Eurovision, at least in this house, is an annual cause for rejoice with it's amateurish kitsch musical abominations rounded off by a hilariously dubious commentary from Sir Terry Wogan. Eurovision has long been considered a bit of light hearted entertainment in the UK not to be taken too seriously, possibly because this country has so little to prove when it comes to music. In previous years it was nothing but an additional hilarity the way that some countries seemingly just voted for their neighbours rather than any merits of the songs themselves.
The problem has been getting gradually worse, as I recall, with the typical troublesome hotspots being Scandinavia and Eastern Europe however Eurovision Song Contest 2007 took it so far that clearly any pretence of the event being an actual song contest must surely be laid to rest once and for all. That's a view echoed by most of the media although, perhaps, some observers in Europe might feel that's a dose of sour grapes for the UK act Scootch's abyssmal performance. Well hardly, I think we would have been more amused if anything if they'd managed to pull the complete nil poi. It's our own fault, we had better songs as candidates and the UK public voted for the cheesy retro Scootch.
However that said the UK has probably the most solid voting credentials with demonstrated history of voting for the songs that people think are the best. Ireland's terrible song didn't waver the needle this time around, nor did France. Also, Scootch's song was clearly a pretty good pop song well executed. A Eurovision winner? Possibly not, there was some other good songs such as Russia's entry and I personally enjoyed Bulgaria's quirky percussion and rustic haunting vocals. But Scootch second from worst song in the competition? Not in anyone's wildest imagination. There were so many songs of just cataclysmically bad quality that it's hard to know where to start, but the French entry would be as good a place as any. Or perhaps Sweden's which could best be categorised as a high-school band's 70's rock caberet at the end-of-year dance. It was super-bad, and all the Scandinavians voted for it. Sigh.
So okay, it is what it is right? Fine. However the thing I'm trying to get my head around is how all this happens. Eurovision is on and it's safe to say short of the Olympics it's pretty much the only pan European contest televised in every country, right? So I think it's a useful barometer. The question is, a useful barometer of what? I would have thought their televised format would be the same as ours. A fun show on, lines open, vote for the song you like the most. But I wonder? Does anyone know?
Whatever the format something fundamentally different happens in those countries than the UK. These guys basically see their bordering country pals put on an act and when the lines open they vote for them with only the tiniest consideration for the quality of the act. What does this say? It says they want to support their pals, that's a given. But what do they think they're achieving by voting for a song that clearly isn't the best and, I'm going to go out on a limb here, they surely can't even consider is the best song either?
Good, bad, native languages, English, different styles, quality, packed with rent-a-totty or, in the case of the miraculous winner Serbia, some sort of 4 foot tall lesbian woman with comedy glasses. Doesn't matter a jot.
So we had the political voting trend already but now it's spread firmly to these guys in Eastern Europe more so than previous years which, when you couple with the densely packed geography and multiple bordering nations and award them all the same points as any other country, ends up with the current scenario. To the detriment notably of the Western European countries. Countries that are not politically voting and are geographically isolated anyway.
Is what we're seeing telling us that they feel a greater affinity with their neighbours and one which must be demonstrated to all of Europe in this once annual display? We can only assume that's true. Is part of it a symptom of the lowering of reputation of the richer western European countries, possibly in the UK's case a US/Iraq influenced thing? Maybe. I think I'd also argue that we're seeing some overall lack of self-confidence in their own stature so that they feel voting for their neighbours song somehow validates them on the International stage.
But I'm just guessing here really. I'd love to just ask some people who voted like that to try work out why. Is it just something we can just write off as Eurovision siliness or is there something more serious here, a rising tide of regionalised nationalism for want of a better word?
I don't know the answer but it certainly seems to be the case that it's critically undermined the Eurovision contest to the point that Sir Terry was having trouble making light of it and I wondered where it was even worth the Saturday evening I had devoted to it.