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One thing that strikes a lot of non-European viewers of the Eurovision Song Contest is that many of the songs are sung in English.

Outside of the ESC, are most modern songs produced in Europe typically produced in the native language of the singers, or in English? I assumed the former, but the mockumentary Get Ready to be Boyzvoiced was in Norwegian, except for the singing, which is in English. If it's common for modern songs to be in English, then maybe there's nothing aberrant about the ESC at all.

If the ESC has an unusually high proportion of English-language songs, is it because the lyrics are more likely to be understood by a large number of voters, or is English seen as a "cool" language, or is it something else?

I checked List of languages in the Eurovision Song Contest, but it only listed when people used English, not why.

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It might be a good idea to study if songs in English are more likely to win than others. –  Édouard Mar 10 at 10:58
    
For the same reason why most contestants sung in Latin during Eurovisionum of 1580 –  Mischa Arefiev Mar 10 at 16:13
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@MischaArefiev Man, Terry Wogan looked so young back then –  Alexander Troup Mar 11 at 13:44
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I have another possible explanation: since computers are programmed in English (see any programming language, all keywords are English) and most of the music for Eurovision is composed on a computer, the lyrics are naturally also in English, because this way they are easier to program –  Mischa Arefiev Mar 12 at 8:05
    
@MischaArefiev youtube.com/watch?v=3FsVeMz1F5c –  Alexander Troup Mar 12 at 10:01

4 Answers 4

Besides what is said above (English is understood by most people and thus sounds more familiar), there is also another aspect.

In Europe there are very many languages, each with their own characters and thus pronounciations. Some languages are considered less 'attractive' by hearing than others, although this differs between each two languages.

English is considered a neutral language by most other language (speakers), while others sound harsh or at least 'strange'.

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I doubt anyone can give a definitive answer to that question lest they do a impressive amount of study.

So here are my completely ungrounded two cents. I think this is due to a variety of factors. I doubt the fact that english lyrics are understood by more people is at stake here (because I doubt that the proportion of people whose English is good enough to understand a song lyrics on the fly is very high). However, I think most people are used to songs in English. Songs in Swedish? Out of Sweden and, perhaps, the rest of Scandinavia, they’re mostly unheard of. And I don’t know if I ever heard a single bit of Latvian. Songs in various European language would thus sound foreign to most European ears… and that’s bad if you’re trying to grab as many 12 points as you can.

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I'm pretty sure it's just because English is a common language that most European countries speak. It gives voters something to understand and judge.

It means you can relate to what the singers are on about, which compels you to vote for that country. If it were in 90% languages that other countries don't speak, then all you'd have to go on would be the musical content, then no-one would win :O

As far as why most European countries speak English, well it's probably because of the British Empire colonizing everywhere, but you might want to get a historian on that one.

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There’s a bit about English becoming a vehicular language in Europe on Wikipedia. I would suggest an answer on the History SE, but the question was closed with the reason being more or less “look at Wikipedia”. –  Édouard Mar 11 at 13:15

Having read earlier answers (all have a point!), I'm thinking .. surely pop history has a part to play here ?

American (sung in English) Rock 'n Roll burst onto the scene and made a global impact in the 50's - the massive influnce of those early rockers : the likes of the Bill Haley / Buddy Holly (bless his chops) and latterly The Beatles / Rolling Stones etc etc would have an influence that has affected pop ever since.

I was talking to a French girl in the mid 80's asking what French pop music was like. Answer : English ! Some was in French of course but at that time (at least) she said, "We have our own pop, of course, but for many Britain is the first country for music".

Being English and a musician, I was elated to hear this. It didn't help though - she had a boyfriend.

Anyways my point is I think there's a historical reason regarding how pop has emerged, as well as the others cited here.

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I should point out I'm squirming when I wrote this post - although I think it's true, it does feel massively arrogant to say "because great music was invented in English". ugh. –  user2808054 Mar 12 at 18:09

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