Ever Wondered What It’s Like To…

...Perform at Eurovision?

/ by Noah Charney

Alex Marta (born 1984), who performs under the name ByeAlex, is a Hungarian indie pop singer who broke onto the international scene when his hit song, “Kedvesem,” was selected to represent Hungary at the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. Rather against his will, as he was never interested in Eurovision and thinks that it is patently uncool, he nevertheless made a strong showing with a refreshingly simple, understated, non-cheesy song that is actually, well, good. No anti-gravitational boobs, no dressing up like orcs from Lord of the Rings, no hairy-chest-wielding Eurotrash ballads. Just a decent tune. What was it like to perform at Eurovision, for the largest possible audience in the world (around 180 million live viewers)?


NC: Tell us a bit about your background in music. How did you become ByeAlex and what was your music career like, prior to Eurovision?


BA: I was a journalist before ByeAlex. I worked for the Hungarian Tattoo Magazine, as an editor. I started to write "popish" songs in 2009. The first song was released in December 2011. I came up with this name ByeAlex, so the party started with this ByeAlex guy then.


How did you end up representing Hungary in Eurovision? What was the domestic selection process like?


I did not want to go to the Eurovision. It was the idea of my former label. I was dragged in under pressure.

There was a TV show called the DAL. I won it, and so I had to go.


When you were selected to go to Eurovision, what were your thoughts? I understand you’ve never been a fan of Eurovision?


I did not care about Eurovision. My thought was: WTF!? Things like that. But I knew I would do my best!


Why do you think your song was chosen? It is so different from most Eurovision songs—it’s simple, understated, well-mixed, good…not a cheesy ballad or techno pop song.


Yup. That was the reason why.


I’m curious what your peers in the music world thought about your going to Eurovision? Did fellow musicians think it was cool, uncool or something in between—a curiosity?


There were a lot of haters and there were a lot of fans...


What was it like in Malmo? Do the contestants all stay at the same hotel? How do the rehearsals work?


The rehearsals were fine and funny. I loved the hotel, too, but Malmo was a typical boring city to me. Malmo is not too big and not to interesting, also not that fancy. It is just a city on the map and nothing else. I did not really dig it.


Is there a social dynamic among contestants? Do you all party together and hang out, or are you each with your separate entourages?


We the singers did not hang out together. To be honest, I didn't really care about the other artists. I only wanted to be cool with everyone and then go home.


What were your thoughts during the contest, and when you stepped on stage? That is the biggest audience any musician can have.


I almost passed out. I was pretty stressed.


In the aftermath of Eurovision, how did your career change? I imagine your website and music suddenly receives a big spike in its audience. I wonder how one capitalizes on that, and whether the attention from Eurovision continues into the future, or is shorter-term.


Well. Nearly every Hungarian knows my name, from age 12 to 80! But Eurovision doesn’t bring real fans to real artists. People won't pay for your concerts just because you were on that TV show twice. Nobody really cares about it. I worked hard, day after day, with my crew. Now I have a lot of good songs and hits! Now I can say I have real audiences, real followers: fans…although I hate the word “fan.”


What is a Eurovision song or performer you really admire and what do you like about them?


None. Or I don't know that they were on the show, because I never saw any part of this contest except mine, ha ha!


The voting for Eurovision is weirdly predictable. Not to say that it is “rigged,” but you can usually guess which countries will vote for which other countries, like a socio-political puzzle. I once wrote an article about a drinking game in which you had to take a shot if you couldn’t predict which country would vote for which country. I wonder what contestants think about the predictability of the voting? I live in Slovenia and we know that, no matter how good our act might be, we will never win because of the voting politics…


Yeah... But I got a lot of cool scores from countries like Sweden or Germany... And, as far as I can remember, I got zero from Finland, our big “language brothers.” I didn’t care about politics and bullshit on the stage! It was only me, my friends, and the music we share.


See Alex’s Eurovision performance here.


Noah Charney will be providing live play-by-play commentary of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest on the European Review of Poetry, Books and Culture’s Facebook and Twitter accounts (@versopolis).

Noah Charney

is a professor of art history and best-selling author of, most recently, The Art of Forgery. You can learn more about his work at www.noahcharney.com or by joining him on Facebook.