• Liv Webster

Eurovision Fan of the Week - Penny from The United States of America

Today we welcome to Fan of the Week Penny (@LantiSpitfire) from Vermont, USA! We talked all things Alexander Rybak, National Finals and even got a local take on the inaugural "American Song Contest".

Thank you for being our Aussievision fan of the week! Tell us a little about yourself... Hi! *grabs virtual box of popsicles for icebreakers* My name’s Penny and I’m currently situated in Burlington, Vermont, USA (approximately 170 km/2 hours drive from the nearest IKEA), originally from Canton, Michigan (approximately 5 km from the nearest IKEA). I’m a recent pharmacy school graduate, though I’m still in the process of getting licensed as of today.


I guess I should also mention that I have 2 half-sized skeleton roommates (which Dihaj cannot have), I play hand flute and I don’t like wearing shoes (*cries in healthcare dress code/safety regs*).


~ I always enjoy seeing your skeleton shenanigans on the twitter timeline! (Liv)


How did you get into Eurovision? What was the first year you watched?

I need to “thank” my ex-crush from high school for getting me into ESC. Long story short, dude ignored me for over a year, and I turned to the internet to distract myself. One click on Humon’s Scandinavia and the World Webcomic back in summer of 2010 led to discovering Alexander Rybak’s 'Fairytale' on YouTube, to a 2010 contest NDR stream, and following the 2011 contest.


However, due to my 11th grade English teacher and my parents not being thrilled of my finding a new distraction, I think it took until 2014 that I was able to watch the contest in full, instead of bits and pieces after the results. Thank goodness for people online who actually wanted to talk about the contest and not tell me to go back and re-analyse the unrelated reading.


~ Why is it always the English teachers? Mine said I was wasting my time watching the contest too!! (Liv)


Back in May it was announced that the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) has secured the broadcasting rights to air the "American Song Contest". A few questions as a local to the event…

  • What was your initial reaction? Okay, so confession here: I don’t watch much TV , and I was extremely out of it with school when the announcement showed up.

  • Do you think it will be successful and a local audience will ‘get it’ like Europeans? I’m going to be cautiously optimistic, given that enough people at work watched (or at least are aware of) the Eurovision/Fire Saga movie or have listened to 'Arcade', and that we do have a wide enough spread of various cultures. For example, there’s the Arab American population in Dearborn, Michigan, and Finnish-American population in the upper peninsula in Michigan. When I moved up here to Vermont I learned that we have a lot of Ex-Yugo diaspora in the area. But at the same time, I’m concerned that the “cultural melting pot” of the USA means that performances might be boiled down (pun not intended) to the least common denominator, to whatever’s on Idol or The Voice right now. Also, given the amount of adverts on TV I wonder if the audience will have enough patience to sit through 10 (much less 50) performances of anything.

  • Whom would you love to see represent your state? Unlikely to happen, but if I get to see Anais Mitchell for Vermont - I’ll be very happy.

  • Is there anything you would recommend for the format if you had a say? Given it’s 50 states, I’m suspecting Mello style heats of maybe 10 songs each, and maybe a 20 song final tops. Probably works better than elimination brackets.

  • What’s your bet on the inaugural host city? NBC’s based in New York City, so the final could be there? Probably not the most creative answer there...


Whom was your winner for Eurovision 2021? What made them special to you?

Ukraine 'Shum', hands down, due to a) being catchy, b) not being able to look away (until I blinked and lost a staring contest with Kateryna), and c) the entire forest rave. I have zero qualms about blasting this on the freeway with the windows down while driving to work and can’t wait to hear more content from Go_A. Conveniently, if you fold down the pink stripe from a pan flag, you get a Ukrainian flag since I didn’t have any flags to wave in the house during the contest.


Do have to point out that while Ukraine had the best song/performance, Norway won my heart (and I can currently sense my English teacher rolling her eyes already). I couldn’t help but notice that his bio reads so closely to my former roommate and given my recent ADHD diagnosis I felt so represented by his chaotic energy. I’ll also point out that his stage outfit is basically an over-the-top version of what I wear to work on a migraine day, and shoutout to his cranking the key down from the Norwegian version to the English version for this forever 3rd alto who can’t belt high notes


~ The absolute chaos of 'Shum' really does warm the soul. I think it's so special how our contest gives a platform to topics otherwise missed in mainstream media...what's even more impressive is Tix managed to wrap a message and performance into a neat over-the-top package that just WORKS and thrives on the Eurovision stage. (Liv)



Whom is your favourite Eurovision performance and why?

