bound to be a moment.

Madonna will perform a two-song interval set during tonight’s show. (EBU/Steven Klein)

A Change To The Voting

The powers that be at the EBU have once again tampered with the voting system this year, making a small but critical change to the way the final televote is presented. Instead of starting from the song with the lowest televote and working upwards, the points are revealed in the order of their jury score – starting with revealing the televote for the country that finished last with the juries and so on. Having seen the run-through during rehearsals, there’s a slight sense of lost momentum in this system as it’s less clear what the significance of the votes is until the very end. That said, it does clean up the final winner announcement quite nicely, and we’re bound to be on the edge of our seats either way.

A New Winner!

Will the Netherlands justify the fairly consistent faith of the bookies? Will Iceland’s dominance in the media translate into a victory? Could Australia’s spectacular stage show push them over the edge? Or will Switzerland’s party anthem give them the best possible Eurovision comeback after years in the Semi Final doldrums? We genuinely have no idea, and things seem even more open this year than usual – which will hopefully lead to some very exciting results! Whatever happens, enjoy the show and don’t be too downhearted if your favourite doesn’t win. There’s always next year.

Stay tuned to ESC Insight for a thorough post-mortem on the results online and on the ESC Insight podcast. Check out the latest version of the ESC Insight newsletter here, or subscribe here to receive regular updates direct to your inbox. 

For all the latest Eurovision-related news and analysis, you can also follow ESC Insight on Facebook and Twitter. 

Categories: ESC Insight

18
May
2019

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Grand Final Commentary 2019

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Grand Final Commentary 2019
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20190518_645_altcomm_gf/escinsight_20190518_645_altcomm_gf.mp3

One show to go in the season, the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, so download your copy of the ESC Insight Alternative Commentary ‘Riff’ Track for the show. Having spent the 2019 Season with ESC Insight, why not join us for the drop from twenty six songs to just one. Our winner.

You’ll be able to watch the show on your national broadcaster (or head over to www.eurovision.tv for the free live stream without a commentator).

For a million reasons, legal, technical or otherwise, we can’t automatically sync up with the live broadcast, so  you need to do a little bit of work. Grab the MP3, cue it up in your audio player of choice, be it portable on headphones, or on your computer or tablet. Feel free to start listening whenever you want, but starting five minutes before show starts is just about enough – more makes it comforable.

I’ll remind you in the show, but when you hear the beep, you pause the track, and start up again when our hosts say “let the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 begin!” 

Enjoy! And you can still follow me real time on Twitter for updates direct from Tel Aviv and the Contest.

Eurovision 2019 Podcast: Grand Final Commentary

Ellie Chalkley, Elaine O’Neil, and Ross Middleton, take you though the Grand Final of Eurovision 2019. Press play before the show starts, and don’t forget to pause when you hear the beep!

You can stay up to date with The ESC Insight Podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed for all the shows, or use iTunes to get the show automatically downloaded to your computer if that’s your thing.

Categories: ESC Insight

18
May
2019

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Saturday 18th May

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Saturday 18th May
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20190518_644_daily/escinsight_20190518_644_daily.mp3

And it comes down to this. Less than a day to go, and we find out our winner. But what can we expect in the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019?

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Saturday 18th May

Previewing the Grand Final of Eurovision 2019, we look at the running order, the favourites, and the surprises

With Ewan Spence and Sharleen Wright.

With the Grand Final nearly here, stay up to date with all the Eurovision discussions by listening to the ESC Insight podcasts. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

18
May
2019

Who Would Love Hatred And Why Hatari Will Prevail

Who Would Love Hatred And Why Hatari Will Prevail

2019’s lineup has provided us with a diverse year of contestants – from French social media star and LGBT Muslim icon Bilal Hassani, to Russian pop giant Sergey Lazarev, to the intimate introverts from Slovenia, Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl. Yet there’s one act that has gained the most media attention, and that has continued to make headlines from their initial National Final participation announcement right through to the day of their semi-final: Hatari, from Iceland.

Yet Hatari have not just been making waves in traditional media. They have also stormed social media, gaining a large, active, devoted, and vibrant fanbase in a manner few other acts have achieved, including conventional favourites like Mahmood from Italy and John Lundvik from Sweden. Hatari’s popularity and fans have not gone unnoticed, leaving those who are not on Hatari’s wild train perplexed and dismissive, discounting their appeal of leather and latex as nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Why have Hatari gained such a large and vocal fanbase? Who are their fans? And crucially, why are they so divisive?

An Arena Divided

One sunny evening in early April this year, I found myself in an Amsterdam arena, standing towards the front of a crowd of thousands as the hosts of prestigious Eurovision pre-party Eurovision in Concert announced the next act to take the stage. We were well over halfway through the night and, while passion was still high, we were beginning to tire as entrant followed entrant to perform their songs to the international audience, many for the first time as confirmed Eurovision 2019 contestants.

