Confession. I had never heard of San Marino before Saturday night.
I mean, who knew? A whole European state that doesn’t appear to be on any maps of the famous continent. Turns out it’s more of large car park on the east coast of Italy with such an elaborate keycode entry system it’s allowed its own entry in the Eurovision song contest.
Now, I knew about Andorra. A pleasant high street in the Pyrenees. Though not many shops. And Lichtenstein, Luxembourg and Belgium are all similarly amusing but likeable dinky stunt states of Europe that we’ve all half heard of. But I do indeed have to confess to having never heard of San Marino.
But, while I’m confessing, I think of one other European micro state that’s been inconceivably conspicuous by its absence in the Eurovision.
Why oh why has the Vatican never put in a tune? Eh?
Sure, whatever they sang would only get half listened to while the entire population of Europe waited to see if those suspiciously long priestly outfits really would adhere to contest custom and come off in an indoor firework key change, to reveal glitter-smeared thighs.
But think about the possibilities. Heal the world, man. If they stumped up the pontif himself, Germany would pile in their votes. And if he went into a little tap number on the bridge, I think he’d win over the UK teledial in a moment. Russia’s orthodox background might well feel a large twang of high-church sympathy as the bass slapped and the rest of the latin countries would be in the bag before he even rose up on the soloist’s plinth. Even Switzerland would dig those black and yellow stripy outfits on the backing chaps of course. Not sure where Turkey would stand exactly, but I think if Benedict’s big number was essentially a forgettably bland soft rock affair, it would be hard for anyone from the Atlantic coast to the ancient silk routes to really argue with the airplayability of it.
..I’m saying it’s an idea.
It’s a little liberal, okay.
But come on. ‘Mea Culpa, hasta la vista’ by Papa Benny? It would steal the show and you know it.
But, just up the motorway from the disappointingly musically quiet sovereign state of the Catholic church, the hitherto-to-me unheard of mighty nation of San Remo were flexing their very important, gigantically-cultured socks on Saturday night – by being the first of only two nation states to give any votes at all to the UK entry.
I mean, what. What. ..Was going on.
Kind of felt Terry’s call for a protest vote next year – all the more because not only had our entry been a decent, feel-good affair, but large swathes of the contest had been unnervinlgly… er, can I say it? Can I really say this?
No, I mean large swathes of the contest had been unnervingly okay. With europop goggles firmly screwed in of course, we had a run of okay songs. Good performances. Things worth voting for in a mainstream context.
Norway was, I think, the classiest bit of songwriting that night – kind of cared about it when it came on and it’s been in my head a lot. And it scored fairly, coming fifth. Israel’s entry also scored okay, which I think took the biscuit for genuine emotion in a song that night – when young Boaz opened up his honest wailing you felt like it mattered somehow. Of all the glittery semi-cladness tottering around on the evening, Ani Lorak probably peaked the sauce-ometer with the gutsiest pop tune performance of the night, deserving her second place for Ukraine – even if I can’t remember the song. And even the charming gentle tango quirkiness of Croatia’s entry scored respectably. In fact, taking our traditional place alongside Kev and Fi for the night, we all found it alarmingly hard to take the piss for some of the time. Tricky.
The real daftness was found at either end of the scoreboard. Russia at the top was a triumph for political cynicism, blandly forgettable music, fuddled staging and amusing male hair – but an insult to the many better everythings on show that night. Le Roieux Uni at the bottom of the table was just an insult to us.
How did the dire piss-take of Spain score more than Andy Abraham’s very likeable performance for the UK? Listened to on the record, Even if does a remarkably well-produced job of creating a great groove and a feel-good vibe. Obsessed as I currently am with old Herbie Hancock records, I think it still needs the expert touch of a good brass arranger to bring it right out, but underneath – a full-on likable tune. Same for the performer.
Of course. Hmm. Disco – it’s a risky one.
When you love funk-influenced things, so many other types of music just feel boring. But it’s not traditionally a big winner across mainstream audiences. Dance music may be huge across Europe, as electronic music always has been – but that’s in niche terms. Soft rock is still the ticket. Witness Turkey’s contemporary version of it – tight, acceptably cool and forgettably uncompelling – but a consistent vote-winner on the night.
Of course too – disco and dance don’t always arrange well live. You have to be inside the groove to get it usually and live is a merciless reducer to bare necessities in music. But the UK entry seemed to do just what it was meant to do when it stepped up – create a colourful, feel-good vibe across the audience.
So, is Eurovision a wash-out? Should we leave?
Possibly. But we should keep watching. The point is twofold – Eurovision is a fab idea for a continent-wide media event, and the UK leads the world in musical creative. Why worry? The two obviously don’t go together, bizarre as that may sound to a space alien – but does it matter?
I have to say, after so long with my head in it this week, it’s a relief to leave the Eurovision world again and get back to proper music.
But I do have FIP on and I’m secretly hoping to hear Belgium’s or Croatia’s entries turn up on the playlist.