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Is Eurovision ageist?

10 Nov
Unknown source

Unknown source

Eurovision Song Contest will return to Globen in Stockholm in May in 2016. The last time the contest was held in Stockholm’s biggest golf ball of a venue was in 2000. And in 2000 two gentlemen from Denmark named Jørgen and Niels “Noller” Olsen came on stage, performed their sing-a-long entry with a big amount of charisma and star quality and out of the blue (after being outside of top 15 with most of the bookmakers prior to the contest) actually managed to win the whole thing. Olsen Brothers’ victory is one of the last times when a completely surprise act won. And also, the last time that an act older than 40 won. Which leads me to the question – has Eurovision become ageist lately?

To be honest – my answer is yes. Moreover, apart from being ageist, it has also started to pigeonhole acts based on their age and everyone who stands out from the “formula” is automatically written off. One particular example – Baku 2012. We had Buranovskiye Babushki representing Russia and Engelbert Humperdinck representing the UK. When the former were a YouTube sensation for doing covers of famous songs, the latter had a legitimate pop career in the 60s and early 70s and was famous for his powerful vocals. When the latter had a crooner ballad, not entirely different from his previous back catalogue, the former had a novelty song in Udmurt/Russian with a chorus in English. The latter actually wanted to be taken seriously and wanted to have a bit of a comeback with his song, while the former were presented as a novelty act and thus also went viral globally prior to the contest itself. The latter finished second last, the former finished second in the grand final, also narrowly losing out to eventual winner Loreen in the televoting. Basically – do performers who are 40+ have to be presented and treated as a novelty act in order to stand a chance result-wise and is this approach right?

Now, I do understand that TV has changed since 2000. In the age of talent shows like X Factor or Got Talent and streaming services like Netflix, the way we watch television has shifted and the pressure is put on broadcasters to keep their existing viewers and to favour younger audience. But is potraying older and experienced performers as desperate wannabes really the way to go? I also think that the mood in the fandom has changed in this perspective as well. The older performers (in most cases Nordic schlagerdivas) are often ridiculed by the fandom online and the way fan hypes go lately, it’s clear that even the fandom prefers younger, fresh acts over aging artists. But since when is being older and experienced such a crime to write off a whole generation of performers just because “they’re not cool for the kids”? How come there is no gap in the music market to give older and experienced performers an actual chance to score a decent hit? Will we ever get a shock winner of older perfomers like the Olsens again or will streamlining the contest to the younger population continue and only get worse? Lots of questions to be answered here. Now I actually liked Engelbert’s song in 2012, I found it a decent timeless ballad and it’s a shame he got a bad draw and therefore failed to attract the voting audience and if it were up to me, I think he should have done better than he did. I also liked Bonnie Tyler’s song a year later and I think she deserved a bit more than she got. And I hope the ageism in Eurovision and among Eurovision fandom fades soon. I don’t think writing off performers based on their age is the right way to go. I think every performer deserves to be taken seriously. Even us, millennials will get older eventually. And I don’t think we’ll enjoy it when younger generations will say “awww such cute grannies!” at us. So we shouldn’t patronise older performers in Eurovision either.

10 schlagertastic reasons for South Africa (the Afrikaans community really) to do Eurovision

4 Nov

south-africa-flag

1. They love Eurovision.

2. They really love Eurovision.

3. Did I mention that they really love Eurovision?

4. They have a fabulous taste.

5. They sometimes leave entries in English and they’re still great at it.

6. They love G:son.

7. They really love G:son.

8. They also love Melodifestivalen.

9. But they love Eurovision a whole lot.

10. And when they don’t cover Eurovision/NF entries, they do schlagertastic bops like this one.

So, welcome South Africa! Hope to see you on Eurovision-stage as soon as possible. Make yourselves like home.

Xoxo,

Georgina de Mylius

Is it time for something in Swedish, SVT?

16 Jul
Copyright - Nyheter24.se

Copyright – Nyheter24.se/TT

Eurovision 1998 in Birmingham. The last one with the orchestra. The first one with full televoting. And the last one with a rule that all songs must be performed in countries’ national languages. Back then, Sweden was represented by Jill Johnson and “Kärleken är” (Love Is) and they finished on 10th place.

