Mamma mia: Australia’s going again

The 63rd Eurovision Song Contest has started in Portugal and Australia is represented for the fourth year in a row.

Australia’s love affair with the glittery world of Eurovision started when SBS first broadcast the competition way back in 1983.

Even with less pyrotechnics than today, Australian families would stay up late to enjoy the weird and wonderful performances (and politics) that took over their televisions for a few evenings each May.

Liza Mulvihill and her family did just this after first becoming aware of Eurovision in 1974 – the year in which Swedish outfit ABBA won. She became equally as obsessed with the talent contest as she did the band.

“It’s so fascinating. The level of flamboyance and unrestrained joy, bad taste costuming and shameless use of glitter, and the level of cheese in such an un-restrained and unself-conscious way,” she says.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia for people of my generation that were born in the 60s and 70s, a lot of it being a connection to ABBA, too.”

Australia was one of the first countries outside of Sweden to embrace ABBA and many Australians have retained an affection for the band.

Curtin University Communication and Cultural Studies senior lecturer Christina Lee says watching the contest is a way to feel connected with that part of the world.

“It’s a global spectacle. It’s a novelty and entertaining to watch as well,” she says.

In 2014, Australian singer Jessica Mauboy became the first ever non-European artist invited to perform at the Eurovision Extravaganza, when it was held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The following year, The European Broadcasting Union invited SBS to put forward a candidate for the song contest.

Guy Sebastian performed in 2015 for the competition’s 60th anniversary and, despite it being declared a one-off, Australia was invited back in 2016.

Australia has since entered Dami Im and Isaiah Firebrace, who placed second and ninth respectively, and Jessica Mauboy will represent the country tonight.

In 2017, the Eurovision Song Contest finals were watched by more than 3 million Australians and Dr Lee says interest in the competition has grown since Australia started competing.

“Australians have become even more interested after their country has become involved,” she says.

Ms Mulvihill says it’s the unusual and the outlandish that makes people tune in year after year.

“[It] makes me laugh. The ridiculous heavy metal bands from Germany performing with fireworks, or Jedward’s gravity-defying hair — that level of unrestrained cheese in such a commercial setting is something you don’t see.”

Jessica Mauboy’s performance will be televised live on SBS after 5am WST tomorrow morning, May 11.

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