Archives for posts with tag: Eurovision Song Contest

It is that time again where I air my thoughts on the results of Eurovision Song Contest. It was a year of contrasting musical styles, with the traditional ballads, dancefloor bangers and ethno-pop meeting pop opera and BDSM techno-punk. Oh, and Madonna turned up.

In fact, let’s start with her. You would think after being in the industry for nearly 40 years she would know how to make chat with TV hosts, but no. Her stilted conversation with the poor presenter was the most awkward moment of the night. Until that is we got to her actual performance. Barely a note was in tune and was actually mind-numbingly dull. A waste of 10 minutes that could have been given to hurrying the vote along so we could have gone to bed before midnight.

Honestly, most of the half-time entertainment was sub-par. Thank god for Verka, who should be a feature every year. At least give him a five-minute cabaret slot at some point.

The songs themselves were all very middle of the road in terms of quality. Bar a weirdly cold Slovenia and an overly saccharine Germany (and the bizarre world of San Marino) there were very few clangers, but also very little genuine quality. Norway was a personal favourite of mine, for actually bringing a bit of a tune and some energy. Azerbaijan was another high point and I have to reluctantly give some credit to Russia.

The biggest talking point was, of course, Iceland. The song itself was deliciously OTT, as was the staging. How they got away with something bordering on BDSM porn is beyond me (we were one ball gag away from an 18 rating), but I’m glad they did. Quite what Europe’s take on their Palestine protest during the voting will be is another matter. It’s interesting Madonna got away with her political statement with the crowd but not them.

The Netherlands were victors. It wasn’t a surprise though. Although not a personal favourite of mine, it obviously had a quality to it that would chime with juries and public alike. It is yet more proof that sincerity, regardless of genre of song, is the biggest vote winner. If you can sell the story of your song to the audience, you are going to be in the running to win.

Which brings me to the UK. Whilst the song was poor and the staging no better, last felt harsh when you consider some of the other songs out there. But it did lack anything to make it sound special. It takes more than a good voice. There will always be a debate as to if internal selection or public is the way forward, but there needs to be quality to begin with.

Still, there’s always next year. Amsterdam here we come!

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Some mysteries are easier to solve than others. I for one wouldn’t want to unpick any of those impossible maths challenges. I can however solve the case of the UK’s terrible run at Eurovision.

All the clues are there, but the problem is too many people look at the symptom, the grand final in May, rather than the cause, which in this case is the national selection process, the final of which occurred on Friday. I present to you, the criminal that is Eurovision: You Decide.

The format this year was a little different from normal, with six acts divided into pairs and having a song each. In other words, three songs in two different styles. In theory this is a good idea, as you can pair up the arrangement and the singer better to the song. It does prevent self-written songs though, with all the tracks produced by committee.

Of course, that relies on the three songs being quality to begin with. I don’t think any of them were. ‘Freaks’ was infuriatingly catchy but had awful lyrics. ‘Sweet Lies’ never really hit top gear as either a dance track or a ballad. ‘Bigger than Us’ was the cheesiest of cheese-fests. A stronger performer on all three was fairly self-evident, although if true justice occurred the public would have been able to vote on both versions of ‘Bigger than Us’ and ‘Freaks’ eliminated straight away.

Michael Rice’s take on ‘Bigger than Us’ was the best vocal of the night and an understandable winner. It fails the charisma test though. Some proper performance arts training will help, as will someone teaching him how to keep the microphone in the right place at all times. There is too much arm flailing in the choreography at present and a cruel draw in the final will guarantee us last place.

In some respects the problems run deeper than the songs though. The mocking tone we associate with Eurovision is present here. There is an amateur hour standard of production, with Mel Gidroyc and Mans Zemerlow frequently looking at the wrong camera and Gidroyc even at one point wandering off the set. I doubt you would see such sloppiness on any of the Scandinavian selection shows.

It is this feeling we are taking it as a joke that costs us every year. We can send whatever song we like, but if it is done with a sneer or a giggle we will get punished.

I argue we need to promote Rylan Clarke-Neal from head judge to presenter (he is surprisingly professional for a reality TV graduate). I also think that as good as the matching exercise was in theory, it didn’t work in practice. If they want a twist, make is self-written songs only. This encourages the performers to sing sincerely, a common theme amongst previous winners. And make the whole thing more professional. If even all that fails to produce a result, then we may need to make a second exit from Europe.

We have come to that time of year again where I offer my thoughts on the Eurovision Song Contest. This year felt like a bit of an odd one. A lot of slow ballads and weak mid-tempo songs in the first half, lifted only by the cheesy Norway and distinctly odd Ukraine, with a second half filled with party bangers and eccentricities.

It was the slow start for the show that made me struggle more to enjoy it this year than normal, blandness topped with mediocrity being the theme. Of course, interest was piqued with the stage invasion during the UK’s song. One of these seems to happen a year now – if it’s not an onstage protest we get a member of the crowd mooning. Security is clearly a bit lax at this event.

The voting system also highlighted massive disparities in terms of what the critics want and what the public loves. The juries rewarded tight pop efforts from Austria and Sweden and dismissed the theatrics of Ukraine and the earnest folksy Denmark, both of which got more love from the viewers. The former I could understand, as it proved to be one of the high points of staging. The latter less so. It takes more than a beard for me to buy into some Viking backstory.

But did the right song win? Well, in my opinion, yes. TOY – the Israeli entrant – was one of the other masterclasses in staging, although one that was driven by the performer rather than the props. Netta worked the arena and the audience at home, no mean feat considering the stakes. The song also managed the feat of being up tempo but still with a message, in this case female empowerment. There have been grumblings of cultural appropriation with her geisha styling, but if we are to celebrate coming together as one, shouldn’t we be prepared to incorporate such things without fear of criticism? Or is that not woke enough?

I also enjoyed Moldova, despite Graham Norton’s criticisms of it. If you are going to bring the novelty, do it with conviction. It was also one of the few performances to really throw everything into the pot – props, choreography, a storyline – what more could you want? Likewise, Finland was too harshly judged by jury and viewer alike.

And finally, what about us? Well, I found the song to be beige in musical form. The staging was little better. The invasion probably saved us from being forgotten and SuRie’s admirable fortitude picked us a few sympathy votes that saved us from last place. But we wouldn’t need that if the song was stronger to begin with.

Which brings us to how we go about doing better next year. Two things for me. Firstly, the song writing by committee has to stop. Some of the best songs over the last few years have only written by one or two people, preferably the artist themselves or someone close to them. Second, there needs to be more of an investment from the record industry as a whole – genuine up-and-coming acts need to be scouted. An undiscovered talent who writes their own material seems to be the perfect act for Eurovision. But, until next year, that is that.