Friday, May 29, 2015

Lady in a wheelchair sings a sappy song

Some people felt that Poland's Eurovision entry was a bit of a gimmick. Monika Kuszynska, all dressed in white rolled onto the stage in her wheelchair to sing a cheesy, "We are the world" type of a song. But is it more or less gimmicky than Poland's presentation from last year, which included big breasted women churning butter, wearing traditional folk costumes while performing a lengthy musical double entendre?  Was it better or worse than all the times we sent a strange dance number with flags, lasers and visuals designed to draw the focus away from otherwise mediocre composition? Eurovision stopped being a song contest at least 15 years ago. It's not my mom and dad's music festival where for the night all of Europe seemed both in competition and united. Looking at it today and what it used to be, it's hard to believe that it's the same event that launched careers of the likes of ABBA. It feels it's less about the song- if at all about it- than who can make the biggest spectacle and the grandest statement. But let's be honest. A lot of people were uncomfortable with Monika's performance because of her disability. I hope that for once she was not picked because of or in spite of it, but that the reason was that somebody liked her song. The criticisms were that her song and video in tandem were designed to be emotionally manipulative. Personally, I didn't like the lyrics. I would have gone with something more complex with better writing. The text- from what
I understood of it - had some serious grammatical issues. And Monika should really work on her English if he intends to continue to sing in the language. It wasn't good. And I won't accept her condition, or her being Polish, or the song's emotional message as excuses. I hope that after this she'll be able to have a career singing the type of music she wants to do, without an agenda behind it, that she's not pulled back from obscurity every time we need to fill a "diversity quota". I wish that she has a mainstream following and writes better songs. Unless- she's happy with who she is and where she is now- because - as cheesy as that sounds- I think doing what you want to do in life is more important than meeting anyone's expectations. To the nay-sayers, I'll say this: It's clear that Monika is a good singer and that the song was not as good. But to the extent that some believe her pick was intentionally designed to strike a pity chord: If Eurovision can  be the forum for gender identification issues and acceptance (with the entries and wins from Dana International and Conchita Wurst) why can't it do the same for disability?

Monika came into the limelight in the early 2000's when she became the third lead female singer in the history of a popular Polish rock/pop group Varius Manx. I was a big fan of the band when it first came into prominence in the mid 90's with Anita Lipnicka's vocals and haunting lyrics. That was VM that shaped my teenage years musically, so I didn't really care about the two girls that since came and went to replace her. I did appreciate Monika's energy and vibrant personality when videos of her first appeared on TV and I was willing to give her a chance. She seemed to love to dance, perform and entertained. Although I must say I considered any non-Anita VM material tripe, although pleasant. Then, while on the road the band was in an accident. I believe the  composer and leading force behind VM's success was found liable, but she suffered the most injuries. She ended up paralyzed and in a wheelchair. The group vowed to wait for and stand by her but then didn't - replacing her with another singer who was since replace herself. I never understood why Monika disappeared from the public eye. Why she couldn't be first mainstream platinum album selling band leader in a wheelchair. I never quite understood why  the band left her behind. What's with this mentality that if she can't walk or dance - that her career must be over. Maybe it was her- maybe the accident changed her, maybe she feels more comfortable sitting at home singing occasional sappy songs about hearts and bridges. Perhaps she slowed down. I hope it's not because the band came to a conclusion that having her around would be too much of a burden, too logistically complex or a "kill buzz", because I think that with all her mates behind her she could have taken the group to their new momentum. Once again they'd be media darlings, all they needed was to adapt rather than move on from her. I guess you can say that in her performance she made a big deal out of her disability, because with where she is and what she does disability is a big deal. Why not turn it around to work for her advantage. As part of VM Monika tried her hand at penning a Eurovision entry for Poland once before in 2003 with "Sonny" but that didn't get them anywhere.
I do miss the times when Eurovision was all about the song.

"To nie ja!" from 1994 remains Poland's best entry in history.  Notice the simplicity - just a girl and and a microphone. No staging, no backdrops, no pyrotechnics or gadgets.


  1. Interesting to see 1994. Twenty years make for interesting comparison. Both songs were standard-issue Eurodirge, so no change there then. But look at the audience in '94. Seated, adult, attending and, above all, not waving national flags. The organizers may well be right in understanding that, with the submitted songs' no longer being a way to attract desperately needed mass audiences, then they should go for lowest common denominators across the board.

    Oh dear, I really do sound an old fogey. Sorry, don't know the appropriate term in US English.

    Flags and music have entered the realm of the CE World Congresses. What does that betoken? Who knows?

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