In the wake of Britain’s latest nil points earning entry – editors, insert applicable year – many of you will be wondering why exactly the Eurovision Song Contest is so bad.
Masochists who hate-clicked the title will of course be screeching in protest already. For some Eurovision is a key date in the calendar, artistically and politically potent. But you people are wrong. It is bad, and you should feel bad.
I don’t much go in for the view that art quality is objective, but Eurovision may be a rule-proving exception. Starting with the lowest common denominator pop format, the acts squidge the standard structure into verse-chorus-verse-chorus-kitchen sink, adding mangled Euro-English gobbledegook and thoughtless synths.
It’s not even that the results sound corporate and phoney. Whatever you think of the American pop industry (and its British peer) those dead-eyed cynics know how to write a tune – the devil always having had a few bangers. It’s almost a pleasure to have your attention stolen by such practised hucksters.
Nope, Eurovision’s problem is that everything sounds like it’s drawn up by a committee of well-meaning fools. And while you shouldn’t judge art solely by its politics, in this case I suspect the flaccid art is connected to the event’s kumbaya mentality.
“Hello Europe,” the vote announcers purr. “Thank you for such a lovely evening of hope, diversity and blah blah blah.” Some of this is the standard circle jerk of award shows, but this contest is especially committed to feel-good blather.
That standard pop fare is already shallow only emphasises the physics-breaking lack of depth in Eurovision. The moment’s ‘it’ girl might sing about a break up in the usual vapid way, but Eurovision doesn’t even sound formulaic: it sounds like an imitation of a formula. It’s as if an alien has had a go after hearing a few samples.
The British contribution to this is entirely evocative of our attitude to the continent. While we pay full fees to the contest, we insist on sending our most mediocre musicians: this year some fat bloke who shouldn’t have made it out the local karaoke night, previously a noughties boy band or an old man who was big in the sixties.
Perhaps this is because the British music industry doesn’t need the publicity. It may simply be less of an opportunity for us than for continentals hoping to break into Anglophone markets.
But I suspect it reflects a wider suspicion of the exercise. There is an earnestness about many contestants that Britons lack. Even though the Italian glam rockers looked bored enough scrolling their phones as the results came in this year, the Maneskin singer ended the night screaming “rock and roll never dies!” These people believe, at least in something.
Some would also argue such absurdity is the point, but I think they have misunderstood how those outside of Britain see the exercise. No other music contest pretends to be about healing post-war wounds, and Europhiles rightly think that shared cultural exercises like this will make it less likely that we kill each other.
In such an environment it would rather spoil the mood to say, well, anything of substance. Eurovision is a kind of awkward family gathering where you avoid saying anything contentious.
Yet the best art, like the best jokes, is usually at somebody’s expense. The German entrant sings “I don’t feel hate”, brainless smirk on his face, but contempt makes for better subject matter, as Bob Dylan could tell you.
I suppose British talent shows are little better in many ways, but at least rapacious capitalism encourages the judges to cut the dead wood sooner. If anything the tallying of votes at the end of Eurovision’s final is also much crueller, heaping indifference on luckless victims in one great dollop.
Doubtless I’m slanted by my own bias, but give me the honesty of an open mic in an empty London pub over this dross. People may be good, bad, tuneless, tuneful, desperate or disinterested on such nights, but at least there’s the opportunity for genius, unlike with Eurovision’s factory of mediocrity.