What if… Conchita didn’t have the beard?

Evening everyone, and welcome to the third of our 2014 “What If” articles! Following Rory’s investigation into what may have happened had Sweden sent Ace Wilder, tonight I’m going to look at what is possibly one of the biggest question marks hanging over the 2014 contest: simply, what would have happened if our Austrian winner Conchita Wurst didn’t have a beard?

Did Conchita win simply because the beard was part of her act?
Did Conchita win simply because the beard was part of her act?

The results of the Eurovision Song Contest are almost always newsworthy. For a few days after the contest, the world is bombarded with opinionated reports on who won, who lost, who accused who of rigging the voting etc. etc. However, headlines across the world on May 11th this year resonated with just one thing: that a ‘bearded drag queen’ had walked away victorious, seemingly giving the winner’s appearance more significance than the performance or indeed the song.

It shouldn’t be like that at all, when you consider that Eurovision is a musical competition. Focusing on the categorisation of Conchita as a ‘bearded drag queen’ both removes her individual character and seemingly detracts attention from what should be the natural focal point: the music. However, the more I think about it, this exemplifies the issue we have here.

Austria won the Copenhagen contest because of the whole package delivered by the artist, rather than on musical merit alone. And the defining aspect of that artistic package is, whether we like it or not, the beard. It’s a gimmick – yes, a stamp of originality that sets Conchita apart from otherwise similar drag artists, but a gimmick nonetheless. It was added to the character in order to attract more attention. I don’t dispute that the reasoning behind this was honourable, and the amount of admirable work Conchita has been able to do for the LGBT community as a result of her increased fame is absolutely fantastic. But it cannot be denied that the initial motivation behind the beard was to be noticeably different, to create discussion (and in some places controversy), and to increase memorability.

This may all sound a little cynical, but Eurovision is after all a competition, and every artist needs to make themselves memorable in some way. Conchita’s beard most certainly achieved this aim. Some may argue that the simple fact of being a drag artist would have been enough to fulfil such a criteria, however if we look back at the ESC precedent for drag artists, it becomes clear that it’s very hit and miss. Yes, Verka Serduchka soared to second place in 2007, but I’d attribute that more to the dance routine and the actual chorus riff which stuck in people’s heads, rather than the character’s appearance. We’ve also seen acts like Sestre in 2002 stir up their fair share of pre-contest controversy, but be met with a lacklustre response on the actual night. Drag won’t guarantee a good result, but also perhaps it has become too mainstream in the Eurovision environment to merit discussion anymore?

I remember talking to my grandmother in the wake of the 2014 result, and she had just one question in relation to Conchita: “why?”. She loved the song, she really enjoyed the performance, and as a person she is incredibly open-minded when it comes to the issue of sexuality and gender identity. She simply wondered why Tom thought the beard was necessary, when everything else in the performance was so classy. The obvious response to that is of course “why not?”, and that’s the kind of attitude Conchita tries to promote: that no matter who you are or what you look like, you should feel free to be yourself. But at the end of the day, I am in complete agreement with my grandmother’s hesitation, because the same message could have been portrayed as a proud gay man singing as himself on stage, or even by a proud gay man dressed as a fabulous woman without a beard. Yes, it’s all part of the character, but it’s not integral, and Conchita’s aims could still have been fulfilled without it. To a lot of the audience, the beard did’t represent universal acceptance; it was a joke. It wasn’t something to be taken seriously.

So: we come to the question of the results. Would Austria still have been victorious if Conchita Wurst did not have a beard?

I’d personally say it’s extremely difficult to call. The song, whilst being one of my least favourites, definitely made a connection with juries and televoters alike; as did the impressive vocal performance. Thus, it’s hard to envisage Austria finishing much lower sans barbe – however, I’m sticking my neck on the line and saying that they wouldn’t still have won. The beard just about won it for them. The publicity and originality it gave them meant that viewers at home were all unanimous in looking forward to the Austrian performance more than any other. Conchita Wurst, with her beard, became something that the majority of the viewers had never seen before. I’m pretty sure that no matter what she’d sung, her appearance alone would have been enough to challenge for the title. It just so happened that on top of this, she had a very classy – if unexpected and slightly incongruous – stripped-back performance, and truly incredible vocals. If that had all come from, say, Vilija Mataciunaite or Tijana Dapcevic or even Sanna Nielsen, I don’t think it would have been enough. Twas the beard that did it.

