Thursday, 24 May 2012

It's All About The Key Change

The time has come, it can be held off no longer.  It is time to discuss Eurovision.   Oh yes.

For those of you not completely up to speed, the first semi-final was on 22nd May, the second semi-final is tonight and the final is still to come on Saturday 26th May.  There are plenty of marvellous preview-style blogs and commentaries (notably No Geek Is An Island and Hikaru Blue, or on Twitter you could follow @Walter_1oo) but I imagine that this late in the day, you will have digested these at length.  No, what?  You mean you haven’t been following @Eurovision and receiving daily tweets updating you on how the rehearsals have been going for the past few weeks?  What are you?  Inhuman freaks?

I am fully aware, however - all joking aside - that not everyone feels as joyously giddy as I do at this time of year.  There is just something about the weeks leading up to the contest that puts a spring in my step and makes me feel smiley.   It has always been this way, even when I was a kid – it was a night to keep free, a night when I had plans.  My other commitments (Brownies on Mondays and ballet on Thursdays) would pale into boring insignificance and make this annual springtime Saturday night of international glamour the absolute pinnacle of my little year.   Whilst it may have meant more to me than to others, I defy anybody alive in 1981 to convince me they did not spend the weeks following that year’s contest whipping off a tea towel that had been tucked into their knickers and pretending to be Cheryl Baker.  We all did it.   Every last one of us. 

Since then I have watched each contest in earnest, using either home made notebooks to record comments and score each entrant, or in later years, taking advantage of the score card provided helpfully by the BBC.  These days of course, I like to think I have no need to rely on the continent's plethora of shimmying sequinned bodies in order to feel a sense of occasion.  I like to think my grown-up life is a little more sparkly and cosmopolitan than when I was a youth.  Now that I’ve knocked Brownies on the head, for example, I have much more time for flicking out my hair with straighteners, and applying sparkly eye-liner.  No, the appeal of the ESC is no longer the glamour.  It is the comedy.

People who think I take Eurovision very seriously, have missed the point.  I take the celebration of it, and the need for a party during it, very seriously indeed.  But the hilarity and at times down-right unhinged nature of the contest are in no way lost on me.  A yearly event that in my own life time has included musical theatre’s own Michael Ball and Andrew Lloyd Webber alongside the horror film inspired, masked Finnish death-metal group, Lordi and in more recent times, the irrepressible Jedward, can only be, in my opinion, A BRILLIANT THING.  It is funny, irreverent and as a good a reason to get together as any other.  I know it is silly but that’s the appeal. 

Linda Martin - winner of my favourite ESC - 1992.

A few days ago I was laughed at (with some scorn and disdain I might add) by some people that are very distantly related to me.  They thought it was ridiculous that I was having a party on Saturday for the sole reason of celebrating Eurovision.  I later seethed inwardly, minding my manners and being far too respectful, as I listened to them outline their street party plans for the Jubilee.   Taking away any particular monarchy-related feelings for a moment, I have to ask WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?  Both events invoke a sense of national pride and present England on the world stage for all to see.  The beauty of Eurovision is that is provides an annual reason to have a party and is far more comedic.  Waiting sixty years to celebrate somebody having done their job for a long time seems more restricted and a little joyless.  Have all the Jubilee parties you want, but don’t imagine for a second you are less ridiculous (not my word!) than thousands of Eurovision revellers the week earlier.

Last year's party lounge

Aside from the comedy, the other beauty of the ESC amidst all of the random craziness on offer, is that there is sometimes a hidden gem of a song, glinting out from behind all the tack.  In 2010 Tom Dice's  Belgian entry was simple and beautiful.  (It now holds pride of place in several of my playlists, not just my Eurovision one) and no road trip is complete without belting out Chanee’s In A Moment Like This from the same year – Denmark were robbed, no doubt about it.  (A perfect example of a Eurovision key change, I tell you.  PERFECT!)  As for this year, the Hump, as he appears to have been rebranded, has been strategically chosen due to his Eastern European popularity, and at the time of writing, the bookies seem to be acknowledging that in their odds.  However, as our 2003 nil points/Iraqi invasion debacle shows us, it is all down to politics.   Will we win on Saturday?  No, probably not.  Is that the point?  NO!  It is an excuse to get friends and family together, drink too much, eat too much and have a laugh.  And if we are very lucky, the winning song will include a technically brillant costume change that children around the globe can recreate for weeks to come. 

It will out-glam Brownies into a cocked hat, and no mistake.

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