Heilsarmee for Switzerland (or is it?)
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind of a long weekend for Eurovision fans (and for me personally, since I’ve spent about 16 hours in the air going to and from the Swiss National Final), so let’s get cracking at climbing the mountain of ESC news that’s come our way over the past few days!
For the third straight year, the Swiss-German border town of Kreuzlingen played host to the Entscheidungsshow, where nine competitors from Switzerland’s three main linguistic communities (sorry, Romansch!) fought for the ticket to Malmö this May. While many had their eyes on schlager (from Melissa), comedy (from Anthony Bighead), or light pop (from Jesse Ritch), it was the eclectic, yet unified ensemble from Heilsarmee that took a commanding win. With a decisive 37.54% of the total televote, this group of soldiers from the Swiss Salvation Army will take the upbeat, pop-rock number “You and Me” to Sweden.
Despite the song’s happy, upbeat nature and message of unity, not all is smooth sailing for the Swiss this year. There have been some rumblings from the fan community about the Christian-aligned Salvation Army’s strict interpretation of the Bible being at odds with the very GLBT-friendly Eurovision community. Furthermore, the EBU has come out and said that the ensemble may not perform at Eurovision under the name “Heilsarmee”, or while wearing the official uniforms of the organization. It’s hard to say whether this is due to the EBU’s rule on trademarked or copyrighted material (just look at what happened in San Marino last year), or if the song has been deemed too political or religious.
If this second scenario is the case, I personally find the EBU’s argument a bit tenuous. Songs with a religious bent to them aren’t really a novel concept at Eurovision. Israel’s winning song from 1979, “Hallelujah“, is a general song of praise that can be applied to many different faiths. Germany’s entry from 1995, “Verliebt in Dich” by Stone in Stone, was overtly religious, with lyrics like “Oh, Lord, I’m in love with You/I can’t hold back, I can’t explain/What happens between Heaven and Earth”. Taking a more subtle path, Albania’s Juliana Pasha has explained that her 2010 entry, “It’s All About You” was written about her relationship with Jesus, even though it can also be interpreted as a more standard song of earthly love. “You and Me”, however, doesn’t directly allude to the organization’s religion, but appears to place more focus on the community-building and aspects of social work that the Salvation Army is known for.
Regardless, if the EBU’s ruling results in Heilsarmee taking their leave from Eurovision, it’s only logical that the runner-up from this Saturday, Carrousel’s “J’avais rendez-vous”, would take on the honor. A submission from the French broadcaster that garnered 17.26% of the public’s vote, this quirky, bouncy number definitely had the audience in-house smiling.
So, what’s your take on “You and Me”, and with the possible controversy that’s bubbling up with it? Would you prefer to see Heilsarmee or Carrousel on stage in Sweden?
On a personal note, this was my first opportunity to attend a National Final. Flying into Zurich, and passing most of my time with a small group of fellow ESC press members (most notably, Luke from ESCXtra, Ewan from ESCInsight, and JP and Eric from Radio International, among others). While I had been wanting to make it to an NF (any NF, really) for quite some time, the logistics of this particular weekend just happened to line up perfectly. Even more, the fact that the Swiss National Final was one of the first events of the cycle just makes me feel like I’m standing on the cusp of a new Eurovision year, and it makes me look forward to its culmination in Malmö even more. I’ll be putting more of my thoughts on the event up on ESCInsight over the next week, so keep your eyes open for that!