Those who read my review of the contest will know I wasn’t exactly over the moon when Conchita won, mainly because I’m not really a fan of “Rise Like A Phoenix” as a song. I do apologise for how venomous parts of that review came across, but now, weeks later, I still stand by the skeleton of that opinion. The 2014 result is disappointing, if you look at it from a purely musical perspective, because a number of very deserving songs were overlooked in favour of what is essentially an elaborate gimmick. However, in many other respects, as I have come to understand, the result is also an incredibly positive one. Conchita’s fame has led to multiple opportunities for her to spread her message to more people, and the better songs *ahem CALM AFTER THE STORM* have gone on to outperform the Austrian winner in terms of worldwide sales, so in reality, it’s a win-win situation for all.

Your Views:

What's your opinion? Would Conchita have done as well without the beard?
What’s your opinion? Would Conchita have done as well without the beard?

Robbert Landegent from the Netherlands: I think juries still would go for Austria, while it would be a difference for the televoters, who probably would consider RLAPH as a standard ballad.

Jonas Dagobert Ohlenforst from Germany: She would have done very well because she had one of the best performances and voices, but she wouldn’t have been the winner I think…the Netherlands would have been the positive surprising winner.

Julia Walin from Sweden:  I don’t think she would have won,but I think top 5. The beard stole the victory from the Netherlands 😉

Daniel Cobbett from the United Kingdom: Possibly not a winner as Julia said – it was the “ensemble” of Conchita’s performance that won it for Austria, the song, the voice, and the look 🙂

This really is a tough question isn’t it! There are a plethora of reasons for Conchita’s victory, which many people here have pointed out – and in the opinion of the fans above, the removal of the beard from the overall package of Conchita’s performance may have slightly lessened Austria’s chances, but not by a significant amount. We all appear to be in agreement that Austria would have still had a fantastic result in 2014, but as to winning? Jury’s still out!

Album Review: Twin Twin – “Vive la vie”

Hopefully, this album will get as much ‘ATTENTION!’ as our previous album review with Vilija’s new album, but now we’re moving onto the French representatives Twin Twin, who have re-released their début album and made it ‘special’! So is the album on the same lines as their Eurovision effort – ‘Moustache’? And more importantly, what do we think of the album? Better keep reading to find out!

What do we think of 'Vive la vie'?
What do we think of ‘Vive la vie’?

Twin Twin won the French national selection by a landslide back in March, thanks to the French public who was the sole decider of France’s representative to Copenhagen. Leading up to the Eurovision, the boys gathered a huge fanbase from all over Europe, but mostly from France, with everyone doing their ‘Moustache’ face for them. James and I did our own little ones, which weren’t seen by everyone, but you can see them on the picture for our one-year-anniversary article. Come Eurovision, France had one of the biggest fanbases among the competition. Sadly, look at how they did – they scored France’s first last-place in the history of their participation at Eurovision, with only 2 points. I will admit, I did vote for them, but our juries kicked France down to 25th in the final. 😥 Shame…right, let’s get back to the point here!

While I’m on about admitting things, James had told me that the album wasn’t really good compared to ‘Moustache’, so I was going into this thinking that it would be filled with loads of songs that are really not my style and fair enough, there are some songs that don’t really appeal to me, but a good deal of the songs are surprisingly good and this made listening to the music a lot more enjoyable than I had thought I would. The album is definitely a #YOLO (You only live once) album and this reflects in a lot of the songs lyrics. One thing I have to say is that they LOVE to say their name (TwinTwin, not their own individual names – that would take up a lot of time on each of the songs!) – I swear, I counted at least five or six times over the course of listening to the thirteen songs that are in the ‘Special Edition’ of the album, which we’re gonna review. No one’s made an official Youtube playlist of the songs and even some of the songs aren’t even on Youtube (fully or otherwise), so if you want to listen to all available songs that are on Youtube, feel free to look at a playlist we’ve drawn up here.

The track opens up with their Eurovision song ‘Moustache’, which we already reviewed when it was selected. So I shall move onto the next song that I found noteworthy –  “Phone Call”. Track five on the album, it takes a while until you get properly into the sound that they’re getting into, but if you haven’t got that into it come this song, you’re in luck. The song is incredibly catchy, especially in the chorus with the computerised voice just repeating ‘I gotta phone call, baby. I gotta phone call’. The beat compliments the song a lot and the beat itself draws you in. Normally, pop and electronica don’t work together for me, but this actually is a good exception, and the added rap (which normally, I loathe!) actually makes the song even better, in my opinion! I can already envisage the music video of the guys biking down a large hill in slo-mo – any memories of their Eurovision postcard ringing bells?

