Royaume-Uni, nul points

I blame Wogan. On the positive side, though, Goran Bregović in the interval! And what about those Latvian pirates?!

Okay, so the Brits didn’t pull in nul points, with the Emerald Isle and plucky little San Marino saving them from the ignominy of Jahn Teigen territory. All the same, quatorze points and a dead last placing is nothing to write home about. And this brings out the usual moan about political voting.

Not that there’s nothing to that, but the voting was much more bent back in the old days of the jury system, before televoting was brought in. Strangely enough, nobody really seemed to mind the Brits and the Irish voting for each other, or the French and the Belgians, or the Germans and the Austrians. Sure, Terry would take the piss out of the Greeks and the Cypriots, but they didn’t have the clout to influence the outcome. The complaint has reached a much more hysterical pitch now that the eastern countries, still seen by many as lesser Europeans, are there in sufficient numbers to not only influence but determine the outcome.

There are a few factors involved here. One is that the Brits, and increasingly the Irish, regard Eurovision as a big massive joke. I don’t just mean the campy aspect of it, although there’s something to be said for letting Justin Hawkins have a go. No, the thing is that nobody with any aspirations to credibility wants to have anything to do with Eurovision. By contrast, the East Europeans don’t see it as a joke. The likes of the Russians, Estonians and Serbs put up their best artists. The Scandinavians, believe it or not, take it even more seriously, with televised heats going on for weeks on end.

Related to that is the fact that musical tastes within Europe, and individual artists’ popularity, is very much regional. Think about it: if this was all about politics, would punters in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Albania being scoring each other so highly? Or the Baltic states voting for Russia? Or Georgia for Armenia? But if you go into a nightclub in Zagreb, the chances are good that the kids will be dancing to Serbian turbofolk. There’s a certain kind of culturally snobbish Croat that finds this mortifying, but it’s true. And that rather splendid Albanian entry may not tickle the Brits’ fancy, but it’s the kind of thing that sells by the shedload in the Balkans.

This, rather than the paranoid fantasy of a European conspiracy to stitch up Britain, explains Russia’s success. Dima Bilan, remember, is one of Russia’s top-selling singers. It shouldn’t have been surprising that he would prove popular in the former Soviet republics, or in Israel with its enormous Russian population. Nor is it sinister, unless you think Russians are sinister as a point of general principle.

You know, with all the music industry heads in London, you would think somebody would put their minds to producing something that might appeal to Europeans. Or is the culture so thoroughly Americanised that such a thing is unthinkable?

And, at the risk of defacing a national treasure, Wogan is pushing seventy and already has his knighthood. For a very long time he’s had a nice gig going to Eurovision every year, taking the piss out of the foreign hosts, taking the piss out of the foreign acts, and feigning bewilderment at Europeans’ unwillingness to vote for mediocre British entries. It would be sad to see him go out on a sour note, but maybe this is a sign that his retirement would be no catastrophe.

More on this at Cedar Lounge.

14 Comments

  1. May 27, 2008 at 10:21 am

    […] Splintered Sunrise makes the very good point that the so-called “political” voting is more linked to questions of shared culture and taste, otherwise it is not entirely obvious why Croatia and Albania, for example, should vote for Serbia. […]

  2. yourcousin said,

    May 27, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Nor is it sinister, unless you think Russians are sinister as a point of general principle.

    That would explain my reaction then after reading about it on the Beeb.

  3. Madam Miaow said,

    May 27, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Your Cousin … are you really Splinty’s cousin?

    Didn’t watch the event – far too overwrought what with all those power ballads and a glut of metal schmaltz against Mantovani strings. Too many white suits with big lapels for my taste. Were there moustaches? How did plucky little Israel do?

  4. Phil said,

    May 27, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    you would think somebody would put their minds to producing something that might appeal to Europeans

    Been done: 2005, Javine, “Touch my fire”. Sounded so central-European it was positively Albanian. Finished 22nd out of 24 (ahead of France and Germany).

  5. Mark P said,

    May 27, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I’d be reluctant to view turbofolk as a valuable expression of Balkan culture. It always struck me as the equivalent of making an entire musical genre out of the kind of hideous novelty record that’s occasionally released in Ireland, where some enterprising young DJ in Offaly puts a hard house beat under the “Fields of Athenry” or a trad number.

    You are right though that phenomena such as the former Yugoslav states and the Albanians all voting for each other are better explained by their shared musical culture than by any kind of political conspiracy. Turbofolk is only one expression of that, although one of the most popular ones.

  6. Harpymarx said,

    May 27, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I liked Javine’s 2005 entry and utter shame it didn’t do better (and before you say anything I have an eclectic musical taste…that includes Taylor Dayne….).

    I was totally gutted that last year’s UK entry, Scooch , did not fair better. So kitch and camp…

  7. splinteredsunrise said,

    May 27, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    I hope I didn’t come across as making any great claims for the artistic merits of turbofolk, just pointing out that the style is massively popular throughout the Balkan region and into Turkey. To be fair though, it’s a far slicker product than it was in the 90s, and as the nation that gave the world Maniac 2000 we’re in no position to be smug about things musical…

    Ah, plucky little Israel. Finished in ninth place, up along with the musical superpowers of Bosnia and Azerbaijan.

  8. Martin Wisse said,

    May 27, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    At least the UK could buy its way into the finals; we Dutch had to make do with our failure to make it through the semi-finals.

  9. May 27, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    […] more on the political aspects of voting, and the carping tone of Wogan, see here at Splintered Sunrise. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

  10. Garibaldy said,

    May 27, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    I have to laugh at the sense of superiority the free staters now have that put Dustin in. It’s not that long ago that winning Eurovision was seen as an affirmation of identity in a struggling state, and as an expression of sympathy for reunification – certainly northern nationalists saw it that may. I suspect part of the reason the competition is taken so seriously elsewhere is precisely because it affords recognition to countries struggling for a place in the world.

  11. yourcousin said,

    May 28, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Madam,
    No. I created that title to comment on my cousin’s now defunct blog and have simply kept the title.

  12. Ray said,

    May 28, 2008 at 7:42 am

    I agree with the point about regional musical tastes, the other factors to consider are migration and family ties. If you’re a Turkish gastarbeiter in Germany, or a Polish plumber in England, who are you going to vote for? If you live in Latvia and yourwife is from Lithuania, who are you going to vote for? As you say, this was always going on – there was a Scandinavian block, a Mediterranean block, etc – but now that there are lots of eastern European countries in the contest, and everyone is using phone voting, things aren’t working to the advantage of Ireland and the UK any more.

  13. Phil said,

    May 28, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I suppose that might explain why Poland got 10 and 4 respectively from Ireland and the UK – all we’ve got to do now is explain why they got nul points from anyone else, putting them equal dead last with the UK and Germany. (Germany, now… what could other Europeans have against them?)

  14. splinteredsunrise said,

    May 28, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    What struck me about the voting was both the UK and Ireland giving maximum points to the Latvian pirates… I assume this is a vote for high camp rather than the Latvian diaspora.


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