How to pick a Eurovision Song

On Saturday, I am doing something I have dreamt about for years.  I will be joining Melodifestivalklubben in Globen, in the arena, for the final of Melodifestivalen.

Now, those who know me well would expect that it is all I can think about at the moment.  However, actually I’m a lot less excited than you would expect.  I’m sure as soon as I witness the first song send the crowd down I will be able to get into it – but for now the passion doesn’t feel any different to usual.

There are a few reasons for this I believe:

1)      The songs.  There are too many songs that aren’t of a high enough standard and it really frustrates me that my good money is being spent on seeing Thorsten Flinck warble through his song just to get him a bit of extra publicity.  Most of my favourite songs in the competition (in what has been an average year for Melodifestivalen) haven’t made it.  And when these include Timoteij (not-so-secret crush on Johanna, although they are all beautiful and more so in real life) missing out on a place with a very well done song the heart does sink a little bit.

There is an interesting article about the songs on the SVT website, stating this year as the one where the transition is being made to floor-filler pop in the contest, rather than the pop-schlager hybrids we’ve been having.  I couldn’t agree more, and it’s a step in the right direction, the Boström’s deserve the success they are having, and based on the final should probably win with Danny this year I would say.  Maybe though it needs to work itself out a little more, and of course, when schlager is one of your favourite genres of music, it is a little sad to see it side-lined by distinctly average songs in the competition.

What is interesting though, is that Sweden is the favourite to win the Eurovision Song Contest at the moment, and I don’t see that changing whatever song they pick on Saturday much (although hopefully pushed to 2nd by a stunning song from Serbia!)

2)      The planning for the day.  Last year, I was watching the MF Final with Eurovision Society and Scandinavian Society in Durham – and it was a whole day of fun, frolicking and a little too much snaps pre-contest.  I miss not being involved in doing anything a lot, and I can’t take not really being in control yet of what I’m doing.  I’m signed up for the pre-meal and afterparty with MFKlubben, which I chose to go to because I am the Stockholm co-ordinator of the club.  Not that I’ve had chance to do anything with that yet which grates me – and I have felt lonely as a Eurovision fan in this city – and I am hurt by that.

I’m going to have a great time, but there is going to be so much to do, and see, and people too who are all in Stockholm for a party and I want to share that with everybody and it’s all so overwhelming and out of my hands that I don’t like it.

3)      The fans.  This links into my next idea – I’m going to the final with one of the 150 MFKlubben tickets.  And I’m planning to be loud and boisterous like it was the Cup Final.  I’m going to wave my Scottish flag high and proud.  And I can just see me getting sat next to a unsociable Swede atypical from the stereotype of the Eurovision fan who’ll be the hardest person to hold a conversation with in any language.  Such is the reputation I’ve given the club in my head.  I expect to be proven wrong out of sheer hope if nothing more.

Anyway, as I said, I know I will get there and have the time of my life.  But Melodifestivalen, despite regularly having the best show and best songs of the Eurovision selections, has huge flaws.  It’s made the show more than the competition, meaning that songwriters can’t gamble on finding the unknown talents if they plan to take a song all the day to the Eurovision – and from this you get the opposite effect of the artists sending the safe song that gets them to the final and a 5th place finish so they can sell their album next year.  And it’s all great TV, but not how to pick a Eurovision song.  Here are my tips for every country to consider on how to do this.

1)      Make it important.  You have to make everybody from the amateur songwriter, the grammy-winning producer and the latest indie band want to enter.  And yes, it’s Eurovision, it’s not normal music – you have to perform, you have to sing live, you have to mime your instruments, you have to focus on the TV cameras in a 40,000 stadium, you have to write a song people want to pick up the phone and vote for.  But this can be done, and has been done, in almost any genre setting you want – and with professional juries artists should feel confident that what they do, if it works on the stage, will get the rewards in the douze points.

But you have to get these people to actually want to enter first.  To do this, I believe the best way is to ensure the songs in the contest have the chance to be big hits.  Guarantee radio airplay – show the music videos – interview them on the primetime news – make it important and make it worthwhile for fame and fortune, and for selling records, and it will be aspirational for those in the industry.

2)      Make it fair.  Eurovision songs can come from anywhere and any genre – I will say this repeatedly I am sure – and they all need an equal playing field.  The amateur songwriter can go forth and beat the seasoned professional.

The issue is though, they need help and support to do so – the access to production of the highest quality is integral to the Eurovision song nowadays without the orchestra, and to make it a fair competition some chance needs to be given to those songwriters with the hooks and melodies that do work to produce them to a level where it is no embarrassment for either side.

3)      Ensure people care.  All too often I see the big stars in one’s respective country be the one who wins the Eurovision ticket undeservingly.  People in Europe, as a general rule, will not have had 10 years to fall in love with them, they will have just under 3 minutes.  Unless it is something as immediately impact-like such as Jedward were – it won’t work.  People do need reminded they are picking a song to win the Eurovision Song Contest – they need to know that expert juries make up half the score.  And with this too, ensure they care about the song – the songwriters are the ones who actually win, and I would almost be in favour of a system where you vote for them rather than the artist – to ensure the personal effect of artists is made less.

And yes, I loved Timoteij’s performance – but do remember turbo-ethno-schlager and cute Swedish girls are right up my street in a completely irrational sense as those who will witness me dancing to Stormande Hav on Saturday night’s afterparty will witness.

4)      Train as you play.  You can not engineer your Eurovision selection to be anything other than that.  In Eurovision you sing live – so sing live.  In Eurovision you can have no more than 6 people – so have no more than 6.  In Eurovision you get a random draw to decide where you sing – so do that.  Anything other than that, for any other reason, doesn’t make it a fair competition, doesn’t prepare the artists for the competition and devalues how the Eurovision works.

5)      Do the opposite of whatever the BBC do.

My views on Engelbert Hunmperdinck?  Our UK 75 year old Eurovision Song Contest entrant?  My view is quite simple.  He’s been picked, and he can hold a tune (whether the kind of tune to get votes is a different question).  However, he’s been picked, without a song – that is disgusting.  Let this be a songwriters competition once more…

p.s. Sorry – this has been a most erratic of blog posts – but that’s what you get in two hours after leaving school at 21:30!

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