Well look what happens when Swedes actually send an entry that has a chance of performing well at the Eurovision Song Contest.
They win it. Funny how that works!
This marks the 5th time that my adopted country has won the kitsch-fest that is the Eurovision Song Contest (ABBA is their most famous act to do it), but it’s the first time it’s happened since I arrived here in 2002. For a country that is one of the largest pop music exporters in the world, you’d think they’d manage to claim the crown a little more often.
But ever since choosing the country’s Eurovision entry was turned into an American Idol-like, let-the-general-public-decide, vote-by-phone marathon, the pre-teens and gay men who make up the majority of people who actually dial in have had a pretty dismal record. (I consider the fact that Charlotte Nilsson won for Sweden in 1999 to be a fluke due to the pubic voting system being brand new at the time.)
This year, all the planets aligned in such a way that Swedish voters not only chose one of the most musically interesting songs in their national competition, but also one that would to garner points from virtually every country casting votes in “The Big Dance.” (The only exception was Italy, which can probably go ahead and write off any tourist dollars they were expecting from travel-mad Swedes over the next year.)
Now for those of you in parts of the world who haven’t seen it, a huge element of the Eurovision broadcast is the announcement of the scoring. Each participating country gets to designate a local spokesperson (usually a celebrity of some sort) to deliver their points live during this portion of the show, a logistical and technical challenge that often results in unintentional hilarity. And this is where Sweden committed an easily foreseeable faux pas.
The designated Swedish presenter, singer Sarah Dawn Finer (a national treasure in my estimation), presented Sweden’s scores as a character she had created during the national competition that selected Euphoria as Sweden’s entry. The digital short, which you can see below, had her playing an English official (Lynda Woodruff) from the European Broadcasting Union who is charged with creating video greetings to welcome each of the participating countries to the host city of Baku, Azerbaijan. The running joke of the sketch was her inability to pronounce names correctly, especially the name of the host country.
It’s a very funny piece even if you’re not Swedish, and I’m sure Swedes were delighted to see Ms. Finer reprise the character in announcing the results of the Swedish Eurovision vote.
But based on the implosion on my twitter feed immediately afterward, the schtick of mispronouncing Azerbaijan did not go over very well with the international audience. Reactions ranged from the relatively mild, “That woman doesn’t sound very Swedish.” to “How unprofessional and insulting that the Swedish presenter butchered the name of the host country!!!”
As you can hear in the clip above, the people doing the commentary for Swedish television LOVED it. But why no-one anticipated that pretty much everybody outside of Sweden wouldn’t “get it” is beyond me.
So I’m thinking about writing a letter to SVT1 suggesting that: A) “Lynda Woodruff” be given her own show, and 2) she should not be unleashed on the rest of the world unless THEY’RE IN ON THE JOKE.