Ukraine’s Eurovision win shows that art follows invasion

(CNN)When we think of the Eurovision Song Contest, what we likely imagine are scenes of kitsch and glitter, and perhaps a few bars of sweeping melody for the more musical among us — not necessarily the stuff of politics or protest.

And yet for the last few days, the Facebook feed of anyone with any connection to Ukraine has been exploding since Jamala — a stage name for Susana Jamaladinova, a trained opera singer — was crowned winner of Eurovision 2016 on Saturday. The Russian judges have complained that Eurovision rules were not followed because Jamala’s song was too “political” and should not have been allowed in the competition.


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    Ukraine and Russia face off at Eurovision



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As it turns out, lots of us really do love them. Eurovision is such a spectacle precisely because it embraces this overlap between culture and politics. Eurovision is popular across Russia and Eastern Europe, countries that were former Soviet republics or Soviet satellite states.
So even if the songs do not seem to have lyrics infused by current political events, Eurovision watchers enjoy the post-Soviet politics of who votes for whom. It’s the politics that makes the culture entertaining.
And think about this: What will songs about the war in Eastern Ukraine sound like, and will they be as embraced as this ballad of foreign occupation? And for the audience of Eurovision the question remains: Can a song about refugees shape European policies towards refugees in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II? Can we listen to Jamala’s catchy tune and hear not a lament about Crimea, but rather the lament of anyone who could say, “They come to your house / They kill you all”?

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