Life reached a pivotal moment for journalist William Lee Adams after being forced to tune into a Eurovision Grand Final in 2007. Eyebrows were raised, questions were asked about the contest's eccentrics, far-flung glamour, and its genre-bending music compositions. Adams was immediately both perplexed and wowed by the world's biggest song contest despite being born and raised well outside the realm of Eurovision.
We chat to Adams about how he took his fandom of the song contest to become head of the world's most-read independent Eurovision blog, wiwibloggs.
You are of American and Vietnamese descent, none of which your nationalities are involved with Eurovision. How did Eurovision enter your radar?
I moved to London for my British boyfriend in 2006. He insisted that I go to his friend's place to watch Eurovision in May 2007. I was sceptical. My attitude was very much, "This is not American Idol so why do I care?" Then I watched a Ukrainian drag queen wrapped in tin foil lose to an androgynous Serbian woman with a nuclear voice. I was hooked. Me and my that guy are also married now – how could I refuse after he changed my life?
What were your first thoughts of watching the world's biggest song contest spectacle?
Why is the Latvian guy singing in Italian? Why does the British act look so cheap? Did the Swedish singer glue those sequins to his right pectoral and how the heck is he going to remove them?
You decided to act on your fandom and take it that one step further to start a Eurovision-themed blog, wiwibloggs. It has since exploded and is now the world's most-read independent website devoted to all things Eurovision. Tell us how it all began.
In many ways, wiwibloggs was born of professional frustration. I was a reporter at the London bureau of TIME – the American newsmagazine – and wanted an outlet where I could be a bit more creative and free. Where I could sissy my walk if you will. So it made sense just to create my own. I just didn't know what to focus on. And then the heavens opened. Two weeks before Eurovision 2009, I came across some YouTube videos about that year's singers. A video about Romania's singer Elena Gheorghe really struck me. She was the daughter of a Macedonian priest who wore skirts so short daddy would likely blush, and she was defying the credit card crunch and flying to Eurovision in Moscow on a private jet. It was all hilarious to me. Eurovision crossed my radar at a time I was desperate to be a bit more creative, and the blog was born.
What has been your favourite Eurovision moment that you have covered?
There are certain acts that before the contest that are great. But when you see their first rehearsal things go to the next level. Australia's Dami Im in 2016 and Cyprus's Eleni Foureira in 2018 are two standouts for me. I loved filming those reaction videos. The excitement among our team and the broader press room was kind of magical.
As your own media entity, what is the thing that most fascinates you about your interviews with Eurovision's contestants?
I also just generally love the kitsch nature of interviews, where we force aspiring pop stars to imbue their songs with meaning which isn't always there. We assume that everyone has a message and seem to forget that sometimes frothy pop is just froth. I remember being in Moldova five years ago and asking a woman about her electro-dance number. On stage, she wore a white dress and had a red digital heart that blinked, and she kept repeating the lyrics, "I'm frozen with your love." When I asked her what it all means she said: "We are born alone and we die alone. This is my message for Europe." I had a chuckle to myself after receiving that reasoning.
Speaking of meaning, what does the name wiwibloggs mean?
People often ask what wiwibloggs means. When I started the site, I was younger and a bit shyer and perhaps too concerned about what my rather serious colleagues would think of me having a blog at all. So I created an anonymous blog authored by an anonymous character called Wiwi Bloggs. He was meant to be the more fabulous and flamboyant cousin to Joe Bloggs – the everyday man.
When the blog started to grow, and other folks started to pitch in, I didn't think it was right to keep calling it Wiwi Bloggs, which was entirely focused on me. So I just made it into one nonsensical word: wiwibloggs.
wiwibloggs has captivated a loyal following with over 231,000 followers among its social media channels and over 72 million views on YouTube. What is something that stands out to you amongst diehard Eurovision fans?
Personality and candour.
When I started wiwibloggs in 2009, the vast majority of Eurovision-related websites read like press releases. Every song was amazing. Every artist was amazing. Everyone deserved to win. In reality, that's not the case. Eurovision, like anything else, has its share of rainstorms and rainbows, triumphs and car crashes. From the very beginning, I've been happy to explore all those avenues. Having an opinion inevitably puts you in the firing line.
Sometimes people attempt to take swipes by saying that our reviews are subjective. That's the whole point: A review is subjective if you're actually doing a review and not a puff piece. I think the fact I was already working as a journalist for several years when I launched the site was a huge plus. We're able to meld personality and humour with plenty of reporting and a sincere interest in the people and personalities we are lucky enough to meet. These days I read the news on the radio, and it's reaffirmed a lot of the beliefs and perspectives I developed at wiwibloggs – mainly that news doesn't have to be presented in a stuffy way, and that the best interviews are actually just conversations.
Actor Will Ferrell personally sought you out for a working project inspired by Eurovision. What advice did you give him?
The vast majority of people who watch Eurovision will never hear about or even imagine much of what makes Eurovision so zany and wild. The months of build-up, the drama and intrigue behind-the-scenes at national selections, the dozens of acts who fall at the first hurdle during national contests from Moldova to Lithuania and beyond, the dizzying ambition of upstarts, the heartache of singers fighting with their own broadcasters, the plots, the schemes, the drama. I feel so lucky to have been a fly-on-the-wall for so much of this.
I'll take many of these secrets to my grave. Long story short: I told him not to focus on the three-hour grand final, but to rewind to the months and years before that magical night. The payoff is nothing without the build-up.