Posts tagged “united kingdom

Eurovision 2017 Song Reviews (Finally!) – Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

Only six more reviews for this year! Among the Big Five, there seems to be a sharp divide between title contenders and bottom-dwellers.

Automatic Qualifiers

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

 

Ukraine

O.Torvald

Time

Televised

Thoughts:

This will benefit from being the only rock song this year and the hometown entry. I think the song is alright, but definitely distinctive. I don’t think it will get in the Top Ten, but will definitely outperform the 19th place Ukraine got back in 2005 (the last time we were in Kyiv).

 France

Alma

Requiem

Internal

Thoughts:

So whimsical! I rather enjoy this song and could definitely help France repeat in the Top Ten (and possibly, dare I say, contend for the crown!). The splash of English in the refrain is just the right amount, much like last year. Though, if France is serious about winning, than it needs to ensure to give Requiem the staging it deserves (as I’ve discussed previously).

 Germany

Levina

Perfect Life

Televised

Thoughts:

Germany followed my recommendation to return to the original Ünser Star format. Ultimately, after defeating other contenders, Levina competed against herself with two songs in the final show’s super-final. This one is cheerful, but not all that interesting. Won’t be last place, but definitely not going to win.

Italy

Francesco Gabbani

Occidentali’s Karma [Westerner’s Karma]

Televised

Thoughts:

A thoroughly intellectual song (give the lyrics a read) about the futility of Westerners trying to adapt Eastern customs that are at odds with Western values. I think the song is okay, but in just the brief glimpses of what I’ve seen online, this is a heavy favorite to win right now.

Spain

Manel Navarro

Do it for Your Lover

Televised

Thoughts:

Another controversy for a Spanish entry (this is the jury’s favorite and went against the fan’s favorite). This song is…very California…and lazy…and lame. It’s overly repetitive to the point of being boring.

United Kingdom

Lucie Jones

Never Give You Up on You

Televised

Thoughts:

Probably the most popular (among the British) entry in at least a decade. It’s a bit drab and uninspired to me, but at least it’s another contemporary song despite last year’s stumble. It sounds like it could be a radio hit.

*There are three basic ways for a song to be chosen. Internal Selection which is when the broadcaster within a country chooses both the performing artist and the song completely on their own without help from a professional jury or the public. Televised Selection which is the exact opposite, both the performing artist and the song are selected through a competition (or set of competitions) in which some combination of professional jurists and the public vote on the winners. There are also Mixed Selections, in which either the performing artist or the song is selected internally and the other is selected through a televised process. The examples of that this year are Armenia, Greece and Israel. Greece internally selected Demy and had a televised final to select the song. Israel and Armenia had televised shows to select a singer and then internally selected the song.

So, who do I think will finish in the Top Ten? How would I rank these songs?

Predicted Top Ten Finishers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 6
(Starting with my most favorite)

France

France

Italy

Germany

Ukraine

Italy

United Kingdom

Spain

More importantly, who do I think will be competing for the crown?

France – Probably my favorite song this year, this song will most definitely build upon last year’s success – especially if it is given a proper staging. This song is distinctly French, yet still accessible. It is catchy and fun and whimsical without seeming childish or simple.

Italy – The other big fan favorite along with Belgium, thus far. Interesting staging, intelligent lyrics, and sung in the much-loved Italian language. And, unlike several other Italian performers, Gabbani actually seems like he wants to win and bring the Contest back to Italy (maybe they’ll host it in Milan or Palermo this time around).

Missed by previous review posts? Find them here:

First Semi-Final: First Half, Second Half

Second Semi-Final: First Half, Second Half

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my summary post and get my first prediction for who will ultimately win in May.

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Analyzing the Big Five: The United Kingdom

Hello Dear Readers!

The United Kingdom remains the most successful country in the ESC despite recent history. It is tied for third most wins at five (with France and Luxembourg), an astounding 15 second places, and a total of 10 other top five finishes. Since 2006, though…..not so much.