My ultimate fave is a tie between 'My Star' by Brainstorm and 'Fairytale' by Alexander Rybak. To be fair, I don’t know how or why 'My Star' is up there, but the fact that it makes me feel melty and a little blissed out (like I just downed a Starbucks energy drink) is probably one reason. I’m still waiting for the day a shaved ice place called “Snow in the Summer” shows up.


As for Fairytale, it’s always been there for me. On some days it’s the performance. Other days it’s that I need to belt out the refrain. And some days I remember that it’s helped me through my high school relationship troubles but at the same time I can still use it for my current relationship (which thank goodness, is much less messy).


~ I can agree so much with the healing blanket that is 'Fairytale' - it did a lot for my mental health over my gap year isolated in the countryside. Playing it and dancing around just felt good. (Liv)


Which national final do you look forward to the most? What makes it special?

Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (Finland), for the genre diversity. Maybe it’s not as flashy as their next door neighbor, but I do know that if I play all the songs with loud water running in the background, I can tell all the songs apart. More chances on hearing all the R rolls while listening to the presenters as well.


What is your opinion on returning artists? Is there one you would like to see again?

If the song’s strong enough (especially if compared other national final entries), why not? As long as press doesn’t constantly ask “which song do you prefer, your current entry or your previous entry” then I’ll be fine.


~ *sniggering* some interviewers can't be creative and it annoys me too. (Liv)


If you could pick only three performances to encourage new people to watch Eurovision what would they be:

  1. 'Dancing Lasha Tumbai', (okay I’m biased here, but turns out if you borrow a laptop and play this song, you might find yourself a partner)

  2. 'Origo'

  3. 'Shum', it’s impossible to look away.

I’d also recommend 'Zitti e Buoni', but I’m suspecting a lot of people have already found their performance. And now I need to figure out which one to take out to fit in a Balkan ballad as well



Which Eurovision song:

Is the best winner?

Uhhh, can I still say 2009 and 'Fairytale' again?


~ Yes, you absolutely may! More, more more!! (Liv)


Has the best live vocal?

Still go back to Albania 2018 with that Eugent Bushpepa’s high note at the end, followed by Jonida Maliqi in 2019. Seriously, what’s in the water there that makes everyone amazing singers?


Best entry with American connections?

Performance-wise, 'Euphoria' with Ausben Jordan showing up in the last minute, especially since you can’t really mess with a work inspired by Bernini’s 'The Ecstasy of St Teresa'. If we’re just talking the song, I’ll say 'Bones' (and no, not because of my skeletons). Extra points to Johnny Manuel who’s also originally from Michigan.


Was robbed?

Of this year, Croatia's 'Tick-Tock' not making the final. I *kind of* get why due to similar acts that might have been a bit more flashy, but still. Robbed. Then there’s The Netherland's 'Birth of a New Age' getting 0 points in the televote.


~ Poor Jeangu, that song had so much heart, culture and meaning in it - forever sad to see it tank with the televote. (Liv)


Is your guilty pleasure?

'My Galileo' (Belarus 2004). Hands down, one of the most fun ESC songs to sing along to. I’ll also note that my wake-up alarm is the refrain to 'Push the Button'…


~ Mine is 'Fuego', always makes me jump at the drop when I'm half asleep (Liv)


Is your favourite National Final song (that didn't make it to Eurovision)?

I’ve got way to many to list here: 'I Mog Di So' (VoXXclub, Germany 2018) and 'Mot Mig i Gamla stan' (Magnus Carlsson, Sweden 2015) never fail to put a smile on my face. 'On It Goes' (Mikael Saari, Finland 2016) is that scene in a musical that would show up at the Tony Awards. 'Sleepwalker' (Nightwish, Finland 2000) is just epic in general and was robbed by the juries.


Recently I’ve been listening to 'Barndomsgater' by Stavangerkameratene (auto-qualifiers at MGP this year, yay I spelled that correctly on first try this time!) a lot, since it’s 3 minutes of warm hugs for your ears.


And finally which Australian entry is your favourite…

'We Got Love'. Makes me want to go stomp the dance floor.


Any other titbits or comments you’d like to make?

Uhh, when can I attend an ESC artist’s performance in the US? I’m still annoyed about not making Marija Serifovic’s concert back when I still lived in Michigan because my mom wouldn’t let me take the car.


Thank you Penny for your time and talking all things Eurovision with me! Hopefully in the near future there will be some Eurovision artists making their way across the The Atlantic to perform in Vermont!