Eurovision Song Contest 2016

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Eurovision feels like it’s been going on for months. For some it really has. For me, its just been a matter of two. But now, with a winner – Jamala’s haunting ‘1944‘ for Ukraine – it’s all over for another year.

Below are my hastily cobbled together summaries for each of the songs in this year’s final. Below them are the answers (mine) to some frequently asked questions.

Belgium – a foot-tapping crowd-pleaser; musically unsatisfying
Czech Republic – good dramatic arena song
The Netherlands – quality country number; bland
Azerbaijan – mildly arresting chord progressions
Hungary – voice on brink of collapse; everyone’s loves it, God knows why
Italy – pretty but difficult to sing along to; staging weird
Israel – sweet anthem sung by an adorable LGBT advocate
Bulgaria – nice work Bulgaria
Sweden – over-rated and over-hyped; sung with a contrived voice
Germany – weird, uninteresting filler
France – great hook, Amir has a gorgeous smile, but it is overrated
Poland – musically unadventurous
Australia – finest Eurovision anthem for fifteen years; classy; faultless
Cyprus – unusual but it looks a bit silly on stage
Serbia – Amy Winehouse-esque
Lithuania – pretty boy with stupid hair trying to be Justin Bieber
Croatia – arena pleaser with a weak chorus
Russia – whirlwind song from rufty-tufty pint-sized secret agent; joyless
Spain – classy floor-filling crowd-pleaser
Latvia – memorable hook, joyous and inclusive
Ukraine – arresting, remarkably powerful
Malta – Quality, but may feel a little lost
Georgia – No one is entirely sure how this got through
Austria – I didn’t like this to begin with; now I do
United Kingdom – our best song for years; aiming for left leader-board
Armenia – Underwhelming

Top Ten placings (not in order): The Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Sweden, France. Australia. Russia, Ukraine, Malta, Austria. and UK

Potential Winners: Australia, Russia, Sweden, Italy, Israel 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Eurovision?

For God’s Sake. You need to ask this question? Watch this.

Who are the favourites to win Eurovision this year? 

Everyone’s talking about Russia walking this year’s contest. They’d certainly love to win it, though the prospect of going to Russia for next year’s contest isn’t encouraging much of the Contest’s core fanbase. Sweden’s over-hyped ‘If I were sorry‘ is being touted too. But in the last week, Australia has developed an impressive lead in terms of buzz, so too Ukraine. I don’t think it’s a dead cert for Russia. Some are talking about France winning, though I’m doubtful.
What are the songs to keep an eye out for?

Australia, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, and Spain

What are the songs to avoid? 

Georgia. There was a queue at the gents during the semi-final when Georgia was performing. Enough said.
When can we hear the UK’s song? What is it? Who’s singing it? 

We’re 25th in the running order. The song is called ‘You’re Not Alone’ and it’s sung by Joe and Jake (former Voice contestants). They’re a perky pair who can nail live vocals. Whilst their stage act may lack the impact some of the other numbers have, there’s no reason for us to look on with shame. It’s a pleasing number which looks OK on screen. 25th place may not be a great place to be singing – being in the second half is a good thing, but it may be that people have already made up their minds by the time Joe and Jake hit the stage.

Who decides who sings when? 

Earlier in the week there was a draw to decide which of the ‘Big Five’ countries (Spain, UK, Germany, Italy and France) would sing in which half of the final contest. When the final countries qualified on Thursday night, another draw decided which of the remaining countries would perform in which half.

Why is the running order important? 

Where a country appears in the running order does seem important for winners. Generally speaking, most of the winners over the past ten years have performed somewhere between 14-18th. Not at all of them have, but most.  Any country that sings after a commercial break is going to suffer a bit – TV viewers attention wanes after a commercial break, so the song needs to have even greater impact to drag the viewer’s attention back to the screen. The second half is generally better than the first, but too late in the second half and an act may suffer because viewers have already made up their minds.

It’s all bollocks, isn’t it? 

If you think that Eurovision is all bollocks then you’re probably British and misinformed. Eurovision is big. It’s a big deal to win it and its an even bigger deal to host it. It’s also commercially important for a lot of recording companies across the world. It’s incredibly important to the European Broadcasting Union (who are looking to expand into Asia, Africa and the US). The rest of Europe gets its (the rest of Europe isn’t quite so snooty about pop); it’s just us Brits who are sniffy about it because – by and large – we can’t let ourselves go.

Why is the UK no good at Eurovision? 

Because we haven’t tried especially hard in recent years and that’s down to recording companies and artists in the UK fearing it. That isn’t to do with the competition itself, rather the UK’s perception of it.

This year we’ve invested in a fruitful relationship with a music consultant, chosen a credible song (from a selection of six credible songs), and we’ve done a lot of PR. It still may not quite work – we’re not aiming to win, we’re looking for a place on the left-hand side of the leaderboard. Anything above that is a bonus. The thinking is that if we do well, then UK audiences will sit up and take notice, making it easier for UK artists and songwriters to take part.

Some say we’ll do even better if we participate in the semi-finals (we don’t now because we put a lot of money into the competition). But, to do that, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain will have to agree to that too, and that seems a little unlikely.

What sort of song is a good Eurovision song now? 

There’s no typical Eurovision song. If anything, its about music entertainment now. You’ll know what songs are dated – it will lack a certain sophistication and feel like a bit of an effort. But, there are a growing number of distinctive tracks which when you hear them you’ll want to hear that again. Just keep a careful eye out for the songs that have over-the-top visuals as they’re almost certainly covering up a weak song.

Why is Israel in the Eurovision? 

This is a noddy question. You shouldn’t be asking it. Eurovision is a broadcast network coined by a journalist 60-odd years ago in reference to some of the early experimental broadcasts the European Broadcasting Union made. It referred to a network of communications networks which distributed live TV pictures throughout (then) Europe. Membership of the European Broadcasting Union isn’t limited to countries on the European continent, but (basically) any country that will pay the membership fees. When a country’s broadcaster is a paid-up member of the EBU, they have the chance to participate in Eurovision – one of many membership benefits. Romania were meant to be participating in this year’s contest but were removed from the Contest a fortnight ago after non-payment of membership fees for a total of 9 years.

Why is Australia in the Eurovision? 

See above, but note that Australia is a guest competitor, invited because they have had a feed of the Eurovision for the past 20-odd years. There can be no doubt that they will become permanent paid-up members in the years to come. Their involvement is broadly accepted.

Will the US ever be in the Eurovision? 

No-one’s saying anything at the moment, but the EBU Exec Supervisor Jon Ola Sand is engaged on an expansionist strategy, so no-one should be surprised when the day comes that Eurovision is dropped as a title for “World Vision”.