Recent History
2006 – 19th place with “Teenage Life” performed by Daz Sampson
2007 – 22nd place with “Flying the Flag (for You)” performed by Scooch
2008 – Last (25th) place with “Even If” performed by Andy Abraham
2009 – 5th place with “My Time” performed by Jade Ewan
2010 – Last (25th) place with “That Sounds Good to Me” performed by Josh Dubovie
2011 – 11th place with “I Can” performed by Blue
2012 – 25th place with “Love will Set You Free” performed by Englebert Humperdinck
2013 – 19th place with “Believe in Me” performed by Bonnie Tyler
2014 – 17th place with “Children of the Universe” performed by Molly Sterling-Downes
2015 – 24th place with “Still in Love with You” performed by Electro Velvet
2016 – 24th place with “You’re Not Alone” performed by Joe & Jake

British Flag MapFrom legendary singers that couldn’t stand out in the crowd, songs that stood too out too much for the wrong reasons, and pulling a proven hits-maker out of retirement to write a song, the best the BBC has done was on the back of Andrew Lloyd Weber, one of the most influential and important composer of the modern era thanks to his prolific career creating musicals, who decided that it was time for the UK to do well again back in 2009. Blue was supposed to do well, but utterly destroyed their chances during the jury final. In 2014, the UK was a legitimate contender to win, only to finish a distant 18th place.

So, what has gone wrong?
The UK suffers from two primary issues:
First, the BBC (and by extension, the populace) still view the Contest as being stuck in the 1980s/1990s. ESC coverage tends to pull footage from these years and many of the songs sent reflect this era in either the campiness (2006, 2007, 2015) or style (2008, 2010, 2012, 2013). Personally, I like these songs (particularly 2015 and 2012), but they’re entries that win the modern Contest. 2009, while old-fashioned, was powerfully sung (which makes a big difference) and had Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Second, when the UK does send a contemporary song, they hurt themselves through not taking it seriously (2011) or in having a rather odd staging (2013). 2016 was widely seen as the BBC’s best entry in years, but failed, in part, due to a staging that downplayed the playfullness of the song and didn’t do enough to connect the visuals with the message of the lyrics.

How can the UK improve in 2017?
United KingdomWell, the BBC has the power, influence, and money to land just about any artist who is not currently on the Top 100 chart. Additionally, with as much whining as the BBC does about the Contest being too “political,” the Beeb never makes a politically-driven choice for its representative. This needs to change; the BBC complains about the way the game has evolved without ever changing its tactics – that needs to end in Ukraine. This is particularly crucial as Europe will still be bitter about the Brexit, which should be in full swing by this May, as every EU country (except Luxembourg) competes in the ESC. Additionally, one of the biggest stories out of Britain as a result of the Brexit has been the severe increase in xenophobic (that’s anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner) and racist speech and actions across many areas of England (and, presumably, the rest of the UK). The BBC must select an entry that shows that it (1) still loves Europe, (2) affirms its positive relationship with the Continent, and (3) reinforces a commitment to diversity.

With that in mind, I think the BBC has two options.

First option: Show their love of Europe by choosing an artist that comes from the most European part of the British Realm: Gilbraltar. Not only that, but celebrate diversity by having the song performed, at least in part, in Llanito (an English-Spanish hybrid language native to the region). In terms of a specific artist, Surianne comes to mind. She is an established artist that, while having several hits in the past, might currently be looking for a new opportunity to share her music with Europe. Having her represent the UK can show the Continental side of the country and provide an opportunity for the first non-English entry in UK history. Check out her biggest hit, Stronger Than Before as well as her newest single, Hold On produced by Mikki Nielsen.

Second option: choose an artist, or collection of artists, that can bring a song too good to ignore. I would recommend Naughty Boy and Emeli Sandé. Not only would it bring a united England-Scotland partnership to the stage (which is important for both the UK and the world to see), but both artists are well-known without being so big (or busy) that they would turn down money from the BBC and the opportunity to be on stage. Both artists are also racial minorities; they’re the children of immigrants, but both are Britons; they would send an important message of diversity, not just to the UK but to Europe/the world as every country struggles with racism and xenophobia. Musically, we also know that Naughty Boy has produced, not just fun club stuff, but legitimate artistic pieces – just check out his single from 2015 Runnin’ (Lose it All) featuring Beyoncé and Arrow Benjamin – both the song and music video are powerful. Emeli Sandé is a powerful singer and big in her own right, just check out her biggest single Next to Me or her version of Crazy in Love from the Great Gatsby soundtrack. And, the two have done great work together; Naughty Boy produced a large portion of Sandé’s debut album and she was featured on several tracks of his.

What’s the worst thing the UK can do?

Essentially, the worst thing for the UK is to keep doing what they have been doing. While it can be good to have newly discovered, young talent, unless you have Simon Cowell (or an equally as prolific producer) molding them in his image, they will not develop into strong contenders. In 2009,  Jade Ewen was the winner of the national talent search to find a singer and had Andrew Lloyd Weber to mentor her – finishing in the Top Ten. The following year, the BBC tried to replicate the process with Josh Dubovie, who was mentored by 80s-pop producer team Stock & Waterman who lacked the same vigor as Lloyd Weber – the song came last. Unfortunately, 2014-2016 have followed the 2010 paradigm of choosing a new talent, giving them an uninspired pop song, and then blaming their lack of achievement on politics and bloc voting. Sticking to this pattern will result in the same, low place for the UK.

