Things considered a big deal in Europe but not in the States - Part 1: Eurovision!
I'm not sure how long this feature will run, but I've got at least a few good ones to unload. To kick it off, I simply must introduce you to the Eurovision Song Contest, clearly not as popular as the World Cup, but still a HUGE deal on the other side of the pond. In fact, i's not only one of the longest-running TV shows in the world, Eurovision brings in more viewers annually than almost any other show on TV, outside of sporting events.
Around since the mid-50s, any country that's an active member of the European Broadcasting Union is eligible to submit one song/artist to represent them in this, the mother of all song contests. Some countries opt to make a big deal out of their own finals (the Swedish national final is played out in stadiums all over the country), while others just nominate their favorite artist and send them off with a good-luck kiss.
The most famous winner to come out of Eurovision, hands-down (and also the one whose career was literally launched by the contest), was Sweden's 1974 entry, ABBA, with the song "Waterloo." But there have been other big names, as well. CÃ©line Dion won for Switzerland in 1988 with the song "Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi," despite that she'd already hit it big years earlier, and Katrina and the Waves won for the U.K in 1997 with "Love Shine a Light," a good decade after they released "Walking on Sunshine."
Eurovision's 1998 winner, Dana International, has an interesting story behind her. When Dana (real name: Sharon Cohen) was a kid growing up in Israel, she dreamt of entering the prestigious contest one day—of having her songs played outside of Israel (a country the size of Rhode Island). Interestingly, she was actually a he back then: Yaron Cohen. The transsexual pop star's Eurovision entry, "Diva," became a big hit all over Europe and was ultimately voted as 1 of 14 songs considered the best Eurovision songs of all time.
If you check out this clip of "Diva" you'll get a good feeling for what the contest looks and smells like. Though votes are tallied over the phone and by SMS, Eurovision isn't really just about national pride. What I mean by that is people really do take it seriously and vote for what they think is the best song, not just the song from their country. So what do you think folks, should America be allowed to participate?