How not to win Junior Eurovision

Today (or three days ago, as I come back to finish this) I went to Gröna Lund to see Lilla Melodifestivalen 2012.  I tried to rally a bit of support from the Melodifestivalklubben, but I went alone.  Are we a Eurovision Fan Club or are we not a Eurovision Fan Club?  I guess you could liken me to an Ultra in a European football team.  Should it be the Youth Cup Final in your hometown with your team entering – and on a national holiday – I would expect a few die-hard fans to come, and I am again a little disappointed that they didn’t.

Part of this problem though is SVT’s.  In letting Sverige Radio run it, and not to show co-operation in the promotion (which must be just a little silly way of roles, as I don’t see how SVT Melodifestivalen would not want to help) – they miss off a huge section of the natural target audience.  How odd is it that I only hear this is happening on the Sunday before the competition and that I hear this through the ESCDaily facebook page – not my usual haunt for Eurovision news.

Also, it would be interesting to look through the history and see why they chose to take it off the TV Channels, because frankly TV in Sweden is so bad that they adore Midsomer Murders and I am sure there would be place for this on a Sunday evening with little fuss.  You miss out on so much of the key staging ideas without this – it’s hard for even the best Head of Delegations to know how something is going to work and be portrayed to the TV audience.

Perhaps one reason, is that Christer and his team running it would rather control it with an selection they make, as at a theme park a public vote isn’t fairly possible, so it was a jury that he selected and chaired.

The actual running of the contest makes little sense to me.  Lilla Melodifestivalen is a competition to select the act to go forward to represent Sweden in Junior Eurovision.  In Lilla Melodifestivalen, the acts must write the song themselves, so all actual songwriting is done by under 16’s.  This rule was scrapped by those running Junior Eurovision, partly for being unworkable (the Belarussians have gifted young songwriters…) and partly to improve the quality.  Yes there is then the puppet-on-a-string moment when we realise who was winning.  And yes, I do believe that Junior Eurovision, like Eurovision itself, is a songwriters competition.  But overall, I think it is a vital step to keep the competition alive – and there is no rule to say that under 16’s can’t write the songs, but it rarely now happens because they just aren’t go enough.  None of the songs I wrote when i was that young do I still play, most of the old Junior Eurovision songs, even when they were good, were banished by the artists that performed and wrote them (note great example Moly Sanden who would drop dead before singing her competent enough Junior Eurovision song live now – even when you are hosting Lilla Melodifestivalen – and deciding that the best thing to wear are huge red heels and tight bum hugging hot pants.  Molly – no no no.  You are hosting a show for kids – dress like it – set the example.  I felt awkward watching you, and I should be used to it.  You would be 100 times more attractive and 1000 times more appropriate if you wear something nice, light and summery – something befitted a Lilla Melodifestivalen final – not just what is going to fit your new image to  signify that you’ve grown up now Eric and you have split up.)

And of course, if the kids are the ones who have to write the songs, then it means  i can’t enter, and I have a song that I would happen have on the Junior Eurovision stage that I think would work.  And poor Sweden misses out on it…

Also, the songs had to be fully in Swedish.  Yes, there is a native language rule in Junior Eurovision.  I am not sure I agree with this, as Europe’s borders are such that I work with kids now who have Swedish as a 3rd or 4th language and it would be hard for them.  Perhaps the rule should be native language of either the singer(s) or the country – which I think would be more accessible to all.  And yes, a 2nd generation English born kid in Sweden may have an advantage therefore, but so what, we all know that English is not just the key to success in Eurovision – look at the bottom of the leaderboard in the Eurovision final this year.  The reason I believe English does better in Eurovision as a general rule is because usually bigger countries looking to win always sing in English, as they often are sung by artists and record companies putting the effort in to make a hit song.  It is possible in any language, but if your entry sounds Macedonian, sadly I had better warn you that it will sound foreign to all the British ears out there and be passed by.

Anyway, in Junior Eurovision, the rule is that it must be in the native language of the country you are from.  So Belgium can sing in Flemish or French for example.  However, you can include a small section (usually around ¼) of the text in another language, invariably English, which is something the Dutch do with their Junior Eurovision songs that makes them over achieve.  Sweden doesn’t do this, and I am puzzled by it.  Even if you don’t it, it is proving to be a vote winner, and especially with the style of music Lilla Melodifestivalen was portraying,