Additionally, I know that it is British culture to rail against everything, but it would behoove the BBC to do a big, positive publicity push, as well. It’s hard to do well when the dominant narrative from your own country about your entry is overwhelmingly negative. The BBC is a media outlet, surely they can do a better job at controlling the narrative than they have been. The last two years, the British media and public have been particularly harsh on the British entries, despite the fact that both were distinctive and showed that the BBC was finally ready to take risks. Eurovision success will only come with a shift in the cultural perspective towards Eurovision – which the BBC must lead.

 

What do you think? Will the BBC listen to my advice and send a strategic entry to Eurovision? Or will the UK continue to try the same things and expect different results? And, more importantly, how can it garner more points from Ireland and Australia?

Be sure to check out my analyses on the other Big Five countries!

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Analyzing the Big Five: How can they get better?

Hello Dear Readers!

As decided by you on Twitter, the first series this summer will be on the Big Five – looking at their past ten entries (only six for Italy, as it rejoined in 2011) and determining their best path for success going into 2017. I’ll be examining them in reverse alphabetical order: United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.

But first, who are the Big Five, how did they get their status, and how do they *keep* their status?

Who are the Big Five?
In short: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Big Five

In more detail: the Big Five are the countries (and by countries, I mean participating broadcasters – remember, Eurovision is a competition between tv broadcasters) who (1) give the most money to the EBU – without their contributions, Eurovision would simply lack the funding to exist and (2) have (historically had) the largest television audiences in Europe. Simply put, France (France 2 + 3), Germany (NDR), Italy (RAI), Spain (RTVE), and the United Kingdom (BBC) have the greatest potential for the number of viewers of ESC. More viewers equals more money generated from advertisers. It also means more potential buyers of ESC merchandise.

How did they get their status?
Imagine it’s the nineties. Yugoslavia has split up and other Communist nations are slowly starting to look towards the West. In 1993, the EBU tried having a pre-selection show to handle all the new countries that sprung up in the East. It accomplished its goal, but this was not a permanent solution. As more countries wanted to participate, 1996 brought another pre-selection show. Juries would listen to songs from every country looking to participate (except the previous year’s winner, Norway) and select the songs joining the prequalified entries in Oslo. The German entry, Planet of Blue, did not qualify. 1996 was one of the lowest watched Contests, losing lots of money for the EBU. Why? Because Germany had unprecedentedly low viewership. After a few more years without a preselection, the EBU implemented a relegation system. Needless to say, the EBU did not want to risk another situation in which a major broadcaster had low viewership, especially since Italy had decided to stop participating altogether after 1997. When setting the rules for relegation, exempted would be the four countries with the largest tv audiences and financial contributions. Therefore, Germany, France, UK, and Spain would never be relegated – and thus, the Big Four rule was introduced. When the semi-final was introduced in 2004, the Big Four rule was maintained; these four countries and the top ten from the previous year would automatically qualify for the Final. When Italy rejoined the Contest in 2011, it was determined that it should join its peers and create the Big Five.

Why do they keep their status?
In case you doubt their contributions, keep in mind how many countries don’t know from year to year if they will be able to participate due to finances. When the EBU provides money for those broadcasters, it is typically from the dues of these five countries as well as from the revenue generated from their content. For example, San Marino was able to participate in 2008 because RAI, a major stockholder in SMRTV at the time, wanted to test the waters for an Italian return. They helped fund San Marino’s 2008 debut and helped them return in 2011. This happens beyond Eurovision; as broadcasters need funds (or the waiving of dues payments) to operate – the EBU is able to provide assistance because the Big Five broadcasters provide a substantial portion of funding. The debts that caused TVR (Romania) to withdraw in 2016 and could possibly dissolve BHRT (and its subsidiary RTRS) (Bosnia & Herzegovina) were built by loans that the EBU was able to provide thanks to the Big Five broadcasters.

From a competition standpoint, it may not seem fair that these five always qualify, especially since their entries as of late (~past sixteen years) have not done too well. The fact remains, there would be no Contest without these five countries – from their financial contributions that help other European broadcasters operate, to the advertising revenues they bring to the EBU, to the audiences they provide for Eurovision and year-round programming, the Big Five are as vital today as they have ever been to the Contest.

So, why haven’t they been doing too well these past ten years? Well…it depends on the country. We’ll spend the next two weeks examining each one’s recent history, identifying potential weak spots, and giving suggestions for 2017.

