Although one Guardian reporter lovingly referred to the Eurovision Song Contest this year as ‘The Gay Olympics’, it is perhaps not too outlandish to assume that this is sadly an affectionate nickname used by few in the UK. ‘The Busty Eastern-European Women Bellowing Terrible Pop Songs and Acting as the Acceptable Face of Mutual Political Bum-Kissing Olympics’ is perhaps the (unsaid, but felt) alternative title of choice of most. We consider the musical efforts of our continent as poor in quality, embarrassingly theatrical, and camper than Graham Norton pitching a tent (double-entendre intended). We bemoan the fact that countries tend to vote for their neighbours, as if bitter that Britain only borders with several oceans, none of which bother to take part in Eurovision (where are the singing mermen from Harry Potter when you need them?). All in all, British disdain for Eurovision is seemingly limitless.
With a heavy-handed dose of irony that, judging by the minute number of points we tend to receive, our kerazy Euro-pop-loving friends on the continent just do not get, modern Britain usually insists on entering a novelty act into what is elsewhere considered a serious and prestigious music competition. We sent Scooch to Helsinki in 2007. A tubby-membered poor man’s Steps, garlanded with kinky air-hostess outfits and a liberal amount of flight-themed innuendo (“Some salted nuts, sir?”). We sent Daz Sampson to Athens in 2006. DAZ SAMPSON. If you don’t remember him or his Eurovision performance in all its quasi-paedophilic hideousness, YouTube it. Pete Waterman was supposedly aiming for winning 80’s pop perfection with this year’s cheese-fest entry song ‘That Sounds Good to Me’. But I’m starting to suspect that even he wasn’t arsed: a) because he kept forgetting what the song was called on Eurovision warm-up show Your Country Needs You, and b) because he told a BBC interviewer the day before the contest that “there is always an outside chance that something bizarre might happen and we might win Eurovision. Highly unlikely, but there you go.” Wow, Pete. Don’t go mental and have some faith in your own song, will you? Calm down you optimistic fool!
I said before that the UK has a seemingly infinite disdain for Eurovision. But ‘seemingly’ is the operative word in that statement; our snobbery is only superficial, because at heart, we don’t want to lose. Any British interest in the contest is kept firmly under wraps, as can be seen in the fact that ‘That Sounds Good to Me’ currently squats in the UK charts at number 179, while the contests winning song ‘Satellite’ has been number 1 in Germany for ages, recently becoming the country’s fastest selling digital download ever and going triple gold. But behind closed doors, we watch the Eurovision results show whilst suppressing violent surges of nauseating anxiety, waiting and wanting so very badly to leap up and cheer at the sight of that beautiful, rare apparition: the words ‘12 points’ with a little Union Jack next to it. The very reason that Jade Ewen did so well last year – she came 5th; not 5th from bottom, actual 5th – is that someone, i.e. celebrated melty-face musician Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, came out of the Eurovision closet and took an outward interest in Britain’s bid. He bothered to write Jade a decent (I’m judging this using a European musical yard-stick here) song, forcibly restraining the public from “pulling a Scooch” and embarrassing themselves with another novelty entrant.
Josh Dubovie, 2010’s UK representative, is by no means the worst singer ever. But he did massacre the two big end notes of his already terrible, terrible song, and is unarguably, as Neil Fox straightforwardly told the press, the very definition of “an average singer”. It just wasn’t a good enough offering, and yet Britain still expects to come somewhere other than last. We want our neighbours to like us best, even though we already have a cool American best friend and we don’t even want to play with Europe anyway because its stupid singing game is silly. So how do we make it happen? If we’re not willing to go with Lloyd Webber and give up our innately British, largely ironic, point-and-laugh approach to Eurovision, maybe we should aim to somehow gain the one thing that guarantees winning lots of votes. No, not impressive pyrotechnics, not a mutant Perspex piano or a giant blossoming apricot stone. Borders. Lots and lots of lovely, mainland European, inland borders. Simple.