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Expert Comment: Is it time to start taking Eurovision seriously?

Eurovision song contest Friday 13 March 2015

Less than a week ago, the UK revealed its Eurovision entry for the 2015 competition, and while there were some mixed opinions, ultimately I suspect we have another Humperdinck in the making (Humperdinck finishing with a total of 12 points in 2012). 

Having listened to Electro Velvet’s Still in Love with You a number of times I would agree with its supporters that it is a fairly decent track overall. It has a catchy hook, a retro-feel popular with some audiences and there is an element of fun. However, what the BBC doesn’t seem to understand is the Eurovision audience or the purpose of the competition. In the Eurovision Song Contest, songs are not – rightly or wrongly – evaluated in their own right so to speak. 

Last year only two voting countries assigned their points based on what a selected jury voted (Albania and San Marino), one country (Georgia) assigned points exclusively based on televotes, and the vast majority of voting countries (34) used a combination of jury votes and televotes. The prevalence of televotes, then, are a clear indication that the general population of Europe have big say into which song does well in the competition and which doesn’t. 

As such, an important factor in doing well will be about the song’s ability to reflect what the audiences in mainland Europe are listening to, and what issues they’re concerned about. For instance, this year Europe is mainly concerned with the the repercussion of the situation in the Ukraine (did anyone notice the Hungarian entry?) and many entries have adopted a more stripped back entry than previous years’ Eurodisco trends. 

In other words, this year the majority of the European audiences aren’t interested in a retro-feel, and they’re perhaps less interested in fun elements when their neighbouring countries face possible invasion. Also, it’s all well and good having a catchy hook, but if the catchy hook is a violin hook what are Eurovision audiences going to sing along to? Certainly not the wordy verse, which will probably even be a challenge to remember for native English speaker, despite the ‘emergency’ rhymes of wet and upset, or sneezes and diseases. 

If, and that’s a big if, the UK actually wants to do well in Eurovision for a change I would suggest that the BBC presenters (including Ana Matronic who is the BBC’s favoured presenter for the semi-finals) and executives start taking the competition seriously so that perhaps UK audiences will also start taking it seriously - because why would any country ever break from their ‘alleged’ alliances and vote for a country taking the mickey out of something they take very seriously indeed?

It’s also high time to start sending current (i.e. not Humperdinck, however credible) artists - if ABBA could do it in 1974, One Direction certainly isn’t too good for the competition in the 2010s. 

Until the UK attitude changes towards Eurovision, I wouldn’t bother spending any money on sending an artist to the competition in the first place, you’ll only be up against other countries like Sweden who spend six weeks of live shows and televotes to determine a winner. Finally, it will be very interesting to see how the UK entry will fair against the soon-to-be-determined Australian entry, could it be that a country as far away from Europe as you can get has a better grasp of what Europe actually wants than a country a train ride away from most other European countries?

Dr Veronica Skrimsjö is a Professional Tutor in Music:  view her profile 

Music at Liverpool Hope 

The Beatles, Popular Music & Society (MA)

Photo: Thomas Hanses (EBU) via Eurovision 

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