Friday 22 March 2013

The countdown to Malmö has begun!

Earlier this week the Heads of Delegation for the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest met in Malmö. All 39 songs have been selected and across Europe the stage performances are being conceived and rehearsed. The UK’s Bonnie Tyler rehearsed this week with her backing singers and according to the BBC it’s sounding great already! Eurovision is changing; the Swedes have taken the contest back to basics. The venue is smaller, the bling seems to have been toned down and SVT appear to be concentrating on producing a slick television show rather than a brash circus. From the fixing of the running order to the standing room only tickets, many fans have been upset by the changes which have taken place this year. I think we should wait and see how 2013 works out since the changes in the running order might just make the contest more varied and interesting to watch.

Here are the Heads of Delegation touring the venue and enjoying some Swedish hospitality. Looks like the Swedes have a big booze budget!

I’ve been a little quiet on here lately as I’ve been concentrating on my book which is due to be submitted to the publisher in September and I’ve also been writing blogs for the BBC. Please do pop along to to check them out!

Thursday 7 March 2013

A total eclipse of the scoreboard or are we holding out for a zero?

It was meant to be announced on March 18 but hey, never trust the press to keep a secret. Yes Bonnie Tyler is off to Sweden and to Eurovision to fly the flag for the UK! I have mixed feelings about this. I do like Bonnie and I do like her songs. However I can't help feeling that what looks good on paper doesn't necessarily translate into votes.
Bonnie is an established artist with a proud career and extensive back catalogue. She's still touring Europe today (she's in Germany just now) and arguably she's a legend. However the same could be said for Engelbert Humperdinck who represented the UK in 2012. It was an inspired choice that didn't quite work. I have a horrible feeling that we're heading the same way in 2013.
I do like Bonnie's song, it's nice. However, "nice" doesn't scream winner. I really do hope the UK does well but at the minute it's looking like we're heading for a mid-table finish at best. The UK has a love-hate relationship with Eurovision. Why would a current and contemporary act put themselves up for judgement on the Eurovision stage? Adele doesn't need to. Neither do Take That. Where as Blue and Engelbert had nothing to lose. The same can be said for Bonnie. The difference is that other artists in the contest view the event as "everything to gain". That difference is crucial and has come to really put the UK and the BBC in a bit of a trap.
Still, it could have been worse. I was fearing it would be Kimberley Walsh who showed that performing under pressure wasn't her strong point if the National Television Awards are anything to go by! Bonnie does have stage presence and charisma. This is important at Eurovision. You can have a dull song and yet sell it to the viewers in a way which translates into votes. The UK have indeed polished turds! Michael Ball, Sonia and more recently Jade Ewen have shown that it comes down to the performance on the night. In the case of contemporary Eurovision, that includes the Friday night dress rehearsal performance on which the juries cast their vote. Blue and Engelbert just weren't up to it on the Friday night. Let's hope that Bonnie is!
A lot of the rhetoric concerning Eurovision in the UK is reflective of wider discourse concerning the EU and Britain's place in Europe more generally; peripheral and distant. Accusations that Eurovision voting is "political" betrays the truth of the matter, bloc voting has always existed and the UK and Ireland are just as guilty as everyone else.
Eurovision has changed. The contest is has doubled in size and the truth is that the UK has not kept up with these changes. I applauded the BBC's decision to use an internal selection in 2011, I believed that the public were guilty of choosing songs they thought were "very Eurovision" when in fact Eurovision has perhaps moved on. Yes there will always be novelty songs but there are also some pretty credible acts and entries which is all too often forgotten. Sweden's Loreen proved that Eurovision still has the capacity to generate international hits. It even reached number three in the UK! Where was The Hump? Number 60.
The risk this year is that we're entering an act and song which again is out of sync with not only the UK charts but also the European music scene. Eurovision is first and foremost a television show. The BBC want viewers. Does it matter if the UK does badly? Not really. However as long as this attitude continues the less chance there is of popular, current acts coming forward to take part in the contest. Perhaps it's time for a re-think.
Germany have shown that it's possible for a Big Five country to win. Germany aren't exactly the most popular country in Europe! I hope I am proved wrong, I hope Bonnie does well for the UK and of course I'll be cheering her on with word and gesture. In a nice twist of fate, the first UK entrant I met, Nicki French (UK 2000) scored a massive global hit with a dance version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and yet here is Bonnie, the original singer of that song, following in Nicki's footsteps. As Terry Wogan said of Nicki in 2000, "let's cheer her on with word and gesture".