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.
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
From 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?
Well, 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!
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.
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.
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.
*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
My Top 6
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, 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.
Like Eurovision Obsession? Help me go to Eurovision 2016! https://www.gofundme.com/andretoeurovision
Happy New Year, Dear Readers!
May this year bring you much love to light your lives, much hope to embolden your spirits, and laughter to brighten your days (and nights)!
This week, we turn our gaze to the most notorious of ESC genres: ballads! Historically, “ballads” were stories that were sung. People who sung these stories were called “troubadours” (much like the title of Dutch winner from 1969). Over time, the term “ballad” became more associated with the musical style than the lyrical content, particularly since most were stories love.
The music style is typified, generally, by a slow pace, a lack of musical complexity, and usually only one (or two) primary vocalist. Since the beginning, this has been the dominant musical genre of ESC entries, to the chagrin of some (who prefer more uptempo songs), but to the joy of many! This week, for the final Playlist of the Week, the focus is on ballads.
Once again, twenty songs from the Televoting Era (post 1998) of the Eurovision Song Contest. I curated this list to provide an array of ballads, some are the traditional story style, most are slow, heartfelt love songs. All are ballads. Enjoy!
View the playlist here: Eurovision for Balladeers
Greece 2003 – Never Let You Go performed by Mando
Estonia 2012 – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland
Monaco 2005 – Tout de Moi performed by Lise Darly
Italy 2011 – Madness of Love performed by Raphael Gualazzi
Cyprus 2004 – Stronger Every Minute performed by Lisa Angel
Hungary 2007 – Unsubstantial Blues performed by Magdi Rúzsa
France 2001 – Je N’Ail Que Mon Âme performed by Natasha St-Pier
Romania 2009 – Pe-O Margien De Lume performed by Nico & Vlad
Spain 2012 – Quédate Conmigo (Stay with Me) performed by Pastora Soler
Malta 2005 – Angel performed by Chiara
Portugal 2009 – Todas as Ruas do Amor performed by Flor-De-Lis
Azerbaijan 2015 – Hour of the Wolf performed by Elnur Huseynov
Ireland 2010 – It’s for You performed by Niamh Kavanagh
United Kingdom 2002 – Come Back performed by Jessica Garlic
Israel 2005 – Hasheket Shinish’ar performed by Shiri Maimon
Germany 2004 – Can’t Wait Until Tonight performed by Max
Sweden 2014 – Undo performed by Sanna Nielsen
Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006 – Lejla performed by Hari Mata Hari
Sweden 2006 – Invincible performed by Carola