Fast forward to 2015. 25 countries became 40. The orchestra has been abolished since 1999. Instead of one show, we have three now. And – there is a free language rule, which gives Anglophone entries an automatic advantage, as English is more commercial than other languages. In 1998 Sweden had 3 victories, in 2015 they have 6, double as much. But I still can’t help but wonder – is it time for SVT and Sweden to send an entry in Swedish to a contest on home soil again?

Now, I can already see SVT reading this and laughing, thinking they would have to send a cheesy dansband/schlager song in Swedish and embarrass themselves in front of 100 million viewers. But it doesn’t necessary have to be this way. In recent years plenty of songs in Swedish have emerged, which sound modern and international enough. Sorry fellow schlagerlovers, it’s not schlager songs, unfortunately. But their time should come, soon hopefully. Anyway, listen here:

Catchy, isn’t it? And it’s in Swedish. For me, Swedish is one of the most beautiful and intriguing languages out there and considering there’s a whole army of international Melodifestivalen fans aiming to learn Swedish, I’m not the only one to think so either. Add to the fact that crash courses in Swedish by a YouTube star PewDiePie get loads of views and comments and that films such as Millennium trilogy or Hundraåringen (A 100 year old man, who climbed through the window and disappeared) got a lot of international buzz and fans, it appears that Swedish as a language has an audience outside of Eurovision fan circles as well.

And speaking of Eurovision – this year it wasn’t Sweden with their Anglophone pop song, that won the televoting. No, it was a very stereotypical popera song in Italian, by Il Volo. Which caused quite an outrage among the Eurovision fan community, many of them thinking that instead of having pizza and pasta in Turin, they’re off to a more expensive Stockholm for salmon and meatballs undeservedly. Which leads me to – if a 12 year old popera song in Italian (as it was revealed that “Grande amore” had been written in 2003 and had been laying in the composer’s drawer until Il Volo’s manager lapped it up for Sanremo this year) can win televoting these days, then so can a song in Swedish, may that be of a more traditional (schlager/dansband/folk/ethno) or more modern, contemporary kind (pop, dance, soul). It’s good enough, really. From 2011 to 2014, there have been only eight songs in Swedish in MF finals, which is a big pity. One gets a feeling that SVT are ashamed of their own language. This year, the situation has slightly improved, from 20% to 25% of songs in Swedish in the final. But there should be even more. From 2002 to 2009 there have been 29 entries in Swedish in the final, which is more than 3 entries/final. More than a third of a line-up. I think it’s a shame that one has to hide one’s country’s origins to score well in Eurovision, it doesn’t have to be that way. And I think Swedish as a language, combined with a good song and professional artist, is good enough to attract enough televoters and juries to do well even in modern-era Eurovision.

So dear SVT. I challenge you to go out of your comfort zone in May, when the contest is on your home soil and perhaps, for once, send something in your own language. You really have nothing to lose. Ask Molly Sandén.

The hype this year actually scares me.

25 Apr
esc_slovenia

Picture from: EBU/eurovision.tv

Imagine you come from a country in Eurovision, which is underrated all the time. A country so small, that is often ignored by its own neighbours, let alone the rest of Europe. A country only a handful of fans genuinely love. That’s my country, Slovenia. The first time we appeared in Eurovision, was in 1966, when Berta Ambrož, then representing Yugoslavia, finished 7th with “Brez besed” (a song, which many think is the original song to Spain’s legendary “Eres tu” from 1973) and a year later Lado Leskovar finished a position lower. In 1975 Yugoslavia was represented by the group Pepel in kri and a song “Dan ljubezni” (Day of Love), which is now a true evergreen in Slovenia.

Our first entry as an independent country however happened in 1993, when 1x Band and “Tih deževen dan” finished on a disappointing 22nd place and we were forced to relegation the following year. So far we’ve had only three top 10 results – 7th place in 1995 and 2001 and 10th place in 1997. And don’t get me wrong, we LOVE ESC. Both ESC and EMA (our national final) are among the most watched TV programmes of the year and we’re also among the countries where many ESC songs actually become decent radio hits.

