On The Record: We Are No Longer #1
You'll have to forgive my ignorance.
See, I've been out of the U.S. for nearly three weeks now, without much access to television or the Internet, so I'm a little behind on things at the moment. (Anyone know why the Vegas line on "Lindsay Lohan Will Get Boozed Up, Drive Her Mercedes Into A Curb, Leave A Cloud Of White Powder At The Scene, Then Hightail It Back To Rehab" dropped through the floor over the weekend?)
And while I saw many amazing things on my travels around Europe, I return home both enlightened and frightened (typing that sentence made me feel like this guy). Because no matter what you might have heard, people in the rest of the world aren't exactly the biggest fans of Americans.
And by "aren't exactly the biggest fans," I mean they pretty much hate us.
And yes, I'm as puzzled as you are as to just why this is, but it's not exactly a stretch to say that right now, the U.S. is sort of like the "Rowdy" Roddy Piper of geopolitics. We're the country the rest of the world loves to hate.
So perhaps we should start to behave a little bit more like the Rowdy one.
Which brings me to the point of this week's column (you knew I'd get here sooner or later): the Eurovision Song Contest. And, tangentially, how America needs to positively dominate it.
See, I don't know if you've been paying attention, but the USA is hardly #1 anymore — at anything. We're no better than third in the world in basketball (and the NBA's MVP, Dirk Nowitzki, is from Germany — though, to be fair, he did play like a total German in the first round of the playoffs). We came in something like sixth at the World Baseball Classic last year. And we can't even get through the Miss Universe Contest without an epic flameout. Times are tough ... we need something to rule with an iron fist (which clearly is not happening in Iraq), and that's where the Eurovision Song Contest comes in.
For those not familiar with the contest — which is probably about 95 percent of you — imagine the most patently ridiculous competition imaginable, multiply that by 50, throw in a whole lot of cross-dressing, a penchant for terrible heavy metal and a healthy dose of bizarre geopolitical loyalties and mea culpas, — and you've only begun to understand how amazing this thing is.
Imagine "American Idol" if people like Diana DeGarmo, Jon Peter Lewis and Scott Savol (wrapped in a metallic bodysuit) won every year — and no one was outraged or even bothered by it. It's sort of like that.
Started way back in 1956 as "a pan-European competition for light music," presumably an effort to unite a continent devastated by World War II, the contest has slowly morphed into a way for Euro nations to trump one another with a series of vapid (and increasingly bizarre) pop songs. Every competing country submits a tune, which seem to fall into one of three categories — formulaic, vaguely nationalistic pop; batsh-- crazy Euro trance; or vaguely homoerotic, leather-clad metal — then performs said song during a marathon live event.
Viewers in member countries of the Eurovision Broadcasting Union (which includes most European countries as well as countries in North Africa and the Middle East) then vote to determine a winner, except rather than award points based on things like creativity or talent, they will sometimes — in a much-debated process called bloc voting — just vote for neighboring countries (or, in the case of Russia, for the Eastern European countries they brutally oppressed for decades).
The end result of the 2007 Contest? A top 10 littered with nations like Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus, Armenia and Moldova, and a winning song — "Moltiva," a gratuitous wedge of Euro cheese performed by Serbia's Marija Serifovic — that could generously be described as both completely overwrought and completely terrible (though there is an excellent pan-flute solo midway through).
And of course, none of this made any sense. The Eurovision Song Contest never does: Last year's winner was Lordi, a Finnish heavy metal group fronted by a battle-axe-wielding demon. But that didn't stop more than 30,000 Serbs from showing up in the streets to welcome Serifovic home, nor did it stop journalists in the U.K. from completely losing their minds over the contest's "political cronyism," "grubby alliances huckstered for short-term gain" and "debatable result."
Which makes it the perfect thing for the United States to enter and completely dominate. Because not only will our entry cause a sh--storm of seismic proportions (judging from our track record, I'd like to think we'd be appointing a dummy governing body before overthrowing it and installing Paul Wolfowitz as the president within two years), it'd also mean than we'd be guaranteeing ourselves at least a decade of dominance on the world stage. After all, Americans are profoundly good at ruling seemingly nonsensical competitions.
So by simply taking over the Eurovision Song Contest, we'd get to fulfill our burgeoning "Rowdy" Roddy Piper quotient, and get to bask in the satisfaction of being #1 at something again. It's a win-win situation for everyone — except, of course, the rest of the world.
