One of the most endearing moments of Alexander Rybak’s record-setting Eurovision win for Norway tonight came when the performer of the charming “Fairytale” alternatively gushed in both Norwegian and Russian as he took the stage to perform the winning song one more time.
Originally started in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest is alternatively derided as a trashy spectacle and a chance for so-called Eastern bloc countries to band together and take their revenge on Western Europe for its higher standards of living. Being cynical about Eurovision, however, is a little bit like putting on an obligatory scowl for Valentine’s Day. You’re not really making a statement, and you kind of wish to give in to the silliness underneath it all anyway.
Tonight’s winner, Rybak, was born in Belarus back when it was still part of the USSR, and moved to Norway at the age of four. In Russia, he has already been adopted as “our Sasha” and Ukrainian singer and past Eurovision winner Ruslana has noted the influence of both Slavic and Scandinavian styles in the bit of folksy street theater that is “Fairytale.” For those of us who inhabit different cultures simultaneously, Rybak’s win is particularly delightful.
Organizers in Moscow obviously mumbled “crisis? what crisis?” as they set about transforming the Olimpiyski Arena into a giant jewel with TV screens for facets. “Fairytale” was the perfect song for the venue and mood of Moskva 2009 – a rich and whimsical melody with wistful lyrics, wonderfully executed on stage and aided by the fact that Rybak is a contender for the crown of Mr. Elfin Good Looks, like a more boyish version of Cillian Murphy.
My friend, the writer Veronica Khokhlova, aptly compared Rybak’s song to a mixture of Marc Chagall and ABBA, among other things. “I feel in love with him,” one of the presenters gushed as she revealed her nation’s top choices in the contest, “but it was only a fairytale.”
It’s nice to see a boy with a last name like Rybak (it means “fisher” in Russian) win a major song contest for Norway, inspiring revelry and glee both in the North and in the East. Despite the existence of various political alliances and blocs, Europe still needs the occasional reminder that it’s more than a collection of countries staring suspiciously at each other across meandering borders. Much like Piotr Adamski from the famous “Polish Plumber” poster, Alexander Rybak is internationalism as it should be – luscious.