Me, you, Europe, the Universe: recovery and revival at the 65th Eurovision Song Contest 2021
By Philip V. Bohlman
Published by the Oxford University Press's blog Academic Insights for the Thinking World
June 2, 2021
Already during the initial spread of the coronavirus pandemic during the early months of 2020, when the organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest determined the world’s largest and most extravagant musical competition could not take place in May, plans were underway for its return a year later, on 22 May, 2021 in Rotterdam. The intervening year was one of introspection, a year removed from Eurovision temporality as venue, contestants, and songs were retrofitted for the second sixty-fifth annual staging in 2021. The Eurovision mise-en-scène in Rotterdam was to be one of Europe’s recovery and revival, following prolonged pandemic and isolation. The Rotterdam Ahoy Arena would host live performances, if to a much-reduced audience of 3,500. The thirty-second postcards (short introductory videos for each artist) punctuating the songs in live performance uniformly staged a tiny room symbolizing lockdown on the empty landscape of a Dutch city. Healing now possible, the moment for celebrating new beginnings had arrived.
When the final votes were tallied, few of the estimated 200 million viewers in the global television audience would question the arrival of new beginnings, but many would question its meaning for Europe. The hard-rocking Italian band, Måneskin, performing “Zitti e buoni” (translated as “Shut Up and Sit Down”), became the winner of the Eurovision 2021, propelled to victory by the overwhelming support of the popular vote. Måneskin’s path to Rotterdam followed the traditional route of Italian entries, winning the Sanremo Song Festival earlier in the year. “Zitti e buoni,” however, circumvented, or rather, took no heed of, the themes of recovery and revival. “Zitti e buoni” harkened back to an earlier rock ‘n’ roll, mixing styles—here, a splash of metal, there a sustained swath of hip-hop—asserting Måneskin’s selfness and belying the collective cause of healing embraced by other entries. In its original version, there were instances in which the lyrics were so vulgar they had to be excised prior to the Eurovision. “Zitti e buoni” is a song about new beginnings, about mine, maybe yours, but who really cares.
Read the complete blogpost on the OUPblog.