We’re still dealing with the seismic cultural change of having Americans wanting to know about Eurovision; the success of the Will Ferrell Netflix musical/comedy has baffled many, but it’s a brand that most of Europe recognises instantly. It’s not vital to watching the movie; you don’t need to understand basketball to watch Semi-Pro, no prior knowledge of ice-skating is needed to enjoy Blades of Glory, and non-NASCAR fans can enjoy Talladega Nights. But you’ll get more from the film is you understand where the Fire Saga comes from.
Eurovision has been going for decades, and gets twice the audience that the Suerbowl does, although not necessarily the same kind of people watch. From a rather staid competition, Eurovision has slowly metamorphosed into a lavish, camp extravaganza, a ‘gay Christmas’ of mad costumes, strange songs and international rivalry. European countries like Australia take part; the first rule of Eurovision is that there are no rules. The Story of Fire Saga makes good use of the performers breaking with tradition and singing in their own language; in general, English gets something of a kicking in this international song contest.
It was the success of ABBA which really cemented Eurovision’s place back in the 70’s. The style then was very upbeat, only in later years did the kind of power ballards parodies in Fire Saga’s Double Trouble, Volcano Man or Lion of Love become popular. No less august a figure as musicologist Dr Joe Bennett (Professor of Professional Music, Berklee College USA) considered the Jaja Ding Dong song which opens the film thus ‘Ja Ja Ding Dong is a classic example of old-school Eurovision Schlager – an oompah singalong tune with nonsense words and a happy sentiment.’
It’s a pitch-perfect parody of the kind of song which Eurovision fans love; below, I’ve included a few of my own personal favourites from the genre, including the peerless “Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley” by The Herreys, three-gold-booted brothers from Sweden, a 1984 winner, the UK’s unsuccessful but catchy One Step Closer by Bardo, and the timeless Let It Swing by Norwegian girl-group Bobbysox. It’s just a Primer, sure, but if you’re going to immerse yourself in the decades of European lore over the Independence Day holiday, this is the place to start…