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Over the weekend, Deadline reported that America—land of the free, home of the aspirational pop star—would be getting its very own version of Eurovision, airing on NBC in 2022. The production, titled The American Song Contest, has been in development since 2019, but after two years and one Will Ferrell film, it's finally come to life. The way it will work? All 50 states, Washington D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will send a representative to perform in front of the country with one winner reigning supreme.
Let's just be frank: this is going to be a colossal nightmare. Once my initial excitement over seeing representatives from Pennsylvania and New Jersey get into a fist fight over a Wawa hoagie subsided, I realized that the concept of a stateside-Eurovision is so far removed from what Eurovision has come to be that this could never work. We lack the self-deprecation, campiness, and selfless energy to pull this off. Not a read; just a fact.
For those unfamiliar, Eurovision is a song contest where each country sends a representative to perform in front of the world. Each country then votes and awards points to other countries, unable to award any of their points to themselves. It started 64 years ago and has given birth to ABBA (the 1974 winner from Sweden), Celine Dion (the 1988 winner from Switzerland), and a crew of Russian grandmothers who gyrated while singing a song called "Party for Everybody." They finished second in 2012. It is weird, flamboyant, and typically features at least one beautiful drag queen.
And don't argue with me about this because I have receipts about what we can and can't handle. America can't handle wearing masks. American can't handle seeing football players kneel during the National Anthem. America just got chill with watching Drag Race. We do not have the capacity to handle the level of camp and absurdity that Eurovision requires, and it's because we take everything far too seriously. Our idea of silly TV is to have disgraced White House press secretaries do the tango. Or for Sarah Palin to sing "Baby Got Back." Eurovision is only fun because the countries that participate are willing to say: "You know what? Fuck it. Let's let these demonic Finnish rockers do their thing."
Part of what makes Eurovision such a delight is that it's a celebration of the most bizarre corners of international culture. The parameters around which songs are accepted are loosey-goosey. Performers aren't required to sing in English or even present an act that is entirely comprehensible. That's half the fun, and sometimes, the most abstract performance is the one that makes it to the finals.
In an ideal world, America would pull this off and send our victor to the larger world competition. This would be our time to shine, leaning into the stereotype of this isolationist nation: an outrageous country song sung by someone in cutoff jeans and plaid, with a bald eagle released just as the chorus crescendos. But we're too serious to embrace our own punchline. Just the idea of it reminds me of that one year when there was a World Idol, and we sent our best contestants to London and then lost our collective mind when Kelly Clarkson placed second place.
We're not team players! If America had a report card, we might get good marks across the board, but the teacher is certainly not writing "was a pleasure to have in class" because we do not play well with others. We do not share points. We do not trust legitimate democratic outcomes. Bringing America into the fold of Eurovision-style competition is misunderstanding what America is capable of.
Nevertheless, NBC persisted. I'd love to be proven wrong. In the year leading up to our own competition, educate yourself on the entries of years passed. Watch the Netflix film based on the event, starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams. And for God's sake, come into it as weird as you possibly can because nothing less is going to work.
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