The other day, a friend pointed me to the Finnish entry for Eurovision this year.
OK, I can sort of see what they were thinking. Power metal is Finland's premier musical export at this point (The Rasmus, HIM, Stratovarius etc.). The problem is that this isn't even a particularly good metal song. Still, Finland's never had much luck in the contest - they hosted it once, but only because Israel had won twice in a row - and I wish them all the best.
Eurovision is a big deal in Estonia. The vocal majority screams about it being mindless drivel, and yes, it's much more of a performance contest these days than a song contest. Still, Estonians love to think of themselves as a great singing nation. Hell, we even had a Singing Revolution almost two decades ago.
In the last few years, the situation's been a bit weird. Estonia won Eurovision in 2001, and everyone was ecstatic, but hosting it was a major burden. Certainly the event didn't break even, despite all the tourists. We did alright in 2002, got third place, it was an honor thing. But since then, the powers-that-be seem to be terrified of winning again and having to go through all that; we certainly couldn't let someone else have it. Estonia's entry isn't chosen by popular vote, so the audience favourites have never won. This was most obvious with Vanilla Ninja, the girl band that went on to massive fame in Germany and represented Switzerland at the ESC last year - their song was so obviously Eurovision material that it could not possibly be allowed. The same thing happened this year: the international panel of experts junked the track which everyone voted for, a distinctive and rather beautiful song, for a Swedish girl performing the blandest pop.
Not that I do well at guessing who's going to win. The Ukrainian song I liked from the start, but otherwise I fairly consistently vote for midfielders.
Despite this, I love Eurovision. It is the greatest existing manifestation of the dream of a united Europe. Yes, everyone votes for their neighbours, but I don't see much credibility in the gossip of rigging. It's only a political event insofar as for one night, over half a billion people become a single audience, and experience the sort of fraternity no common market or currency can stimulate.
To quote the Spanish entry of a few years back - "Europe's living a celebration."