To one side of me, a few older Dutch men were standing chatting among themselves, empty beer glasses in hand, while in front of me, a group of young women from across Europe excitedly shared comments on the night so far. The hosts on the stage announced that the next act would be Iceland, and as if in split screen, I saw the two groups near me react to the news: the men shook their head briefly and walked off to get more beer, while the young women screamed with excitement, and pushed forward to get closer to the stage as the leather-clad silhouette of singer, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson, appeared out of the darkness.

Three intense minutes followed. Matthías and fellow vocalist Klemens Nikulásson Hannigan performed their song, ‘Hatrið mun sigra’, while engaging in a focused, sensual choreography that ended with Klemens draped over the front of the stage as Matthías loomed over him from behind. The audience around me – by this point, very much made up of Hatari’s faithful – almost melted into the sticky arena floor, and poor D-mol from Montenegro, who were next up, were semi-ignored as the conversation covered Hatari’s staging, their outfits, their vocals .. and especially their choreography. Behind us, the Dutch men reappeared, beer in hand, clearly glad to have missed the Icelandic pair.

Later that evening at the after-party, as Matthías and Klemens, still corset-clad and stony-faced, navigated a throng of fans wanting selfies, I reflected on why I’d seen such a divisive reaction in the hall. It had been unlike the reaction to any other artist, including Turkish entertainer Serhat with his cheap-but-fun song, or the bookies’ favourite, Duncan Laurence.

But only after getting my own selfie first. Because this was a band I wanted to remember.

Do Get Too Political

There are many ways to describe Hatari, and the band themselves gleefully engage in a kind of adjective lottery, where they never refer to themselves the same way twice. They are an anti-capitalist, BDSM, hipster art performance group combining their on-stage performances — industrial music utilising strong BDSM imagery that plays with concepts of sexuality and gender — with off-stage deadpan persona that interweave political commentary with media-savvy trolling.

Hatari are easily one of the year’s most memetic entries — not so much on stage, as with Moldova’s legendarymemeperformances — but in their personalities. Whenever the official Eurovision YouTube channel has featured Hatari in a video with other artists, Hatari earn the lions’ share of the attention, such as with the ’emoji challenge’ where the comments focus on Hatari opting for a unicorn (“The unicorn is a mysterious creature and our performance is mystical. Like the unicorn“).

They are a meme factory who double up as a band, and memes mean memorable. Their press conferences become as much performance art as anything they might do on the main Eurovision stage. At the red carpet event when fans were focusing more on the outfits than on the brief interviews, Klemens’s brief comment “we’re not used to this heat so I tore half of my jacket off” got a sudden wave of tweets. For those who consume memes like cake, Hatari are like a bakery. Yet the memes are not all there is.

Their associated video channel ‘Iceland Music News’ (which only ever reports on Hatari) oscillates wildly between obvious skits, from ‘The Office’ style mockumentary comedy, to interviews with Palestinian activists discussing Hatari’s actions in Israel. One video treats Estonian representative Victor Crone as an eager Hatari fan; another airs people’s criticisms of Hatari – be it that they’re being too political, or just that Matthías growls too much. More than any other act at this year’s Eurovision, Hatari are a multimedia package, providing content off stage as much as they do with their music.

All this has made them many fans, beyond the initial and often shocking videos of their stage performances.

When Hatari took to that stage in Amsterdam, the anticipation was as much for the band members as it was for ‘Hatrið mun sigra‘ itself. While their show may be compared to earlier Icelandic entrant Paul Oscar’s ‘Minn hinsti dans‘, their all-encompassing onslaught is more easily likened to Sylvia Night, only far more palatable. The shock of their show almost acts like bait: come for the grinding industrial bassline, stay for their 21st century take on being a court jester, wrapping political observations and statements in tomfoolery and post-modern deconstruction until it’s hard to tell which is which.

Dedicated Hatari fan Yvie (@penguinornery) writes: “Coming across Hatari definitely was a little confusing at first, their sound and aesthetic is unlike anything anyone has seen before, they mix genres and use an image that is almost a taboo to convey a message that most people don’t want to hear, even if it’s a real message. The message in every single one of their songs is relatable to everyone that lives in society and it is also poetic enough that it can have different interpretations by each listener. Overall Hatari have a very clever way to make songs with messages that, if they were in a different genre, would go unnoticed using a fierce sound and look to give them the power they really have.”

It’s clear that one major ingredient in Hatari’s appeal is their engagement — the very thing that has likewise turned so many against them. Politics is divisive and Hatari are political.