Another song that I had noted was ‘Comme Toi’, a song they had collaborated with American group Lexicon, which are basically the American equivalent of TwinTwin, so no wonder they had fun in the music video, even if it was rather low budget (i.e. a camera attached to the back of a bike showing them all just messing around a bike park). Once again, you’re having a mixture of pop and electronica, which is apparently what young people are into! Not me it seems! I will say that this is a good exception though and I do end up bobbing my head to it. And it’s really nice to hear a song that’s a good bit in English, as well as French..the one problem I have with the song is this lyric that Lexicon sings:

You. You don’t fuck like me, when I’m in her bed.

I don’t know why they’d add that to the song, but hey, it’s their choice. Just was a bit weird, is all…

After listening to the album, I’d say there are a few other songs that I’d recommend you guys listen to, such as:

  • ‘Je Vais Très Bien’
  • ‘Go Fast’
  • ‘Les Sentiments’ (Sadly, no one’s put up the song, but it’s a nice little modern ballad – and it actually shows that even though Twin Twin is a lively bunch, they are able to slow down and take things seriously..although I say this, and it’s the only really slow song on the album..)

So, ‘Vive la vie’ is indeed living out its name – it celebrates life today through the modern songs and I’m not surprised all the #TwinTwinnerz (sorry, I had to) are happy with the album. However, as this is really only their first album (they had released some EPs, but most of the lead songs from those EPs are included in the album), I think there’s some room to grow and perfect their sound. I’m not at all dissing the group or their music, but if I was them, I’d be making sure there isn’t so much speak-singing. If I’m to give ‘Vive la Vie’ a score out of ten – considering the songs and the way they’re performed and the genre they’ve gone for – I’d give the album a seven out of ten, because even though it’s modern, they still have some room to grow..I’m definitely looking forward to their next album! Sorry James!

Your views:

What's your favourite song from TwinTwin's album?
What’s your favourite song from TwinTwin’s album?

Ilias Kozantinos from Cyprus: I think Moustache is the best song on the album – it’s the opening song on the album and then it goes downhill from there!

Kristel Houghton from the United Kingdom: Bought the whole album, love it!!!! Especially ‘Moustache’!

Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: I adore the song ‘Les Sentiments’. It’s like they calm down after all the fun they have..if only they did better in Eurovision..

Well it seems like most people are just fans of ‘Moustache’ but not much else, but who knows, maybe this isn’t the case! Are you a TwinTwinner? If so, what’s your favourite song from their album? Even if you not, have you listened to the album? What’s you favourite song from the album? Feel free to tell us what you think by commenting below, merci!

Focus 2015: Vienna

Well guys, this is going to be the last edition in the ‘Focus 2015’ series, where we go through the different potential cities in the running to host Eurovision next year! ORF has shortlisted the three potential cities that Eurovision will be held in – Graz, Innsbruck and Vienna, which we’re gonna focus on today. I also drew up an article on Klagenfurt, who didn’t get shortlisted – but if you want to read it, click the highlighted link! So what venues does Vienna have to offer to make it appealing to ORF to give it the hosting rights?

Vienna's offering four venues for the show this year..does that increase their chances as a result?
Vienna’s offering four venues for the show this year..does that increase their chances as a result?

Vienna is the capital of Austria and is famed for many things – a waltz was named after it (the Viennese Waltz). The city was the home of the acclaimed Habsburg court and has been conquered – like Graz – by many empires and the city still bears the imperial marks it had from centuries ago. Its inner city is also designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well, so Vienna is also mixing its history with its modernity. Vienna is so important in Austria, that it’s been given its own state! If you don’t know where Vienna is, have a look below!

Vienna's at the top of the 'head' of Austria - people from all the surrounding countries can get there no problem!
Vienna’s at the top of the ‘head’ of Austria – people from all the surrounding countries can get there no problem!

