Analyzing the Big Five: Germany
Hello Dear Readers!
Today we move on to Germany. The only Big Five country to win since the rule was introduced, Germany had a wave of success at the turn of the decade, but promptly fell back to bottom of the scoreboard.
2006 – 15th place with No No Never by Texas Lightning
2007 – 19th place with Frauen Regier’n Die Welt performed by Roger Cicero
2008 – 23rd place with Disappear performed by No Angels
2009 – 20th place with Miss Kiss Kiss Bang performed by Alex Swings, Oscar Sings
2010 – 1st place with Satellite performed by Lena
2011 – 10th place with Taken by a Stranger performed by Lena
2012 – 8th place with Standing Still performed by Roman Lob
2013 – 21st place with Glorious performed by Cascada
2014 – 18th place with Is it Right? performed by Elaiza
2015 – 27th place (last) with Black Smoke performed by Ann Sophie
2016 – 26th place (last) with Ghost performed by Jamie-Lee Kriewitz
Germany has had a wide diversity of entries, from swing (2007, 2009) to dance (2013) to country (2006) to R&B (2015) to polka-pop (2014). Sadly, despite the relative strength of each entry, most have fallen on the wrong side of the scoreboard. 2010 was a standout year for Germany, as Satellite stormed to victory, making Germany the only Big Five country to win since the rule was introduced in 2000. Lena became only the third person to attempt to defend her title the following year, and got tenth. Finally, using the same formula that selected Lena, Germany chose its entry for 2012 and retained a position in the Top Ten.
So, what’s gone wrong?
The easiest answer would be that Stefan Raab is not involved. Every entry he has touched – 1998 (songwriter), 2000 (songwriter and performer), 2010 (producer), 2011 (producer), 2012 (judge for the selection show) – has gotten Germany into the Top Ten. But why? Why was the period from 2010-2012 so successful and every other year before and since have not been? Stefan Raab brought more than a producer’s touch to NDR, he brought a marketing machine. Satellite was common on radios across Europe ahead of the Contest. By the time the Contest came around, it was already a popular tune that felt familiar to viewers. Taken by a Stranger and Standing Still weren’t played as much, but still had a strong marketing plan around it. In 2013, Cascada, a popular dance-pop group with a worldwide following (arguably, the biggest name at the time of their participation in Eurovision in recent years), took the German banner to Malmö. Perhaps NDR thought that Cascada’s name alone would generate points, perhaps they thought the betting odds would protect them, perhaps they did not anticipate Natalie Horler’s (the lead singer) lackluster vocal performance – regardless, NDR did not promote Glorious as they should and now seem to be trapped in a broken system of lackluster promotional efforts. 2014 and 2015 had news coverage that focused much more on the selection than the song itself. Every marketing piece for 2016’s entry was 100% focused on Jamie-Lee’s interest in Korean culture. Perhaps it was to preemptively head off questions about the staging, but, like 2013-2015, it meant the song was still relatively unknown.
This is the issue. The story is bigger than the song…in a song contest. See the issue here? Stefan Raab, yes, promoted his artists, but never lost sight of the main focus: getting the song in front of viewers.
How can Germany improve in 2017?
Return to a winning formula. In 2010 and 2012, NDR (and ADR) used Raab’s format Unser Star für Oslo/Baku. The process is simple; Unser Star conducted a talent search, the top singers then compete in a typical talent show format, the final two compete with the same songs. Each artist’s best song is chosen to moved into a super-final. The people and the judges then select the best of the two. This ensures that strongest song-artist pair is selected.
We know Lena’s version of Satellite, but here is the version by Jennifer Braun, the other Unser Star finalist in 2010. Though, the super-final featured Jennifer Braum singing I Care for You.
Likewise, in 2012, Roman Lob’s final competitor Ornella de Santis had a version of Standing Still. Her super-final song, though, was “Quietly.”
All of this to say, Germany needs to return to this method of choosing its entry. NDR doesn’t even need to bring back Stefan Raab for Unser Song to work, just the concept. Given the recent string of poor finishes, Germany needs to return to a formula that works!
What’s the worst thing Germany can do?
Continue with its current format of Unser Song; which is essentially just a traditional national selection. Actually, the worst thing Germany can do is have yet another selection controversy. Whether its a winner abdicating the trophy or an internal selection gone awry, NDR needs to have a solid format that locks in the winner. Germany can no longer allow its song to be outshined by the story behind its selection.
There are almost 82 million people in Germany, I’m sure there are plenty of them who would love the chance to fly the Duetsche colors in Ukraine. Bring back Unser Star and return to the Top Ten.
What do you think? Is an undiscovered artist who emerges as the champion at the end of a crucible of a reality television talent search the answer for Germany? Should NDR and ADR just break down and beg Stefan Raab to come back from retirement to run things again? And, more importantly, can Germany reclaim points from the German diaspora throughout Central Europe?
Be sure to check out my analyses on the other Big Five countries!
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