Friday, 21 March 2014

All's fair in love, war and Eurovision?

As some of you know part of my PhD concentrated on Ukraine and I've spent a considerable amount of time there. The current developments between Ukraine and Russia are worrying to say the least. Some people have asked whether this will impact upon Eurovision this year. I think it almost certainly will. Even though Eurovision is not a political programme per se, politics comes into it from time to time, even though the organisers try not to let this happen. 

2014 will be an interesting one for two reasons - Russia and Ukraine. Given that so many people that attend Eurovision are gay there has been interest in the anti-gay laws introduced in Russia last year. The Sochi Olympics shone a spotlight on LGBT and human rights issues in Russia and I dare say that many attending Eurovision in Copenhagen will voice their opinion on the situation in the country. In a way I almost feel sorry for The Tolmachevy Sisters since rightly or wrongly there is likely to be a backlash against the Russian entry this year. Of course, Russia may continue to do well in the voting, however, the audience might just use it as an opportunity to make their voices heard. 

It'll be interesting to watch the reception that Ukraine gets in Copenhagen too. Will there be a show of solidarity? Will there be any political messages? Ukraine is no stranger to controversy in Eurovision - as their entries from 2005 and 2007 demonstrate. "Russia goodbye" anyone? 

Geopolitics is never black and white. The actions of Putin's regime are worrying and given the developments in Crimea, I can understand why those in Georgia and the Baltic States are watching with deep concern. However the developments in Ukraine itself are cause for alarm - Putin is not wrong when he described some members of the interim government as neo-Nazis. Some of them are. Take the nationalist Svoboda party, whilst standing up for Ukraine in the face of hostility from Russia might be applauded, their far-right, neo-Nazi members intimidate and threaten democracy in the country. Interestingly enough, it was a Svoboda member of parliament that called for Gaitana (who represented Ukraine in Eurovision in 2012) to be disqualified as she "did not represent organic Ukrainian heritage". Basically, she wasn't white enough. Charming! Of course Russia's record on racism and human rights tells its own story too...

Last year Dina Garipova sang about love and peace when she represented Russia at Eurovision. The sentiment expressed in that song couldn't be further from the reality of the situation facing ordinary people in both Russia and Ukraine today.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Here's Molly!!!

Well after much speculation, rumour-mongering and quite frankly, myth-peddling, it turns out that everyone was wrong! Thankfully no Geri, Rylan, Petula or Cilla. This year the BBC has chosen a new act to represent the UK in Copenhagen. Amen to that. 

What might have worked on paper with Blue, Engelbert and Bonnie did not translate into votes. Of course debates rage on about the quality of songs, the strength of performance or even the age of the singers. Whether or not fans like it, Eurovision, for the BBC, was first and foremost, a TV show. Having those "big" names meant that there was more interest. Simple but genius. Or was it?

The interest in the UK entry this year was phenomenal. The BBC played a blinder and did so well in keeping up the suspense. A friend told me that I was being criticised on one of the fan sites for not revealing the name of the UK act. I never knew who the act was, nor did I claim to know, I just enjoyed the fireworks!

So the UK act, Molly Smitten-Downes, will perform "Children of the Universe" at Eurovision in May. Molly was discovered by BBC Introducing, a way for new artists to break through. I applaud this decision by the BBC; Eurovision is a fantastic platform for launching new talent and boy do we have a lot of it in the UK.

"Children of the Universe" is an anthemic offering, and a rather unusual one at that. For me, the thing which stands out the most, is Molly's voice and stage presence. In her interview she was really positive and has a really healthy attitude, in my opinion, to an event which is surely a dream opportunity for a new star. 

Already the entry is riding high in the betting odds and some are predicting that it will give the UK its best placing for years. I really hope that's true. Win, lose or draw though, we have a singer who will do us all proud.

Good luck Molly!