Royaume-Uni Nil Points – The UK will never win Eurovision but not for the reasons you think.
The Swedes are known for their love of Eurovision. By all accounts, they take it seriously! All be it in the most fun way possible. Visiting Sweden for this year’s Eurovision at the Globen arena in Stockholm and speaking with the fans it’s clear Eurovision is a big deal. It’s not all about the winning but they don’t put in this much effort without expecting a good result!
Unlike the UK, Sweden has the most rigorous process to select their Eurovision entry, involving weeks of x-factor type shows called the Melodifestivalen. It draws massive audiences from throughout Scandinavia, and uses a professional jury made of industry experts from a selection of other European countries.
We, in the UK, always proclaim that Western countries cannot ever win Eurovision due to the Eastern and Scandinavian ‘voting blocks’. This was perhaps a fair argument in the past but has been less pronounced since the introduction of the professional juries in 2009. Over the last decade Germany, Austria and Azerbaijan have all been successful!
The right song and the right act trumps all the politics and biased voting because in order to win, you can’t just impress your neighbours, you have to impress throughout the continent, from Reykjavik to Tallinn and nowadays even further than the boundaries of continental Europe, past Jerusalem and all the way to Sydney!
For most European countries, Eurovision is a way to showcase their culture and their musical talents – all with a healthy dose of politics! Anyone who hears the EBU proclaim that politics has no place in Eurovision, just look to Armenia’s 2015 song Don’t Deny about the genocide of an entire population and Ukraine’s winning song this year, 1944 about a massacre by Stalin in, you guessed it, 1944. Eurovision is firstly a fun music competition but is a platform to raise social issues such as domestic violence and gay marriage, and it continues to challenge politics around the continent.
When did Europe get so serious? What happened to the Eurovision we could laugh at, with the dodgy singing, poorly pronounced English and second rate lyrics that barely made sense? Don’t worry, some such songs still exist (some performances are even complete with national garb and an instrument you’ve never heard of) but while the late Terry Wogan was helping us ‘take the piss’, Europe’s music industry grew up, Europeans adopted English (and became proficient). The idea that Eurovision is a show to be laughed at has been well and truly shrugged off – although this will still be a surprise if you mention it to anyone from the UK!
Europeans know how good our music industry is, they buy Adele albums in their droves. So then perhaps it’s understandable that when we send a representative that is subpar, the people of Europe realise this and are offended that we continually refuse to take the competition more seriously. And thus they vote accordingly – The result predictable every time – Nil Points. This year’s UK entry by Joe and Jake was a nice, catchy pop song but it was by no means a winning song or performance! The competition for the top spot these days is fierce with at least 5 songs in serious contention this year after their final performances.
OK, yes. Block voting is a thing. Sort of. There’s few years where the all-important ‘douze points’ from certain countries doesn’t go to a friendly neighbouring nation. In 2015, Serbia gave Montenegro 12 points and guess what? Montenegro gave Serbia 12 in return. Despite the fact both countries came 10th and 13th respectively in the results table. Nowadays this ‘friendly’ voting has limited effect on the overall result – You’ll be pleased to hear neither country won in 2015.
And yes. Politics plays a role. Would Russia’s A million Voices with Polina Gagarina’s amazing performance have come first rather than second in 2015 if Russia hadn’t passed restrictive ‘homophobic’ laws earlier that year and annexed Crimea the year before? Who knows!? This said, politics still has a limited effect. Despite Russia’s combative foreign policy within Europe, newly introduced homophobic laws and the subsequent dislike of the country by many a Eurovision fan, Russia has finished in the top 7 every year since 2012.
Despite constant exclamations of it to be true, block voting and European politics are not the reasons the UK fails to secure Eurovision victory. However, take note because the following are,
- The UK’s view of Eurovision – Our out-dated, patronising opinion of Eurovision and its perceived lack of importance translates into the poor effort we put into selecting our acts and songs. Our self-righteousness, ‘we’re better than you’ attitude puts Europe off and it’s our downfall, in a myriad of ways, but particularly with Eurovision. Europe wants us to participate but only if we’re willing to put in some effort. We think we’re ‘too good for this shit’. The problem is that it is self-delusion and it’s time for a reality check.
- The UK selection process – The selection process was better this year compared to previous years with an actual show, all be it with 6 unknown acts presenting unknown songs to an audience of about 5 people on BBC4. Let’s face it, compared to the Melodifestivalen, it was an embarrassingly small event but at least it’s a start. We need to emulate the great Eurovision winning nations and make the search for our Eurovision star into a yearly entertainment event to be proud of.
- Free pass to the finals – If the Big 5 had to compete in the semi-finals, other countries would not begrudge our efforts quite so much. Plus, it’s a chance for our song to be heard before the final night. This only increases the chances people will remember it…and maybe, if it’s good enough, vote for it! Having to compete in the semi’s would make the UK work harder and select better songs. How embarrassing would it be for the UK to be kicked out at the semi-finals only to watch the likes of San Marino, FYR Macedonia and Moldova sail through to the final!?
As Eurovision becomes a world-wide phenomenon, it is time for the UK to put more effort into selecting songs and discovering talented singers. With the largest countries in the world now watching and the USA obtaining broadcasting rights for the first time, over 204 million people tuned into Eurovision in Stockholm this year. The annual event is only getting bigger and our efforts more embarrassing. With rumblings that Kazakhstan and China are keen to get involved, Eurovision may soon become a true world-wide phenomenon. We don’t want to get left behind. We have the money, the talent and the music industry to win Eurovision every year if we wanted to. But we continually choose not to.
Citation for featured image – Eurovision: You Decide. Digital Image. BBC, 12 May 2016. Web. Accessed 24 May 2016. www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36259655