Posted tagged ‘Eurovision song contest’


May 15, 2011

The first time I watched the Eurovision Song Contest was in 1967, and I remember it really well. For those of my readers who won’t immediately know what happened that year, the winning entry was ‘Puppet on a String’, written by Bill Martin and Ireland’s Phil Coulter and performed by Sandie Shaw. It was a runaway success and won by a mile. Sandie Shaw always declared she hated the song and thought it sexist and trivial, but it was difficult not to be carried away by it. Or at least that’s the way it was back then; I have no idea how it would fare today.

Back then it was all so different. Every entry was accompanied by the orchestra of the European Broadcasting Union, and while I cannot remember his name, there was a very respectable looking English gent who chaired the whole proceedings and gave it a degree of gravitas that really wouldn’t work in the show as it is today. There also used to be some folks sitting at desks doing what looked like office work. Anyway, when Sandie Shaw took the prize people felt that it could never again be won by any country other than the UK, and the next three years seemed to bear that out until Dana did it for Ireland. By the way, in 1967 Ireland’s entry was Sean Dunphy with ‘If I Could Choose’ – try entering that today.

So here we are, some decades on, and last night we had another bout of the Eurovision Song Contest. It is compulsive viewing. I don’t care that it’s kitsch, I don’t care that the presenters are almost always an embarrassment, I don’t even care about the obvious geopolitical voting alliances: you just have to watch. And this year there were actually some really good songs. Not the one that won, of course, which was an instantly forgettable number from Azerbaijan, but lots of others. On the BBC, Bandon’s very own Graham Norton is making quite a good fist of the commentary, although (and who’d think you’d need to say that to our Graham) he could actually ratchet up the sarcasm a bit more.

Ireland and the UK both did quite well yesterday. They didn’t win of course, but performed respectably. And this time they got the songs right (as distinct from last year, when both produced totally wrong entries). So what’s missing? Well, about two-thirds of the votes are based on political and cultural alliances. So these islands need to get out there and make some friends fast in the Balkans and the Baltics. There’s no time to lose. And that’s one government policy that will make sense to everyone.

… and that’s how the Eurovision contest went

May 30, 2010

I really do hate to say this (truly), but I told you so. There just was no way that Ireland’s entry could have succeeded in the Eurovision Song Contest, and indeed it didn’t. In fairness, Niamh Kavanagh gave it her very best shot, but the song was all wrong.

People (including someone commenting in this blog) had been telling me how Germany would do well, and they did. But did I like the song? No, not at all. Lena should have been singing in German, and in any case it wasn’t exactly great music. I couldn’t quite work out the voting dynamics, but probably she benefited from all those countries wanting to be bailed out by Germany right now.

I thought Graham Norton (commenting on the BBC, presumably with instructions not to let us pine for Terry Wogan) had it about right: talk over everything. Much more fun that way.

Eurovision hopes?

May 28, 2010

If you’re into the Eurovision thing – and who isn’t, at least secretly – then you’ll know that Ireland’s entry has made it into the finals. It’s by Niamh Kavanagh, and I think it’s called ‘It’s for you’. Actually I’m late into the game this year, having been rather busy recently, and it’s only courtesy of Youtube this morning that I have heard it at all. Well to be  honest, at first I heard the wrong thing, having searched for Niamh and found what I thought was the song, only to think that it sounded surprisingly familiar until I realised it was her 1993 winner, ‘In your eyes’. I then listened to this year’s song, and my expert opinion is that the two are exactly the same, with only Niamh looking slightly older (but rather good).

Irish media coverage of all this has been rather breathless, with confident statements that this year we’re in with a chance. Apparently Niamh’s song is well regarded and hotly tipped. Really? I’d have said that it has every chance of winning, but in 1993, not 2010. Nowadays you need three things to win: (i) an outrageous stage act; (ii) a cod glam rock style of song; and (iii) geo-political affiliations, preferably in the Balkans. And what do we have? A rather nice song with a restrained style and big orchestra backing. I’d say that has as much chance of winning the Eurovision as Anglo-Irish Bank has of winning the prestigious ‘Global Bank of the Year’ award.

Anyway, all this talk of winning misses the point of the Eurovision. You really, really don’t watch that because you expect to like any of the songs. Let’s face it, they’re all absolute rubbish. You watch it because once a year you have to let go of your pretensions to taste and style, and just enjoy the spectacle of utter kitsch, absurd songs, ludicrous presenters, political calculations and blatant miscarriages of justice in the voting. This is the best most awful show in the world. For heaven’s sake don’t spoil it by taking it seriously.

