Eurovision 2021 and my little thoughts on TIX

It’s been a while since I’ve taken any form of care of the website. I tried to rebuild it early last year but I totally gave up on learning a new WordPress template, despite it being absolutely gorgeous and “contemporary” looking. I will pick that up eventually.

This year is the 9th Eurovision that I have watched but it’s been 10 years since my first one, back when I was studying in Sweden. I remember seeing flags of Melodifestivalen all over the place in Stockholm not knowing what that is, and it was when a few of my corridor mates in Kungshamra sat together to watch the Eurovision final that year did I start this bizarre yearly ritual. Over the years I might have like one or two songs that really stood out to me as something incredibly well done, or the music video/performance really caught my eye. But this year I found myself having some different perspectives on what I’m listening and looking for.

The first time I listened through the songs I must say nothing really stood out to my ears (except for Iceland, but it was because Daði’s voice is simply distinct), but then some songs starts to hit me with some kind of bizarreness if you will, but more so is the sincerity that can be heard through the song. Without doubt, YouTube algorithm plays a role this time.

Remembering the first time I watched the performance in the Norweigian MGP, I was thinking like why would they choose a simple love song with such extravagant staging, and of course YouTube started to tell me I should watch his mini documentary and learn about who TIX really is. Not long after this music video came out and all I could say was that it is a brilliant and powerful performance, and I can easily spend hours just to talk about how much I’m fond of his voice (gosh he is an amazing singer and my close friends have all suffered through my exclamations), his story, and how he came out of depression and bullying, something that is clearly present in the recent three songs he wrote in a way that fits so well in the commercial paradigm at the same time. We probably cannot say his lyrics are sophisticated, but exactly because of that, it is so powerful: direct, heartfelt, and personal. I am having teary eyes thinking about his line in “Jeg vil ikke leve:”

Jeg vil ikke leve, men jeg vil ikke dø

TIX, “Jeg vil ikke leve”

I, together with many people who have suffered through depression, know exactly what he meant. I remember that many times when I have this feeling, and I said to my therapists, “I definitely have thought of picking up a knife, but I’m scared of blood and I don’t want to end my life.” Sometimes, simple words are the most powerful. And I guess that’s what makes TIX so very much loved.

Of course when you watch one, YouTube will make you watch more, and I’m fed with the behind-the-scenes vlog of this MV.

You cannot convince me that this MV is not magnificent, and god I hate copyright limits because I would splurge to buy his singles and even the MV. Back to “Fallen Angel,” I think nothing made the performance more meaningful when he took his glasses off (and screw licensing limits, I wish I could find a way to just watch the performance all day) mid-way in the performance and allows his ticks to be seen by one of the largest stage on the globe. And by now I am so familiar with the song that I can’t stop having teary eyes just thinking about the scene.

Perhaps I should really study the triptych in depth, but sometimes I wonder why music scholars have to study and “analyze” music like these to say things that are already known to the singer/writer and the music lovers, using a language that does not mean much to the ordinary people. That’s kind of my feeling when I presented my tiny project on Stanley Kwan’s Full Moon in New York last fall. What I have “close read” have been well analyzed by film critics in Chinese medium. Just because it has not been known to the Chinese film scholars, does not mean that I have contributed much to film studies by offering insights that have been written in layman’s terms with less specific language. Also, what does it mean to study music likes these and how to study them that is actually meaningful? The music itself is not the whole story, there is so much in the becoming of the song that makes the triptych so meaningful to the Norwegian audience and people who are willing to overcome the language barrier in order to get to know TIX better. Looking at the critics’ take on the song, it was clear to me that many thought this is merely a ballad with weird costume that takes the lyrics too literally. Yet they are the “industrial experts,” and apparently when you are a professional, you’re supposed to be taking “music for music sake.” But aren’t we all humans? We don’t listen to music out of context. Looking at some of the American crash guide to Eurovision, comments on many of the songs are simply … shallow and with a few basic Google search about *some but not all* artists barely involved.

Just like other Eurovision, sensual love longs and party songs are not lacking. I have never really cared about them and this year is no different. I think really, not many songs have really made an impression on me this year in terms of their musicality. But I’d say there are two songs that grew on me over the past few days because of the message. Tusse’s “Voices” is well produced and his voice and stage presence is amazing. Similar to TIX, I also really enjoyed how the song fits so well in the pop paradigm but the message within the song is much deeper than the surface-level words.

While also about diversity, I’m not as impressed by Jeangu Macrooy’s “Birth of a New Age.” I’m grateful to see that African heritage has been celebrated so well this year on the Eurovision stage, which is obviously highly gate-kept and predominantly white, but I am always more interested in hearing how paradigms are used to one’s own message that’s against the norm, rather than introducing the “exotic” element to celebrate diversity. To me, that’s the easy way. It is not necessarily tokenism, but that’s a shallower form of expression in my opinion.

Feminist messages seem to take weird or even harsh forms on the Eurovision stage and Manizha’s “Russian Woman” seems to follow the footsteps of Netta’s “Toy.” Extravagant staging, some sort of anger filled within, and something that creates a stark contrasts with the love songs on the same stage. I have not been enjoying the original staging, but it really took the revised performance in Eurovision (with the collage of women in the background in the chorus) to make the message alive. And since then the song has been growing on me despite my lack of interest in the more hip-hop-like sounds. Again, it takes contexts and lived experience for someone to enjoy a song, and it changes over time. Back to my first question, how are we supposed to critique music and one’s artistic expression? What does it mean to be music for music sake? Can studio production mean the same thing as live performance (or vice versa) when we make judgments on the music? What even is music, the question that haunts me forever?

I guess this will be the start of me writing more blogs and perhaps some more motivation to actually redesign my website? I have so many things I want to do and I am so confused about what my life is looking though.