#undomysad, aram mp3, armenia, cleo and donatan, conchita wurst, esc, eurovision, eurovision 2014, eurovision song contest, molly smitten-downes, poland, politics, pop, ruth lorenzo, sanna neilsen, spain, sweden, united kingdom
The topic of Europe has seldom been absent from the UK chatterscape in recent weeks, and I have to express my sadness that the name more likely to pass British lips is that of Nigel Farage (left) as opposed to that of the decidedly more fabulous Conchita Wurst (right). In the most unfortunate recent circumstances, I have seen the former’s face more frequently than that of my own family and friends. I have frequently stated that the two topics I have brought together here, short of a wild and ill-advised jaunt into the realm of poorly chosen presidential campaign anthems or a line-by-line dissection of D:ream’s “Things Can Only Get Better”, seldom meet in the popular mind or this blog. Indeed, their union is perhaps as fragile and unsettling as that covering our continent and is visually represented in my personal mind’s eye by the sight of our chancellor George Osborne pathetically headbobbing to the wibbly strains of Keane on The Andrew Marr Show.
While yelping about the political elements of Eurovision is something usually reserved for some vocal and largely uninformed whinging about Europe’s failure to overlook the thoroughly pitiful quality of the entries we’ve selected with all the care of a drunk pursuing his choices of post-pub scran, I prefer to discuss the notion that the popular British political stance toward Europe is reflected in our attitude toward and overall treatment of the contest. As with the European Union, Britain’s approach to Eurovision has been recently defined by hostility, entitlement and condescending arrogance. Not only are we absurdly aghast at the lack of return on the utter rot we bother to send but remain discontented with anything less than a win, as reflected by the unjust disdain towards our very respectable performances in 2002, 2009 and 2011. Although our last win in 1997 is becoming a distant memory only available to those who have at least once wondered whether they are too young to begin slapping on the Oil of Olay, other nations have toiled for many years longer and a great deal harder to bring about a swift end to their drought of victory. The Netherlands have been denied the top spot since 1975 and Teach-In’s triumph with the insatiable “Ding-A-Dong” in Stockholm. If my theory is correct, the UK’s appetite for Eurovision in 2014 should be akin to that of your average five year old presented with a dinner of anything other than chicken nuggets.
Nonetheless, the BBC have undeniably offered a considerable level of effort towards the contest this year in terms of both coverage and song selection. Aside from showing both the semi finals and the final as is custom, Auntie Beeb is stretching also to a dedicated digital Radio 2 pop-up station from Thursday to Saturday of this week, with a entirely Eurovision-themed schedule. Furthermore, a stunted realisation that the croaky tones of formerly world famous old timers weren’t quite capturing voter nor jury imagination, we have astoundingly realised that Europe are potentially more likely to like our entry if we too can sit through it without shuffling uncomfortably in our chairs. Our entrant, Molly Smitten-Downes, was chosen through the entirely legitimate and credibility-laden BBC Introducing strand. The song, written by Molly herself, is both anthemic and relentlessly catchy. We are further blessed beyond our surprisingly promising choice of song. She is a solid live vocal talent and only today she has drawn what could potentially be a plush performance slot in the lucrative second half of Saturday’s final. We are also lucky to have been to find ourselves in such circumstances in a year of no obvious runaway winner. While the hype has been thrown behind the curiously-named and definitely not homophobic Aram MP3 of Armenia, “Not Alone” is something of a meandering affair that lacks panache. Arguably our other main competitor, Sweden’s is contrastingly an entry whose victory over the UK is something I could stomach with far less complaint. Sanna Neilsen’s power ballad “Undo” has won me over with the allure of it’s face-smackingly monstrous key change and the wailed absurdity disguised as it’s main lyric (#UndoMySad).
The rest of my personal favourites are admittedly far less likely to reach the dizzier heights of the scoreboard for a variety of reasons, but are worth a look-in nonetheless. The aforementioned Conchita Wurst of Austria is going against the novelty grain and providing us with the most Bond-esque offering we’ve since Belarus’ Koldun asked us to work our magic back in 2007. Ahead of her qualifying round on Thursday, I am depressingly less than optimistic about her chances despite a placing in what I feel is the weaker of the two semi-finals due to the already existing controversy surrounding her presence in the contest. If certain competitors were able to battle the irresistible force of Dana International in 1998, then the western European jury may quite literally have to be out for Conchita. Such prejudice is perhaps no more rife than in Russia, whose entry I am shamelessly drawn to this year despite widespread panning from the majority of fans. The Tolmachevy Sisters won Junior Eurovision in an entirely hateful manner as children, and grown-up they are now seemingly Russia’s sickly-sweet and fiercely heterosexual answer to Tegan and Sara. Against all of my better instincts, I cannot help but enjoy the veiled smut that comes with a cry of “shine into my darkness!” through a thick Russian brogue. As someone who normally resents the usually unjustifiably successful presence of the Russians, it is mostly saddening that they have chosen a year in which they have been at their most politically abhorrent to put forward something that I actually enjoy. Their comparative lack of favour is threatening the sisters’ possibility of even qualifying for the final, and even that success would appear unlikely to guarantee them an admirable final placing. This year’s so-called Marmite entry is undoubtedly that of Poland. “My Stowanie (We Are Slavic)” is originally sung half in Polish and half in English, and although I feel many entries lose their impact when not sung in their native language, I am glad of the English portion of this track. It brings both pace amidst a broadly slow and midtempo show and some truly ear-testing fun with which I am convinced British audiences will happily get on board, even if they happen to mark their vote beside a UKIP candidate two weeks later. An honourable mention should go to Spain, whose contestant Ruth Lorenzo is familiar to British audiences by virtue of Simon Cowell’s appreciation for her memorable pairs of both lungs and bosoms during her stint on the X Factor in 2008. Her ballad “Dancing In The Rain” comes complete with a visually stunning video, but is probably not going to set the scoreboard alight.
Essentially no competitor here is of the goosebump-inducing splendour of Loreen or even Emmelie De Forest and thus as contests go, 2014 is definitely a year in which there could ultimately be all to play for. It inspires my confidence to be able to genuinely support a UK entry, but as always, this is with the required reasonable acknowledgement that we are competing against 36 other countries with an equal right to win. The sentiment behind this thought is perhaps something that should remain just as vibrantly in our minds as we approach the polls in two weeks time.
Who are your Eurovision favourites this year? Can the UK clinch it? And how vehemently are you not voting for UKIP? Tell me all!