The Eurovision spectacle

May 3, 2009

In just under two weeks we will have the finals of the annual Eurovision Song Contest – the biggest, most watched, most camp, silliest, most political, most tacky music event in all the world. Billions of people will watch as singers from various European and not-quite-European countries will perform their songs, while many will pay little attention to the music (not unreasonably, given the quality of much of that) and focus instead on the outrageous acts, the political manoeuvring of the juries and voters, the embarrassing performance of the presenters, and the razzmatazz of the celebrations by the winners.

Ireland had a run of success in Eurovision in the 1980s and 1990s, but then political alliances began to affect the voting, and since then you really hard to be part of a voting bloc to stand any serious chance. In any case, Irish (and for that matter, UK) entries have tended to be endearingly off-message, ignoring the move of the whole thing to a more glamour-rock idiom. This year, Ireland’s entry by Sinead Mulvey and Black Daisy (with an all-women band), ‘Et Cetera‘, is perhaps a more focussed attempt to catch the spirit of the thing – but it won’t succeed. The UK have entered a song called ‘It’s my time‘,  by Andrew Lloyd Webber and sung by someone called Jade Ewen; this sounds like a song from ‘Cats’, and it doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.

So we can stop thinking about Eurovision success from these islands, and concentrate instead on what the song contest is really for: making fun of the stage props, the presenters and the entry from Norway. And of course enjoy Terry Wogan’s sardonic commentary on the BBC (sorry, RTE). Though I have heard that Terry may not be presenting this year; but surely that can’t be so! There are some traditions that are simply too important to let them be abandoned.

Don’t sing it to me

February 14, 2009

I must confess, I quite like lists.  When I was a teenager I could hardly contain my excitement every week when BBC radio would release the latest pop charts and Alan Freeman would feature them on his Sunday afternoon ‘Pick of the Pops’, or we could see them mimed on ‘Top of the Pops’. But I liked lists of all kinds – like the one from 1971 I discovered recently in some old boxes I kept, ‘the top 20 international airlines with the best on-plane toilets’ (truly); by the way, Swissair apparently had the best. And of course for the last couple of decades I have had to maintain a professional interest in university league tables.

But the type of list I like best is a chart of the worst songs ever. Apparently awful-music experts like to distinguish between ‘worst songs’ (which is an attack on the songwriter) and worst recording (which is what the artist made of it), but that’s too pedantic for me; I like to mix and match.

In 2006 the broadcaster CNN invited its viewers to write in with their least favourite songs. The song that topped these charts was Paul Anka’s ‘(You’re) Having my Baby’. I have to admit – and you can see it here – it is indeed terrible; the song addresses his wife or partner, and he seems to feel the need to shout at her in the song, and the combination of mushy lyrics and excitable shouting is not a winner. Another song that features in the top 5 is Charlene’s ‘I’ve never been to me’, which used to get some air time on BBC Radio 2 when that station seemed largely to be on a mission to play every over-sentimental song that they could lay their hands on; if I understood the song correctly, the poor woman ran out of ‘frilly faces’, and while she’d been to ‘paradise’ she had ‘never been to me’. In fact, if you want to find a common theme in the songs identified by CNN viewers as the most annoyingly irritating, it’s sentimentality. Something maybe to remember as we embark on the challenges of Valentine’s Day: whatever romantic thoughts are in your heart, for heaven’s sake don’t sing them to your loved one, they might vomit.

As for me, what songs do I dislike most? For a start, quite a lot of the oeuvre of Rod Stewart, but that may be because I find the man tooth-grindingly annoying. And though I am an absolutely committed Beatles fan, there are two or three Paul McCartney songs that make me want to lie down in a darkened room. And the worst ever? Well, there are many contenders, but for me Dean Friedman’s ‘Lucky Stars’ is gold standard pure unadulterated awfulness.

So who would be on your charts?


PS: Oh, I forgot ‘Happy Everything’ by Maggie Moone, in which she offers her love a box of ‘happy everything’ – which intriguingly seems to include ‘a smile that’s on a bale of straw’ – see if I am right here.  This was a Eurovision song entry, which reminds me that the Eurovision Song Contest provides a rich vein from which to mine truly frighteningly bad songs.