Saturdays European Song Contest in Copenhagen was all about Wurst. Well, it seems to be a good idea for a new special episode of »Japan vs. Germany«. Let’s compare the European Song Contest to the Japanese equivalent, the NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen (red & white song battle). Which one will be the more interesting freak show?
What’s it all about:
The Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson is run every year since 1956 by the European Broadcasting Union and is probably the worlds biggest music contest. Because the name looks complicated as hell, they just renamed it to “Eurovision Song Contest” a while ago. It’s taking place at a different location every year and broadcasted in Europe and even in other countries. The musicians are elected or designated by their countries and (with the exception of some larger countries) need to qualify to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest finals. In the end a winner will be elected by an international voting.
The Kōhaku Uta Gassen by the public broadcaster NHK is taking place at the Tokyo NHK hall on december 31st. The first Kōhaku was broadcasted in 1951, so it’s history is even longer than the ESC. The participants are not elected but determined by the NHK and performing as part of the red (women) or white (men) team. Even though sometimes foreign locations are shown or foreign artists are performing, the Kōhaku is a completely national event. In Europe it is only broadcasted on the NHK foreign channel which requires you to pay a ridiculous subscription fee of 50 Euros per month. While the Eurovision is uploading a large amount of videos to websites like youtube, the Kōhaku can only be seen for two weeks after the initial broadcast on the NHK on demand web channel, which uses geoIP to block foreign users.
For German viewers the ESC finals begin with a live broadcast from the local German stage in Hamburg. TV host Barbara Schoeneberger introduces us to some of the worst things the German music industry can offer: Jan Delay, Sido and Helene Fischer. Besides that, the host was only talking about the weather. Yep. Weather.
The Eurovision Song Contest is pretty straight forward and monotonous. There are hosts, but you barely see them. Maybe now and then, when they need to buy some time to make changes to the stage and at the end when it comes to the voting process. The musicians are introduced by videos and most of them seem to had a difficult childhood. Instead of the hosts leading through the show, everything is commentated into all the different languages of the participating countries. The German audience may listen to the legendary Peter Urban. He can speak just as monotonous as the rest of the show, which is actually quite fun to watch. The ESC wouldn’t be the same without him.
Most of the performances are average artists singing standardized smooth pop songs. Some ballads, sometimes a glimpse of rock music. Most of the songs are not a complete waste of time, but nothing special at all. Even though a lot of different countries were taking place at this event, only three artists (not counting Britain) were singing in their native language. An easy way to complete your bullshit-bingo in boy group vocabulary. Poland was showing us some good old fashioned fan service and apart from the winning Austrian bearded lady only France and Iceland seemed somewhat special. Although by definition of Japanese TV-shows they would probably be “mostly harmless”.
What about the Kōhaku? Television in Japan is a different world and certainly worth lots of dedicated posts. Still, isn’t the Kōhaku produced by the rather conservative national public broadcaster NHK? So what can you expect?
The good thing: It’s still a real TV show with like a host, performances, guests… Such things are rare to see in Germany.
The bad thing: You have to cope with with notorious boy group “Arashi” for like 4.5 hours.
Similar to the Eurovision Song Contest most songs are pretty much average, although there is a bigger variety in style and strangeness of the performances. As the Kōhaku is broadcasted on December 31st, some parts of the show are about what happened in the media and society during the last year. The rules regarding the performances seem not to be as rigid compared to the ESC, although idol groups have been told to leave their pre-high school girls at home.
At the ESC you get an introduction video and a song, a video, a song, Peter Urban trying to tell a joke, a video, a song.
At the Kōhaku you get sad poems about the victims of natural disasters or the atomic bomb which are followed not even two minutes later by performances of super heroes fighting intergalactic tentacle villains. Anything goes in Japan? Nope, no show without some good scandals, such as the legendary performance of DJ OZMA in 2006, during which his background dancers threw of their clothes and seemed to be dancing nude. Although they still were clothed, it could be barely recognized on TV, so NHK got like 1800 complaints, apologized and the end of the show and DJ OZMA was banned for lifetime. Hey, but it’s still a way to be remembered by people even if your music is horrible.
Kōhakus winner is determined by a voting of the audience as well as by a judge panel. Viewers can vote by using the remote control of their digital TV set, by oneseg mobile TV service or by using a mobile phone internet service. In the end either the red or the white team will win.
The voting process of the Eurovision Song Contest seems to be more interesting than the contest itself. Half of the result is determined by a jugding panel while the other half of the points are determined by a telephone vote. So voters are required to call a phone number or write a short mail and even to pay for it. For profit maximization you can make up to 20 calls with your phone. Hurray! Then they have a live coverage to each of the 37(!) countries to announce their results. That’s the point where the contest is becoming somewhat of a political issue, because viewers ask themselves all the time wether Germany gets no points because all the other countries just don’t like us or maybe because all the other countries are honest enough to express how horrible they think German music is.
So the contest ends and the German broadcaster ARD switches back to the Germany, where you can see Schoeneberger and Jan Delay. So at least we get a precise answer the the question mentioned before.
German viewers will be happy about the following three facts:
1. We’re still better than France.
2. We’re still better than Ralph Siegel.
3. Peter Urban tried to tell a joke.
– They have the more interesting freak show
– They try to sing in German
Both Germany and Japan
You need to get drunk enough to enjoy both shows
There is more to see on the Kōhaku: 12 Points for Japan