Thoughts on Eurovision

The Swedish winner Måns Zelmerlöw (Photo: Per Kristiansen)

One of the things I missed most about home when I was living in New Zealand was the Eurovision Song Contest, so when I was asked to write about it for Yahoo! for a couple of years, I jumped at the chance. Thus I was introduced to the exciting world of the semi-finals, where many of my favourite songs failed at the first hurdle.

This year, the semis left me dreading the final. There were no songs that really excited me and only two that I’d liked (Serbia and Israel) but not enough to pick up the phone and vote for them to go through. I decided that I’d do some writing in front of the TV and treat Eurovision as background noise. After all, performance makes all the difference.

In the end I didn’t write. Much as I don’t like the fact that the producers determine the performance order (it’s fairer when it’s done randomly), this year, it made all the difference. Keeping the pace up tempo for the first half of the show, I really enjoyed the performances, even if the UK clearly doesn’t care about winning.

It seems to me that the BBC really doesn’t have a clue about how to engage its audience when it comes to music. The Voice has never produced a chart success, Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper is actively proud of Nick Grimshaw ‘scaring off’ listeners,  and its superior-to-Pop-Idol-talent-contest, Fame Academy didn’t attract audiences and failed to set the charts on fire.

The Beeb seems to have given up on Eurovision as well. Other countries are proud of their entries, take an active part in choosing them and all care about winning. While it may be argued that most of the British public doesn’t care, there’s still a good proportion of us who are interested in the contest and would love it if we had a say in who represented us. As soon as I  heard Still in Love with You by Electro Velvet, I knew that the Beeb really didn’t want us to win, which is such a shame, given how much musical talent we have in this country and how Eurovision can be a major springboard to a successful career.

Much as I liked the finals, it has to be said that the music still didn’t seem to be of the same high standard as the last couple of years, where there were bands and songs that really grabbed my attention. I’ve performed dances to Eurovision songs and even went out and bought not just the Eurovision CDs, but Koza Mostra’s album as well (which is highly recommended!). This year, there was no one I was especially rooting for and I certainly couldn’t sing you any of the songs before the final. Actually, I’m not sure that I could hum more than a few bars of any of them now. It certainly wasn’t a memorable year for music, that’s for sure.

This year definitely shows that you need a perfect combination of a number of elements to win the competition. It seems that most of the songs were growers, needing more than one listen to be appreciated, and when you have an audience who will probably only listen once (and you’re competing in a massive field of 27), you can’t afford that luxury.

Still, my daughter and I ended up voting for quite a few of the acts who went on to score points from the UK, which made a pleasant change – usually my vote is the kiss of death. (For those who care, we voted for Belgium, Sweden, Georgia, Serbia and Israel.) She went to bed before the results were announced, so missed what was one of the most gripping finales in recent years, with Italy, Russia and Sweden battling it out for the top three spots, Russia pulling ahead for the half way mark only to be pipped at the post by Sweden.

All in all, it was a surprisingly fantastic night.