Thursday, May 15, 2014

Got PED yet??

Well folks, so much for all the good intentions.  I'd hoped to write up and publish my Semi-Final and Grand Final reviews before this week was out, but it was not to be.  Between my pre-holiday preparations and other commitments at home this week I haven't had a spare minute, so I've had to put this on hold until nearer the end of this month after I'm home from my holiday.

PED - Post-Eurovision Depression - is a relatively new condition which has arisen over recent years in our fan bubble.  We spend months watching national finals, speculating, predicting, soaking up every snippet of information, listening to every podcast, reading every blog post and message board, watching every rehearsal clip and then the semi-finals and final.  We live with those songs for months, and the contest always gives them a new dimension.  Our favourites become more special, and even the 'meh' songs go up in our estimations.

And then....nothing.  That, to the uninitiated, is PED.  We Eurovision fans all suffer from it, and it manifests itself in different ways.  Personally speaking, my PED probably won't really sink in till about early June this year, as I'm going on holiday and then will rewatch the shows and try to keep the memory of the contest alive until those aforementioned blog posts are written.  After that, my theme song will probably "u-u-u-n-do my PED".

I will always look back on 2014 as being a particularly memorable Eurovision year thanks to Twitter.  I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of my lovely online friends from Europe and beyond, old and new, who brought the Eurovision experience alive for this stay-at-home fan.  It really was the next best thing to being there. Whether it was cakes to bake, twerpy hamsters or a non-stop Sebalter obsession, I've loved every minute of it. You are all really extra special!

Although social media has many negative aspects, when it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest there is incredible camaraderie and mutual respect.  It remains a pleasure to be part of the Eurovision Twitter community: and to borrow last year's tagline - "we are one".

During the working day, I keep my online life - and Eurovision obsession - under wraps.  Not because I'm embarrassed or ashamed, but for the more realistic reason that people are just not interested. However, today I ended up in a conversation with two of my (much younger) colleagues in the section who happened to mention 'the guy in the dress' who won Eurovision.  I was prepared for cynicism and scoffing, but I was surprised by their subsequent, positive comments about Conchita, and how fabulous she looked!  I then jumped in and told them all about being a Eurovision addict, and I gave them a little backstory about Conchita.  They did not laugh, or ridicule, and I felt inspired.  They are not Eurovision fans, but their acceptance impressed me.

Which brings me on to the changing attitudes towards Eurovision.  Many of the 'older' generation of fortysomethings/fiftysomethings and beyond, who grew up with the boom bang a bangs and the diggi-loo-diggi-leys, have a predetermined prejudiced view of the Eurovision Song Contest, which if you're British, is amplified by the British media's often negative and cynical view of the contest.  Sadly this has not changed: over the past week I have still read several media articles online which could have been written 20 years ago. For them, ESC is an embarrassing camp-fest of dire songs won by a freak-show drag act; but that's more of a reflection on the poor quality of their journalism rather than on the quality of the contest which continues to go from strength to strength.

Although I am part of that 'older' generation, it has been a joy for me to move on from the schlager, the key changes and the silly outfits into the modern era of technical excellence and musical modernity. For me, both 'phases' of Eurovision can happily live side by side.  Admittedly there are aspects of the old contests which I miss, such as the native languages, the orchestra and the distinctive stage sets.  I have the fondest memories of contests from all the decades from the 70s onwards until the present day, however I'm delighted by the contest's constant evolution and relevance.  Next year will bring the 60th contest - there's absolutely no reason why it can't go on, and on, and on, for many years to come.

The younger generation of Eurovision fans have brought a refreshing lack of prejudice with them and enjoy the contest for what it is: whether it's an inclusive beacon of tolerance at a time of increasing xenophobia and intolerance across our beloved continent; or just a showcase for new European music and a chance to discover new artists who would otherwise have been overlooked; or simply for the fact that the Eurovision Song Contest remains the continent's biggest and best entertainment show.


I can't speak for other countries, but here in the UK, music television shows have all but disappeared.  Top of the Pops is long gone, there is only 'Later With Jools Holland' and the numerous music channels pumping out the same 10 songs every hour. Later in the year, songs by artists performing on "X Factor" inevitably soar up the charts.  Apart from this, there is nothing.  These days, so 'they' say, you have to get your music elsewhere - on the radio or YouTube or Spotify, for example.

Yet the success of Eurovision songs in the iTunes singles chart this year, right after the contest, suggests that there is a huge, untapped market for commercial pop music on television; a market which has not been served for a long long time.  The success of Eurovision songs in the UK iTunes chart could arguably be the revenge of the disenfranchised: the UK singles chart does not speak for 'us' anymore, but put good songs on television and they will be rewarded with a chart position.

On Sunday 11th May, I tweeted ESC chart positions:

UK iTunes singles chart: Common Linnets no.6, Molly no.14, Conchita no.20, Basim no.27, Sanna no.29, Pollapönk no.41, Firelight no.45.

At one point The Common Linnets' "Calm After The Storm" - which between the semi-final and grand final became the biggest chart hit of this year's contest Europe-wide - had climbed to no. 4 in the UK iTunes singles chart.  Several of this year's songs were also sitting in the chart between no.50 and no.100.  This maybe doesn't sound like much, but in a country known for Euro(vision) scepticism, this was incredibly significant.

There was one further positive aspect worth mentioning this year: the introduction of BBC Radio 2 Eurovision, a 'pop-up' radio station broadcasting from 8th to 11th May on digital radio and the internet.  I thought this was a rather inspiring innovation from a broadcaster whose interpretation of the contest has always seemed rooted in the past, however there were some very good quality documentaries and other programmes broadcast over the weekend.  I hope they repeat this experiment next year in Vienna.  Well done BBC!  During one of the documentaries I listened to, they referred to the BBC's long-term Eurovision strategy which began with Molly, and you never know, one day it may end in a Eurovision winner for the UK.  So you can forget those 'UK to withdraw' rumours!

So to sum up, the past 2 weeks have been 'all Eurovision all the time'.  And I loved it!  

In a few days I will be heading off to Copenhagen with faithful travelling companion for a city break.  In Eurovision city I'm hoping to soak up some of the magic that all my lovely Eurovision friends have left behind. So this will be my last blog post for a while....I'll be back in a couple of weeks with those Eurovision posts and "The Copenhagen Diaries"...see you all soon :))

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