Every now and then, we wonder if we’re a bit too cynical. Then we watch something as mawkishly sincere as Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light and we remember how we got so sardonic in the first place.
Don’t get us wrong: we understand the need to acknowledge what everyone around the world has gone through for the past few months and to salute the health care workers who are saving lives. We’d be churlish to dismiss that. But we had to laugh when ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus said, “[Eurovision] so allows you to escape and be happy and even forget about the coronavirus for a little while.” Europe Shine A Light did nothing but remind us about the coronavirus.
We recognize that our complaints probably reflect more on us as diehard Eurovision fans than on the show itself. Maybe Europe Shine A Line was more of a fillip for a casual audience than we’re giving it credit for. But we thought the show was going to celebrate the artists who lost their chance to represent their countries at this year’s Song Contest and maybe give us a little bit of that escape that Björn alluded to. What we got instead was a cross between a wake and a telethon.
There just needed to be a lot more levity to balance out the somber earnestness. We probably laughed harder than we normally would at Daði Freyr’s goofy message to Europe, Conchita Wurst’s joke about being free from underwear, and Ulrikke’s giddiness over getting a personal message from smoking hot Tom Leeb because they were moments of lightness in an evening that desperately needed them.
Not that we didn’t appreciate the moments of beauty. We’re not that cynical! Netta’s song “Cuckoo” was an utter delight, making us once again thankful that she won. Michael Schulte and Ilsa DeLange’s version of “Eine Bisschen Frieden” was gorgeous. And that brief glimpse of Diodato singing “Fai Rumore” at the empty Arena di Verona gave us chills. Thankfully, the official Eurovision channel posted the whole performance so we could properly bawl our eyes out.
And look, “Love Shine a Light” is nowhere near our favorite Song Contest winner. But you would have to be a cold-hearted, self-centered bass player from a popular Belgian trip hop band not to get a little choked up watching almost all of this year’s Eurovision artists singing along to Katrina and the Waves’ iconic entry.
It would have been impossible to get proper closure on the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest, so maybe it was inevitable that Europe Shine a Light ended the season with a thud. Fortunately, we still have all the songs and the delightful national final performances and the glorious music videos. We can watch them in the producers’ running order, decide which ones make it to our personal final, and pretend that Iceland won. And you can do the same and pretend that your favorite won, too. The music doesn’t go away just because the Song Contest did.