There are so many things to look forward to in spring: budding tulips, warm weather, Easter, and of course, Eurovision. The pan-European (and beyond) song contest has become an international phenomenon, with a taste for kitsch and quirk, appealing to audiences all over the world.
Hungary has not traditionally fared very well in Eurovision. By and large, the choices of entrants have been played fairly safe, representing Hungarian folk or pop without being controversial. Then again it’s hard to compete with spectacles like Lordi and Conchita Wurst. But this year, perhaps two times is a charm, as Hungarian pop singer and rapper Joci Pápai will return to the Eurovision stage at his second attempt to bring home the prize for Hungary. The first time around, in 2017, he placed a very respectable 8th.
Joci Pápai (Joci Pápai in Hungarian) is of Roma descent and found local fame by faring well in the song talent show Megasztár, making it to the final rounds. This brought him to the attention of local rappers and star-makers in Hungary. Like in most countries, the Eurovision selection is chosen by the television audience of a local talent review, in Hungary’s case A Dal (The Song). This is Joci Pápai’s second win on the show, this time with a heartfelt ballad called “Az Én Apám”, or, “That’s My Father”.
Though much of the Eurovision audience won’t comprehend the Hungarian lyrics, the music of “Az Én Apám” should strike a powerful chord with voters who are perhaps looking for something less novel, more authentic and straightforward than winners in previous years. Still, with the allowable entrants to Eurovison reaching 50 countries (most recently Australia was allowed to compete) the competition is steep. While winning usually yields short-term rewards, in a few cases winning the show can set the stage for long-lasting international stardom, as happened in the case of Abba, Bucks Fizz, and of course Celine Dion.
In the Hungarian entrant’s favor, perhaps the controversial choice of location, Tel Aviv, will leave audiences amenable to voting for a more straightforward act. Moreover, voters will be used to the singer, and have already proved they possess an appreciation for him. As Hungary has neither won nor had a runner up in Eurovision, which has been airing annually since 1956, perhaps it is time for our entry to make some waves.
The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest will begin on Tuesday May 14 and finish on Saturday May 18. So, all eyes will be on the television in May. Until then, you can listen to Joci Pápai’s song “Az Én Apám” below, filmed on the gritty side of Budapest. And enjoy the tulips and warm weather.
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