Archives for posts with tag: Graham Norton

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.

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And so to my yearly review of The Eurovision Song Contest. I did not have high hopes for this year’s contest – stories of backstage chaos, tensions between the hosts Ukraine and Russia and an overall opinion on the fan forums of the quality of the songs being lower left me concerned that I was facing a very dull and badly organised three hours.

Thankfully, events transpired rather better than that. I don’t profess to be an expert on musical quality, but I found enough of the songs enjoyable to compensate from any that were lacklustre, and there seemed to be return to the creative eccentricities the contest is known for.

Amongst my favourites this year were the joyful Moldova, the cool and contemporary Norway and the slightly oddball but magnificently done Azerbaijan and Croatia. Quite how a man wearing a horse’s head sitting on top of a ladder was designed to add anything to the song is beyond me, but it worked, as did the solo duet. I even warmed to Sweden’s entry, which had been written off as cold and cynical by many fans.

But what of the winner? Well, I personally didn’t fall for the charms of Salvador from Portugal. The song seemed reminiscent of a particularly downbeat Disney song from the 1950’s and the singer’s tics were not sweet gestures that people seemed to be worshipping. Yet clearly enough people fell for the simplicity and subtlety of the moody staging and the quirks of the performer, as it won in a landslide, topping both sets of votes by some distance. Expect next year to feature a glut of foreign language retro love songs on minimal staging.

Speaking of next year, where do the UK go from here? We sent a strong package: a decent song, excellently sung and well staged, and still only managed 15th (although we did get a top 10 finish from the jury). To be fair, the song always did seem more jury bait than something that would win over a public vote, but even so, it felt harsh to only receive 12 points from the televote.

The solution to this problem is perhaps to keep up and build on the efforts of this year by throwing our weight behind the song but adapt where we went wrong. Find an artist that writes their own stuff and knows how to sell the narrative, keep the staging subtle but effective and make sure there is a story to tell the viewers. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the winners for the past two years have written very personal songs. Perhaps rather than hiring the best songwriter and pairing them up with the best singer, we get the performer who can do both.