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Sunday, May 22, 2005


My number one?

I have no sympathy for anyone who complains about the UK's lowly placing once again in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Greece - the bookies' favourite - was the eventual victor of last night's contest. In the unlikely event that you're the only person in Europe who has not yet heard the winning song, My Number One, the video is

The early stages of the voting appeared wide open, with the outcome uncertain until the votes of more than 30 of the 39 countries were known. As the votes came in, however, the familiar pattern soon emerged, with the Nordic, Baltic and Balkan countries all voting en bloc for their neighbours (detailed scores available on the official Eurovision website).

At the end of the contest, commentator Terry Wogan suffered a rare sense of humour failure and complained indignantly that the bottom four countries - Spain (21st place), UK (22nd), France (23rd) and Germany (24th and bookies' favourite to come last) - are precisely the four large West European countries that pay for the contest.

The voting is obviously a farce, and the public broadcast organisations in the four big countries must be wondering why they bothered. Indeed, the one big West European country not included in this list of shame, Italy, is missing only because it has for some years refused to take part in Eurovision.

But the voting system is not entirely to blame. It has to be said that the songs entered by the four big countries were all poor, even by the standards of Eurovision. I get the impression that these countries have given up trying. In Eurovision, one must try even if one wants to do badly - like Moldova.

As I noted in a
posting last Thursday, Eurovision is an easy stick with which to beat Europe. Monday's editions of the British tabloids will no doubt be full of xenophobic stories spun off the back of Saturday night's results.

However, the British have to make up their minds about Eurovision. You can't expect to win the contest if you treat it as a joke, by fielding a succession of piss-poor unknowns and then inviting Terry Wogan to send the whole thing up.

Given that the British have more pop and rock talent than the rest of Europe combined, the UK could quite easily walk away with first prize every year if it put its mind to it. One must ask instead why no reputable British pop act would nowadays touch Eurovision with a bargepole.

If we accept that Eurovision is a joke and decide to enjoy it as an irony-fest, righteous indignation is a wholly inappropriate response to the outcome. The fact that the UK performs consistently badly should not be any cause for concern. We should instead be happy to see assorted small Baltic and Balkan countries win the contest - after all, it still matters to them.

We probably would win it if we entered a big name, but the problem is persuading someone to enter it - I think all pop stars have this dread of doing a Cliff Richard and coming second then spending the rest of their lives obsessing about it.

I still expect Spain to be the first big country to blink and enter a big name - probably Enrique Iglesias - mainly because they've never won it.
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