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.