May 26, 2003 7:49 PM   Subscribe

160 million people watched the gloriously kitsch Eurovision Song Contest this year. The UK's entry [Real] scored an astonishing nul points (i.e. none of the other 25 countries thought the British song was in the top 10 competitors). The singers blame the country's worst ever result on sabotage. What do you think?
posted by Pretty_Generic (37 comments total)
Oh, I should say - many of the more mentally deficient commentators are blaming it on a European "post-Iraq backlash". Talk about mass destruction.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:52 PM on May 26, 2003

They seem to be admitting that the vocal performance was a train-wreck, which it is - they simply have no idea what the key is for the first minute or two of the song. If the monitor setup was somehow different for them than for other entrants, they could have a case. Alternately, maybe they're just really, really bad singers. Whatever the case, the song itself is no gem (and the awkward melodic writing probably contributed to the singers getting lost), but neither is anything in the Eurovision Song Contest.
posted by soyjoy at 8:18 PM on May 26, 2003

It was pure crap. But let's face it, even crap tends to get a point or two (or sometimes many more) at Eurovision, so I can see where the people screaming about political hi-jinks are coming from.
posted by kaemaril at 8:25 PM on May 26, 2003

Wait.. I thought American Idol picked the best singer in the world. You mean people sing in other countries too?
posted by Wingy at 9:02 PM on May 26, 2003 [1 favorite]

Wait.. I thought American Idol picked the best singer in the world. You mean people sing in other countries too?

Don't believe it for a minute. Next they'll be saying that the World Series doesn't crown the best baseball team on Earth.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:08 PM on May 26, 2003

They're not the first to score a zero. Only the most paranoid...
posted by kahboom at 9:09 PM on May 26, 2003

Sadly the Real compression prevents us properly hearing the amazing harmony in the singing - Stockhausen should take note.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:25 PM on May 26, 2003

Or maybe, just maybe, it's a case of sore looser.

Nah, that's just too far fetched.
posted by spazzm at 9:30 PM on May 26, 2003

Well, I thought it was a magnificent performance of a lovely (if somewhat derivative) song, and Father Ted's stage presence was positively magnetic, but Dougall was a bit of a waste of space.

Oh wait, that was the Irish entry. Nevermind.
posted by arto at 9:56 PM on May 26, 2003

so do you people vote for these "singers" on eurovision, or is it just another thing those crazy gnomes in zurich (or brussels) get to decide?
posted by badzen at 10:37 PM on May 26, 2003

arto, you beat me to it. I was just going to say that the instant I read the original post "My Lovely Horse" popped right into my head. :)
posted by synecdoche at 10:51 PM on May 26, 2003

Has there EVER been a really good Eurovision entry or even (gasp!) winner?

I'll never forget the runner-up to the UK's 1997 contest, "A Yodel in the Canyon of Love"...sounds like a parody of itself.
posted by Vidiot at 11:19 PM on May 26, 2003

The UK's entries have generally sucked, haven't they?
posted by damclean2 at 11:35 PM on May 26, 2003

I thought it stated in the rules that you had to suck. Every year they seem to dredge out the worst example of regional pop/pap music for the contest. Only occasionally do they end up with someone talented and interesting, purely by accident.
posted by krisjohn at 11:53 PM on May 26, 2003

"A Yodel in the Canyon of Love"? (fires up Kaazaa, curses the writers of filesharing software for not using real English words as program names)

Sounds to me like the very concept of the Eurovision Song Contest ensures the crappiness (or at least, tragically unhipness) of the entries. I mean, maybe the concept just doesn't translate across the pond or something, but the concept of a glitzy showbiz song-contest for national pride seems like the sort of thing that would put off both yer old-skool, earnest-integrity types and your irony-soaked hipsters. However, perusing the list of winners, I must say that of the two names I recognize, one (ABBA's "Waterloo") is actually a decent song for what it is. (The other, Sandy Shaw's "Puppet On A String", could very well be used to torture prisoners of war. So they're batting like .500.)
posted by arto at 11:57 PM on May 26, 2003

as compensation
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:23 AM on May 27, 2003

It's a really odd contest. In England, at least, it's basically seen as a bit of a joke, I think, but I was talking to an Israeli who was really fired up about it, and was saying how his country had entered their best singer into the contest, and so forth.

So, does England suck because we don't care about the contest, or do we deride it because we suck?

Incidentally, is there some rule about not entering big-name acts into the contest? Because otherwise, why doesn't England just put forward some of its chart toppers?
posted by chrismear at 1:06 AM on May 27, 2003

Never mind Father Ted, Eurovsion is also to blame for the Riverdance that has been tormenting world stages for years. And it all began from the interval show in the 1994 Eurovision.
posted by kev23f at 1:09 AM on May 27, 2003

chrismear, i'm pretty sure there's no rule against big name acts, (Tatu) only a rule against using previous chart hits. I reckon most established singers don't go near it as it would probably mean the death of their careers. It has made a few careers though - Dana, Bucks Fizz etc...

