Music can polarize and be a vehicle for tribal impulses and group identification. Music can divide — but it can also unite. That phrase is heard so often at international music events that it sounds hackneyed. It finds a clear expression at the Eurovision Song Contest, however.
Now in its 64th year, Eurovision was founded nine years after the end of World War II to bring former enemies together in friendly competition. Now it seems to be the last European institution that is embraced enthusiastically by the entire continent.
Eurovision grew to 41 countries
The seven founding countries, all in western Europe, were joined over the years by former Eastern Bloc countries, the Balkans and associate members of the European Broadcasting Union such as Azerbaijan, Australia, and Israel.
With 200 million viewers, the competition is no longer a European event.
That was evident by this year's edition in Israel, where it was held for the third time. For the country, it was an opportunity to celebrate itself as the most liberal country in the Middle East. Tel Aviv was also apt as an astonishing quarter of its population is estimated to identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender or Queer (LGBTQ), a community in which the song contest has a strong following.
Very personal performances
Again and again, songs and artists celebrated the values of inclusion, self-determination and equal rights. Tamara Todevska from North Macedonia sang a hymn to the women's movement, France's Bilal Hassani and the winning artist, the Netherlands' Duncan Laurence, are both openly gay.
And the message of this year's songfest? The winning song was an ode of sadness and rage at the loss of a loved one. A personal note with which Eurovision juries and the televoters could identify.
It is known that individual fates move emotions more than big political issues. Here, too, at the Eurovision Song Contest: no call to action, just empathy.