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Eurovision 2010: United Kingdom

April 13, 2010

The Eurovision journey begins here. At least, it does for me.

I know I have to get started on the inevitable. Last year it all seemed so terribly exciting. I wanted to join the bandwagon. I had fun blogging about it.

This year things couldn’t be any more different. Unlike others on the internet, I’ve held off from committing my energies into Eurovision blogging. This is partly because I’ve had quite a few other things to think about at the same time and also – inevitably – because the UK’s Eurovision effort for 2010 is so very dire.

But why should a poor UK song have an impact on my feelings about the forthcoming contest as a whole?

High expectations

Eurovision in the UK is an incredibly tricky thing. It’s followed passionately – obsessively in some cases – by a small group of core fans. Like those who fought against the Digital Economy Bill, it’s a fan base which is also pretty opinionated. They’re pretty vocal about their opinions too.

For that core audience, the UK Eurovision final is a stressful affair. At no other point in the TV schedules has such a small group of people watched their televisions with so many expectations.Those expectations may seem a little odd to the rest of society who see the Eurovision – in all it’s guises – for what it truly is: a piece of mindless, inconsequential entertainment. Maybe some of us should perhaps undergo some kind of therapy.

The UK Eurovision final (Eurovision: Your Country Needs You , formerly Eurovision: Your Decision and before that A Song For Europe) is when the song to represent the country is chosen. It’s where fans demand choice, a proven track record in singing, an engaging TV entertainment and a decent song at the end of it. A good song sung by credible performer is vital. Fans want someone to follow all the way to the Eurovision proper. They want someone and something to get behind. They want to invest in the process, so that if the UK wins we’ll feel like we (the fan) deserve our euphoria. I know that’s a tall order. It’s a lot to ask from a TV show. But that’s what we want from the UK Eurovision final. We want a bold statement. We want our dream Eurovision story made real.

When hopes are dashed

What happens when we don’t get it? People don’t riot in the streets, it has to be said. But there are quite a lot of glum faces. People go into a period of shock – almost mourning if you like. The reason is simple. If those fans don’t feel as though their reasonable expectations are met, they’re going to feel a bit shortchanged.

And it’s not just feeling shortchanged about the TV programme they’re disappointed about. They’re forlorn about the forthcoming European party that is the Eurovision. If the UK isn’t putting the effort in for the main event, is there much point in getting excited about it at all?

Not everyone is like that. I know of plenty of fans for whom the UK’s relatively dismal efforts in recent years haven’t dented their enthusiasm for the contest in any way. It’s those fans who follow the event across Europe, often attending selection finals in other countries or watching other national finals via internet streams.

Does it sound good to you? I mean, really?

But for the rest of us slightly more shallow fans, the UK’s 2010 selection event was a disappointing affair. Cast aside the predictable selection of relative unknowns who paraded the stage ever hopeful and ever so slightly petrified when they looked into the camera, the song thrust upon the final three and the expectant audience left (and continues to leave) a sour taste in the mouth.

The final few bars of UK representative Josh Dubovie’s song ‘That Sounds Good To Me” written by Pete Waterman and Mike Stock illustrate the lengths a songwriter will find himself going to to finish off a song despite not having any convincing ideas. The song as a whole makes me feel as though messrs Waterman and Stock weren’t that interested in the project in the first place. That leaves me wondering why on earth he agreed to do it in the first place. I can’t imagine anyone twists Pete Waterman’s arm. So having agreed to it, why turn out a half-baked effort? And yes, I’ll be the first to admit that this blog post marks quite a turn around in opinions.

Who’s fault is it exactly?

Waterman’s involvement can only be as a result of Andrew Lloyd Webber having his attentions on his new shiny floor excursion, Over the Rainbow. The latest reality search for a starlet reality TV show on prime time BBC One kicked off directly after the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who over Easter weekend. That means Lloyd Webber would have been involved in production for weeks before the series began, tying him up on that when his efforts might have been better put to use on the Eurovision again.

Mind you, Lloyd Webber gets a better return on the time he’s invested with the search for a star shows. It’s a longer project for him and any audiences who then goes to see the shows he’s produced he get something back from it in the end.

I don’t have a problem with that personally. Even though a disappointing UK Eurovision TV final has left me feeling hard done by – core audiences who expect a lot want to feel as though an effort has been made, otherwise why should they stick with the entire ‘run’? – the fact that Lloyd Webber wasn’t involved isn’t necessarily a failing on the BBC’s part.

But the Lord’s successes with Jade Ewen and the song ‘It’s My Time’ resonated well with UK Eurovision fans. For the first time in what felt like a long time, it felt like the UK was making an effort, not just in terms of representation in a 3 hour live TV show but also gratifying the fans back home who stick resolutely with the concept when the rest of the mainstream audience continue with the inevitable ignorant Wogan-esque derision.

Whilst I find it easy to point the finger of blame at people (who doesn’t?) I don’t reckon it’s necessarily BBC’s fault that Pete Waterman hasn’t come up with a cracking song to represent the UK.

Always make an effort

To my mind, if you agree to this sort of thing, then do yourself and everyone else a favour and put your best foot forward. Are we really saying that amongst a population of 50 million people (there must be at least two or three other songwriters out there who’d quite fancy the chance), that Pete Waterman’s song is the best we could have come up with ? I find that difficult to believe. Just as I find it difficult to believe you wouldn’t want to make an effort and write your best stuff when you’re asked to.

Eurovision: Your Country Needs You, the song and the singer we ended up with has left me lacking enthusiasm. And although I’ve no evidence to back up this claim, I bet there’s a trend illustrating a shared view amongst core fans where that’s concerned.

It’s because of that lack of enthusiasm that this year’s Eurovision isn’t something I’m necessarily looking forward to with the same relish I have done in previous years. And if that is reflected in other audience members, that proves one important rule about television and more specifically Eurovision.

Like the Digital Economy Bill and it’s effects on its similarly vocal critics, it’s vital not to piss off your core audience. And I fear Pete Waterman may have unwittingly done just that this year. If it was a deliberate move, then that’s even worse.

UPDATE: Either Pete Waterman read this (and other blogs) or reworking the song into something somewhere half-decent was always his plan. I’ve had to eat my words in this updated blog, the details of which are here.

  1. Jon,

    Firstly, I’d put myself in the category of “Fan who catches all the National Finals on the web streams” and is relativly hardcore – which is partly because I know that I have a lot of readers around all of Europe for the coverage.

    But I’m in agreement with you on this article. People may decry Eurovision fans like this, but if you replace that term with the name of a Football Team, who’s picked up a new manager called Pete Waterman, then the emotions stirred up, the passion ignited, and the sense of possession by the fans is identical.

    I’ll be interested to see how you feel once everything really kicks off in May and news from eerywhere starts coming in – with the internet allowing you another source other than the BBC perhaps that will Touch Your Fire again… (groan)

    • The ‘Touch My Fire’ reference is shameless. Lets say no more about it. 😉

      I’m banking on the excitement ramping up which is kind of why I figured I’d start with the UK first before moving on to the rest of Europe.

      Fingers crossed.

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