As for taking it seriously, i assumed absolutely no-one did - every year here we hold big eurovision parties where we all get together and ridicule the whole thing from start to finish.
posted by kev23f at 1:16 AM on May 27, 2003

arto: you are my heeerrrroooo....

The sound was really really off during Eurovision. I love the t.A.T.u. song (picked up the mp3 from somewhere), but live...something was seriously wrong.

Oh well.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:46 AM on May 27, 2003

i blame the monitors !

honestly, you dont need monitors to sing in tune.

my friend is a eurovision addict and correctly guessed the winner at 25-1 and runner up at 50-1 each way.
If the north koreans havent blown up the world by then i'll give you all his tips for next year !
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:04 AM on May 27, 2003

The UK's entries have generally sucked, haven't they?

Yes, but then every eurovision entry ever, has generally sucked.

Except Dana International, and Ping-pong.

...and ABBA.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:20 AM on May 27, 2003

There's been a lot of navel-contemplation and hand-wringing here over the UK's 'nul-points'...

I'm particularly impressed by this explanation...
posted by Incubus.exe at 2:30 AM on May 27, 2003

the official rules are worth a quick read:

this is the aim:
The purpose of the Contest is to promote high-quality original songs in the field of popular music, by encouraging competition among artists, songwriters and composers through the international comparison of their songs.

Each participant shall make its best endeavours to promote the Contest Final as a major cultural event, taking due account of the aim of the Contest.

and explaining the belgian entry:
Artists may sing in the language of their choice.

but did anyone notice:
It is recommended that each song or its performance should express some "national flavour"

i am working on a theory to work out ecactly how bad an entry is, improvements are welcome:

skirt = { (exposed leg length (in inches) - amount (weight in ounces) of material ) * transparancy of material }

song = { ( number of syllables in lyrics - number of notes) / frequency of chorus }

awfulness quotient = { (skirt / song) * ( number of non-musical gimmicks + number of non-musical people on stage ) }
posted by quarsan at 2:36 AM on May 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

Pretty Generic, don't make too much fun of the "post-Iraq backlash". There is politics of some sort involved. I made a Map that shows where the 12 points votes went: A lot of "exchanges" (Greece-Cyprus as ever) and neighboring countries favouring each other.
posted by meikel at 3:01 AM on May 27, 2003

The real question is, does every country participating have a Terry Wogan equivalent? (For non-UK Eurovision viewers: Wogan is an avuncular Irish former chat-show host employed to pour scorn on the whole affair in a running commentary, often talking over the presenters. He gets quite tipsy as the evening progresses.)
posted by jack_mo at 3:25 AM on May 27, 2003

Ahh the Eurovision song contest! A celebration of European Kitsch that is instrumental in creating a pan-european definition of bad taste, thus aiding- in its own unique way- the project of real European integration.
It's a really fun watch in an MST3000 way.
As for the guardian's "political" explanation of voting (posted by incubus.exe) while to some extent plausible, the journalist states the following:
"Eurovision is famously riven by politics, most glaringingly in the case of Greece and Turkey, who never vote for each other's entrants." They weren't watching very closely were they? Even Cyprus gave huit point to the Turkish song.
Also why didn't, say, Poland or Israel give a single vote to the British song if it was about the war?
Let me also point out that, apart from the nationalst fervour involved (by people who must lead really boring lives) in voting for co-nationals / neighbours, having common pop-stars helps too. Greece and Cyprus have the same pop-stars f.e. and I'm sure something similar holds for Iceland / Norway and the Baltic countries.
posted by talos at 4:33 AM on May 27, 2003

But even crap tends to get a point or two at Eurovision, so I can see where the people screaming about political hi-jinks are coming from.

Norway has had four nul points over the years; can we assume that with 4th place this year other europeans have finally accepted the end of their neo-imperialist plans for the world?
posted by biffa at 4:54 AM on May 27, 2003


I was pulling together a bunch of links for a similar post over the w/end but ended up cycling on the South Downs & listening to lots of bird song instead which was a hell of a lot better than the aural turds on offer c/o EuroVision.

A few things considered tho':

1. Yet another Yank-confusing definition of Europe. Yes to Isreal (they also get to enter teams in the European Champions League ['soccer']). No Danes, Finns, Italians (all EU countries). Swiss stay away as usual.

2. IIRC there is a European television companies union which brings together broadcasters from various 'European' countries. The Eurovison Song Contest was a child of this. May have also been responsible for It's a Knockout/Jeux sans Frontiers...

3. It means a hell of a lot to some countries...street parties in Germany, a presenter from one of the Baltic states (who was also in the running for 'Campest Man in Europe') bursting with pride as he stated that 'the small states' coiuld put on as good a show as anyone and in Malta the dresses are just as important it seems.

4. The composer of the UK entry is the head of Sir Paul McCartney's Performing Arts College in Liverpool. Which speaks volumes I feel...

