Is English the official language of music?
Each May since 1956 people from across Europe and around the world have gathered around their televisions with friends and family for an extended evening of international entertainment: The Eurovision Song Contest. For one night every year our continent, rich with languages and cultures, is united by music. With up to 27 finalists and 200 million viewers, the competition may well be a fun event but perhaps it’s not the shared celebration of European language and cultural diversity that it could be. In the first ten years of Eurovision, the UK and Ireland were the only two countries to sing in English. Now English is what we expect. Is it that English is becoming, or has become the official language of music?
From high streets in Hungary to supermarkets in Sweden, from bus stops in Bulgaria to parks in Poland, people listen to English-language music everywhere. And people don’t just listen, they sing it too! From sporting events in Spain to nightclubs in Norway, from concerts in Croatia to fitness classes in France, people sing along to popular songs in their everyday lives, in English. But why?
For one evening each year Eurovision is the dinner party of Europe. A dinner party to which each guest brings something unique. Their clothing, customs and cuisine represent their culture and their language represents the unique character of a nation. Although there are 50 nations with 83 languages – official, regional, and minority – for Eurovision, English dominates completely. Does Eurovision really showcase Europe?
English is an international language spoken by over 1 billion people worldwide. It is no surprise therefore that so many musicians make music in English. Of course, music makes money and more listeners make more money. Then again, perhaps English simply sounds better. According to Ragnar Thorhallsson, singer and guitarist with the Icelandic indie band ‘Of Monsters and Men’, his language is harsh. He thinks that English is simpler and is easier to make rhymes. Could this be true?
Let’s consider that although English-language music is everywhere, music is not every-thing. As long as we continue to learn, to speak, to appreciate and to love, diversity shall prosper. After all, what fun is a dinner party if the guests can’t communicate or express themselves in the way they choose?