Editorials & Opinion

Belarus – Should we change the decision-makers?

As we all remember, Belarus has been participating in the Eurovision Song Contest from 2004. So far, the best result of the country was the 6th place of Dmitry Koldun in 2007 with his song “Work Your Magic”. Eight times out of twelve attempts Belarusian artists couldn’t even get to the final. Meanwhile, the Eastern European neighbors and friends (Russia and Ukraine), as a rule, show very good results. Does it mean that there are no talented singers or songwriters in Belarus? Should the country blame the national selection for it? Maybe Eurovision is a highly political contest, where neither the jury nor the audience vote for authoritarian countries? Is it possible that people vote for a show, not for a song? Let’s look at the situation in detail.
First and foremost, it is important to point out that Eurovision is a song contest, but the show also plays a role and there is nothing wrong about complementing a nice song with a creative and memorable performance. The XXI century gives participants the opportunity to express themselves in various ways. Technological progress and Eurovision go hand in hand. One may take this opportunity, while the other may just stand still and sing a song. The choice is free, as well as the reasoning behind it. In fact, there were many cases in the history of the contest when the performance was very modest, but the song was strong enough to enter the Top-three or even win the contest.

It is pointless to argue that Eurovision is not a political contest at all, as the voting results generally show us the opposite. However, it is undeniable that the winner of the contest is always the best of the best, no matter the country where the participant is from. Moreover, Top-ten songs are also always very decent. We have to take into account that all people have different tastes and come from different countries with distinct cultures, so sometimes we may like a song that the other person finds awful. Our opinions are not universal. The results may be surprising for us, but not for everyone else. What is a point of making a scandal out of something that is based on people’s choice? Basically, it is supposed that a National Jury is composed of true professionals, who value the quality of a song and singer’s voice more than anything else. As a result, the voting is balanced.
What concerns Belarus, the major problem is definitely not related to the absence of talented singers, songwriters or directors. As in any other country, there are many talented professionals with a strong desire to represent their country in the contest. Actually, they have not only desire, but also good songs and brilliant ideas regarding their possible performance on stage. The main problem lays in the selection process and in people who are in charge of it. As a matter of fact, every year, except for 2011 (which was also a fail), these are the same people and the same company (National State TV and Radio company – BTRC) and, therefore, the same approach and prospective.
Certainly, it is undeniable that the people in charge are very experienced, as they gained this experience during eleven years of their involvement into the selection process and preparation to semi-finals and finals of the contest. However, their experience does not help them to make the best possible choice, neither to prepare the winner of a selection for a performance in the Eurovision semi-final. There is no need to prove it by many facts, as the results speak for themselves:
1) 2004 – Aleksandra and Konstantin “My Galileo” (Failed to qualify);
2) 2005 – Angelica Agurbash “Love Me Tonight” (Failed to qualify);
3) 2006 – Polina Smolova “Mum” (Failed to qualify);
4) 2007 – Dmitry Koldun “Work Your Magic” (6th out of 28 participants);
5) 2008 – Ruslan Alekhno “Hasta La Vista” (Failed to qualify);
6) 2009 – Petr Elfimov “Eyes That Never Lie” (Failed to qualify);
7) 2010 – 3+2 feat Robert Wells “Butterflies” (24th place out of 34 participants);
8) 2011 – Anastasia Vinnikova “I Love Belarus” (Failed to qualify);
9) 2012 – Litesound “We Are the Heroes” (Failed to qualify);
10) 2013 – Alyona Lanskaya “Solayoh” (16th out of 33 participants);
11) 2014 – Teo “Cheesecake” (16th out of 31 participants);
12) 2015 – Uzari & Maimuna (Failed to qualify).
Even if the candidate is decided by jury + televoting (Belarus case), many questions remain open regarding both televoting fairness and jury’s competence. In fact, there was a huge scandal in 2012, as the televoting showed that people chose Alena Lanskaya to represent Belarus, whereas right after the announcement of the result, the Internet was full of negative comments where Belarusians were complaining about the falsification of the voting process (both jury and televoting) and claiming for the musical band “Litesound” to represent the country. Here is when the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko decided that “Litesound” must be the winner. The situation was truly ridiculous. The first time in the history of the Eurovision, when the President intervenes in the selection process for the song contest.
That was definitely the red flag that made it clear that BTRC should change their strategy to give Belarus a chance of success. As we all know, in 2015 Uzari & Maimuna could not make it to the final. Not surprisingly, the same group of people and the same company are still dealing with the preparation for the contest in Belarus. No progress has been made.

Belarusian Eurovision fans keep dreaming about the bright future of our participants on the Eurovision stage. There are many young people graduating from the top universities of our country who have a strong will and all the necessary skills and abilities to be part of a new team, which one day may be in charge of all the processes connected with the Eurovision preparation. It is not a secret that Belarus is doing well in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. The country has a huge potential to show much better results in the adult song contest. In my view, Belarusian public loves the contest and follows it every year. That is why it could be an interesting and a fresh idea for Belarus to run a reality show, where the main prize will be the participation in the Eurovision Song Contest. Typical reality show, which is popular not only among housewives and retired people, but also among youngsters.
Every week during several month there would be concerts, where the participants should present a song of their own or written by some other songwriter and perform it well on stage, as if it were the final of Eurovision. The professional jury (could be composed of former successful Eurovision participants from other countries, which change every week, or of Belarusian young singers) would chose the worst three performers and nominate them for televoting, where the audience would decide who leaves the contest. During the whole period of the reality show there would be 10-minute news block about the life of participants and their preparation for the weekends grand concerts. Only three best participants would get to the final, and the winner should be decided by televoting 100%. In this way, people would get more involved in the selection process and it would be more fair, interesting and entertaining.
The reality show itself could be a solid first step to gain experience and practice not only singing voice, but also song writing and performance on stage at the same time receiving valuable feedback from true professionals and the audience. This is only one idea out of other hundred ideas everyone else may come out with. Belarus should definitely look for alternatives. I have no doubt that our moments of glory on the Eurovision stage are still ahead.

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