5. I only ever watch it for the voting part (if I'm in the house) & Terry Wogan's comments therein.

6. The UK entrants did a 'Video Nation' short of their big day out

7. A good range of comment on the BBCi talkboard

posted by i_cola at 4:54 AM on May 27, 2003

posted by FormlessOne at 5:28 AM on May 27, 2003

posted by garyh at 6:09 AM on May 27, 2003

I always have to laugh at the good neighbour voting.

Hmm. Well, prior to this year, if your entry really sucked and you don't pay Eurovision enough money, you get knocked out for a year. Italy had a really sucky entry last year, so they missed out this year. The alternative is having forty or so contestants. Shudder. But even with null points, the UK and a few other countries get a run every year.

I reckoned that Turkey, ought to win as soon as they finished their song, because it was a little different - well, putting on the Shakira boots - whilst still conforming to the asinine standards of a Eurovision winner. Tho' given how well Tatu did with having the two girls just squeaking at each other over some tuneless doofer, they might've won if they had a song. Instead, they just came third behind Turkey and Belgium, who had some weird ethno glossolalia thing happening.

It seems like they're going to have two contests next year, a repecharge, for all of those that missed out this year and the worst performers, and the best of that lot go into the final final. Double the fun! Feh.
posted by GrahamVM at 7:07 AM on May 27, 2003

Europe is so cute.
posted by rusty at 7:08 AM on May 27, 2003

While looking through the list of winners, I was struck by a couple of things.

1. Katrina and the Waves are still around (winners in 1997)?

2. Celine Dion won in 1988 for Switzerland?
posted by witchstone at 7:17 AM on May 27, 2003

quote from an HMV spokesperson about the Jemini record:

The single's just selling by the handful and it's outside the top 20, but in Liverpool, where there's obviously local interest, it's the sixth best seller.

holy shit! selling just handfuls and it still approaches the top 20? how big are people's hands these days?
posted by nylon at 9:16 AM on May 27, 2003

nylon, it seems you need to sell about 24,000 units to get into the top 10, 120,000 to get to number one (or maybe less, see below).
Pete Waterman says:
'Of course record companies may not make money from a top five single. That's not the plan at that stage. As you quite rightly noted in your first letter, labels will do anything to get to number one because that still means something to the people who buy records. That can mean 1.6m sales, extra airplay, TV appearances plus a boost to those valuable album sales. Bands who can't afford to do this, or that refuse to, simply can't compete.'

'But at the end of the day, we're dealing with music - the public like what they like and you can't force them to like what you like. They think they can in America, but on this small island, most people still have a different view of music to the major companies, and there's still a free spirit roaming about somewhere. You need to get into Woolworths and Our Price, but unless you get your basic product right first, none of that is important. Us little independents can still have number ones because it's still the music that counts.'

From the BBC:
'In 1993, it took an average of just 68,000 sales to secure a number one compared to 107,700 in 1984.
But the structure of the UK chart has changed in the past few years, to reflect the increasing competition between big, multinational record companies.
Number 1 (average sales)
1984 - 107,700
1988 - 76,900
1993 - 68,000
Rather than climbing the chart over a period of weeks, singles now enter high on a wave of hype and anticipation, and drop down the following week. '
/ partial derail
I forwent the annual Eurovision marathon this year when I remebered you have to watch it all (3 hours) to see the best (funniest) entrants and Wogan's most inappropriate comments.
Here is a good synopsis, quoted:
'And then there was the best part of the whole show: the voting. In general, Cyprus gives Greece 12 points. Greece gives Cyprus 12 points, and it always will until Turkey gets out of northern Cyprus. Meanwhile, the Turks give Germany 12 points. Germany usually reciprocates. Must be all the gastarbeiter. The Baltic states usually vote for each other. Nobody can be relied on to vote for Britain. Clearly, we need to get Gibraltar into the contest somehow.

But times have changed. Suddenly, Eurovision has gone all professional. You can always rely on the odd mad entry from a nation of Eurovision also-rans (for example, Germany), but too often these days countries are represented by acts that actually want to have a popular music career. The contest has been spoiled by catchy, inoffensive songs performed by acts that have managers, stylists and choreographers, usually from countries that don't have much else going for them. Last year's winner was Latvia, and the year before was Estonia.

The other big shift is that Eurovision seems to be competing with Gay Pride as a focus for the celebration of all things camp. Perhaps the best entertainment last year was provided by Slovenia's cross-dressing air hostesses. They've even got Lorraine Kelly doing the warm-up shows on BBC3. How gay can you get?

It's easy to poke fun at Eurovision. It's practically a national sport. But there's a little bit of me that wishes that those hundreds of millions of people could be watching the best music that Europe had to offer, not the losers that couldn't get a look-in otherwise. After all, we've got Pop Idol for that kind of thing.'
posted by asok at 10:28 AM on May 27, 2003


I don't know how seriously to take this, but... Radiohead just did a storming version of 'There There' on BBC1's Jonathan Ross Show (blowing Shania Twain away, that is for sure) and said "we wanted to promote Kid A only by a Eurovision entry" -

thom yorke then shook hands and told Jonathan Ross "we'll enter next year" (or words to that effect!)
posted by dash_slot- at 3:29 PM on May 30, 2003

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