ENTERTAINMENT – THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST
THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST
Every year, there’s an international TV program which has one of the biggest audiences of the year – worldwide! The Eurovision Song Contest is a bit like Marmite or Somtam, you either love it or hate it.
The contest has been broadcast every year for over sixty years, since its inauguration in 1956, and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most watched non-sporting events, with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 and 600 million internationally. Eurovision has also been broadcast outside Europe to several countries that do not compete, such as the USA and China. An exception was made in 2015, when Australia was allowed to compete as a guest entrant as part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the event. It seems Aussies are massive fans of the event.
There have been a number of Eurovision artists and groups whose careers were directly launched into the spotlight following their win. Notable examples were ABBA, who won the contest for Sweden in 1974 with their song “Waterloo”, and went on to become one of the most successful bands of all time, and the French Canadian singer Céline Dion, who won the contest for Switzerland in 1988 with “Ne partez pas sans moi”, which subsequently helped launch her international career. Not to mention Brotherhood Of Man…(ok..later).
Ireland holds the record for the highest number of wins, having won the contest seven times—including four times in five years in ‘92, ‘93, ‘94 and ‘96. Sweden is second with six wins. France, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom are joint third with five wins.
The United Kingdom holds the record for the highest number of runner-up placings, coming in second on no less than 15 occasions as of 2015.
The last time the UK won it was nearly 20 years ago with Katrina and her Waves singing ‘Love Shine A Light’.
I myself have serious Eurovision credentials after being a member of Brotherhood Of Man who won in 1976 with the, to date, biggest ever selling winning song after topping the charts in 36 countries with ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ and being a finalist personally as a writer in the Song For Europe ‘83. I also musically directed 1982 winners Bucks Fizz for a short while.
Also, I was invited to join as guest performers one night in a spoof Eurovision theatre show called ‘Eurobeat’. It was one of the funniest shows ever and my appearance as a UK judge was a memorable one.
As far as the actual Eurovision, I love the spectacle of the event plus a chance to see how different countries approach the writing and presentation of their entries which is sometimes hilarious. It’s always fun to try to pick the winner. however, after the early 80s and the advent of ‘gimmicks’, arguably started by Bucks Fizz, the actual song was not the most important ingredient to bring on a win.
In the old days, it was a thumping ‘Boom A Bang’ style of song which titillated the senses of Europe, but in recent years it’s been lots of drums and dance rythums that have been the most successful.
Love it or hate it, the contest is a great way for a songwriter to earn some quick money with numerous plays on TV worldwide which will bring in large amounts of performance royalties plus a successful performing artist can gain so much from the exposure.
I learned from my Brotherhood of Man colleagues that the UK’s BBC TV producer, who was travelling to the Hague with them in ’76, stated that 2nd will do. Why? Because the winning country has to host the next years’ event costing far more than if the show is taken from another country’s broadcaster.
However, with tactical and political voting by many countries, it’s probably never going to happen for the U.K. again. No matter, it will be fun to watch as always.
Last year’s winner was Netta Barzilai from Israel and so, this year’s event will be held in Tel Aviv.