The Eurovision Song Contest was intended to be a platform to showcase the very best musical talent that Europe has to offer, and is now the longest-running annual TV competition ever since its launch in 1956. In the UK at least, it is now widely regarded as an eclectic mix of musical styles, a sort of retro-pop meets Eurotrash, and anything in between and is not taken particularly seriously.
The contest has been responsible for producing various international stars, most notability the Swedish pop quartet ABBA, who successfully managed to transcend Eurovision to become true global superstars in their own right with eternal appeal, procuring a string of hit songs in the 1970’s and 80’s, an ABBA musical and have influenced film with the Australian movie Muriel’s Wedding and Mamma Mia!
With such a global reach, even countries outside the boundary of the European Broadcasting Area have been permitted to take part, namely Australia of all places.
Austria’s ‘bearded lady’, Conchita Wurst, won Eurovision in 2014, with ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’, a song with an anti-gay message. For that reason alone she was perhaps a worthy winner, but one did wonder how much of that win was down to the shock factor of watching in wonder at an apparently female singer sporting a full beard, rather than for the merits of the song itself.
An unfortunate bloc voting phase crept in, with neighbouring countries voting for one another with predicable outcomes and arguably undeserved winners, which prompted the late British TV and Radio broadcaster Terry Wogan to quit his long-standing role as the UK TV presenter of the show in protest live on air in 2008 having grown increasingly tired of this cynical voting system. Efforts have since been made to counter this most unwanted aspect of the competition with national juries introduced in 2009 that contribute to 50% of the overall votes alongside the televoting system.
Will the UK ever be serious contenders again? Who have never looked like potential winners in recent years, and whose involvement in the second Iraq War was heavily criticised by other nations within the international community. Somewhat extreme perhaps given that this is only a singing competition, but you can’t help sensing the futility of their efforts despite submitting entries with such globally established performers such as Engelbert Humperdinck, Bonnie Tyler and pop band Blue to no avail. And if the friends and neighbours aspect still exists, maybe we have too few friends in our corner to stand a realistic chance of reaping any success in the future. A fact that is not lost on the BBC, but who continue to broadcast Eurovision due to the high viewing figures and revenue gained, and therefore, understandably, will be at great pains to withdraw the UK entrants from the competition.
That said, there’s no doubting the attraction of Eurovision, that will continue in its current form for the foreseeable future, with its power to entertain, shock and repel in equal measure.