Comment: Eurovision: no place for serious artists
So it is to be Scooch. The UK picked its latest Eurovision entry last weekend, a camp airline-themed pop anthem. Will it win?
Ben Leung forces himself to relive some of the music that the Eurovision has been responsible for and asks if any credible musician should enter.
Twenty-two years ago this May, the terribly-named female duo of Bobbysocks won the Eurovision Song Contest for Norway with the annoyingly catchy La Det Swinge.
A-ha, the Norwegian pop group who were then at the height of their fame, were asked at the time – on BBC One’s Saturday Superstore – whether they would follow suit by entering the “Grand Prix d’Eurovision” in 1986.
An emphatic ‘non’ was the band’s response, citing that the contest, “didn’t really fit into the band’s musical directions.”
A polite way of saying “we’ve got credibility, thank you very much!”
And quite right too. Why would a band whose hits include Take On Me and Hunting High And Low risk humiliating themselves in some cheesy song-fest in front of the whole of Europe?
Though it would seem hosting the event is altogether another matter, as the band’s front-man Morten Harket did in 1996, a year after Norway’s second victory.
And as far as I’m concerned, Eurovision is something which no serious musician should ever consider entering.
Indeed, it is a contest, or whatever you like to call it, which should be left to washed-up pop stars, has-been girls groups or virtual unknowns.
Half the fun is finding enough former pop-stars or part-time amateur to do this.
My favourite part-timer amateur of recent years was undoubtedly Jordan, whose dreadful performance was rescued by a rather fetching pink leotard whilst six months pregnant.
Sadly, she failed to be selected, beaten by Javine, disappointingly, though her rendition of Not Just Anybody has already raked up over 180,000 hits on YouTube.
It would’ve been even more fun had she got through and her waters broke live on stage….
Back to the here and now, and last Saturday’s Making Your Mind Up show to choose this year’s British entry was another perfect example of that tried-and-tested formula.
We had the bloke from the Darkness, the quiet one from Atomic Kitten, a haggard-looking Brian Harvey from East 17, some random French girl and bargain-bin regulars in the form of Big Brovaz and Scooch.
The fact that rank-outsiders Scooch came through had nothing to do with the quality of their song, but everything to do with the high-octane campness, eye-catching and cringe-worthy choreography and silly flight-attendant costumes.
That’s probably music to the ears of Mika, the young pop star who recently expressed an interest in entering a song for his birth country, Lebanon, in future contests.
Renowned for his falsetto voice and outrageous shows, it’s probably the perfect vehicle for the 23-year-old, and he could probably get away with it.
But it does worry me that creditable musicians are suddenly latching onto this malarkey, and treating it all so seriously.
Mika isn’t the only one to have moaned our recent efforts as ‘crap.’
Pop legend Morrissey shared those sentiments and almost went down the same route earlier this year.
The former Smiths front-man, and a recent candidate for Britain’s greatest living icon, was reported to be to be dismayed at the UK’s recent poor showings at the annual songfest and at one point, was eager to put things right by entering the contest either as a performer or a songwriter.
Had both he and Mika entered the contest during the mid-90s, they would’ve won easily because that was the period when successive dreary Irish ballads (and countless Riverdances) ruled supreme, and anything out of the ordinary would have been welcomed.
However, the annual contest has been revitalised since the turn of the millennium, coinciding with the show moving eastwards, conquering previously unchartered territories such as the Baltic states and Eastern Europe.
When Estonia won a few years back, I texted my Estonian friend in Tallinn to ask what it was like to win Eurovision.
I, ignorant and devoid of any emotions, naturally failed to share in her elation and excitement of that very special moment, a happiness which was matched by their accession into the European Union two years later.
The dramatic evolution was further underlined by last year’s Finnish winner, Lordi, the monstrous-looking heavy metal/hard rock group, which brought a new dimension to a contest whose concept has changed little over the years.
Ironically, this explosion in the number of new countries taking part has also made the whole affair rather bloated.
Indeed, since the collapse of communism, 20 new countries have entered the annual competition, which now requires a semi-final just to sort out the final field of 24 for the big night.
The voting, traditionally the highlight of the evening, now takes so long that all the eccentricities associated with it has been totally neutralised.
Yes, we can still laugh at the eastern bloc bias or mutual appreciations amongst the Baltic states but with so many members in the European Broadcasting Union, the whole process has become an elongated, marathon-like tedious bore as we sit through results from countries which aren’t even taking part in the contest.
I am therefore sceptical as to what Morrissey or Mika could achieve by taking part in the show.
Having a good song or a famous name doesn’t necessarily mean anything in Eurovision.
A memorable performance certainly helps, though it could easily be undone by what the UK’s doing on the foreign policy front.
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My main concern though is that no one treats the contest seriously on these shores.
We watch it for Terry Wogan’s commentaries (though plenty of viewers like to do a ‘John Motson’ by pressing the red button to mute the Irishman), the dreadful songs, the unbelievably bad costumes, the tongue-tied hosts and the fact that the rest of Europe takes it so seriously.
And I fear this year’s contest has already been overshadowed by Wogan’s now infamous gaffe on Saturday’s show, or the numerous drag artists and anti-nuclear protestors who are set to perform in Helsinki on May 12th.
Had Morrissey and Mika entered, both would’ve just been a sideshow to the more outrageous and controversial elements.
Now can you imagine Morrissey’s face if he had lost?
If Justin Hawkins strop on Saturday for finishing second was anything to go by, I wouldn’t want to sit next to the usually- miserable Morrissey on the plane back from Helsinki!