Why Eurovision is not political, and why the UK can still win
A total eclipse of Eurovision was not to be for Bonnie Tyler last weekend. Nonetheless, the usual one-day-a-year Eurovision bashers have appeared to spout their nonsense about ‘politics’, ‘block voting’ and ‘those eastern europeans!’ in recent days. Of course, all of that is incorrect; yet again a western/northern country was victorious, with a strong song and popular performer. The UK could do the same next year……
Eurovision may have an element of politics involved. The case of Azerbaijan and its consistently high scoring entries is perhaps the most obvious; it is clear who its political supporters are when voting patterns are analysed. There is also a rather controversial and puzzling pattern whereby Malta – with no obvious links to the Azeri’s – give their 12 points to Azerbaijan most years; some people have attributed this to bribing of national juries or fixing of televotes.
Regardless, the majority of voting in Eurovision is not political. Cultural, maybe. Many neighbours vote for each other, but often that is because they enjoy similar pasts and similar tastes, appreciating the same type of music. To say that the majority of voters think ‘Ooh, I’ll vote for our neighbours just because they are our neighbours!’ is ridiculously simplistic and untrue.
Sweden’s 2012 victory was a fine example of the best song winning. It was probably the most professional sounding entry in Eurovision history. ‘Euphoria’ – while not to my own tastes – is the sort of thing that is heard in any music chart in any country in the world. It had universal appeal, it was appreciated by Europeans across the continent and thus it picked up votes from just about everywhere. It received 12 points from places as diverse as Spain, Estonia, Russia and Israel. Although it did also get big points from all of its Scandinavian friends, there was nothing to suggest that Sweden’s victory was anything other than a victory for the song and its performer Loreen.
Denmark last weekend was similar. Although the song was poorer and the result less convincing, it picked up 12 points from countries with no obvious relation to it, such as Macedonia and Serbia. The song was the bookies favourite for months and Emmelie De Forest’s victory was never in doubt. I’m not going to pretend that song and that singer would have won Eurovision for the UK. There is a degree of neighbourly voting (often cultural, not political), although it is minimal as I have outlined. The UK can win Eurovision, but it would need a stunning performance akin to Loreen’s in 2012.
Terry Wogan has a lot to answer for. His negativity and dumbing down of the contest for the decades he was a commentator has turned the competition into a laughing stock in the UK. But let’s make no mistake; aside from sport, Eurovision remains the biggest TV event in the world. Every other country in Europe takes it very seriously. Unfortunately, no one with an ounce of talent here would go anywhere near Eurovision, and why would they? It’s seen as a last chance saloon for fading stars, as evidenced by Bonnie Tyler and Englebert Humperdinck, while the likes of Josh Dubovie and Scooch have made it a laughing stock. Yet if you watched the contest last weekend, you would realise that despite moments of madness (Romania?!), Eurovision is – for the most part – a credible and quality music competition.
If the UK is to ever win again an attitude change is needed, starting with the BBC. Lord knows who picks our entries, but they clearly need a talking to. There is absolutely no promotion for Eurovision within the UK until the few days leading up to the contest. It is never mentioned on Radio 1 whatsoever, yet 9.3million people in the UK watched the contest on Saturday – there is a clear appetite for Eurovision here.
I’m not saying that we should bring back our ‘public selection’ – seeing that gave us Scooch and Daz Sampson. But maybe the BBC should get Radio 1 involved. Bring Eurovision back to a younger audience and try to make it resonate with the majority of music listeners in the country. Radio 1 bang on incessantly about ‘uncovering new talent’. Next year we need something new. Sending tired old nearly-retired popstars isn’t the answer. Send something edgy, creative and different. The UK is a beacon for musical talent and although Eurovision is still wrongly perceived as a camp gathering of silly costumes and out of tune singing, I’m sure there would be several new artists hoping for a big break that would jump at the chance of representing the UK. Especially when you consider the BBC reportedly paid Bonnie and Englebert six figure sums for doing it.
The UK are pioneers for music. Let’s send something different in 2014.