Another Eurovision Song Contest has come and gone and I’m scratching my head wondering what this is all about? As a musical phenomenon it long ago lost all credibility. I think when Lordi from Finland won it a couple of years ago that was the nadir, though Ireland’s Dustin the Turkey did his bit to turn the whole thing into a joke.
What is at stake in this ‘competition’? National pride? Hardly. No one really cares any longer about Eurovision songs except the participants, the tabloid media and a rash of Eastern Europeans who obviously want to tell the world that they’re as hip as everybody else and spend most of their lives clubbing. Anyway most of the songs have no characteristic that links them culturally to the country they ‘represent’. Old Europe, as the Americans say, is profoundly bored with it all.
Whatever it was.. and there were many glorious moments… increasingly it seems it’s in the grip of a media/Eurovision clique in each country that browbeats the nation into following them like lemmings every year and providing them with their annual champagne junket to an orgy of mediocrity in whatever country has the misfortune to win it the year before. It’s not good enough to say this is just a bit of fun and not meant to be taken all that seriously. It costs the earth. it’s a colossal waste of money much needed elsewhere and in these recessionary times it’s frankly obscene. ‘Fun’ that costs this much is just not funny.
Musically it’s become the equivalent of painting by numbers but as a socio-political document of the current state of ‘Europe’ it’s fascinating and worthy of a PhD or two. To anyone who watched the final the other night it must be clear that Europe hasn’t a hope of unity of any sort in the long term. It’s simply too culturally diverse. Anyone who thinks culture is not relevant in this age of international money is fooling themselves. But that’s another story. Comments welcome on this aspect.
The changes to the voting rules recently (a percentage of the vote via public individual texting) have favored the younger voter which to me explains why the German entry won this time. Stylistically it was the closest to what young people in the developed world are listening to these days. It was about the only song that didn’t sound like it was written by committee and it had quite a bit of creative flair. The Irish entrant this year was at least an attempt at a conventional song as opposed to a circus act but, although Niamh Kavanagh sang well, the song is stylistically outmoded and it disappeared without a trace. People at home went over the top about it but really, it’s an average, predictable tune and you know exactly what’s coming next as you’ve heard something kinda similar a hundred times before.Young people switch off when they hear this kind of song. It’s what their parents are into and their parents don’t vote anyway. The old days are gone forever. It’s not even primarily about music anymore.
Please, please Ireland. Be the first country to say ‘the Emperor has no clothes’. Pull out now and hopefully this ghastly, expensive and pointless affair will soon come to an end. I’d be fascinated to see how many other countries might pull the plug if Ireland was the front runner.
Except that, those who still think that any of this means anything will be saying…..’sure if we pulled out now the rest would see it as sour grapes because we came nowhere this year’.
Hey. Stop!! Stop it! Nobody gives a shit! It’s just your silly egos. Pull the plug and give us all peace! No one will miss Eurovision when its gone except those who want to make money from it.
Bob Higson says
Ah puppett on a string – I get kinda misty for the glory days.
Aaaaahhhh, let em have their fun We have stupid stuff over here too. But when a good act comes into town, it is heartening to know there are still a lot of us left.
Bonnie from a/c the Pond
Frank Kelly says
Maybe this is not the place to be contacting you but I don’t see any personal email address for you, so thought I’d try your latest blog even if it is on a topic that I’m not too interested in!
You might remember me as “Francy” Kelly. We shared the same room in my third or fourth year at St Columb’s (memory problems! repression?)
I’ve just finished reading The Boys of St Columb’s. Impressive. I never realized I was in the midst of a revolution back then but that just shows how ignorant I was.
I was especially interested in your contribution because you were the only one of the eight “old boys” that I really knew as a teenager. I met Heaney as my teacher in St Joseph’s in Belfast but he was of a different generation.
What struck me right away about your contribution, apart from the thoughtfulness, was the mention of a “bully” who liked your piano sessions but who also made your life miserable. I would be interested in discussing that with you but this is probably not the appropriate place to do so. Let me know if you want to discuss it. I know you said you did not want to continue association with “the college” but it might be interesting for both of us to share a few thoughts on that benighted spot.
I do like music despite the Eurovision thing. I like most of your music especially the songs that sound a bit like Bob Dylan’s kind of music, a man for whom I am glad to see you have high regard! And he for you, I once read in his own words.
I have your Arthur McBride on a wobbly 30 year old casette tape made in Nottingham, playing in my old car almost every time I head north here in Ontario. I always associate Dylan and the Chieftains’ Brian Boru’s March, Arty McGlynn as well as yourself with that journey. I like Dylan’s version of Arthur too.
Anyway, I hope this reaches you.
