Happy New Year!
The 2014 Eurovision season has officially started. Ukraine and Albania have already chosen their entries and in the coming weeks there will be a deluge of national finals and internal selections. The BBC were said to have been considering "alternative options" for 2014. Does this mean the end of the internal selection procedure? There have been rumours circulating about Geri Halliwell possibly representing the UK. However in this digital age it’s all too easy to put something out there on the internet and before you can say douze points, it’s being accepted as truth. The BBC is being tight-lipped. There's a different production crew working on the BBC's Eurovision output so there may be changes ahead. Watch this space.
2013 was a very interesting one in the world of Eurovision. After Sweden won the 2012 contest, held in Baku, Azerbaijan which was arguably one of the most politically-charged in the history of the event, the contest was held in Malmo in May. This was the first time since 2000 that Sweden staged the ESC. In reflection of the wider austerity drive in Europe, and the increasing financial pressure facing national broadcasting corporations, Sweden’s national broadcaster, SVT, announced that they were staging the contest on a smaller scale. The large arenas seen in Germany, Norway and Russia were gone, as were the audacious opening acts. Malmo was different; one presenter, no frills and standing room only for the audience. Behind the scenes the party circuit was considerably restricted; gone were the days of unlimited alcohol for accredited journalists and seemingly limitless press packs. The 2013 contest also saw several countries withdraw from the contest due to cutbacks across the various national broadcasters. Poland continued to stay away having missed the 2012 event, Bosnia Herzegovina, Portugal, Slovakia and Turkey all stayed home. Four years after the global financial crisis began it had reached the Eurovision Song Contest.
Musically 2013 was a mixed affair; the usual ballads peppered with dance songs and of course a share of bizarre songs which have become customary at the Eurovision Song Contest. Greece’s Koza Mostra performed their song “Alcohol is free” in kilts, at a time when the Greek economy was crippled by debts and many other countries were debating introducing minimum unit pricing for alcohol. Finland’s Krista Siegfrids demonstrated her support for equal marriage by sealing the performance of her song, “Marry Me” with a same-sex kiss. Georgia opted for an old-school ballad written by Thomas G:Son, the Swedish songwriter responsible for the winning entry in 2012, “Euphoria”. The BBC’s selection of Bonnie Tyler as United Kingdom’s entry followed the same format and form as 2012; internal selection, well-known artist aged sixty plus yet without a major hit for decades. The assertion that the BBC sees Eurovision first and foremost as a television show, rather than a competition, was therefore confirmed. To be fair, Bonnie was a real character and despite a rather weak performance in the final, did the UK proud; the perfect ambassador.
Politics was never far from the foreground despite the continuous reinforcement of the apolitical nature of the event by the European Broadcasting Union. SVT developed the slogan “We Are One” for the 2013 contest. The theme aimed to portray Europe as a united entity, emphasising diversity and multiculturalism. Except Europe really isn’t one; Europe is a fractured construct, economically, politically and socially. As happened in 2000, Denmark won in Sweden. The 2014 contest will be held in Copenhagen on 10th May 2014.
On a personal note, 2013 was bittersweet for me. On the one hand, as Dr Eurovision I was busier than ever and appeared on Sky News and BBC Breakfast. On the other, my aunt sadly passed away. She had been ill for a while and was an incredibly brave and inspirational lady and our family are incredibly proud of her. I will be running the Edinburgh Marathon in May 2014 in her memory. Thank you to you all for reading this blog and for the comments on Twitter. 2014 is shaping up to be an exciting one with the publication of my book and some exciting projects in the pipeline. Steady yourselves, the circus that is Eurovision is once again rolling into town!