The Echo of English

So today, Iru released her song Echo – a full review of which will be coming later. (Spoiler alert: it’s a BANGER)

Did you watch that with the subtitles one? Because many in the Eurovision community wish that the Georgian Iru had gotten a native English speaker to proofread her lyrics.

To which I say: NONSENSE.

In his otherwise sneering article on Eurovision, the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane commented on the existence of Eurovision English: “an exquisite tongue, spoken nowhere else, which raises the poetry of heartfelt but absolute nonsense to a level of which Lewis Carroll could only have dreamed.”

As much as Eurovision fans love our songs in native languages, the rest of Europe tuning in sometimes enjoys hearing the lyrics. And with English now having the status of a common language, singing in it is a strategic choice that many countries feel optimizes their chances of doing well.

I’d rather have Iru, who is credited as one of the co-writers, singing a song in an imperfect English that reflects the way she actually uses the language than to have a song that is grammatically perfect but less authentic. And yes, I do mean that, even if some verses look like Iru was trying to match rhyming words and didn’t quite get there.

I speak from experience here as someone who has done public speaking in a country and a language not my own. Was my pronunciation and grammar perfect? No, but what was more important to me was being able to get across my message, even if I flubbed a few words doing so.

Also – let’s be honest. It’s not like the native English speakers at Eurovision are bursting with profundity. For example, here’s the first verse of the Irish entry this year:

We take our first breath
And then we exhale
Though we give it all we got
Until we fail
We get back up again
We take a look around
Oh, life can be a long road
But at least we’re not alone

What does that even mean? It’s like someone transcribed the contents of a bunch of “Hang In There!” posters from a Staples.

Look, I don’t want to downplay the importance of lyrics. God knows I harp on about them when I think they’re awful. But Iru’s aren’t awful in their meaning. They’re just awful in their adherence to conventional English sentence structure.

By the time we get to the actual performance at Eurovision, the lyrics are far less important than the vibes. And Iru is bringing vibes in abundance.

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