Paul Brady says
Thanks for your posts to the blog and apologies for not replying till now. I’m not against songs with political overtones…so long as the music is interesting! But ‘Shut up and sing’ is a suggestion I empathise with! That’s of course if you can sing and what comes out is a pleasant sound..keep ’em coming.
Gerry Coogan says
Good thoughts on the Eurovision Cringefest, Paul. It’s a busted flush now. That’s not a big deal in itself but, as you say, the amount of money that it swallows up is nothing short of obscene at the present time. Sadly, it’s far from being the only insult to the musical intelligence that is currently being thrown at the public by the media corporations. At least it’s only inflicted on us once a year unlike all of these execrable “X-Factor Idol’s Got Talent” manipulations.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I get a very strong feeling that it’s almost impossible now for new artists to get exposure on a mainstream broadcasting outlet unless they are already being fully backed (and controlled) by a major corporation.
There seems to be very little to distinguish the play list of one radio station from its rivals.
That is truly extraordinary when you consider the unprecedented amount of interesting music by unsigned artists which is available on the internet. Is there really none of it worthy of national exposure? Do we really have to be exposed to the constant repetition of the same major label products on every frequency for weeks as if there was nothing better around?
From the Eurovision contenders to the winners of “Pop Idol’s Got X-Factor Talent,” the so-called demand for these irrelevancies is merely the creation of the corporate media and not a groundswell from the grass-roots level.
It’s sheer manipulation at its most soulless and cynical.
There’s a hideous emphasis now on the Cult Of Personality at the expense of artistic substance and nowhere is it more evident than in the endless line of superficial ciphers who make up the shameless Eurovision fakery.
Most artists crave some degree of recognition but it appears to me that the name of the game now is recognition for its own sake and to hell with the art and substance.
I don’t think we’d ever have heard of Bob Dylan or the Beatles or the Kinks or Steely Dan if the music biz had been like this in the sixties and seventies. Can you imagine Dylan auditioning for American Idol?!!
Gerry Coogan says
A thought or two occurred to me regarding “To anyone who watched the final the other night it must be clear that Europe hasn’t a hope of unity of any sort in the long term. It’s simply too culturally diverse. Anyone who thinks culture is not relevant in this age of international money is fooling themselves. But that’s another story. Comments welcome on this aspect.”
I don’t think cultural uniformity is required for unity to take root. Cultural diversity is absolutely essential for any major society to function creatively so that it can respond to new challenges with imagination and insight drawn from a broad range of outlooks.
There’s a huge diversity of musical instruments but rather than conflict with each other, their diversity actually strengthens the unity of a good composition — so long as they’re well arranged, of course.
They can produce either a hideous cacophony or a harmonious, dynamic perfection and I think the same thing applies to peoples and cultures.
It will take a better arranger than the ones who are currently running the political show but I don’t see anything wrong with the fundamental principle that different groups can respect each other and share a great deal in common.
I grew up in a fairly unusual street. The various households nearest to me were Muslim, Jewish, Irish catholic, Italian catholic, Church of Scotland, Free Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Hindu, Sikh and Humanist!!
Everybody got on really well and folks generally made considerable efforts to keep track of each other’s holy days and festivals — it seemed to be somebody’s New Year every other week!
It was also pretty cool just to learn about each other’s different beliefs and philosophies. Good times. 🙂
Perhaps this predisposed me to believe that that’s the way it could be everywhere.
But I do believe that the amount of goodwill and peace that radiates when disparate cultures make the effort to co-exist harmoniously is a kind of proof that we’re meant to do exactly that in order to prosper.
It’s usually unscrupulous leaders creating fear and division who spoil it for the majority who can quite easily get on with each other when given the chance.
It’s one of the great privileges of the true artists that they can communicate these bigger ideas across all kinds of borders.
I know an Iranian lady who was sentenced to death by the Islamic Revolutionary Government because of her Baha’i Faith.
Fortunately, she escaped the country and found asylum in the UK (but twenty-two of her friends didn’t and they were executed.)
Her escape wouldn’t have been possible though without the assistance of innumerable devout Muslims who knew they were risking their own lives to help her.
One of her most prized possessions was a cassette tape of Beatles songs which she listened to almost every day.
It’s stunning to realise that an artist in London singing “take a sad song and make it better” or”Blackbird, fly!” or “Here comes the sun and I say it’s all right,” can be such a source of inspiration to a desperate Iranian refugee clambering over the Makran mountain range to escape from a totalitarian nightmare.
For me, that’s a beautiful example of different cultures resonating at the level of their common humanity.
It may take a while and there may be a few false dawns but that’s where we’ll get to one day.