Eurovision blues:

Why vanilla is no longer an option

May 21, 2019 | Feature

As we know, we came last (again)! In the post-Eurovision analysis, what can we learn about our dismal showing in this pan-European musical camp fest?

Was it really a two-fingered salute from our European buddies, tired of our Brexit shenanigans? Opinion seems divided on this. Evidence suggests it goes far deeper, with the UK now viewed like a poor man’s version of the USA. Consequently, everyone hates us, hence the snubbing, drubbing and general sense of ‘are you still here?’.

Maybe it’s just that, as net exporters of formidable musical talent and output, credibility and innovation, we just don’t take this Eurovision stuff as seriously as our European cousins do.

Rather than select a serious artist with a great song and pedigree to match, we’d far prefer to let anyone and his dog have a go. I’m not decrying Michael Rice’s efforts. He seems like a nice lad and, to be fair, he had a really tough gig. He did his best on the night and, perhaps, as he told The Sun newspaper, “even Gary Barlow or Elton John would have finished last this year”. Who knows?

That still doesn’t heal the wound though – that’s assuming we actually care? 

Let’s take a good look at ourselves

Let’s face it, in the UK record collection and canon of outstanding musical contribution to our planet, does it really matter that we lost out to a sub-Coldplay number from the Netherlands?

I actually think it does, but not for the reasons that immediately come to mind.  

The song, frankly, wasn’t outstanding. The selection process? Well, we get through because we cough up more cash than most, and so go through automatically. Talent continues to be an issue as no one famous will touch it with a bargepole in case it damages their career, credibility and brand.

Perhaps, rather than blaming those miserly Europeans though, we need to take a good hard look at ourselves.

Personally, I think the real issue here is the continued Cowellisation of pop, which sets the bar for what constitutes a good entry so low. Sadly, for years now, our creativity has been worn down by The X Factor and endless talent wannabee shows. OK, I know he’s not directly involved in Eurovision, but you can see his particular musical stamp over our nation’s entries.

This has, inevitably, diluted any likelihood of a unique song making it through. Our quality control is broken, and vanilla has won out in the battle of the blands – for heaven’s sake, we came below Iceland!

The whole sorry affair got me thinking, though. Unless kept in check, all communications will inevitably get drawn to the middle ground. We’ve all seen it as communicators. Sometimes the middle – or vanilla – can be comforting, reassuring, and more easily gets sign-off. Playing devil’s advocate though, with all the upset in the political arena, perhaps sometimes a bit of middle works best.  

However, I still firmly believe, when it comes to creativity, vanilla will only take you so far.

Great communication calls for bravery

Great communication calls for bravery, a vision (not a formula), and needs individuals who are willing to try something new, change the consensus and, if necessary, be prepared to fail. If we continue to be led by focus groups and flawed evaluation, that fail to provide genuine insight or direction, then the middle ground will be the best we can expect. Eurovision, as we know, is not a fair reflection of UK creativity, which continues to be highly regarded globally, and contributes over £100 billion to the UK economy.

Back to Eurovision, though.

Perhaps it’s time to appoint a UK Eurovision Tsar. After all, we really could do with a Brian Epstein of our age driving creativity and culture, not a high-waisted peddler of ‘just good enough’ pop.

I know, let’s have a talent competition to find one!



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