News Preview: Eurovision Song Contest 2013
There are many ways you could interpret the results of last year’s Eurovision Song Contest. There was a certain irony in Loreen’s stark, solemn entry ‘Euphoria’ – just one dancer, minimalist lighting, and liberal use of a wind machine – coming out on top in an event famed for its trashiness, staged in a custom-built, €140 million arena called the Crystal Hall. Then again, this was the runner up. Eurovision has always been a fertile breeding ground for the musically bizarre, odd, and downright awful, but there was something baffling about the “Buranovo Grannies’” success; an uneasy mixture of novelty, condescending praise, and smug superiority from the “Didn’t they do well?” brigade fuelling a scoring run that almost led to a famous victory.
This year’s event, to be held in the city of Malmö, has already produced rumblings of discontent and controversy before a note has even been sung in anger. The reason? Austerity. According to reports, the Swedish organisers and host broadcaster SVT have cut the production budget to a measly £13 million amid fears that too many countries are either afraid of the cost of winning or, like Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia, not even bothering to enter in the first place. “Financial sustainability” is not a particularly sexy phrase when applied to a party and there are many traditionalists who feel that Sweden, as one of Europe’s economically fittest countries, is missing a golden opportunity to sell itself on the world stage.
Of course, none of that will matter come 9pm this Saturday when the glitz and the glamour finally take centre stage in front of a global TV audience in excess of 200 million. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the 39 entrants – there are two, midweek semi-finals before the main event – are either weepy love songs or upbeat Euro Disco floor fillers with predictable titles like ‘Glorious’, ‘Only Teardrops’, ‘Hold Me’, ‘Only Love Survives’ and ‘Straight Into Love’. Britain, far from being discouraged by Englebert Humperdinck’s dismal showing last year, have plumped for another old time pop survivor in Bonnie Tyler, but anyone holding out for another gutsy, forceful ‘Total Eclipse’ moment will be disappointed; ‘Believe In Me’ is somewhat meek and unlikely to set European pulses racing.
The bookmakers currently have three clear favourites, and as much as Eurovision tends to be a lottery, you can see the logic behind their choice; Denmark, Ukraine, and Norway’s entries all tick a lot of boxes. Odd moments of detail (penny whistle and tribal drumming), soaring choruses with key changes, and shades of dramatic, 80s power pop will probably ensure that all three finish high, although my money’s on the Depeche Mode-lite stomp and Chazz Michael Michaels vibe of ‘I Feed You My Love’ (sample lyric, “I have the future on my tongue”) taking top honours.
As for this year’s surprise package, there are several gloriously bonkers songs. Eurovision just wouldn’t be the same without a dark horse storming up the outside and if there is to be an upset, it may well come from one of these four efforts. I would try to describe them, but I think it’s best to just let the music – and the videos – speak for themselves; needless to say, if these are the best the respective nations have to offer, one can only wonder what other delights were rejected as not good enough. Roll on Saturday, and Euro pop’s annual pilgrimage down the rabbit hole.