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ESC 2016 Reviews: Automatic Qualifiers

Hello Dear Readers!

Only six more reviews for this year! Silly Italy has yet to premier the ESC-version of No Degree of Separation, so I was forced to review the original, full length, 100% Italian version from San Remo.

Automatic Qualifiers

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Swedish Flag Map

 Sweden

Frans

If I Were Sorry

Televised

Thoughts:

Not a fan of this. Sweden really doesn’t want to win back-to-back, huh. The lyrics are essentially saying, “Hey! If I owed you an apology, then I wouldn’t be such a jerk to you, but, here we are.” Yeah, not all that good. The composition is reminiscent of Cheerleader and other poorly composed pop songs.
New French Flag Map

 France

Amir

J’ai cherché (I Searched)

Internal

Thoughts:

I think that France has finally got it! While I have been an ardent supporter of its entries, I think this one is their best chance since 2010 at success (I say that knowing that they were favorites to win in 2011, but I never thought Sognu stood a chance). There’s just enough English to help the song be catchy, but the bulk of the lyrics are in French. The song, though, sounds very much like folk-pop sound that’s ever-so-popular right now (Imagine Dragons, X Ambassadors, HAIM, etc.). I expect this to get France into a respectable position this year!
German Flag Map

 Germany

Jamie-Lee

Ghost

Televised

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness. I so hope that they change her outfit for the Final. Otherwise, this will be a DEDF (decent entry derailed by fashion) and a shoo-in for the Barbara Dex Award. I do quite like the song once I look past what she’s wearing. This will most definitely restore respect in Germany after last year’s nul points.
Italian Flag Map

 Italy

Francesca Michielin

No Degree of Separation

Televised

Thoughts:

So, for whatever reason, Italy has not released the ESC-version of the song. What’s the difference,” you may ask. Well, the San Remo version is too long, clocking in at a full 48 seconds over the three minute time limit begging the question, what are the composers going to trim? Additionally, she will sing the refrain in English fthe last time through, as she did in the acoustic version of the song available online. Personally, I find the song to be boring and lifeless. Given that it’s Italy, I imagine it will still do respectably, perhaps just outside the Top Ten.
 Spanish Flag Map

 Spain

Barei

Say Yay!

Televised

Thoughts:

Definitely a high energy, fun song. Quite uplifting! This strikes me as the more adult version of the Belgian entry. I think it will do quite well. Hmm, will this stand out amongst the other dance songs this year? With a good spot in the running order and a great staging, I think it can definitely be a Top Ten entry. Otherwise, it will be another midtable finish for Spain. I cannot stress this enough, a powerful, dance-driven staging is the key to this entry’s success.
Briton Flag Map

 United Kingdom

Joe & Jake

You’re Not Alone

Televised

Thoughts:

So, the UK has finally decided to send a song that could actually compete on the British charts. This sounds like every other generic, Brit pop song I hear on the radio. The key to that statement, on the radio – this sounds like a something that will get teen girls (and their parents) everywhere singing along. Will it win? Definitely not. But could it get the UK back into the Top Ten for the first time since 2009, most definitely!

*There are three basic ways for a song to be chosen. Internal Selection which is when the broadcaster within a country chooses both the performing artist and the song completely on their own without help from a professional jury or the public. Televised Selection which is the exact opposite, both the performing artist and the song are selected through a competition (or set of competitions) in which some combination of professional jurists and the public vote on the winners. There are also Mixed Selections, in which either the performing artist or the song is selected internally and the other is selected through a televised process. The only example of that this year is Malta, which had a televised selection, but opted to change the song through an internal selection process after Ira Losco won.

So, who do I think will finish in the Top Ten? How would I rank these songs?

Predicted Top Ten Finishers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 6
(Starting with my most favorite)

France
France
Spain
Germany
United Kingdom
Spain
United Kingdom
Italy
Sweden

More importantly, who do I think will be competing for the crown?

Spain – While I think each of the automatic qualifiers have a quality song,Spain I only think that Spain has a legitimate shot at the hoisting the trophy. This song is catchy, danceable, and makes you feel good. The best thing about it: from the very first listen you can sing along and jam along with it. This definitely will bring honor back to Spain and possibly the victory.

**Of course, these are my initial predictions without doing any research into fan sites, internet comments, or betting odds. Stay tuned for future posts (including Saturday’s) with more nuanced predictions and, of course, the 2016 edition of Contender or Pretender.

Missed by previous review posts? Find them here:

First Semi-Final First Half and Second Half.

Second Semi-Final First Half and Second Half.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my summary post and get my prediction for who will ultimately win in May.

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