Ah Eurovision! Like many Australians, I love it! During this year’s Eurovision final I sat comfortably on my sofa watching and singing along. Two of the acts have stuck in my mind, particularly as I have been researching around the subject of queerness and contestations of queer in queer theory.
The first is Krista from Finland with her candy pop marriage song, ending in a same sex kiss. The second is Cezare from Romania, the contralto in that FABULOUS coat complete with Elphaba moment.
Finland’s Marry me, like many Eurovision songs over the years, left me a little confused. I watched an interview with Krista as she explained the song was written for her boyfriend to encourage him to propose to her. I don’t want to pretend to know all about Miss Krista’s sexual orientation, but heterosexuality is generally inferred as she talks about her male partner. Why end the piece with a PG-13 same sex kiss? I feel that this automatically politicises the song. Not so much as referencing the global tensions of legalising same sex marriage, or the more local tensions in Scandinavia, but political in the sense that an assumed straight woman, singing about her desire for heteronormative matrimony, is Finland’s choice to be the performing object of same sex desire on this world stage. Is this offensive for the queer community? Is this no different from the Madonna and Britney MTV kiss? Is this just another gimmick to titillate audiences and gain votes? What are you saying Finland? I’m confused.
If I consider it from my point of view alone, I would not feel comfortable performing same sex desire as an known straight woman in a competition which has a significant LGBT following around the world. I just don’t know if it is appropriate for ME to be the performing subject in that context. In my opinion, musicians and performers at Eurovision are not actors; they don’t entirely play the other. Their personal identity is woven too tightly with their stage persona so that politically potent performances cannot escape from the person they are off stage. The personal IS political.
Further, to say that LGBT identifying artists have sung about heterosexual desire on many occasions is not a strong counter argument. LBGT artists might sing about heterosexual desires, but surely because they must conform to heteronormativity to find success. The straight artist has certain privileges that the gay artist does not, and those privileges should be acknowledged.
Romania’s entrant Cezare was, I thought, very impressive. If you didn’t see the show, Cezare is a contralto (a usually female vocal range, the lowest of the altos). Checking the pitch during his performance, I found he was reaching notes in my higher vocal range, and I’m a mezzo soprano. What I’ve found annoying, I suppose, is the way his performance has been ridiculed and made fun of in the press and on social media. On ABC News Breakfast I heard him referred to as “The Castrati Vampire”. Why make fun of man with a non-normative vocal range? The reference to castrati suggests to me that the ABC news presenter views Cezare as somehow less than a man, because his voice does not conform to a normative range. He is not the first with this talent; Mariah Carey made a fortune in the 90s with her 5 octave vocal range. In my memory, no one ever suggested she’d had a hysterectomy. Why do people find it funny that a man might sing in the vocal range of a woman or vice versa? And further, why does the public immediately become “suspicious” of the artist’s chromosomal gender? These “suspicions”, often voiced on social media, infer that the artist is “hiding something” and “can’t be trusted”. What does it matter? It’s just a song… I remember similar debates amongst my social circle about Lady Gaga when she first became famous.
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