However, this year with the duo Maraaya and the song “Here For You”, the hype for our entry has reached dimensions never seen before. We’re the highest with the odds since Nuša Derenda’s “Energy” in 2001 (which was in top 3 for the actual win) and many ESC fans and experts are predicting our best result to date. And call me negative and naysayer, but this hype actually scares me. I mean, the song’s good and it’s a massive radio hit in the country, which is already a massive plus, as it shows we’re sending something musically relevant to Vienna. Maraaya (it’s a duo made of both Vovk couple’s names/pseudonyms – Raay and Marjetka) are experienced and well known singer-songwriters, having written for and coached several young talents in the country, which shows their routine. But – the odds position and the fan hype/expectations are putting lots of pressure on both of them. Usually it’s the other way round –  the others are favourites and we lurk in the back, aiming to surprise.

With quite bad statistics of Slovenia’s results in the past I really do hope both Marjetka and Raay are working hard on the performance and are trying to ignore all the hype going on. I mean, the Feminnem flop that our neighbours Croatia experienced in 2010, has shown that odds/fan hype don’t mean much in the actual contest. Last year, both acts in top 2 – Austria and The Netherlands, were complete outsiders (Austria somewhere on 9th-10th place and Netherlands somewhere around 25th place with the bookies) and yet managed to win over the big favourites from Sweden and Armenia, so I guess similar surprises can happen this year too.

I hope Maraaya keep their focus and work with right people for the performance in Vienna, I hope their performance blows people away and I hope they manage to fulfill the expectations put on their shoulders. As I do feel their result can be a make or break point for the whole Ex Yu region. We (the Ex Yu) have been in a decline, result-wise in recent years and considering the decline in results and economical problems some of the broadcasters in the region are struggling with, some countries (Croatia and Bosnia the past 2 years, Serbia last year) have already pulled out of the contest. I do think with a possible good result from us (being among the favourites with the bookies/fans), that the region can get the confidence boost, with the missing neighbours coming back next year. But if we don’t do as well as expected, then I’m worried for the whole region’s future in this contest. Perhaps it’s a bit exaggerating to say so now, but I do think some of it may be totally true. I really hope we deliver and score a post-ESC hit with “Here For You” and do well, but right now – I wouldn’t bet my house for it to happen just yet. It’s sad, but that’s how it is, when one’s country flops year after year. Here’s hope for this negative trend to finally turn in our direction.

Dear HRT…

18 Dec
source: hkv.hr

source: hkv.hr

I come from a neighbouring country and I’ve been watching and following your channels since I went to kindergarten. My first memories were granddad nagging us with your 12 o’clock news every Sunday, but it soon became a tradition, which I learned to appreciate. Your programmes were often inspiration to what was to come in my country (Slovenia), but there is one thing you used to be so brilliant at, one thing our artists used to copy yours, one thing which made stars and songs classics. Well, it’s two things, but same context – Dora and Eurovision.

After Yugoslavia broke apart, you and we made a debut in Eurovision the same year. One cannot really say it went very well for both of us. We came 22nd and were relegated a year later and you came 15th and did just well enough to make it into 1994. And that’s when your years of brilliance kicked off. Dora was the name of your national selection and in short time it became one of the most anticipated finals among Eurovision-fans and – what is more important – among the media and the artists/songwriters in your country. Dora used to make artists enter the very elite of the whole of Ex Yu’s music business and many songs are still played even on Slovenian radio stations, like 15-20 years later. You were our major role model in terms of Eurovision, in Slovenia there used to be this mantra among the media and the public: “It’s not about doing well or winning Eurovision, but about doing better than Croatia.” – which was (in most cases, bar 1997 and 2001) an impossible dream and a wishful thinking. Not that our entries were bad, no. Some of them were very good. But yours were just way superior to ours. You had a winning desire and I guess it was supposed to happen somewhere around 1998/1999 already.

