22 May, 2012

Bring on Eurovision

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I am actually looking forward to Eurovision this weekend.

Anyone who knows me, and most people who have read any of my work, will know that I am a music snob.  I make no excuses nor apologies for this.  I’m sure we’ve all seen the t-shirts or stickers that say things like “Life’s too short to drink bad coffee,” or bad wine or any number of similar sentiments.  I say life is too short to listen to bad music. 

Now, I am not the kind of snob who looks down upon people who do not share my tastes.  I don’t pity them or berate them for not listening to what I regard as good music.  If listening to music that I don’t like makes other people happy, then they are welcome to it, but I won’t be there with them.  Why should I waste one second my finite available time listening to One Dimension if I could be listening to Kate Bush? 

Eurovision has never bothered me as a music lover.  I’ve always considered it completely separate to anything to do with music.  It’s perfectly harmless trash.  My mother is an English and Literature teacher and she has always said it’s alright to read trash, so long as you know it’s trash.  I agree, and the same applies to music.  Fatboy Slim or Scissor Sisters have very little, if any, artistic value, but I love them anyway.  I may be a snob, but there’s nothing wrong with some good dumb fun now and then.

Typically, both participants and fans don’t pretend that Eurovision is any more than a bit of good dumb fun.  They don’t deny the trashiness, they revel in it.  While there is some pretence of taking the whole thing seriously, they know they’re not fooling anyone.

This stands in stark contrast to the manufactured reality masquerading as music shows in 2012.  Being known as a musical obsessive, I am sometimes asked if I watch Idol or X-Factor or The Voice or whatever other lamentable permutation of the same idea is popular that week.  If they are lucky, I usually respond by wondering aloud what I ever did to be treated with such disrespect.  Or, if I take pity on them, I might just say, “No, I prefer music.” 

Occasionally, a more foolhardy correspondent might try to make the idea appeal to me.
“Oh, but they’re doing a Beatles special next week.”
Yeah?  Really?  Is that supposed to impress me?
These shows are terrible enough when they’re murdering songs I don’t like – why on Earth would I want to hear what they do to songs I adore?
“One of them plays guitar and sang a song he wrote himself.”
I’m old enough to remember when playing instruments and writing songs was the least we could expect of musical artists. 

This particular brand of “reality” television has been around for over five years now.  Has no-one else noticed that the charts are not awash with series winners?  There are a couple of early winners and finalists still visible, but not many.  Who won [Where-ever]’s Got Talent last year?  Who won X-Factor in 2010?  You don’t know, do you?  Is this not a sign that these programs are not all they’re cracked up to be?  The instant obscurity of series winners is quite predictable if you think about it.  The sweet 17yo who steals everyone’s hearts with her version of Mariah Carey’s Hero is not going to connect with people the same way when she releases, Generic-Pop-Song-Written-by-Record-Company-Staff-Writers, is she?  And when we have Dannii Minogue judging others’ talent and advising them on how to be successful in the music business, doesn’t anyone stop to think that they might just be taking the piss?

An English band formed in the late 80s and apparently still going, called themselves Pop Will Eat Itself.  In 2012, pop has eaten itself, vomited itself back up and is licking up the curdled remains.  For the third time. 

All of this would almost be tolerable if it were presented as simple dumb fun, but it isn’t.  It’s presented as an actual musical talent quest and human drama.  It clearly fools enough people to make them ask actual music lovers if they watch the show.
The fact that an original artist like Kate Miller-Heidke has to agree to spend an hour being a fifth wheel on Q and A just to be able to perform her song on television, at a time when the schedules are riddled with high-budget programs claiming to be about music, shows that something is terribly wrong.

If nothing else, Eurovision doesn’t try to be anything is isn’t.  Well, it does try a bit, but not very hard.  Eurovision knows it’s nothing but camp, trashy fun and so does everyone who watches it.  There are no tears, no tantrums, no judges leaping about like they’ve witnessed something that will change the world, no tear-jerking back-stories.  There will be the fake tension of the vote count but everybody knows that nobody cares.

It’s trash and I know it.  And they know it.  Given the state of music television today, that’s actually rather refreshing.


  1. I’d be interested to hear where you stand on the John Farnham issue. I don’t know anyone who likes him that doesn’t have, well, crap taste in music generally. I don’t know a single person whose tastes are similar to mine who also thinks he’s okay.

    1. That's an interesting metric.

      I've got nothing against him. I wouldn't go out of my way to see or hear him, but he doesn't offend me.

      I read years ago someone quoting Alice Cooper commenting on being compared to David Bowie. Cooper said, "Bowie is an artist. I'm an entertainer." I thought that was a very wise comment.

      I prefer artists. Farnham is an entertainer and he's good at doing what he does so I can't begrudge him that. Having said that, I see your point that Farnham fans may have rather pedestrian tastes, but there are many worse options around. Jimmy Barnes for a start.

      I guess that's another thing that pisses me off about all the reality shows - it's entertainment pretending to be art.

  2. For a moment I thought you were going to say "listening to crap like Kate Bush". I nearly cried...
    The only reason we ever watched Eurovision was for Terry Wogan's commentary.

    1. Wogan's tongue-in-cheek is so carefully delivered to sound serious to those who take it seriously and hilarious to those who don't.

  3. Will Young
    Michelle McManus
    Steve Brookstein
    Shayne Ward
    Leona Lewis
    Leon Jackson
    Alexandra Burke
    Joe McElderry
    Matt Cardle
    Little Mix

    Who? These are the British Pop Idol/X Factor winners. Not that I ever knew their names. I looked it up.

    1. I think I might have heard the first name, but that's all.