Editorials & Opinion

Why I stopped watching Eurovision national selections…

Because they piss me off.

Firstly, excuse my foul language. Secondly, I mean every last word of what I just said. Thirdly, I love the Eurovision Song Contest and don’t want anything to taint that.
Remember last year when Estonia sent “Verona,” instead of Kerli’s “Spirit Animal”? Now, I too get annoyed when people complain about a song that SHOULD have gone.

It didn’t win. Get over it.
Both songs were good so who cares?
 Move on…  

I understand. These shows are competitions and at the end of the day someone wins and someone loses. It is what it is. However, an odd thing occurs when the song that wins the national selection doesn’t even qualify for the final. Or if a Big 5 song finishes outside the top 10. One has to think, “did we choose the right entry?”
Let’s look at last year. As much as Verona grew on me, I did not think it would easily qualify. Spirit Animal would have looked great on television and the song was catchy. Verona was good. Verona was great. Verona didn’t stand out. Spirit Animal would have had had an edge and let’s be honest, Kerli is a seasoned performer with fans worldwide. I argue that that song would have most certainly finished top 10, but we’ll never truly know.

Can something be too competitive?

Let’s look at Melodifestivalen. Sweden’s national selection is arguably the most competitive and the artists who participate are seasoned and ready to be entered into Christer Bjorkman magic machine. The top 5 songs at Melodifestivalen could easily be top 5 at Eurovision. Hell! The top 10 songs at Melfest could finish top 5 at Eurovision.
Even though Melfest is a winning machine, it isn’t foolproof. Last year at Melfest was a bloodbath. Honestly, I can understand why Bjorkman would want powerhouses pros like Loreen and Charlotte Perrelli, but you only end up with one winner and I do think there is such a thing as something being too competitive. Loreen is arguably one of the most popular and well-liked Eurovision winner of the modern era. You can’t have her participate and not win. The optics are just bad.
And it was bad. Not only did Loreen not win her semi, she also went on to second chance and lost. To not have a former winner of her caliber NOT even in the Melfest final is a miss.

The people deserve to be heard.

Let’s look at Poland. I don’t want to say it, but I have to say it. Margaret’s “Cool Me Down,” could have won Eurovision 2016. PERIOD. This isn’t a debate. The song had to momentum and would have come alive on the stage in Stockholm. I mentioned Poland but so many other countries are guilty of this. Here’s the harsh truth that we all know. People don’t always know how to vote.
There are plenty of songs that I love personally that I know would fail on the ESC stage…
Poles are choosing songs they like. There isn’t anything wrong with that, except for the fact that it isn’t just about your taste. The public in your country may know what they like (personally) but they aren’t necessarily voting with their eye on the prize.
The prize is to win the Eurovision Song Contest. So that has to be taken into consideration.

Did you see the Belarusian auditions last year?

Spoiler alert: It was mostly amateur vocalists with dated songs.
I am trying to be nice, but it is hard. The auditions were pretty bad, but NAVI and Nuteki were really strong. They were both leagues ahead of the rest of the talent base. LLEAGUESahead of the rest and yet they had to participate in this farce of a production. Belarus should have done an internal selection and consult with other music professionals to figure out which route they’d want to go.

What happens when your favorite song loses the national selection?

I’m not going to lie, when I went to the Melfest final last year, I was bummed. I wasn’t going to see Loreen perform Statements live and that sucked. As much as I loved “I Can’t Go On,” and believe that Robin Bengtsson was the rightful Melfest winner— Loreen not making it to the final took a little bit of the fun out of it.
Even as Robin sailed to victory, the shadow of Loreen’s non-presence even just to congratulate Robin and the Melfest party was noticeable. She wasn’t in the final and it was weird.
That is just one example, I’m sure you have your own personal situation.
That’s the thing. When you end up watching the final, there is this shadow that hangs over it. That shadow is the ghost of the song that didn’t quite make it. You can’t forget about it because every time you hear the winning entry you are reminded of the other song that should have won.
I hate that.

What happens when the national selection performance and song falls flat on the Eurovision stage?

The most notable casualty of this has to be Greta Salome’s “Hear Them Calling,” that translated so poorly to the Eurovision stage it didn’t even make the final. Why could SVT just set things up exactly the same as they were in Iceland? Why did they have all the holograms?
These questions are useless because there is nothing we can do about it now.
This happens more often than you might think. Whether a translation went wrong (Albania 2017 & 2016) or the stage looks empty (Iceland 2016), sometimes things are just better at the national selection. Instead of watching the final product on the Eurovision stage you’re shaking your head about why they changed the choreography that was so much better at the national selection.

Are internal selections the way to go?

Ok, Ireland has had difficulty lately and they’ve done internal selections lately. Here is the trick. If you are doing an internal selection, make sure the people doing the choosing are:

  • Musical Professionals
    • They need to be tied to the music industry in some way. CURRENTLY. People wonder why some of the music sounds dated. Well, when you look at some of the delegations it isn’t surprising. I’m saying that more senior folks don’t know what works, but talking to some young people wouldn’t hurt.
  • Eurovision viewers
    • Someone on the selection board has to know what the Eurovision audience likes. This is very important. They need to know about the past winners
  • Visionaries
    • These people have to be a little psychic. They have to be able to look at an artist and imagine how they’ll look on the ESC stage. They have to imagine what song and staging fit and predict how audiences will react.
  • Fresh
    • I mentioned this earlier, but some of the delegations have had the same 3 people around for years and I argue that that could begin to hurt the process and final product. Make sure to include some third-party fresh ears for a new perspective and opinion on what could work.

All in all, I love Eurovision too much to get caught up in the inevitable Euro-drama the national selections can bring. So no thank you national selections. I don’t need an appetizer. I’ll just take the main course.

Comments on Why I stopped watching Eurovision national selections…

  • http://eurovisionthroughtheages.blogspot.co.uk Martin

    Great article – I agree with most of your points there, having been at Eesti Laul in March and not really understanding how Kerli DIDN’T make it to Kyiv. However, once the public’s voting figures came out, it was all too obvious that Koit and Laura were always going to win (although the jurors nearly scuppered their chances by almost squeezing them out of the Superfinal). It was also obvious to me that neither of them were good enough actors to carry the lyrical message of the song off and when they sung badly…it was all over.
    You are spot about people voting for what they like and even I, as a Eurovision blogger, am guilty of that too – Greta was my number 1 in 2016 and Norma John this year. Having said that, I don’t think that there were better alternatives in their NFs…
    And as for Margaret and Poland 2016 – the fact that they could have won in Stockholm was diluted by the fact that Michal did so well but I will still be playing “Cool Me Down” forever!
    I will be following all the NFs though – my blog would look rather sparse without doing so 🙂

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