When Conchita Wurst won for Austria in Copenhagen, it was already revealed at the winner’s press conference that Vienna would be seriously considered to host the next Eurovision, along with Salzburg. Salzburg withdrew its bid a few days afterwards, but Vienna stayed in and is now the front-runner to host next year’s show. Vienna is offering four venues to host the show – the main one being the Wiener Stadthalle, with the Marx HalleHeldenplatz and the Trabennbahn Kireau being used as back-up venues in case the selected venue becomes unsuitable for the Contest. Without a doubt, the Wiener Stadthalle would be the most suitable arena for the Contest, with the ability to host around 11,000 people, while the others are only able to hold around 5,000 people each. The Stadthalle is home to the Erste Open Bank tennis tournament and is a cultural hub with many exhibitions etc running throughout the year. The Trabennbahn Kireau is an open-air horse racing area and is host to the Austrian version of Royal Ascot (with the lack of a Queen!), but because ORF had said there’s not going to be any outdoor arenas, this rules out their chances of hosting the Contest. This also rules out Heldenplatz, which is a large open space in front of Hofburg Palace, which is one of Vienna’s busiest recreational spaces. This leaves the Marx Halle left in the running..the halls are often used for cultural events, such as large exhibitions etc, so possibly it could be another B&W Hallerne situation once again? I’ll get to that later on..

Vienna, as the capital city, is easily accessible through the international airport, which is 18 kilometers away from the city centre, but it’s easy to get to the city via the S-Bahn, which costs only a few euro. The airport has destinations all over the world, and you can find your nearest airport that flies to Vienna here. Due to its close proximity to many countries, those who live in Bratislava (Slovakia’s capital – who won’t be taking part this year 😥 ) and the Czech Republic are able to even drive to Vienna! Getting around Vienna is so easy as well, as Vienna has the most tram stops in Europe, so you can get to the venue in no time whatsoever! As I mentioned above, Vienna has a good mixture of modernity and history from its past and this is great when it comes to things to see and do. Stephansdom is a definite ‘must-see’ church in Vienna, as its one of the city’s largest historical buildings and is still used today, after renovations a few years ago. Another thing to see would be the Kunsthistorisches Museum which is the Museum of Fine Arts, so if you want to be a bit cultured, why not stop there and take a gawp at some rather nice paintings! If you’re ever in Vienna during the Carnival season (which is normally around May-June), be sure to go to a ball, which are around everywhere around that time of the year – one of the places we’d recommend going to a ball would be at the Rathaus (City Hall), where everyone is putting on a show! It’s definitely a lot of fun and if you want to do something while waiting for Eurovision, we’d definitely recommend that!

Getting back to the point, would Vienna be the best city in the running to host the Contest? It most likely would be, as it has the most amount of venues in the running. The Wiener Stadthalle would be the most obvious choice for ORF to make, as the hall is large and easy to reach. The city itself would be the best city of all three candidate cities to cope with the influx of fans and journalists that Eurovision would bring and the city is very much friendly to all sorts of people! If it was to go to Vienna, it would definitely go to the Stadthalle, as even though the other venues have different features that would make it unique – the venues just wouldn’t be able to make a great show, like the Wiener Stadthalle would. The Marx Halle would provide a very B&W Hallerne-esque show, but continuing the same trend of holding the Contest in an ex-factory – I think that that idea should move away from the whole shipyard idea for now..WIENER STADTHALLE 2015, I’m thinking!

So…what are your thoughts on Vienna possibly being the host of next year’s Contest? Do you think it would be the best city to do the job?

Your views:

Do you think Vienna would be the best city to host Eurovision?
Do you think Vienna would be the best city to host Eurovision?

Daniel Cobbett from the United Kingdom: Without knowing all the details, I think it is only fitting and right that ESC60 is held in a capital city that has the infrastructure to be able to handle a big show!

Seppe Aesseloos from Belgium: Of course in Vienna it’s the capital city!

Padraic Devlin from the Ireland: I honestly don’t care where it’s held…. It’s not a major issue for me!

Ilias Kozantinos from Cyprus: The city would be best to have Eurovision in – it’s the capital and people can get there easily..and it’s very gay-friendly!

Well it’s very obvious that Vienna is the fan favourite to host next year’s Contest – mostly due to flights and accessibility. But whether Vienna gets selected or not, we’ll have to see! The host city and venue won’t be selected until around August, so we have time to speculate some more, but for now – this brings the ‘Focus 2015’ series to an end! So what do you think? Is Vienna your personal favourite – or is Innsbruck or Graz the city you want to see Eurovision 2015 in? Feel free to tell us what you think by commenting below!