Born as a tool to bring people together, the Eurovision Song Contest divides my friends into two groups: those that love it and those that don’t. Nobody seems to sit on the fence.
The annual contest has been held since 1956. Created from an idea by Marcel Bezencon, it was designed to unite war-torn Europe.
Europe, and indeed the wider European Broadcasting Union may be united, but our household isn’t.
It is estimated that between 100-600million people watch the contest, with vast numbers from outside Europe enjoying the spectacle, including countries in South America, Australasia and Africa.
Such is the love affair for this Eurovision musical theatre, to celebrate over 60 years of song.
Australia became the 53rd country to have participated at least once. Switzerland, the inaugural hosts won the initial competition. The Republic of Ireland tops the overall leader board having been winners seven times.
In total 64 songs have won Eurovision; yes, some years it’s been so good that songs have shared the crown!
You may be surprised to read some of the names that have tasted Eurovision success and have successfully launched their illustrious careers:
Abba (Sweden, winners, 1974) who went onto become some of the most successful singer/songwriters ever, became household names singing about (the Battle of) ‘Waterloo’. Earworms get ready, sorry.
Celine Dion (Switzerland, winner, 1988) sang ‘Don’t Leave Without Me’ and is now a huge international performer who regularly sells out shows in Las Vegas.
Julio Iglesias (Spain, 4th, 1970) didn’t win in the year that previously unknown Dana won with ‘All Kinds of Everything’ but that didn’t stop him achieving global success (which was later repeated by his son).
Whether you fly the flag for Eurovision or not I expect you’ll be able to sing along to a few other noteworthy tunes including:
‘Making Your Mind Up’ by Bucks Fizz (UK, 1981), who had us all dancing in the living room and ripping skirts off.
Bizarrely at one point two official Bucks Fizz groups existed, eking out a living off the Eurovision dream many years later following the demise of the original foursome.
‘Save All Your Kisses For Me’ performed by the Brotherhood of Man (UK, 1976), which years later I can still ‘sing’ virtually word perfect if BBC Radio 2 play it. Did I just confess to being a former fan? I was only a child. Easily influenced!
‘What’s Another Year’ sung by Johnny Logan (Ireland, 1980) was loved by fellow countryman and BBC show host Terry Wogan. So adored was the gentle ballad singer that he went onto win again in 1987 with ‘Hold Me Now’.
Our household will be watching, again. The couch divided between flag flying and deeply sceptical.
I find it bizarre that the songwriters, who actually win the trophy, do not need to come from the country they represent. And neither do the performers. Yes, the celebrated Ms Dion is Canadian and although the reach of the European Broadcasting Area is wide, it doesn’t include countries in North America!
The debate questioning which language the songs should be sung in was finally ended in 1999 with performers electing ‘any’.
Strangely ‘any’ does mean ‘any’ and over the years this has included several artificial languages, for example the Dutch entry from 2006 ‘Amambanda’; a constructed language used for the song ‘Sanomi’ runner-up for Belgium in 2003 and even Swahali (‘Haba, Haba’ Norway, 2011).
I’m surprised that Klingon hasn’t featured yet, especially as it enjoys an international reach. All that matters is that the submitted song must be new, being performed no earlier than the September before the competition is held in the May.
Despite years of trying to perfect a Eurovision song recipe, it has yet to be defined, with powerful ballards (Johnny Logan amongst others), fiddle-wielding singers with folk songs (‘Fairytale’ by Alexander Rybak, Norway 2009); alien-dressed hard rockers (‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ by Lordi, Finland 2006) and even a drag act (‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ by Conchita Wurst, Austria 2014) being successful.
I do really wonder what the international audience thinks as they settle down to enjoy the three-hour long European live show. Yes, all songs must be sung live and that includes the backing vocals, but there must be no more than six people on stage.
I’ve yet to decide whether microphone or ear-piece failures are a positive or negative outcome but they are frequently blamed for poor performances!
Yes the ordinary folk of Europe are responsible for 50% of the overall vote. The remainder being from country-based expert juries. Oh Lordi!
And remember block voting; and giving your friends high scores isn’t technically permitted but we all know that should Cyprus get through to the final Greece will be very generous. Other countries are culprits too…
As for the UK entry, well I don’t think our European neighbours actually like us. We haven’t won since Katrina and the Waves sang ‘Love Shine a Light’ and this is despite our dominance in musicians, songwriters and musical performers in music charts across the globe.