CMU Weekly Editor's Letter

Editor’s Letter: Eurovision – The greatest show on earth

By | Published on Friday 18 May 2012

Andy Malt

I’ve loved Eurovision for as long as I can remember. You could say that Eurovision was the first thing that made me interested in the music industry. I mean, it wasn’t, but you could still say it was if you wanted to, I don’t mind. But I guess as a child it did make me interested in the various countries around Europe and how they related to each other. Although as a child I probably thought something more like: “Why are all these people talking funny?” Hey, it’s a start.

And that ‘how the countries of Europe behave towards each other’ thing remains one of my favourite elements of the whole Eurovision enterprise to this day. Terry Wogan might have quit the BBC’s Eurovision coverage because the political voting had got just too extreme for his liking, but I think that’s one of the most interesting things about the whole affair. How often in life do all the European countries stand up in front of each other and genuinely say: “I don’t care what you just did, this is what I think of you”? Only during Eurovision. And that is interesting. Just look at this thing showing voting distribution for each country. See? Interesting.

The music is also interesting. Mock it if you like, but it’s an insight into how each of the countries involved wants to be seen, and how they think other countries see them. Take the UK, for example, we generally send something that says either “we’re above this and you’re all idiots” or “we’re above this, look at this shit we’re sending over and see how much we care”. Which is exactly why everyone hates us and never votes for us.

Other countries go for wild experimentation, or aping other pop hits, or attempting to mix tradition with contemporary music, or they just churn out incredibly tedious ballads (I’m looking at you, Scandinavian countries), or try to blind the judges and voting public with gimmicks.

As well as that, of course, a lot of the music is Rebecca Black levels of hilarious, which is probably the main reason I love Eurovision. I like to think I laugh in an affectionate way though. Still, I’m probably just being a dick.

Anyway, recently I made the entire CMU office sit down and listen to all 42 entries hoping to make it through the final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It was a great day. The semi-final takes place next Thursday, and just in case you don’t have time to listen to all the entries before then, I’ve selected ten songs I hope will go through to the final two days later on the 26 May.

Engelbert Humperdinck – Love Will Set You Free (United Kingdom)
As well as the two Eurovision approaches adopted by the UK that I mentioned above, there used to be a third: “We’re above this, look, here’s Cliff Richard”. This is basically what we’ve gone for this year. It’s slightly more cynical than that though, as, in an attempt to second guess political voters, we’ve gone for a performer who is still quite popular in many of those countries which usually vote against us. I don’t actually particularly want this to go through to the final at all, but know for certain that it will, because the UK has an automatic place in the main event (we don’t even play at the semi) because the BBC puts a shit ton of money into Eurovision. Other countries that automatically go through are France, Italy, Spain, Germany and last year’s winner/this year’s host, in this case Azerbaijan.

Jedward – Waterline (Ireland)
Yeah, I’ve chosen Jedward for this list. And not in an ironic way. I think Ireland has done well putting forward Jedward for Eurovision two years in a row. In many ways Jedward are the perfect Eurovision act; they’re bouncy, they’re unflinchingly optimistic, and they dress kind of like robots. Also, one of them once told me that they’re fans of Slipknot, so if they win it’ll basically be like Lordi all over again.

Valentina Monetta – The Social Network Song (San Marino)
I’m slightly worried I might be peaking too soon by putting this in here so early, because it is absolutely amazing. I was thinking the other day about songs that mention technology, and the risk that talking about a BlackBerry in your lyrics might date your song in a way that singing about a generic telephone doesn’t. San Marino’s entry throws caution to the wind by being entirely about social networking, though it does also seem to be written by someone who only discovered the internet six days ago. By which I mean some considerable time after they wrote this song.

Anri Jokhadze – I’m A Joker (Georgia)
Someone always comes in with an operatic intro. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t relate to the song, it’s a way to announce that this thing that’s about to be sung will be BIG, and everyone needs to take notice because THERE’S A WINNER RIGHT HERE. I’m not sure if Anri Jokhadze is a winner, but I do like how passionately he sings that he’s a caretaker. He later says he’s a supervisor too, so presumably he has a team of other caretakers underneath him.

Rambo Amadeus – Euro Neuro (Montenegro)
If you don’t want to go for the operatic intro, but you still want to make sure people know just how grand and amazing what they’re about to hear is, you could also try the scary spoken word opening. If you do make that decision though, maybe don’t send an unshaven, paunchy, middle-aged man in a beanie to rap his way through your song.

Anmary – Beautiful Song (Latvia)
I’m not sure if this song is about itself or it’s about another “beautiful song that everybody hums and everybody loves”. Who knows, but it is stuck in my head right now. The verses of ‘Beautiful Song’ act as a biography of singer Anmary, presumably so we already know her history when she inevitably becomes a massive star. In fact, after beginning by informing us that she “was born in distant 1980”, she later imagines a future where she refuses to take calls from Mick Jagger. Bonus points here for having a video that makes daytime soap operas look like they have high production values.

Donny Montell – Love Is Blind (Lithuania)
A lot of countries each year enter incredibly tedious ballads, of which this is one. However, Donny Montell marks himself out from the others by performing in a blindfold. Love is blind, you see. Though clearly he isn’t, otherwise he wouldn’t need to wear a blindfold.

Trackshittaz – Woki Mit Deim Popo (Austria)
They called themselves Trackshittaz. Track. Shittaz.

Sinplus – Unbreakable (Switzerland)
Every year one contemporary rock band makes it into Eurovision, presumably seeing it as a ticket to the big time. In this case, I’m using the word ‘contemporary’ to mean ‘like The Bravery in 2005’. Oh, Switzerland.

