Why do I suddenly care about Eurovision for the first time in over 40 years?

When I was a kid Eurovision was an even bigger deal than it is now. Media channels were few and content was scarce, so whatever pop music came our way was pretty much all we had. Eurovision in particular felt like a universal treasure of pop, to be appreciated way beyond the competition: those were literally all the songs a lot of us had access to.

Then it gradually became highly competitive… and post-modern. The camp factor took over, and it all became an endlessly more extravagant exercise in acrobatics – vocal, anatomical and sensorial. By then I was no longer paying attention, I had entered adolescence and rummaged whatever prog, kraut and post-punk I could find in record shops and mail order service. But it wasn’t just about age: from the corner of my eye I looked at the induced euphoria coming from Eurovision year after year, and it all seemed too cynical. Whenever I glimpsed, it kept getting worse.

Which brings us to this year and the “Salvador” phenomenon. His is a very pleasant song, not exactly avant-garde but certainly well-crafted and arranged within the parameters of its genre. Salvador has a very particular kind of charisma that is impossible to replicate (as if any kind of charisma could…): a humble carelessness only ever so slightly revealing a glimpse of a huge inner strength.

But the reason why Eurovision caught my attention this year is another: it has to do with the remarkable resonance Salvador and his song seem to be having in the public. And why?…

I believe this is happening because Eurovision has simply run out of bombastic cynicism – or rather, the audience has had enough. I watched some of it yesterday and the amount of pyrotechnics and screams, the sheer aggression of it all was overwhelming…

Maybe Salvador’s biggest strength is quietude, his own and his song’s: in the middle of the hallucination, his three minutes come as an oasis of reflection. And this is why I feel an interest in Eurovision this year: maybe it’s a small sign that, as people, we have had enough of so much overabundance, noise, sensorial bombardment.

I’m not as interested in Salvador as an entertainer, as I am in understanding “why has the spotlight suddenly been turned onto the quiet one on the corner?”… and I’m intuitively (and cautiously) optimistic about the reason why. Maybe such a broad interest in his song is telling us something of the times we’re living in. Melancholia rather than euphoria; a thirst for reflection rather than a hunt for abandonment.

Salvador’s subtle and quirky hand gestures and facial expressions could be a metaphor for a renewed awareness and investment in subtlety and gentleness, in culture but also in society; maybe one among other small signs of an era of sobriety, who knows?…

In other words, may this collective interest in a quiet Eurovision song signal a broader end of an era of harsh sensorial overload. Of course a renewed, gentler approach to pop is still measured theatrics, but at least it sways rather than shove. The World is quite brutal right now as it is, thank you very much.

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