Sunday, May 27, 2012

Eurovision? Call it Euro-porridge!

By Emmanuel Legrand

A senior politician in France once crushed all attempts from the local music industry to be treated seriously by telling a room full of executives that “the film industry has Cannes and music has...the Eurovision Song Contest”. And he did not mean it nicely!

The irony is that this weekend, we had both Cannes and the Eurovision. And it was not too difficult to see that the politicians' remark had not aged. Cannes had Ken Loach, Michael Haneke and Alain Resnais while Azerbeijan hosted The Hump, Roman Lob and Anggun. No disrespect to these artists but it is not the same league.

As Ken Loach said when he accepted his Jury Prize in Cannes, cinema is "not just an entertainment, it shows us who we are”. The problem with the Eurovision Song Contest is that it is just entertainment, and does not show us anything but, as CNN described it, the geopolitical state of affairs in Europe. It is an entertaining evening and sometimes a good laugh, but it not an elevating evening, and it certainly does not say much about the state of Europe's music scene (or if it is the case, then we are doomed!).

Creatively, the Eurovision celebrates the lowest common denominator between 45 countries. Rather than highlighting the creative differences between these countries, and therefore enrich us, entrants look for songs (and arrangements) that can please audiences from Baku to Kilkenny, Tromso to Amalfi. Consequently, the end result sounds like Euro-porridge, gooey and thick. It makes Pop Idol and The Voice look like beacons of avant-garde music.

If Ireland were to send U2, France Daft Punk, Germany Rammstein and the Brits Adele, they would not win (OK, Adele would win!). Let me rephrase: if countries were to send artists with talent, depth, inventiveness, style and substance, they probably would not go far in the competition.

But isn't time to try to be different? Isn't it time to try to break the mould or, as some voices already suggested, withdraw? And isn't is time for the organisers of the event to make significant changes in order to make more room for more musical diversity (why are Europop or Eurodance the dominant genres?)? 

One simple change could be that artists participating in the contest must have performed live in at least three of the countries part of the Eurovision. 

Entrants would not even need to be famous: on the same night the Eurovision Song Contest took place, Jools Holland was featuring in 'Later...' a new talent, previously unheard, I suppose, by most viewers, Jake Bugg, an 18-year-old from Nottingham. Alone with his acoustic guitar, he performed one of his own folky songs, and he was good, eye-catching and engaging. He would have made a perfect representative from the country that gave the world the Beatles and Adele. He would have had my votes!

PS: This year's winning song, Loreen's Eurodance track 'Euphoria', is another triumph for Sweden's songwriting and production teams. How do they do it? As far as porridge goes, they are doing quite well, aren't they?

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