16 January 2007

Another last place Finnish?

This week sees the start of build up for the 2007 Eurovision Song contest, to be held in Finland in May. Recent UK performances have proved disappointing - and there are several reasons why. Some say it is due to the clustering of friendly states who all vote for each other (Baltics, Balkans etc), which guarantees that the UK, with no natural constituency, will never again triumph. Others suggest that it reflects a wider political unpopularity in recent years across the continent, giving other countries an annual chance to express contempt for UK foreign policy. And a third theory holds that it is because recent British performances, without exception, have proved to be as entertaining as finding a dog poo in your slippers.

So there is a certain frisson of excitement generated by the rumour that Morrissey is considering throwing his hat into the ring for 2007, as the UK attempts to "up the ante on the calibre of artists" as the only realistic chance of winning. But this surely is to miss the point on at least two counts.

First - it suggests that, somehow, the contest matters, as a source of national pride. We may have experienced some truly desperate sports results recently, at a national level, but surely our self esteem is not so low that we look for self-belief in the musical equivalent of a morris dancing competition? If it were a contest based upon actual popularity of real artists, as expressed in a meaningful way, such as, say, music sales, the UK would be unbeatable every year. It is a celebration of the paucity of musical talent that arises when creativity receives some sort of official sanction - pop music by committee. Worse, it is pop music by 25 different committees.

Second - the point about Eurovision is not to impress other countries with your talent, but to confuse them with bizarre, esoteric performances to see who can create the biggest laugh. The biggest sensations of recent years have not been performances by serious artists but Israeli transvestites or last year's winners, the truly bizarre metal-meets-the-dressing-up-box nonsense that was Lordi. Where would that leave the likes of Morrissey, warbling tunes about his lost talent? Nul points, I suspect, despite his sold-out European Tour dates.

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