Eurovision 2013 – Malmö — First Post
And so it begins!
The new ESC season hasn’t yet officially started (the final-final list of participants will not be official until mid-December) and we already have a withdrawal and a return, artists for two countries (the Netherlands and Belgium), two countries already assigned to semi-finals (Denmark and Norway), and a whole lot of Swedish egotism.
Portugal, ESC’s beloved loser – 45 times without a victory, will not be participating in the upcoming edition of the Contest. After moderate success in late 2000’s qualifying for the final and finishing in the middle of the pack from 2008-2010, Portugal has finally grown weary of trying. RTP has not yet ruled out a return in 2014.
Armenia, citing the fact that they have no ill regard for the Swedes, is returning to Contest after sitting out last year. In case you haven’t heard, Azerbaijan and Armenia do not like one another and are politically and socially at odds, despite close cultural heritages and history. A couple of years ago, the two countries tried to put politics aside and staged a friendly soccer match in Baku. Unfortunately, the Azerbaijani security was not as tight as promised and the Armenian team’s safety was put in jeopardy. Armenia did not want to risk a similar situation in Baku this year. Since they have no such history with Sweden, the Armenians are happily returning to the Contest in Malmö.
The Netherlands were the first to announce an artist – Anouk. A soulful singer that is rather successful in the Netherlands. Listening to her work, she makes great ballads (which won’t help her much at ESC) and so-so uptempo songs (pop rock tends to be a bit, hit-or-miss). I think she offers the Netherlands the best chance at returning to the Grand Final since 2008 (a wonderful song by a wonderful and beautiful singer that failed for unknown reasons). I think her best bet is to make a high quality pop-rock number to sway the juries. I predict Anouk leading the Dutch to the Final, but not doing much more after that.
Roberto Bellarosa, the reigning “Voix Belgique – français” (as the Flanders has its own version because the Walloons and Flemish don’t like to play nice with one another). Belgium is returning to the equation that worked the last time it went to Scandinavia, back in 2010, a cute boy with a sweet voice that knows how to work a ballad. The question is whether or not Belgian songwriters do a better job for him than they did for Iris last year. I’m still undecided on his chances until I can see some of his semi-final competition.
Due to Malmö’s central location in the Scandinavian region, Norway and Denmark were each randomly assigned to a semi-final to prevent a heavy fan turnout for one night and not the other…i.e., the EBU is trying to make sure both nights sell out. I’m not opposed to this, unlike the last major development…
Loreen, through her interpretation of the prolific entry Euphoria, brought the victory and ESC back to Sweden – undoubtedly, one of the Contest’s most enthusiastic countries. Not only that, Sweden now joins France, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg in the five-wins club. Sweden, at least in my opinion (and probably those of many Danes, Fins, and Norwegians) tends to change things for the sake of changing things. In the US, we have a saying, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” – meaning, if something is working, there’s no need to change it. This concept doesn’t exist in Sweden. SVT has already started announcing ways they will regress the Contest to earlier traditions in order to freshen it up – things such as using only one host, not having a tagline, and putting the focus back on the participating countries.
One thing that has never been a part of the Contest has been a predetermined running order. Since 1956, the running order of the entries has been decided by random choice. In a move of enormous egotism and pride, SVT has proposed (and gotten permission for) having this year’s producers choose the running order of the entries. We know that songs in 2nd position never win. We know that songs performing towards the end of the night do better than songs that perform towards the beginning. We know that performing around the advertising breaks can be harmful. Aside from the fact that SVT will have to deal with known running order issues, an official from SMRTV (San Marino) raised a point I didn’t even think about: “of course a great and well known artist would attract more interest than a ‘minor’ one and the organizers may want her/him to sing in the last positions to have a more thrilling show. Small countries are then disadvantaged because they do not normally have artists in the European charts. How can you defeat Blue, Humperdink, Kaas, or Anouk in terms of fame if you’re not England, France or Holland?” In making a “more exciting show” as SVT claims it’s trying to do, they will advantage countries that send popular artists, most likely coming from the UK, France, Netherlands, Serbia, and Russia. Which leads me to my next point. What are the checkpoints to prevent Sweden from using their position to positively impact the other four Nordic countries or Western European countries?
SVT’s main argument against the naysayers – “it’s the system used in Junior ESC.” Well, aside from the fact that jESC has a fraction of the following as ESC (and growing smaller) and a fraction of the competitors. It takes almost a full hour and a half to get through all the entries (compared to ~45 minutes in jESC), so running order means A LOT more to ESC. I hope this is a one-time experiment.