In 1999 Doris Dragović, who was one of the favourites to win, finished on 4th place and some points had to be taken off from your score, due to the pre-recorded backing allegations. One could say that around that time, your winning desire faded a tad (probably you felt you’d been unfairly treated by the EBU, I can just speculate at this point), but you still had a strong national final and you were still scoring reasonably well in the following years. However, somewhere in 2003/2004 the results of Dora were starting to get… odd. Suddenly, the public and/or juries were rejecting entries with a potential to bring you back on top of the score in Eurovision. 2005 was the last time your entry (almost) entered top 10. A year later Severina’s entry made a lot of controversy all over the region and that controversy made her one of the outsiders for the eventual victory – again, you were snubbed of a top 10 position and after that you – to be frank – lost the plot. Dora suddenly became weaker, the songs weren’t those classic anthems and the artists didn’t become such big stars anymore. And of course, the results. The victory of Dado Topić is, for me, still a big mystery, which was followed by a failure to qualify, when European televoters had their say. In the years that followed, you barely made the final and when in the final you didn’t really set the scoreboard on fire. But the year, which – seemingly – really broke you was 2010. You sent Feminnem, the fan favourites from the 2005 contest, with a modern pop ballad with some ethnic touch and suddenly you were among the favourites – or dark horses – for the victory again. This was supposed to be the year you would finally come back, stronger and better than in many years. However, Feminnem’s performance was again not good enough for European juries and televoters and you once again, failed to qualify for the final. After 2010, it seemed as if you gave up. The 2011 selection was a mess, a complete and utter mess, with some dodgy decitions and a song, which just didn’t match your entries from 10 years earlier at all. A year after, you indeed sent one of your biggest stars, but again the song was a letdown and you had some really bad luck with the running order in the semi-final (being on before the major favourite of the year didn’t really do you any favours). In 2013 you suffered from the same bad luck again and then you decided to throw in the towell and to call it quits. Although you broadcasted the 2014 Eurovision final, you made it clear you had no intentions coming back in 2015. You name finances and bad results as your reasons.

Now, I’m again only speculating and guessing, but this could be EBU’s fault too, in a way. It seems they haven’t really made a big effort, in order to bring you back in this time. And could be you’re really running out of finances for now. But dear HRT – please come back as soon as possible. Your country’s so full of musical talent, so full of wonderful songs, great artists in many different genres and has a very rich musical market. You, with all the potential that you posess, refusing to showcase that potential to the European audience, is a great shame. You’re so lucky really. You have so many amazing artists and songwriters to choose from and you can only make a little effort, for you to come back in a proper way. You know, several countries know how you feel. The Netherlands for example, was suffering a real Eurovision-crisis in 2005-2012, with Dutch ESC-fans almost losing hope in their country forever. Out of the blue, however, Anouk emerged and offered to represent the country in the contest in 2013 And ping! The success was there and Dutch showing even improved in 2014 with an amazing second place a a big mainstream hit by The Common Linnets. Same story was happening with Denmark back in the 90s, the period, which was your strongest to date. Denmark was relegated from Eurovision 3 years in the 90s and the level of their national selection, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, was suffering. After Trine Jepsen and Michael Teschl’s top 10 result, Denmark went on to win the whole contest the year later. Unfortunately, another crisis emerged just some years afterwards, but both Netherlands and Denmark kept on fighting. Yes, maybe there had been some dodgy deals going on among certain countries, which pushed both NL and DK on the sideway, but all those dodgy deals were forgotten once DK and NL started sending entries with clear international appeal, entries which gained lots of love from both Eurovision-fans and the general, mainstream audience. And YOU too have the potential to rise like a phoenix (pun intended), you only need a singer and a song strong enough to convince Europe to vote for you.

It was said you were to become the new Czech Republic. Czech Republic, ironically, announced their comeback in autumn, citing the promotion of their culture as one of the reasons for their return. Which, I think should be your goal too. To promote your country, your culture, your musical diversity. And you CAN do this. You’re way too good to throw your talent to produce good entries away, like you’re doing right now. Yes, you came back to Junior Eurovision, but that I’d rather forget, because – you didn’t really make an effort to do well. But that’s not important now. What is important, is that you get your winning desire for “adult” Eurovision back and that you start making a proper effort again, may that be an effort from one of your artists (like with Anouk) or you announcing Dora’s comeback and accepting only the very best songs, it’s up to you. But I miss you and I hope to see you back soon, if not in 2015, than in 2016.

