A quick disclaimer before I begin: I currently live in Sweden. They do things differently here. Take the Eurovision as a completely random example; before getting to the finals in Vienna, Måns Zelmerlöw had had to get through two rounds of the Melodifestivalen before being subjected to both a popular vote and international judging panel. Compare that to the UK where our selection process is internal and organised solely by the BBC, conjuring up images of industry execs pointing at some poor soul amongst the cigar smoke and saying ‘You’ll do’ in the process. Is it any wonder that Sweden produced a song of actual catchy substance as opposed to the whimsical yet utterly underwhelming effort from my home team. Had any of us heard of ‘Electro Velvet‘ before? Of course not; as ever they were just two solo singers moving in the lower rungs of the industry paired together for this one effort. The song they performed becoming yet another calculated, throwaway attempt at second guessing the opinions of Europe (something the UK is notoriously bad at). We need to move away from this banal belief that the continent likes boring, camp, cheesy, easy and worst of all, dated music. We’ve all grown up. Let’s maybe open the selection process to everybody; hold a UK song contest again like we used to. Let the songs come first and then decide whether they could win the Eurovision or not. Let everyone apply. Let everybody decide. It’s not rocket science.
Just remember, It worked last time.
I digress. There is so much to be said about the UK’s relationship to the Eurovision (which, as with most things, is shared by elements within each country of the Union) but that is for another time. We’re here to talk about the here and now and that is all Sweden. Personally there was nothing to touch Måns’ performance, a slick and imaginative video display setting itself clearly apart from Loreen’s minimalistic 2012 winner. The art direction in particular was weirdly sinister in it’s use of hand-drawn figures seemingly marching militaristically in a school before exploding to the power of heroism. Something I perversely enjoyed. For all the stick about Måns tapping into AVICII’s style, the song felt oddly fresh, especially in the pre-chorus which held off from dropping the beat until that singalong melody was seared into our brains. Utterly Euphoric. A proper song for a proper competition. Though I suppose that’s the problem, The Eurovision is no longer seen as a proper competition, which is a shame. But I’m a positive person and you can see signs that things may be changing; Russia sending an actually decent song sent by a powerful singer, Soviet block countries that then didn’t vote for it (looking at you Latvia) and a host nation being punished for a fairly cynical attempt to connect with the indie-buying youth. On the flip side there are still too many ballads, too many histrionics and far too much vamping to camera. Though these are things that will iron themselves out in time. Hopefully. Possibly.
But why do people like the Eurovision? Well, I believe there is simply no unified answer. This is why the UK fails time and time again. This is why we have such a lazy narrative peddled to us by the media about our ‘role’ in Europe. We are such a beautifully diverse and historically connected continent that it is impossible to claim one single reason for liking something. Our ‘role’ is multifaceted and varied and ever changing. As our love for Eurovision is multifaceted and varied and you get the idea. In London I found it a mix of irony (bloody Goldsmiths), campy association and genuine love for the fraternity of it all. I am very much with the latter. It’s one of the few regular public opportunities for us Europeans to be equal (well, as equal as you can be with automatic qualification for some) and present our wares to each other. We can then judge it on it’s own merits. Free market and all that. Ah well, all that matters is that I’ll see you in Stockholm next year! We party Sweden style.