So the kids wrote the songs, some moody Swedish ballads.  Some big ballads.  But as a general rule it was middle of the road written by 13 year old pop songs.  But not.  One of the jury members, as my Swedish understood, was one of the people who helped to produce the songs for these kids.  This has been Sweden’s biggest issue in Junior Eurovision.  Look back on their last three entries.  ‘Du,’ ‘Allt Som Jag Har’ and ‘Faller’ are nice songs.  I have all three on my iPod.  However they have been produced the crap out of them.  Allt Som Jag Har (actually co-written by this year’s winning composer Thomas G:Son – although you would not know and Arash – 3rd place in 2009 – although for Azerbaijan which has an average position of 4th place in Eurovision) starts with a lovely piano intro to the song, and then dum-pah-dum-pa-dum-pah-dum-pa.  This heavy, almost r’n’b inspired beat kicks in, and it is just so out of place in a sweet ballad.  Technically brilliant production, but all the magic was lost.  It is a professional production job rather than a good one, rather than one that is going to grab the votes of people by being magical it just makes the song middle-of-the-road.  Middle-of-the-road in Junior Eurovision will guarantee you points from every country, as there are only around 12 or 13 if we are lucky, but those points will be low, 3’s and 4’s (even me as biased lovely Swedish entries Eurovision fan was they were only 5’s and 6’s the last three years) and Sweden should, even without friends (as it is Netherlands, Belgium and Soviet countries that basically enter) be doing better than.  Polishing crap songs will only get you so far (e.g. Malta this year).

You can’t make the same guy produce all the songs, it needs to be competitive for them too, to make the songs stand on edge and to make it a song competition – other than a talent show which all of the performers would be far more used to being in.  Competition would inspire the greater ideas which we don’t see today in the contest.  Some of the production this year was so much to this Swedish Junior Eurovision stereotype I did burst out laughing during the songs, the songs had almost fake dubstep parts in them or crowd-pleasing pump it up beats as we saw from David Lindgren’s entry this year, but without the songs or stage presence to go along with them.  They were fitting current professional recording trends rather than fitting the artists or the songs, and it was even worse than having songwriters make kids puppets-on-strings because the kids took it half way, and then had this put onto them which must be way outside the vision they would have had for the songs.

Some kids were better singers than others, but as singers I have no issue in any of them taking part.  After all, you can quite easily disguise poor singing in the pre-recording backing tracks you are allowed in Junior Eurovision.  However, what was really poor was how little stage presence and practice it seems they all had.  It was all just them as the artists by themselves up on the stage – no dancers, no musicians, just the artists.  There must be some stage school kids who would jump at the chance to perform in that, and show us what the whole package is, rather than making us only wonder if the big dance number could or could not be done with the song and the artist – we needed that impression and we couldn’t see it.

The kids though were great fun, and loved the competition.  One especially, Mathilda, was obviously a huge fan of everything Eurovision and her delight at every moment and wonder was so clear to see, and she knew the words to all the songs and see was starting the clapping along sometimes.  I had heard of this kind of spirit at Junior Eurovision before, but this really impressed me.  And she too, had thought through how to stage it and what image to go for and good for her.  I hope to see her back next year, with a song that isn’t so meh.

I was wondering and hoping that we would have a interval act, and I was trying to think what would be appropriate.  Youngblood.  Oh yeah, of course.  They did a nice little routine and managed to get all the girls in the green room (of the 10 different performers, 10 were girls) very giddy in the green room.

While waiting for a winner, I thought it was either song 1 (with the Lindgren beats) or song 8 (a Molly Sanden-esque ballad with a huge waily key change and a dress far too short for Lilla Melodifestivalen and a production fitting to the style of the day…

But no, they went for the moody Swedish ballad.  Wow, how brave, how different.  Certainly, I can feel Lova’s sincerity in her singing, but I would expect it was too lagom for anybody non-Nordic to get.  If anything too, I think the arrangement and the production was a bit lacking in this, and a re-structure to the song would be needed – Lova overused her falsetto for me in the final minute, made it less sincere if anything.

It’s not a winner, but good for her and good for the competition.  I could see some of the girls were a little bemused at it as a winner, but it’s not a talent competition where who can hit the biggest note wins, which is so different for all of these girls who are used to that.

In a conclusion to the day, there are so many things that Lilla Melodifestivalen could do better.  And I think they need to.  We’re not making radio hits, it’s semi-possible – look at some Dutch and Belgian charts – but the whole show isn’t geared to that, and no matter what her on the jury from Sverige Radio said, she is not playing these songs on her station.  We are trying to find songs that will endear people to vote for these young boys and girls that have something fun or special about them.  And it looks like Sweden isn’t learning this after years of going in the wrong direction.

The solution.  Employ me to run it, somebody who would dedicate time to the contest, mobilise and stimulate kids to enter, songs to be written, and to ensure that the feel of it IS Eurovision – and that it works on the bigger stage and people like it and get it.  Simple.  Hope you are reading Christer.

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