Gabriela Gunčíková will make history in Stockholm on Saturday night when she becomes the first Czech to take part in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. The Czechs have had a rather cool relationship to the competition and Gunčíková is only the country’s fifth entrant. So how has she succeeded where Kabát and others have failed? That’s a question I put to historian Dean Vuletic, a specialist in the Eurovision who previously lived in Prague and is currently in Stockholm.
“You see that Gabriela Gunčíková has been completely branded. They’re handing out badges, they’re handing out bags, they’re handing out plastic coffee mugs with the Gabriela logo on them.
“So you see that the Czech Republic’s national television broadcaster has put really put an effort into promoting Gabriela this year.”
What about her style of music – is it more palatable to Eurovision audiences than some of the previous Czech entrants?
“Gabriela’s ballad is certainly a typical Eurovision power ballad. It’s what is most typically associated with the Eurovision Song Contest – the sort of diva figure who sings this power ballad, largely alone on stage.
“When we compare it to Kabát, the Czech Republic’s first ever entry, which was a complete mistake, because the Eurovision Song Contest does not do rock music very well, especially when it is sung in a language other than English…”
The Czechs first took part, as you say with Kabát, in 2007, then they took part for a few years and dropped out before going back again. Do you have any sense there that they are seen as being outsiders at the Eurovision?
“I think that they’re not seen as outsiders but more as welcome newcomers.
“It’s very interesting to think about the reasons why the Czech Republic hasn’t participated in the Eurovision Song Contest for much longer, especially when we compare it to other states from Central and East Europe, which rushed quite quickly after the end of the cold war to enter, as a way of affirming their belonging to the Western Europe and promoting in a cultural way their aspirations for integrating into Western Europe.
“The Czechs didn’t need this so much, because they were always quite ahead with their integration efforts into West Europe, compared to other countries from the region.
“But also, the way the Czechs see themselves culturally is quite different to the way that nations typically promote themselves at the Eurovision Song Contest.
“As the selection of Kabát demonstrated, the Czechs very much like to see rock music as a form of national musical promotion.
“And they quite look down on Eurovision Song Contest pop music, which they see as an inferior cultural aesthetic.”
Finally, what do you think Gabriela Gunčíková’s chances are in Saturday’s final?
“I don’t think she will win. Unfortunately I think that’s the case, because her song is simply not memorable enough. She’s also not highly rated by bookmakers.
“I think it’s a shame that the Czech Republic won’t win, simply because I think it would be a wonderful opportunity for a Czech city to host the Eurovision Song Contest, and a wonderful way for Europe to see the Czech Republic in a new light, because these mega-events are always important for promoting countries.
“But nonetheless, I think the fact that Gabriela Gunčíková has entered the final is already a major development for the Czech Republic, a major improvement on its performance in the Eurovision Song Contest in previous years. So certainly nothing has been lost for the Czech Republic at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.”
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