Fátima (@hatarimunsigra) agrees: “Besides their originality, Hatari members are raising awareness of topics that really matter. Even if there are people who may think it’s just another joke act, Hatari [are] bringing up politics to a contest which is supposed to be apolitical – but, sometimes, you just have to be political, specially when the politics we’re talking about are more a humanitarian cause. Just like Salvador did in 2017 with the refugee issue, Hatari [are] now using their time on the spotlight to talk about important things, and that should be praised, at least.”

Although it may seem puzzling that the Eurovision Song Contest — an event so renowned for optimism that it spawned its own affectionate tribute, ‘Love Love Peace Peace‘ — has accidentally created a strong and passionate fanbase for something so explicitly political and angry, this contradiction is also a reason for the appeal — especially among younger people who are more politically-engaged.

In the piece ‘Why Hatrið mun sigra is the song we need, not just the song we deserve‘ @dudepoints wrote “it’s the 3 minute equivalent of the stored up howl of rage that I’ve had in my heart for the past few years (..) how can we celebrate the collective vision that Eurovision was supposed to support if we have an entire system that’s slowly tearing it apart? (..) Hatari makes me feel seen. They don’t force me to have a solution to things that I can’t fix. They just make me feel like someone gets what we’re all going through. And for that, I will love them forever.”

Despite this, many fans of Eurovision still prefer to agree with Denmark’s Lenora when she sings “don’t get too political”. The divisiveness of Hatari’s political stance is itself treated as something that creates conflict where there should be harmony — or at least escapism. “Eurovision is an escape from the real world,” a Eurofan who didn’t want to be named told me, “I don’t want to hear about Europe falling to hatred. I already know that.”

The Eurovision Song Contest has a mixed history with politics. On paper, Eurovision is apolitical but the decision to be apolitical is a political one. And the whole Eurovision project’s goal of getting Europe to compete on a stage instead of a battlefield is obviously a political one. Overtly political entries have met with mixed fates too. Georgia’s 2009 ‘We Don’t Wanna Put In’ got a “really?! really?!” response from the EBU and a disqualification while Jamala’s eulogy to ethnic cleansing in Crimea — sung shortly after Russian engagements in Crimea in 2016 — won the entire contest. ‘Hatrið mun sigra‘ is not as strictly political as either of these entries (the scenario it describes is non-specific), but Hatari’s political engagement has allegedly been tapped by the EBU as pushing their level of tolerance for politics at the contest — and it has become a key factor in their appeal. Or their lack of it.

Queer Or There

Once the scale of Hatari’s popularity became apparent, they faced some online backlash. Common complaints were that they were too aggressive, too political, or just that their style of music was not suited for Eurovision. However, there were also accusations of appropriation. Hatari’s act, both on- and off-stage, is one that uses BDSM imagery of bondage, domination and submission, leather, and latex, while their behaviour, aesthetic, and choreography all play with conceptions of sexuality and gender. Yet away from the band, the various members wear regular clothes, have families (Einar and Klemens are both fathers, the former with fellow band member Sólbjört), and lead regular lives. Does it really count if you only perform kink, queerness, and gender-play to cameras?

A friend of mine from outside the Eurovision bubble, G, is a queer trans woman who is involved in the BDSM scene and also happens to be a big fan of Hatari. I asked G if it bothered her if Hatari’s queerness and bondage aesthetics were all just an act.

“Surely all performance is an act?” was her response. “It doesn’t bother me. Nobody is performing all the time.” She commented further that Hatari’s aesthetic was one that resonated with her. “A lot of LGBT BDSM stuff has been hard gay machismo. But things are changing with my generation, and Hatari remind me of that. There’s something very feminine about Hatari. I wasn’t sure of Klemens’s gender at first.”

“They are very pretty”, she added, commenting further on a video of their Amsterdam performance that “it felt very intimate”. She knows that Matthías and Klemens are cousins and that they’re therefore putting on a show. “They’re free to do that. It’s what they like, it’s what we like.”

There is definitely an element of artificiality to Hatari’s whole project. However, unlike fellow Eurovision participants T.A.T.U in 2003 who posed as lesbians, the artificial construction is readily apparent, arguably even highlighted. It is a post-modern twisting of art-as-statement, statement-as-art, and art for art’s sake. They are wearing The Emperor’s New Clothes, if those clothes were mesh, latex, and tight corsets. To me, this is different to queerness being adopted as a disguise or a distraction — like Hollywood does with blockbuster films to encourage engagement without actually committing. This is queer aesthetic being used as a whole outfit. This is a conscious performance that never hides that it is a performance, but still follows through. This is not faux homoeroticism. Hatari don’t start kissing each other for the cameras — instead they’ll comment on how their bondage gear is ‘comfortable, practical, everyday wear’. All this is more readily apparent when the whole band are together (Matthías and Klemens were alone in Amsterdam) as it changes the focus from their interpersonal dynamic to a wider performance across genders and flavours of BDSM aesthetic.

