Homens da Luta "A Luta É Alegria" for Portugal
This past weekend, Portugal held their annual “Festival da Canção”, the National Selection for Eurovision. Portugal, as you might remember, holds the dubious distinction for the longest ESC losing streak, with 44 appearances and no wins. Despite some brilliant and beautiful songs over the past four and a half decades, nothing has even cracked into the Top Five. More than any other country, the Portuguese hold very steadfast to their language and local musical styles in their Eurovision entries, often influenced by fado or other folk traditions. Their entry this year is no exception…but it goes even further than that!
Homens da Luta (literally, “Men of the Struggle”) and their song “A Luta É Alegria (The Struggle is Joy)” might look like Les Miserables performed by the cast of the Village People, but the song is actually a slightly tongue-in-cheek homage to the musical motifs of the mid-1970s, when songs about politics and the socioeconomic climate were common. Some sample lyrics in this entry include “Night or day, the fight is joy/And the people move on by shouting in the street…Come and celebrate the situation and sing against reaction”. To many fans, this song toes the line; the EBU prohibits songs with overt political messages, but politically-influenced songs have been seen on the main stage before (think Ukraine 2005 and Israel 2007, for example). I don’t think the song goes as far as previously disqualified entries, such as what was supposed to have been Georgia’s 2009 entry, “We Don’t Wanna Put-In” (a thinly-veiled dig at Russia, the hosts of that year’s event). I personally speak Portuguese, and know about the history of the Carnation Revolution, so I understand the context of the song, and feel like I’m in on the joke. However, if someone from Azerbaijan, for example, turns on this song, doesn’t understand the lyrics, and fails to get the message, this song will likely fly directly over their heads. No matter how hard they fight, Homens da Luta might just stay in the Semis.
Portugal, eu te amo muito, and a victory for RTP is on my personal Eurovision Dream List, along with the return of the orchestra, welcoming back the nations that have withdrawn, and a permanent job in the EBU (Sietse? Jon Ola? Jarmo? Call me!). However, there were other songs in this year’s Festival da Canção that could have brought the nation a bit more hope for glory. Runner-up Nuno Norte’s “São os Barcos de Lisboa“, Rui Andrade’s “Em Nome do Amor“, Wanda Stuart’s “Chegar à Tua Voz“…all of these options are unmistakably Lusitanian, and they would have been more easily embraced by a wider audience. But again, this is all just my opinion. 😉