Editorials & OpinionFeatures

Eurovision 2021: A new turning point for the contest? [Editorial]

Will the 2021 contest usher in a new era for Eurovision? It's up to the music industry to decide...

Shortly after the 2019 contest, I wrote a VERY pessimistic debate piece in which I asked ‘is it worth taking risks at Eurovision?’. At the time, I was dismayed that Victor Crone’s “Storm” finished 4th(!) in a semi-final that Conan Osíris and Tulia failed to qualify from. Fast forward two years and the landscape for risk-taking at Eurovision feels completely different, as Måneskin dominate global charts and GO_A are being booked to perform across the continent.

The question now is: was Eurovision 2021 a pandemic-era fluke, or has the contest hit a new turning point?

‘The Euphoria effect’

Firstly, it’s worth saying that I fully believe that Loreen changed the game back in 2012. Having spent the first year of the pandemic watching every edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, I can confidently say that the quality of songs, staging and production have continued to steadily grow with each edition since she won.

While both “Fairytale” and “Satellite” achieved chart success post-contest, they didn’t ‘transcend’ the Eurovision label in the way that “Euphoria” did, peaking at number one in 17 countries across Europe, the most of any Eurovision winner at the time. However, although she has had a great career since, this didn’t quite convert into Loreen becoming ‘the next’ ABBA or Celine Dion. The same can be said for Duncan Laurence’s “Arcade”, which has shed the Eurovision label to become a global hit, but has not materialised into Duncan becoming a household name in his own right just yet.

Where Måneskin’s success feels different is that the band have been launched in their own right, and feel bigger than the multiple songs of theirs that are currently popping off simultaneously across the world. In the UK at least, they currently have two songs that are already bigger than “Zitti e Buoni”…less than two months since their win. Their momentum is being fuelled by both TikTok and a genuine intrigue in their style and personalities, and is showing no sign of slowing down.

This is all great, but what does this mean for the contest specifically? Observant fans have noticed that ‘Eurovision’ has been removed from Måneskin’s bios across social media and streaming services, but I don’t see this as more than a management decision. Those who work around the contest, or in the music industry at large, will be paying attention to this unprecedented boost the contest has given the band, and I believe it will change the contest going forward.

What did well: Authenticity is key

The top 10 of Eurovision 2021 was truly something to behold. Four of the top five songs contained no English lyrics. Eight of the songs were at least co-written by their performers. Genres ranged from classic chanson, to turbo folk to nu metal pop. Having felt wronged and disillusioned by the frankly bizarre 2019 results, something just felt very…satisfying about how the 2021 Grand Final played out.

In a time where songwriting teams were becoming increasingly globalised, production was getting increasingly generic and native languages were fading, 2021 felt like a contest in which authenticity and uniqueness was rewarded.

The aspect of ‘national flavour’ is particularly important to me because hearing native language entries and traditional folk instrumentation got me into Eurovision in the first place. So for acts like Ukraine’s GO_A and Russia’s Manizha to use the contest as a means to share the lesser-known sounds and aesthetics of their respective countries and find success as a result was incredibly gratifying. Post-contest, “Shum” has become both the first song by an artist from Ukraine and the first Ukrainian-language song to hit the global Billboard charts.

My hope is that this will empower and inspire broadcasters across the continent to send songs that truly represent the music of their countries, rather than what they perceive to be ‘international’.

My other hope is that songs like “Birth Of A New Age” won’t be overlooked in future editions…

Birth of a new era of bangers?

While the many successes of Eurovision 2021 are what we have mostly been reflecting on (rightfully so), it’s also worth revisiting what didn’t do so well. For the most part, the entries that underperformed were deficient in one way or another.

As rehearsals got underway, it quickly became apparent that 2021 would be a very strong year, if not the strongest field to date. Consequently, a lot of the usual Eurovision staples ended up falling short of predictions based on previous years. Specifically, entries that felt like attempts to galvanise a strong televote ended up falling flat, namely Jendrik’s “I Don’t Feel Hate” and Senhit’s “Adrenalina”.

In a year with an abundance of uptempo pop songs, just being uptempo wasn’t enough to stand out to jurors and viewers. Even dance pop numbers that were well-performed, well-stage and likely would have done much better in other years (“El Diablo”, “Sugar”, “Adrenalina”, “Mata Hari”, “Set Me Free”), the lack of uniqueness prevented them from cutting through and rising above the others. Although I fear that the underperformance of these aforementioned entries may cause a drought of bangers, my hope is that instead the 2022 contest will usher in a new generation of ‘banger’.

Will domestic music industries take notice?

This is the big question. The success of these aforementioned ‘authentic’ entries was a byproduct of multiple factors, including the pandemic bringing live music to a standstill, ‘risky’ entries like “Russian Woman” being shortlisted for national finals and broadcasters like Ukraine’s UA:PBC and Switzerland’s SRF granting their artists with the creative license to put forward bold songs for the contest that fell inline with their sound.

What can ensure this trend continues is other broadcasters, as well as radio stations, management agencies, record labels and artists across Europe, taking note of what the likes of Måneskin, GO_A and Barbara Pravi have achieved. Surely seeing the success of Måneskin will show those in the music industry what the contest can do for an artist’s career? In an era where streaming and engagement are paramount, the numbers speak for themselves.

Writing this from the UK, the fact that the past two Eurovision winners have had chart hits (obviously not including Radio 1’s obsession with Daði Freyr in 2020) will surely address any cynicism from the domestic music industry around the contest. Further, Måneskin are respectable to those who don’t take the contest seriously, and so will likely make the idea of participating in Eurovision more compelling. This is especially likely for emerging artists trying to get their music heard in an increasingly complex and competitive landscape.

Of course, most of what I am suggesting about the future of Eurovision is speculative, but the stage has been set for a golden era for the contest, and it’s time for industry figures, broadcasters and artists to make it happen.

What do you think the impact of the 2021 contest will be? Let us know! Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter@escxtra on Instagram and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! Also, be sure to follow us on Spotify and YouTube to see our reactions to the news in the run up to the 2022 national final season!

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Sam
Sam
12 days ago

Great article! Exactly my thoughts after the contest ended.

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