Amongst fans I can see how this song for San Marino could antagonise. I half expect to hear boos in the hall in Baku when singer Valentina Monetta steps on to stage
That won’t be down to her of course, which is why if there are boos it will be incredibly unfair. The problem is, San Marino’s Social Network Song comes with a spot of baggage.
First and foremost is the song’s past. The Social Network Song was originally entitled Facebook (Uh Oh, Uh Oh). That lyricists Timothy Touchton and José Santana Rodriguez plumped for that being good subject material for a song – ie let’s tap into what most young people think about and then write a song about it – seems a little misguided. If your bid for votes only really lasts for three minutes (and you’re banking on telephone voters some of whom may well not have seen the song before the first semi-final), the message that comes across is more that someone who isn’t especially in-touch with current trends reckons this would be a good idea.
And then there was the issue of referencing a brand name in the lyrics when San Marino’s song was first released into the world. The EBU have strict rules about that and they enforced them. The song title had to change to The Social Network Song, the lyrics amended and the accompanying video re-cut.
The speed at which all this happened was quite breathtaking (although I suppose one could argue that re-editing a video didn’t really take that much work, one presumes the alternative lyrics which Valentina lip-syncs on camera must have been shot at the same time as the original version). What I find incredible is that there wasn’t anyone in either Eurovision-land or in San Marino (not least, veteran Eurovision composer Ralph Siegel himself who wrote the music for this track) who weren’t already aware of the rules governing this particular area. In Eurovision circles, Sweden’s Boogaloo is well-known part of the contest’s history. Originally referencing Coca-Cola in the lyrics, the songwriters re-wrote it when the EBU insisted the lyrics be changed ahead of the final in 1987.
But after all that editing, I still can’t quite get my head around the possibility of hearing the lyric “do you want to play cyber-sex again?” in a Eurovision song. I’m not suggesting Eurovision should maintain a disconnect from reality (many people would argue it does anyway), I just find such a lyric clunky verging on the incongruous.
The fact the act prompts considerably more words than I’ve committed in my reviews this years says something about the potential the act has. There is more to write about. There are questions to be answered (within the confines of the Eurovision bubble, that means there’s more to discuss than merely song, act and history for example) and that means San Marino gets more PR.
Musically, the track has all the hallmarks of a Ralph Siegel number. Simple, infectious and possibly even a little twee. Siegel has a lengthy history of contributing a great many – twenty songs to date, two in 1980. He wrote a winner for Germany in 1981 (Nicole and A Little Peace) but hasn’t fared well in recent years. Another of his attempts this year – he has written three this year, but only his song for San Marino got selected – writing a song for first-time Eurovision winner Lys Assia to sing for Switzerland had the same slightly style in production disconnecting it from the rest of the contest.
Siegel is old school Eurovision. There from the early days and still here now. There’s something to be said for that. But Eurovision hasn’t always favoured those who return to have another stab at it when its behind the microphone or at the piano. And as much as my inner-romantic wants him to turn in a swansong-type triumph, I don’t think this is the number to do that.
There will be an audience for the song. A place in the final for a TV audience oblivious to the backstory might see the number do well. But I think it has a massive hurdle to leap first.