Love you all,

Georgina de Mylius

Declaration of independence

26 Sep

Hello dear readers,

Uhm, for a while there has been some bickering and disagreements going on in the Eurovision fanworld, in particular among some Eurovision fan-sites, who have been accused for their lack of independence and integrity. For not causing further row (because it is the discussion which has been quite fervent) I would like to refer myself from naming any of them.

However, I would like to declare a complete independence of this blog. This blog is a 100% independent source for my crazy thoughts on Eurovision and therefore does NOT collaborate with any artist, website, broadcaster, agency, company or any country’s authorities. This blog also does NOT accept any sorts of bribery for positive coverage and will continue to do so in the future.

Looking forward to your feedback and I hope you’ll continue reading my blog further on.

Regards,

Georgina de Mylius

Sietse Bakker (EBU) responds to the allegations re: the Voting-gate 2013

8 Sep

The allegations of fixed and rigged voting have been a part of Eurovision as long as I remember and have always been written and discussed about. However, it feels that this year the allegations have reached a whole new dimension. After the final in Malmö my colleagues from the fan-site 12points.tv published a series of news-stories based on an article from a Lithuanian newspaper 15min.lt, which stated how two Lithuanian students were paid to vote en masse for Azerbaijan, something which is apparently a common practice for years. Moreover, Swedish newspaper Skånska Dagbladet published a story on how members of delegations from Azerbaijan, Macedonia and “unnamed Southern European country” tried to bribe the jury members and deliberately cheat in the voting. The translation of the article can be read in English by clicking HERE.  Now Sietse Bakker, one of the key people whithin the EBU posted a series of comments on the issue.

This is his comment, which was cut off from the Skånska Dagbladet’s article and which will be published in the next issue of the paper:

“Rumors alike these have been going around basically since 1956, and never has any hard evidence been given by any Head of Delegation that would proof this is happening. We have strong measures in place to assure a fair vote:

– We have an independent notary present in every country while the jury comes together to vote, to assure that procedures are correctly being followed. They submit a signed statement to us along with the result
– Every juror signs a declaration that states the will vote independently, before they even start their judging
– We send, randomly, independent PricewaterhouseCoopers observers to broadcasters every year, as an extra check. They show up shortly before the broadcast to follow the work of the jury. They have never observed any wrongdoing

Moreover, the following is important to take into consideration:

– We have never been approached by any jury member (5 people in nearly 40 countries, since 2009, that makes a total of some 1000 people across Europe) that claims to have been put under pressure to vote a certain way
– Tired of unfunded speculations, we have asked our PricewaterhouseCoopers observer to do interviews with over 10 Heads of Delegation in Malmö this year, and offered all other Heads of Delegation to actively approach him or the EBU in case they want to report any wrongdoing, either personally or anonymously. If this had raised solid evidence that this is happening, we would have taken action

Every year, we do as much as we can to assure a fair jury result, so far we believe with success. There are always people who like to question the outcome of a competition, and if they have evidence of that, we would be the first ones to act.”

 

On the allegations of power-voting Sietse Bakker adds:

“Attempts to power-vote cannot be prevented. It’s not illegal in any law to go out on the streets of Vilnius, or any other city in Europe, and offer people €20 to cast some votes in the Eurovision Song Contest. But our systems are so intelligent that they can detect them and exclude such votes, in accordance with the Rules. Thát’s what matters most!”

 

And on allegations re: the slow actions and response of the EBU, which resulted in stories by sites such as Eurovisionista, where EBU’s integrity was questioned, mr. Bakker responds:

“The Lithuanian video case is still being investigated. Why does it take so long? Simple: Summer in Europe. Everyone is out of office, so things move slowly. Our priority is to get reliable information, and to take decisions based on facts, not on rumors. That’s in the best interest of the contest we all love. The recent 12points article, which is a re-write of the story in today’s Skånska Dagbladet, is – again! – only rumors and gossip, but no evidence. We’ve said it all along: provide us with evidence and we will act.”

 

I guess we will have to wait and see how story develops further and also see if there’s any truth in the stories published so far. I think the rule by current host of ESC, Denmark’s DR, where in both DMGP and ESC only one vote for each song is allowed would be a possible solution to minimalise the possible power vote and also improve the general reputation of the contest in the mainstream media in Europe, but that’s just my personal opinion.