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A Eurovision Fire Saga Primer: Everything You Need to Know

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…

 

 

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  1. It’s all original material, no lazy covers here. People have a love-hate relationship with the contest, but it’s all good fun. Go on, these songs would bring a smile to anyone, even you!

  2. Honestly, I think it’s more that music and I only have a passing acquaintance. I leave it alone and it leaves me alone and we’re both happier 😀

    What do I win if these songs make me frown?

  3. Sorry for the use of frwon instead of frown; but yes, from my knowledge of you, I would LOVE to hear your reaction to Diggalo Diggalay. It is a CHALENGE for sure, I DARE you to listen!

  4. I’m going to stand up for my beliefs, the Eurovision movie rocks and so do these songs. You can deny it, but as the song says, You Can’t Stop The Beat! Best new cinema musical since Greatest Showman…probably needed a rest and some feelgood TLC after sex-crime and racism Wednesday posts..that’s my excuse!

  5. Challenge accepted! I have tomorrow off of work, so I’ll give it a whirl and give my honest opinion. Which I already know, because I’m that kind of guy 😀

  6. This american who was remotely aware of the Eurovision thing (and a sometime Graham Norton fan) just watched this film, and while I was smitten with the little Candian lass playing Sigrid (or whatever) I was a bit taken aback with the fact that we were generally meant to be laughing at Europeans. Icelanders in particular (what? couldn’t Bjork find a moment to step in?).
    OK they had fun poking at Americans and the reality is we’re making fun of that thread of European-ness that is this particular fashion and music show. That thing that produced ABBA. Did it also give us Plastic Bertrand? He of an amazing argument I had with a girlfriend about that goddamned song years ago . . .??

    I don’t know! My computer broke down, I spent two days trying to fix it. Finally spent 10 bucks and got it working again! Yay me.

  7. Good point; I think they had to tread a tricky path given that there are intense rivalries between countries at Eurovision, and you can’t make a movie about this contest without reflecting that. But the Russians are not demonised, but portrayed as bombastic and arrogant, and the number of Icelands in front of the camera suggests that they can take a joke. Plastic Bertrand isn’t specifically a Euorvision thing, but is for sure part of the Euro-kitch thing. There’s decades of awful and wonderful music in the Eurovision trove, worth a look is only for comedy purposes. But I think the film gets away with making fun of the little differences between nations without using offensive stereotypes.

  8. Oh my goodness.

    Video 1: I kept waiting for the product to be jumped out on us or for them to start chewing gum and hold out the gum wrapper. This was an advertisers wet dream. And those silver boots? Thank goodness styles change on a regular basis.

    Video 2: I intellectually know that people listen to this kind of music, and that you are showing these as representative, not your personal taste, but people would watch this stuff? Voluntarily, and enjoyed it? I do not understand how this appeals to so many people.

    Video 3: Umm, bouncy? I do have to admit, I would love for big hair to come back. I remember when big hair was a thing in the 90’s. Wish I’d been appreciative enough of it then. That is one style I wouldn’t mind, as long as they don’t make me wear silver boots 😀

  9. These are the best bits of 50 years of Eurovision! And yes, people genuinely love this stuff, it’s retro, it’s innocent, it’s pretty silly and it has great retro kitch value. Hair, boots, musical madness.

    You win today’s gold star for completing my Eurovision endurance test. You can add Eurovision Winner to your CV!

  10. As an American who didn’t know what Eurovision was until the Netflix film, what intrigued me the most was the variety and diverse quality of music.

    I think Americans get very tired of American music (for me, I can’t stand our pop; it seems it gets simpler and less inspired each year), and this allows music from other places to take over for a bit. Right now, K-pop is huge over here, and certain types of Japanese pop do well over here as well.

    So I wouldn’t be surprised if Eurovision ends up serving as a conduit for some more international genres to reach new audiences here.

  11. There’s variety for sure, and it’s a fun alternative to pop music. Bear in mind that the rest of the world doesn’t know or care about NASCAR, basketball or suchlike; Eurovision is closer to ice-skating in terms of Ferrell’s other films. I do think there could be a great Eurovision supercut documentary capturing all the best and most iconic moments from the show over the past decades, there’s plenty of moments that make Fire Saga look staid in comparison!

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