|Cezar singing It's My Life (Eurovision)|
So Britain – a country that leads European thinking in the power of the free markets to drive quality – remains curiously statist in our Eurovision choices, with Molly just another hapless foot-soldier sent to the front. Those of you who have seen Enemy at the Gates will recall the scene where the Soviet soldiers advancing on the Germans are told to fight on with the weapons of their fallen comrades, and I can almost hear Molly's stage handler on the big night giving her that same sort of encouragement. It's a naff song that just blathers on about 'children of the universe' and 'power to the people'. Compare this with Cezar, last years' act from Romania: his song It's My Life left no-one in doubt that a bloke doing a gothic Transylvanian falsetto act really was having the time of his life. It was bonkers, brilliant and so obviously not a bureaucrat's pet choice.
Of course we know the markets are very good at picking winners, and proof of this is Sweden's Melodifestivalen, a national talent contest with the public and judges combining their votes through several televised heats, and an epic final in one of the country's major cities. I was living in Stockholm when the 2006 contest was on, and the primetime show (with a sell out live audience of 16,000) was charmingly quirky – and had some really good music. Sweden's mass public involvement in selecting its Eurovison entries has produced nine top-five finishes in the past 15 years – and two overall winners. Last year's entry Robin Stjernberg was really good. But in that time Britain has had two acts make the top-ten, and with three coming rock bottom. The BBC has resurrected Bonnie Tyler, dispatched novelty acts like Daz Sampson and seen Jemini collect a comprehensive nul points wooden spoon.
A winning Eurovision song needs support from people across the European Broadcasting Union – indeed you can usually hear the better songs playing in bars and clubs across the Continent over the summer. Conversely our artists have the press mentioning some play time on Radio Two. Smitten-Downes acknowledges that 'good music breaks through' Europe's cultural barriers, but sadly her song isn't at that level, and she'll be lucky to make it into the top ten acts in tonight's contest. Sweden, on the other hand, are hot favourites to win – yet again. It is time to put trust in the people, rather than a faceless suit in Broadcasting House.
POSTSCRIPT – Sweden finished 3rd and the UK came 17th in the 2014 contest.
First published by Bright Blue on May 10th, 2014