Holding Out For A Hero: Eurovision 2013

Pete Simpson

For one of my friends, the month of May plays host to the most important night of the year, Eurovision. For me, the night of The Eurovision Song Contest has often been spent draped in various countries’ flags, dressed up in a theme suited to that year’s artist, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and scoring acts on dance routine, outfit and song choice.

Throughout the last half century since Eurovision began back in 1956, Europe itself has gone through many changes. The European Union has doubled in size with the welcoming of new countries into the fold, with the annual song contest surviving where elsewhere the troubles were engulfing Northern Ireland, the USSR dissolved, and more recently, many within Europe found themselves subject to one of the biggest banking bailouts in history. So how, through all this, does the competition survive and more importantly, why has it been so long since the UK came close to winning?

It’s the one night of the year countries can really express who their allies are without warfare, or so we think. In fact, as I recall, the only real bomb that’s been dropped on Eurovision was back in 2002 when the UK let Jemini off. When it detonated the whole of Europe hid behind their sofas with their ears covered and haven’t really forgiven us since. However, I do genuinely believe that the UK uses tactical voting as a scapegoat for the fact that over recent years we barely even enter the top ten. In my opinion there are enough expats scattered across the continent to call in and win the competition for us, so perhaps, surprisingly for a contest in which the song takes prominence, it’s simply that the UK are getting it wrong.

It’s easy to criticise acts such as Jemini, who win us nil points eleven years ago, but more recent acts such as last year’s entry are harder to flaw. Yes, last year’s UK entry Engelbert Humperdinck is well past his prime, his looks left back in the 1970s and side burns bigger than Mr Darcy on a particularly untamed afternoon, but that said, the song wasn’t all that bad. No really, the expected key change, the long held note, even those stand out strings strummed solo throughout the chorus gave a classic Eurovision feel. But for the UK that is the problem. Entering a song that would be a sure contender for the top three thirty years ago is not going to help now. We’ve simply got the genre wrong.

Go on twitter during Eurovision and you’ll clearly see who the demographic is watching, not just here but all over Europe. Groups of gay men doing the same thing I’m doing, enjoying the carnival of sequins, out of sync dancing and drinking until it’s all over. Our entries don’t reflect this, and that’s clear from this year’s line-up. 50 percent of acts have an upbeat dance feel, Germany is even entering Cascada who are no strangers to DJs playing their tracks on the dance floor of G-A-Y on a Saturday night.

The modern audience just can’t relate to the likes of Engelbert, so why would they vote? Sweden, a country that is no stranger to being the victorious host nation, got their track spot on last year with Euphoria by Loreen Talhaoui. Talhaoui took part in a Swedish talent show aimed at finding the 2012 act, and came out triumphant. The perfectly produced dance track Euphoria went on to not only be a Eurovision winner, but a track played on dance floors across the continent. Last year’s winner offered a whole continent a chance to escape the reality of the issues hanging over the European economy, with a true club anthem.

So let’s take a look at our offering this year, Bonnie Tyler and her song ‘Believe In Me’. Welsh lass Bonnie with her husky tones was approached by the BBC to represent the UK to perform a track from her new album recorded last year in Tennessee. As a gay icon and responsible for some of the biggest, campest karaoke hits such as ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ and ‘Holding Out For A Hero’, we may be more on the mark with the act, but what about the song? In any recent interview with Bonnie, you’ll hear her say how proud she is of the track, and you’ll see her enthusiasm for bringing the competition home for us. The song includes a classic key change, has the long notes of which the audience cheer on completion of and it’s certainly got power in the vocals, however it is indeed another ballad.

Once again we have taken a step away from what the rest of Europe think is on trend and entered an older act with an existing European fan base. We’re just missing the upbeat tempo, the euphoric strings and a bassline that makes you want to jump around, sing along and wave your arms in the air. Of course on the night I’ll be in front of the television, wearing my favourite Union Jack hat, glass of cheap plonk in one hand, flag in the other, singing along in support of Bonnie, but as much as I’ll be having a great time watching our entry, it’s not me that will be voting!

The 58th annual Eurovision Song Contest live from Malmo is on BBC One, Saturday 18 May.

About Pete Simpson

Pete is a 20 year old (and some) guy who describes himself as a social entrepreneur. He is an LGBT charity trustee and was voted best dressed male 2004 at sixth form college. Often found with a beer, in Birmingham, London or Milton Keynes. Twitter @cardboardcakes