And who would I nominate to compete for the U.S. at Euro 2008? There's a seemingly endless stream of nonsensical pop acts out there, but perhaps none more nonsensical than Panic! at the Disco, who in recent months have thoroughly upped the crazy by choosing to work on their new album in a cabin in Nevada, and by penning songs that reportedly sound, in parts, like the theme to Disney's "Aladdin." Also, they've already got the pancake makeup and quasi-cabaret thing down pat. Now we've just got to turn them into ruthless, jingoistic pop machines, and we're all set. It's a crazy idea ... but it's just crazy enough to work!
So watch out, Eastern European transsexuals, loco pop balladeers and, er, Lordi: There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is the US of A (or Brendon Urie, or whatever). You've had your fun, but playtime is over. As Dwight Schrute opined: "Welcome to the Hotel Hell."
And Panic: Whaddya say? George Washington woulda done it. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan too. And if Joe DiMaggio coulda carried a tune, he would've been there, draped in Old Glory. So boys, I'm only gonna say this once: Uncle Sam wants you.
B-Sides: Other Stories I'm (Suddenly) Following This Week
50 Cent? Meet kettle. Kettle, meet 50 Cent (please don't kill me). (See "50 Cent Says 'Delusional' Cam'ron Is Hurting Diplomats Camp.")
How much does the "I can't believe I'm standing next to the dude from Static-X" package cost? $4.99? $5.99? (See"Ozzfest Not So Free After All: Organizers Offer VIP Ticket Plans.")
Bo Bice should really consider changing his name to "Bob Ice." That would rule. (See " 'American Idol' Vets Bo Bice, Constantine Maroulis Can't Stop Rockin'.")
Obligatory IM Conversation With One Of My Friends About A Current Album Or My Personal Life
Upon returning to the States this week, I had a lengthy discussion with one of my pals about R. Kelly's nuts-tacular new album, Double Up, which, in case you haven't heard, is a two-disc affair that's back-loaded with certifiably bananas tracks like "Rock Star" (a collabo with Kid Rock and Ludacris), "Rise Up" (a heavy-handed tribute to the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings) and "Sex Planet," which just may be the most titter-worthy song Kelly's ever penned (and that's saying something). Needless to say, we had a lot to say ...
NotMike'sIM (11:38:42 AM): btw........the new R Kelly record is completely bananas. especially the second half. "sex planet" is on par with "sex in the kitchen" in terms of complete craziness.
NotMike'sIM (11:40:26 AM): i kind of wish r kelly was my uncle
NotJames'IM (11:40:31 AM): hahahahahahha
NotMike'sIM (11:40:31 AM): the one nobody talked to
NotJames'IM (11:40:32 AM): yeah
NotJames'IM (11:40:43 AM): "oh, great ... uncle robert is here again"
NotJames'IM(11:40:48 AM): "lock up the lubricant"
NotMike'sIM (11:41:00 AM): HAHAHAHAHAHAHHA
NotJames'IM (11:41:22 AM): uncle robert is amazing
NotMike'sIM (11:42:39 AM): "girl I promise this'll be painless. painless. we'll take a trip to Uranus."
NotJames'IM (11:42:42 AM): I KNOW
NotJames'IM (11:42:45 AM): I KNOW 100 X
NotJames'IM(11:42:57 AM): and i love how there's a VT song on there
NotMike'sIM (11:43:18 AM): it's right after Sex Planet too
NotJames'IM (11:43:30 AM): CAVALIER SEQUENCING
NotMike'sIM (11:43:31 AM): "I won't stop until I give you meteor showers"
NotMike'sIM (11:43:44 AM): Uncle Robert: Classy
NotJames'IM (11:44:03 AM): imagine what uncle robert leaves OFF the record
NotMike'sIM (11:44:28 AM): i know!!!
NotMike'sIM (11:44:42 AM): I would love to be his engineer
NotMike'sIM (11:44:53 AM): or just to sit in the studio and watch him "work"
NotJames'IM (11:45:07 AM): "the FINE-ANCIAL TIMES: uncle robert reads fortune magazine and makes double entendres about 'insider trading' "
NotMike'sIM (11:51:20 AM): most of the second disk is just crazy.
NotMike'sIM (11:51:28 AM): but really, sex planet takes the cake
NotJames'IM (11:51:38 AM): takes the pie
NotJames'IM (11:51:43 AM): the sweet, sweet pie
Incensed? Angered? A member of R. Kelly's immediate family? Drop me a line at BTTS@mtvstaff.com.