Nina Zilli – L’Amore È Femmina (Out Of Love) (Italy)
Amy Winehouse died. Sad as that fact may be, it didn’t harm her record sales at all. Maybe entering someone who looks and sounds vaguely like her will be a sure-fire way to win Eurovision. I mean, you wouldn’t vote against someone who looks a bit like someone who’s DEAD, would you?

Buranovskiye Babushki – Party For Everybody (Russia)
In the 2005 Eurovision final, Moldova’s answer to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Zdob Si Zdub, performed a song called ‘Bunica Bate Doba’ (or ‘Grandma Bangs The Drum’). During the bridge, they got an old woman in traditional dress on stage to bang a drum, which really helped illustrate the song’s meaning. Or something. This year Russia has blown that out of the water by… fuck, I can’t even talk about this, just watch the video.

If there’s any justice in the world, all of these will make it through to the final. The world is an unjust and awful place though (even within the shiny confines of Eurovision), which means some of them probably won’t. Let’s reconvene next week and mourn the loss of some of Europe’s finest pop music ahead of the big showdown.

Andy Malt
Editor, CMU

Next week sees CMU Training launch a brand new one day course looking at the effective use of social media for bands and other people who work in music.

The course will look at the key social media platforms available and other useful digital tools, the importance of interaction and content, how to manage an artist’s social media presence on a day-to-day basis, advertising on social media platforms, how to measure social activity, and how social media fits in to a wider marketing and communication strategy.

Ahead of the first edition, which takes place next Wednesday, 23 May, in Shoreditch, East London, the team behind it have put together an introduction to Facebook Timeline, plus ten tips for bands to get the most out of their Facebook activity.

Places on the course cost just £95 plus VAT, but are limited. Book yours here now.

Yeah, we recorded a podcast. I can’t deny it. You’ll be able to listen to it when it goes online this weekend, and when you do you’ll hear Chris and I talking about the various attempts by founders of The Pirate Bay to stay out of jail, the DDoS attack which took the site down this week, MP3tunes declaring itself bankrupt and why that doesn’t halt EMI’s legal action against it, the launch of the new streaming music chart, and R Kelly’s lack of singing in a Texas strip club.

Head over here to subscribe in iTunes and check out the podcast archive.

It was The Great Escape last week. I may have mentioned it at some point. The CMU-programmed convention section went very well indeed, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who came down and got involved, listened, asked questions, drank, ate and generally made it a lot of fun.

If you weren’t able to make it down, we published a few reports from a number of panels:

Winning hearts and minds in the copyright debate
Where next for the music press?
Band brand partnerships
Record labels v self-releasing
How to get noticed as a DIY artist
Getting started in the music business
Top tips for new artists
Yearly Music Conference Awards winners

And if you want to see what the festival part of The Great Escape was like, then check out this programme filmed around Brighton during the three days, which aired on Channel 4 earlier this week.

Now, onto the news, and sadly we start with the death of disco pioneer Donna Summer, who succumbed to lung cancer on Thursday. Various collaborators, friends and contemporaries paid tribute following the announcement, and you can read our obituary here.

Over in the world of copyright infringement, it was announced that OfCom will publish its long awaited anti-piracy code next month, detailing just how the Digital Economy Act will be applied to naughty file-sharers. Meanwhile, a Finnish ruling on liability for file-sharing by a third party over another’s unsecured wi-fi network may have further repercussions across Europe.

Elsewhere, there was news in the land of file-sharers (or file-sharing enablers) who have already fallen foul of the law. Joel Tenenbaum, who took on the RIAA and lost after being caught file-sharing back in 2004, launched another appeal this week, two of The Pirate Bay’s founders were attempting to convince the courts to let them stay out of jail, while The Pirate Bay itself was temporarily taken down by a DDoS attack.

That’s not all the legal news this week though. After it was announced that Universal’s bid for EMI’s record labels is to be considered by the US senate, two ongoing EMI lawsuits made headlines. The maker of the ‘Def Jam Rockstar’ video game said that EMI’s lawsuit over uncleared samples in some of the karaoke game’s tracks might put it out of business, while MP3tunes filed for bankruptcy, blaming its long-running legal battle with the same major.

Elsewhere in music news, Carly Rae Jepsen topped the first ever official streaming music chart, Bill Ward pronounced himself definitely out of the upcoming Black Sabbath reunion, ‘X-Factor USA’ was defending its decision to make Britney Spears a judge on the show, Freddie Mercury appeared on stage for the first time since his death, and R Kelly ruined Mother’s Day.

Our interview this week was with Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson, one half of pop supergroup Producers, while our playlist was put together by new kids on the block Alt-J. Eddy Temple-Morris had a behind the scenes look at the closing party of this year’s Camden Crawl, which he hosted earlier this month, and in the Beef Of The Week column, Jack White took on Guinness World Records. Plus, of course, we had all the latest festival line-up announcements.

In the Approved column this week we had new music from Swedish pop star Amanda Mair, ex-Lovvers man Shaun Hencher’s new project Virals, New Zealand garage-pop trio Opossom, and Irish guitar-pop quartet Funeral Suits.

As well as that, we had a brand new single from R Kelly, new remixes from The Big Pink, and more from Dirty Projectors, Gold Panda, John Maus, Doldrums, Julia Holter, Summer Camp and Laurel Halo. Plus, a trailer for Pharrell Williams‘ new media venture i am OTHER and a SxSW video diary from Charli XCX.