2021: Nil Points. Justified or not, the writing’s clearly on the wall for any efforts the UK might make in entering this quasi-‘musical’ version of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. The pan-European competitors had already made it obvious that we were persona non-grata in the immediate years following Tony Blair’s support for the second Gulf War in 2003. Had the Beatles re-formed and written their best ever song they would still have been trounced by some two-chord Scandinavian death-metal outfit in horror masks, or a pair of lycra-clad grandmothers on a trapeze. Still, this annual slap in the face is another of the many ‘benefits’ of Brexit. And let’s face it – if you rejected membership of the EU Brussels club with all the ‘hate Johnny Foreigner’ disdain you could muster, then the bouncers at Club Eurovision are not going to let you in. So, we may have got ‘nil points’ but at least we’ve ‘got our country back’.
What used to be a ‘song’ contest is now just a cabinet of ear-splitting spangled circus acts supported by what appears to be a flag-waving deluge of cretinous patriots. The compositions, in the main, are vacuous formulaic set-pieces. Dramatic, slow tempo opening, then an explosive multitude of sub-Beyonce beats accompanied by fireworks. These songs are so facile that the only way they can be framed is with the inclusion of a quintet of sequined leotard-wearing dancers, each prancing troupe possessing more actual artistic talent than the featured ‘star’. As for the show’s presenters, where, oh where, do they come from? Bizarre, stilted tele-prompted announcements by a trio of shimmering non-entities in dresses which probably cost the price of an Amsterdam houseboat stare vapidly into the camera stunned by the fact that at last, they are actually talking to several million Europeans rather than giving the weather forecast in Minsk or hosting a shopping channel in Romania.
Perversely, the UK is as much to blame for its own Eurovision disasters as any low-scorers. Britain is the country which gave the world Bowie, The Beatles, Stones, Peter Gabriel, The Police, Dire Straits, acts which have filled Europe’s biggest mega-stadiums down the years. The general lingua-franca of the contest is still English. But do we employ the finest, chart-tested composers and performers to represent us? No. We book someone who’s ‘written a song’ and had a bit of often anonymous success, someone mainly unknown who will rarely be heard of again after the usual Brit-kicking debacle.
Since the death of Terry Wogan as our commentator, surely the last great reason to tune in, we now have to rely on the latest tongue-in-cheek Irish wit of Graham Norton. There are flashes of acerbic brilliance, but they are no palliative to the overall bombastic doom of an over-glamorous gathering of mainly one-night stand upstarts who frequently imagine they’re in Los Angeles, not some stately European capital. Yet we’ll keep watching. Not because Eurovision might improve, but for the opposite reason. Sometimes things are so bad we start to imagine they’re good.