BY NANORE BARSOUMIAN
From the Armenian Weekly
As Armenia stayed behind, ten qualifiers made it to the Eurovision Song Contest’s final, which will take place on May 14 in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Arguably, the loss was foreseeable. Emmy, or Emma Bejanyan, the Armenian pop starlet delivered a disappointing—an understatement—performance during the first semi-final which took place on May 10.
Although Armenia stayed behind—as did its neighbor, Turkey—Greece, Hungary, Switzerland, Russia, Finland, Georgia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Serbia, and Iceland made it to the final.
The second semi-final will take place on May 12, where another 19 countries will compete to make it to the top ten for a chance to win first place at the Grand Final.
Eurovision is known to many as a kitschy affair, featuring performers in glitzy clothes, spewing catchy nonsensical chorus verses—like Emmy’s “Boom-boom chaka-chaka”—or whiny ballads. However, once in a while a gem slips through. On the other hand, the subtle political undertones, or surrounding indignations and attacks, can be fascinating at times.
A matter of patriotism
While some countries view Eurovision as a chance to display their cultural heritage, many relinquish that for the sake of “competitiveness,” and display performances stripped of national characteristics.
The Huffington Post, in a May 11 article, singled out Azerbaijan to highlight the staggering amount of money the country invests in the ESC—$2 million in 2010, which included hiring Beyonce’s choreographer to aid Safura, their last year’s contestant.
“Under the influence of alcohol, you might mispronounce Azerbaijan as aspiration. You wouldn’t be far off the mark. A fiery patriotism makes doing well at the Eurovision Song Contest a matter of national importance, and that occasionally leaves competitors scratching their heads,” wrote Will Adams.
Following the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, Azerbaijani authorities launched a campaign tracking and interrogating dozens of individuals who had voted for Armenia’s Inga and Anush Arshakyan sisters and their song “Jan Jan.” Forty-three individuals had reportedly voted for the song. (The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) found that the Azerbaijani broadcaster, Ictimai Televiziya, had distorted the TV signal when the Armenian contestants were up, blurring the telephone number.) According to the Azeri Press Agency (APA), EBU fined the TV station €2700, and gave them a warning.
This year, Azerbaijan’s “Ell & Nikki,” or Eldar Qasimov and Nigar Jamal, secured a spot at the final with their song “Running Scared.” Many believe the duo has a chance to make it to the top three.
Emmy has proven to be an unfortunate choice for Armenia. Her supporting Greek dancers, however, roused emotions in Azerbaijan, where according to reports, the media was quick to declare that Armenia “stole” Azerbaijan’s national dance, Kochari.
A controversial pick
In Dec. 2010, the president of the Council of Public Television and Radio Company of Armenia, Alexan Harutyunyan announced the council’s decision to send Emmy to Eurovision, without a public vote.
Although Emmy was preselected, her song was voted on by the public.
The move towards an internal selection of competitors is not a new concept. Back in 2008, Sirusho, after being internally selected, made it to fourth place in the ESC—the best result yet for Armenia.
During the 2010 national final in February, the artists were voted on by the public through a televised 15-minute SMS voting system. Emmy and rapper Mihran performed a duet and lost to the Russian-Armenian Eva Rivas. Emmy, and her mother, Nadezhda Sargsyan, went public with accusations of foul play, even threatening to take the matter to court.
During a press conference, Sargsyan claimed that Harutyunyan, had reassured her that Emmy and Mihran would “definitely” represent Armenia at Eurovision.
Armenia debuted in the ESC in 2006 with Andre’s song “Without Your Love,” which came in 8th place. In 2007, Hayko represented Armenia with his song “Anytime You Need” and came in 8th. In 2008, Sirusho’s “Qele, Qele” came in 4th. In 2009, Inga and Anush Arshakyans performed “Jan Jan” and came in 10th. Eva Rivas, with her song, “Apricot Stone,” made it to 7th place in 2010. Emmy’s performance on May 10 marked the first time Armenia failed to make it through the semi-finals.