Saturday, 13 May 2017


31. “Oh, it’s three white men. Well done.”


I don’t feel I have any “guilty pleasures,” as anything pleasurable shouldn’t also make me feel guilty, but watching the Eurovision Song Contest must come close to being one for many people. It’s about like looking at the Daily Mail website, or watching “Mrs Brown’s Boys” – you can get this sort of thing made better elsewhere, and you can explain it away by wanting to keep abreast of everything in popular culture when, really, you are just after something that is a little mindless.

For the United Kingdom, five-time winners of Eurovision, and second-place finishes on fifteen further occasions, in addition to our domination of pop music in general, the whole thing has always felt like a bit of a waste. For me, haring most other countries’ entries sound like have taken the UK/US standard format of a three-minute pop song, including all the conditions and key changes, and bolted regional costumes and traditions onto it. Granted, if the songs were to be traditional for each country, what we would have is a folk music contest.

If the UK has what it takes to win every year, why have we only won it five times? As Terry Wogan had pointed out on numerous occasions, what was just silly fun for us was a proper song contest for everyone else, but this means we rarely bring our best work – the last UK Eurovision entry to reach number 1 in the UK singles chart was 1996’s entry, Gina G’s “Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit.”

Then there is the politics – Terry Wogan’s reason for steeping down as a commentator was the literal Balkanising of the contest, with Eastern European countries passing the winner’s trophy around, countries voting for against each other in predictable patterns, the music itself becoming a formality. That is before you even get to 2017, held in Kyiv (not Kiev), Ukraine: for a contest with the slogan “Celebrating Diversity,” having three white men as hosts is never a great start, along with banning the wheelchair-bound Russian entry from Ukraine, for having performed in Crimea two years earlier. This is in addition to Ukraine, like Russia, not really having a concept of LGBT rights, but are happy to accept the money that comes in when a kitsch spectacle like Eurovision comes to town.

Thankfully, this year’s standard of music feels higher than in recent history, with the odd gorilla suit and horse’s head here and there, while “Never Give Up On You,” Lucie Jones’s entry for the UK, could easily be its own song, without having the Eurovision connection. If it means 2018, wherever it will be held, will be about the songs, for once, that will be great.

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