Germany and Eurovision dominated my thoughts in the past few days. I went from ‘Oh wow, they managed to get quite name on board’ to ‘Oh dear that choice didn’t go down well’ to ‘NDR, what on earth are you doing?’ – It’s been quite the rollercoaster.
I can understand why they withdrew Xavier Naidoo and I can understand that NDR are now in trouble. So for me, it’s time to take a look at what I think Germany’s next steps should be. The ideal step would be to just ask Helene Fischer to do it. Just a dream, but for 2016, we need to be realistic.
A big name?
First of all, we need to take a look at what Germany wanted to achieve by selecting someone like Xavier Naidoo. To me, it screams ‘ratings’. A big and current name will get ratings in (just look at The Netherlands and Anouk) and they will feel comfortable on stage. Whether you like his music or not, he was, musically, a good choice for Germany and would probably have started the way up again after three very mediocre years for the Germans. It’d have been a step to get Germany’s biggest names (yes, including Helene Fischer) interested in Eurovision.
But alas, that’s not going to happen. As Jan Feddersen, one of Germany’s most well known Eurovision writers, wrote on Eurovision.de yesterday, a lot of Germany’s musicians have shown solidarity with Xavier Naidoo. So all these big names can be crossed off our lists of hope for 2016. They’re not going to do it. Because they’ve seen how NDR can toss aside an artist and how destroying the public can be.
The next option would be to pick a not so well known artist for Stockholm, internally. I’m not saying a complete unknown, but someone who’s now starting a career. If Germany want to go schlager, Feuerherz would be an idea. They’re now starting to get some attention, so they would perhaps be willing to travel to Eurovision. Settled then? Well… no.
I doubt an internal selection is even the way to go for Germany. A lot of the comments about Xavier Naidoo were related to his alleged beliefs, but many (actually, most of them) were related to the fact that the Germans were simply told “Here’s your artist, deal with it.” And the Germans don’t like that. They want to have the choice to pick that artist. They want to decide who they’re sending to Stockholm. That basically crosses any sort of internal selection of our list. To repeat her name: I think the only one who’s able to pull off being loved after being selected internally is Helene Fischer.
Down with the Clubkonzert
So… back to an open national final, I guess. But we need to scrap the Clubkonzert, first and foremost. In the past two years, Germany have shown that they like to side with the underdog (Elaiza and Ann Sophie). Even though Ann Sophie eventually lost out to Andreas Kümmert, she still managed to knock out a few other well known people. I’m not saying Elaiza or Ann Sophie are bad musicians, but their selection for Eurovision was based on things other than their musical qualities.
The Clubkonzert was a great occasion for new artists to showcase their music on television. It was a great occasion to get your face and your music known to the public. But the quality has always been shockingly low. After watching both editions, it’s safe to say that besides Elaiza and Ann Sophie, a lot of those artists were not quite ready for even the national final.
The Clubkonzert brought Germany nothing but trouble. The quality was not high enough and the eventual results were based on something else than musical quality in the big final. So out the Clubkonzert flies.
A national final. But how?
I think a national final would be a good idea for Germany. I don’t think NDR even have a choice, if I’m honest. Summing it up, the Clubkonzert brings them rather bad results, cancelling Naidoo rules out big names and the German public isn’t too keen on internal selections.
So an open national final, with ten artists and an easy format. Not the complicated one with two songs each and songs being eliminated and at the end of the night everyone is confused. Just a simple format. Melodifestivalen-style (so spread out over multiple weeks) won’t work yet as the interest is simply not high enough yet.
A simple national final with ten artists. And here’s one thing where I do support Germany’s choices of the past few years: Give the Germans an actual choice. NDR have managed to always put up a wide variety of genres in that national final. Looking at 2015, there was medieval folk (Faun), a German ballad (Alexa Feser) all the way to soulful pop (Andreas Kümmert). This variety has to be maintained.
Who’s going to take the risk of doing that national final now? As I said, the biggest names of the German music scene won’t. So we’re looking at perhaps not so big names who might be willing to give it a go. Once again, I think of names like Feuerherz, but also Kenay, Ewig, Namika or Subway To Sally. Maybe even a somewhat big name (not top of the bill, but getting there) like Glasperlenspiel would throw their hats in the ring.
Needless to say, Germany needs to screen their artists really well. Make sure you know what sort of reaction you can expect. From the public as well as from the artist. It’s the second year in a row where NDR have been forced to make a statement along the lines of “We didn’t expect this.” – That’ll do for now. They could’ve known Andreas Kümmert was uncomfortable and not the most reliable man, they could’ve known Xavier Naidoo was so controversial. So screen your artists, know who you’re dealing with.
It is also important that these artists see that there’s nothing to lose in going to Eurovision. No, you don’t want to start from the bottom, like Ann Sophie. Ann Sophie depended on Eurovision and the record labels involved there to get her career started. When she scored the dreaded zero, her career was practically over. So you already need to have settled that little bit – a record label, perhaps an album out, some experience. Just so you have something to fall back on in case Eurovision doesn’t really go your way.
And which language?
That doesn’t matter. English or German – both work out fine for Eurovision. The German language music market is getting bigger and bigger again in Germany and it may be good to send a song in German again. But there are many artists who simply feel more confident and comfortable with a song in English. If that’s the case, then sure, as long as that artist is confident with it.
In short: Germany has to go back to an open national final. Internal selections don’t seem to work yet for the nation as, quite frankly, the Germans want to have a say in which artist will run around at Eurovision carrying their flag around.
The format however has to be changed. No more Clubkonzert and no more complicated format with two songs per artist and different rounds. A new (or well, old) format with a simple ten singers/acts will work much better. Each artist enters with one song only and there’s no nonsense with multiple rounds.
Finally, Germany needs to aim for not complete newcomers for their national final. These artists must have something to fall back on if they fail in Eurovision. Some sort of success or even just a record label, so they know that there’s nothing to lose with Eurovision. And they must be reliable.
There’s a lot to win for Germany in the next few years. Honestly, they’ve screwed up badly in 2015 and already for 2016, so it’ll be a challenge. But if NDR decide to get their grip on the selection procedure back, then there’s an opportunity to even make it right for Stockholm. What do you think? What should Germany do next?