12 September 2013

Conchita Wurst to Represent Austria at Eurovision 2014

Conchita Wurst: By Manfred Werner (Tsui) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Following the announcements from San Marino and Macedonia of their participants at Eurovision 2014 (Valentina Monetta and Tijana Dapčević), Austria has become the third nation to reveal the artist to perform on its behalf: Conchita Wurst.

Conchita is no stranger to Eurovision, having taken part in Austria's national final in 2012, placing a creditable second with the song That's What I Am. Her internal selection for the 2014 Contest is causing some controversy, however - and that 2012 song title is a big clue to the reason.

Conchita Wurst was born Thomas Neuworth, but as you can see from the above image, 25-year-old Thomas is unsure of his true identity. Billed as a transvestite singer (you don't say!), Wurst first came to Austrian attention as Thomas (or Tom) on a TV talent show called Starmania, followed by a stint in a band called Jetzt Anders!

Eurovision beckoned and rewarded him with that runners-up position, even though his participation was treated as something of a joke. Now, Austria has no choice as Ms Wurst has been forced upon the nation.

So what? You might ask. A transvestite singer performing in Eurovision is nothing new. Remember Birmingham in 1998 and Dana International taking the prize with Diva for Israel or Verka Serduchka (the Dame Edna Everage of the Ukraine) coming second in 2007? I remember and it's probably that 1998 win which started the rot that had been hinted at over the preceding years. 

The Eurovision Song Contest had been criticized for its substandard role in the music world for a couple of decades or more before Dana International came along. With such a diverse range of nations and the need to appeal to an entire continent in a matter of three minutes, the quality of songs was never going to be consistent. In an effort to overcome that quality factor, several nations started sending acts that would divert our attention from the true spirit of the Contest: the best song. Of course, Eurovision is a visual spectacle too and this has led to a national three-minute entertainment package. 

For some inexplicable reason, the majority of those packages have become "novelty" acts or gimmicks. Many of them would not look out of place in the movie Caberet or its current West End incarnation. We can thank Dana International (minus the beard) for that. An act that transcended the gimmick but which, for better or Wurst, gave birth to the likes of Conchita.

I have no problem with diversity or novelty. After all, I'm a Eurovision fan of many years. However, sending an act that is reminiscent of a circus sideshow is not the way forward. In fact, it's a regressive step that will only make the Contest more of a laughing stock than it already is.

What do you think? Has Austria made the right choice? 


  1. First, liking the layout of your blog!

    Secondly, I'm not that way inclined but he/she is good looking (once you get past the beard), better looking than a lot of the women who participate in Eurovision! Would there be as much of an issue if the beard wasn't there and people were left to guess?

    For me, I don't have a problem with TV/TG performers and it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of Eurovision. Is it any more of a gimmick than sending old Babushkas, an assortment of monsters or a blonde bride who is continually singing 'Ding Dong'? Probably not in my view...

    Will Conchita get into the Final? I think if the song is good enough, yes. I think those people who aren't into Eurovision aren't going to be swayed either way, whatever the quality of the songs or artist.

    Good article though Rich :)

    1. Thanks, Martin. The blog was needing a facelift, so I'm pleased you like the new look.

      If nothing else, Conchita is responsible for some spirited debate. It'll be interesting to hear what kind of song is chosen for him/her, too.


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