Eurovision is certainly no stranger to LGBT performances and participants, and this extends to queerness as well. Conan Osiris of Portugal serves a good example this year, blending influences and experiences to his haunting take on fado, ‘Telemóveis’, in which he relates to past loves as a gay man. It’s a genuine, personal and internal performance as opposed to Hatari’s more self-aware, external performance. However, this doesn’t mean that Hatari’s art is not queer; it is just queerness of a different kind. This different kind of queerness is likely one of the big reasons why Hatari appeal to women, and it is something that separates them from the other Eurovision acts exploring queerness on stage. These have been more male-focused. There are countless female acts who are lauded as gay icons within Eurovision fandom, and yet you tend not to see dismissal of Bojana’s 2015 song ‘Beauty Never Lies’, lauded at the time as an LGBT anthem, even if Bojana may not be LGBT herself.  It’s worth noting here the traditional stereotype of Eurovision’s appeal to gay and bi men has not been extended towards gay or bi women.

Ultimately this is a complicated question that depends on definitions of queerness that can often be intensely personal, but Hatari have definitely struck a chord with LGBT fans who may not necessarily be the target audience for the more familiar LGBT material at Eurovision, whether Hatari themselves are LGBT or not.

THEY’RE COUSINS!

When G noted “they are very pretty”, she wasn’t alone. One reaction I heard shouted back in Amsterdam was “that was so hot!”. Hatari have a definite sexuality to them – although not one that makes them necessarily family-unfriendly, as their huge popularity with children in Iceland shows. For those in the know, the heavy kink elements of the performance and the charged interplay between the entire band is very sexually charged. This plays a big part in their appeal (in every sense of that word), as well as being potentially hugely offputting.

Eurovision contestants being attractive and gaining fans through their looks and personality is a long-established part of the contest. Azerbaijan’s entry this year, Chingiz Mustafeyev, has had fans eagerly sharing images of him even before his song (and subsequently, his staging) was known. ‘Thirst’ is a strong part of Eurovision fandom – but it manifests differently with different fans and different artists. Traditionally, Eurovision’s appeal to gay men has been reflected in the artists it elevates in this way — even if the homoeroticism is not reflected directly in the performances themselves.

A cursory glance at Hatari discussion on Twitter will show that their fans (or, certainly their most passionate fans!) tend to be women while men tend to be overall more lukewarm about the group. I suspect this is in no small part because Hatari – especially Matthías and Klemens – are specifically appealing to women in a way that many other artists are not, but also that this appeal does not carry over as strongly towards the gay and bi men in the fandom. Different strokes for different folks. As a colleague described it, Hatari “have got people thirsting openly who I’ve never seen thirst before” — they are attractive to a demographic that may often be overlooked in fandom and which has felt overlooked in turn.

If you’re not into their appeal, their sexualised stage performance might come across as shocking and unwelcome, or attention-seeking and hollow. If you are into their appeal, then it might get you hot under the collar in a way that no amounts of pyro can.

A CHANGING FANDOM?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two groups in Amsterdam who reacted so differently were made up of older men and younger women: Hatari’s strongest fan appeal has tended towards the latter and away from the former. Hatari are a group for the Twitter generation (even though they don’t have an account themselves) and their sexualised, politicised, memetic, ironic-but-sincere show with fluid concepts of sexuality and gender as much as filling the stage with fire and latex, is tailor-made for this section of the fandom — a section who is becomingly increasingly vocal as the diversity of the fanbase widens in recent years. It may be that as unique a group (or a multimedia experience) Hatari are, they are a signal of things yet to come.

For the time being, Hatari stand out in a way few other entries this year – or any year – have done, and in doing so, they’ve polarised the fandom to an extent few other acts have. Their appeal runs counter to — yet also complementary to — standard Eurovision acts and artists, and in doing so, they’ve won a passionate, engaged, creative, and vocal fanbase, gaining support from those who feel Hatari are THEIR band. Their detractors deem them controversial, artificial, divisive, political – but these are all qualities that have resonated for large parts of the fandom, and led many fans to support them in and beyond this year’s contest.

Now let’s find out if Europe does the same.

Categories: ESC Insight

17
May
2019

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Friday 17th May

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Friday 17th May
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20190517_643_daily/escinsight_20190517_643_daily.mp3

Our 26 song Grand Final is ready to go, so who made it out of Semi Final 2 and who was left behind? Let’s look back at the results from last night as the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 enters the last lap.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tel Aviv, Friday 17th May

Reviewing the second Semi Final, looking at the fallers and those still riding for Eurovision glory in Tel Aviv.

With Ewan Spence and Samantha Ross.

With the Grand Final nearly here, stay up to date with all the Eurovision discussions by listening to the ESC Insight podcasts. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

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