Before we get sucked into all things Eurovision/Junior Eurovision, we wanted to give our readers the opportunity to get to know our team a bit better. Next up in our introductions series is Isabelle.
Bonsoir a tous! This is Isabelle calling – resident French-Persian genderqueer performance artist on indefinite hiatus, settled in London via Nigeria, Syria and The Netherlands, passionate about words, languages, cats and likely futile attempts to dismantle the structures of oppression that bind us all.
Name: Isabelle Schoelcher
How did I get into the Eurovision Song Contest?
Being very into languages, music and theatre, it was inevitable that I would eventually be drawn to Eurovision. Growing up largely outside Europe however meant that I barely knew the contest existed until my 20s, when I settled in the UK and annual Grand Final parties became a fixture of my social calendar. I was a decidedly casual spectator for the best part of a decade, content to enjoy the heady mixture of silly and sublime for one night each year in the company of friends. In 2013, I found myself watching alone, decided to live-tweet the show for the first time, and scratched the surface of the online community. It felt magical how the event could bring strangers together from all over the world to laugh, weep and gush giddily about live art. Still, it would be a few more years before I started to take Eurovision seriously.
At what point did I consider myself a “Eurofan”?
2014: Conchita Wurst. Seeing a genderfuck drag artist not only deliver a gorgeous performance on that huge platform, but be embraced and celebrated by so much of Europe for it, was life-changing for this baby queer. That was the moment I recognised the power of Eurovision to spark meaningful conversations and alter people’s perspectives through songwriting and spectacle.
That said, I continued to limit my viewing to just the Grand Finals until 2021, when watching online with friends in the Americas – many of them Eurovision newbies – shifted something else in me. It struck me quite suddenly how good the music was, how great the cultural exchange. My unironic love for the contest finally confirmed, I worked my way backwards, watching semi-finals for the first time ever (kicking myself now for having missed out on so many gems) and revisiting past years. Eurofan status: unlocked.
How has my life changed since becoming a Eurofan?
My playlists were already multilingual (thank you, transcontinental upbringing), but now they’re even *more* multilingual. I love the way a single song can lead me down a rabbithole of new artists and genres I might not otherwise have discovered (thank you, Spotify Radio feature) and get me singing in the shower in a language I don’t speak. Some of my current favourite musicians are former Eurovision competitors, and I’ve learned a ton about region-specific folklore, politics and other cultural references from participating countries.
Another lovely and unexpected effect of Eurofandom has been the regular watch parties I now host for my online community. It’s brought us all such a lot of joy during difficult days.
What are my favourite Eurovision songs and countries?
I don’t have a single stan country – Ukraine, Iceland, Armenia and Serbia jostle for that title.
Songs that take distinctive cultural elements and present them in fresh ways have a strong chance of capturing my heart, especially when paired with powerful staging – Barbara Pravi’s interpretation of chanson française and the folktronica of Go_A and Alvan & Ahez are perfect examples. My ears prick up at the sound of West Asian influences and my little linguist’s heart beats faster to non-English lyrics, poetic rap (“Soldi” is a fave) and poetry in general (“Birth Of A New Age,” my beloved). I swoon over moody synths and anything with guts and grit. Måneskin made my year with “Zitti e buoni” and Hatari made my entire life with “Hatrið mun sigra.” I can appreciate a more subdued Eurovision moment too, with “Az Én Apám,” “Sebi” and “O Jardim” also among my all-time favourites.
Strong artistic choices and authenticity of expression always win the day for me. I make no apologies for my top picks consisting of recent numbers – I think Eurovision songwriting and stagecraft have been at their best in the last few years:
- 🇦🇹 Austria (2014) Conchita Wurst with “Rise Like a Phoenix”
- 🇦🇲 Armenia (2016) Iveta Mukuchyan with “Lovewave”
- 🇮🇸 Iceland (2019) Hatari with “Hatrið mun sigra”
- 🇺🇦 Ukraine (2021) Go_A with “Shum”
- 🇮🇹 Italy (2021) Måneskin with “Zitti e buoni”
- 🇫🇷 France (2022) Alvan & Ahez with “Fulenn”
What are my favourite national final songs?
The Eurovision year just gone was my first time following national finals, and wow have I been missing out before now! Just a handful of my very favourites from the past season:
- 🇮🇸 Reykjavíkurdætur – “Tökum af stað” (Söngvakeppnin 2022)
- 🇫🇷 Pauline Chagne – “Nuit Pauline” (Eurovision France, c’est vous qui décidez 2022)
- 🇱🇹 Lolita Zero – “Not Your Mother” (Pabandom iš naujo! 2022)
- 🇪🇸 Tanxugueiras – “Terra” (Benidorm Fest 2022)
- 🇷🇸 Zorja – “Zorja” (Pesma za Evroviziju 2022)
- 🇮🇹 Highsnob & Hu – “Abbi cura di te” (Sanremo 2022)
I also want to shout out Måneskin’s cover of “Amandoti” in duet with Manuel Agnelli (Sanremo 2021), which is electrifying and has cult status in the fandom. Wish it were available to stream.
What are you looking forward to in the next Eurovision season?
I’m most excited about heading into Eurovision season with a circle of friends who are also super enthused about the contest. Not to come over all evangelical, but spreading the joy of Eurovision has been a surprise highlight of the past year. I’m really looking forward to following the earlier stages of the contest from now on.
I can’t wait to discover what new music awaits us and to see whether ESC 2021 has as great an impact on the competition as I hope. I’m gunning for more native-language entries, creative use of pre-recorded backing vocals, and acts that are unafraid of being themselves. Andiamo!
What do you think of Isabelle’s opinions? Want to learn more about our team? Let us know in the comments below or on social media. Don’t forget to follow ‘THAT Eurovision Site’ over at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.