Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Eurovision: Blame Simon Cowell not Brexit

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It's tempting to blame our last place in this year's Eurovision on Brexit. But as Chris Dillow pointed out, our slump in the contest dates back some years.

If you are going to link it with any geopolitical event, it makes more sense to choose Tony Blair's enthusiasm for the US attack on Iraq.

As the late great Terry Wogan said, only half jokingly, not long after that war:
"We've invaded too many countries and everyone hates us."
But I think the real reasons are musical - and not just that we consistently enter songs in the wrong key.

I had not heard of this year's UK entrant Michael Rice, which is fine because I have reached an age when I am not meant to have heard of music stars.

So I looked him up - and found that he is not a music star at all.

Rice appeared on The X Factor in 2014, being eliminated before the finals, and then won the BBC's All Together Now in 2018.

As far as I can see, despite this television exposure he has not had a hit single. Which means, unless All Together Now is a bigger deal than I think, he is unknown outside the UK.

Contrast this with Eurovision from when I first remember it. Though they were often given silly songs, our entrants were internationally known recording artists: Lulu, Cliff Richard, Sandie Shaw.

These reality shows trade on the idea that there are lots of undiscovered singers out there with the ability to become stars, but the truth is rather different.

The two most realistic shows in this genre were those that were looking for someone to star in a West End production of a musical: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria and Any Dream Will Do.

Both were won by actors who were already in the business but had not yet received their big break. Neither was exactly an unknown.

But surely Simon Cowell's programmes do feature unknowns?

Only up to a point. A fair number of the acts who appear on Britain's Got Talent are established professionals but are presented as amateurs - Musical Ruth is a good example.

For this reason I suspect that some of the singers in The X Factor are known to the producers before they turn up for their audition. Those producers would be running a huge risk if this were not the case.

Whatever the truth of this, the overall standard in the finals is not that strong.

If you watch from the start you get caught up in the drama of the series and root for your favourites. But if you don't watch it and happen to catch an episode later on, what you here is very ordinary singers being told that they have made astandard their own.

They haven't.

Back in the day, the international stars who did Eurovision for the UK had their own shows on Saturday evening television.

Today those slots are filled by reality shows, so it is their competitors and winners who are known to the British public and who get chosen for the contest.

As they are unknown across the rest of Europe and often not great singers, it is little surprise that they do so badly.

My conclusion is that you should not blame Brexit for our Eurovision malaise but Simon Cowell.

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