Wednesday, 27 March 2013

You've got to sing it to win it

Beneath the white suits, glittery skirts and porcelain-white smiles there's a war waging.

It's that time of year when Europe (plus Israel) battle it out for the prestigious title of Eurovision winner.

But in many ways, this year's fight began a few months ago when competing countries started selecting the performers and songs to represent them.   The next phase of battle will occur at the semi-finals and final being staged in Malmo, Sweden, in May.

Like all good battles, a range of strategies (or gimmicks) have been deployed by all competing nations in their quest for Eurovision glory.

Sometimes these strategies work.  Other times they fail spectacularly.

Here are 15 Common Eurovision Battle Tactics:

1.  Resurrect Past Winners
Ignoring the old adage that lightening doesn't strike twice and deploying a previous Eurovision winner in the hope of history repeating itself.  (Note: it rarely works)   

This approach was most recently adopted by Germany, which chose 2010 Eurovision winner Lena (song "Satellite") to represent it again in 2011.   And you don't necessarily need to have won to get the call-up again.  Ireland used X Factor-rejects Jedward in 2011 and 2012, but failed to land the top prize on both occasions.

Germany's Lena in 2010 with the winning song "Satellite" 

And Lena again in 2011 with "Taken By A Stranger"

2.  Dare To Be Different
Bucking the trend by performing something different, quirky or unusual.  (Note: High chance of failure)

The Eurovision battlefield is littered with the glittery remains of those who dared to be different.  Over the years there have been puppets, transexuals, midgets, angle grinders, country 'n' western, and everything else you can cram onto a stage in three minutes.  But every now and then a unique act captures Europe's imagination, making the win even sweeter.

Finland's Lordi performed "Hard Rock Hallelujah" to take the 2006 Eurovision title

Everything old is new again: popular 2012 Russian entry Buranovskiye Babushki with "Party for Everybody"

3.  Shock and Awe
Injecting an element of surprise into your performance to keep the audience on their toes

Lithuania's 2012 entry Donny Montell managed to squeeze in two surprises during his performance of "Love Is Blind"; he started the song blindfolded and then ripped it off to do a one-handed cartwheel on stage.   Maybe he should have gone for the trifecta as he walked away empty handed.

Oh I get it... love is blind

A one-hand cartwheel into the audience's hearts

4.  Flashy Threads
Understanding that flashing your best assets on stage may not necessarily have anything to do with your vocal chords

From traditional folk dress through to dramatic costume reveals and on-stage costume changes, what you are wearing can play a big role on the night.   Ensuring your costume shows off your lovely set of pins, hefty cleavage or impressive pecs is all part of selling your Eurovision song.

Moldova's 2009 entry "Hora Din Moldova" by Nelly Ciobanu

Ireland's Jedward with their  2012 "Waterline"

5.  Keepin' It Real
Ditching classic Eurovision conventions, rules and trends, and charging on regardless  (Note: probably only your own country will appreciate this... and they can't vote for you)

This is a firm favourite of non-English speaking countries who, every now and then, say "stuff it, we're going to perform in our own language even if no one has a clue what we're saying".   The integrity is admirable, but rarely results in the top prize.

Translation dictionaries at the ready: Finland's 2010 entry "Kuunkuikaajat" with Tyolki Elaa

6.  Arty Farty
Trying to inject a touch of class to the event by displaying actual talent.  (Note: Europe's not interested)

France is often guilty of this, which could be why it hasn't won in a while.  In 2009, it offered the chanson "S'il Fallait Le Faire" by Patricia Kaas, while in 2010 tenor Amaury Vassili stirred with "Sognu".

France's 2011 entry Amaury Vassili flashes his vocal chords

7.  Club Anthems
Enlisting strong beats, electric sounds and catchy choruses to move the audience

A strategy which is increasingly rolled out at Eurovision, these countries are hoping their thumping track will be what clubbers will be moving to this summer.   But a word of warning, if there is an abundance of "anthems" in a given year they tend to blend into one another.

Sweden's Loreen powered to victory with her anthematic "Euphoria" in 2012

8.  Call In The Big Guns
Enlisting the help of famous entertainers from outside the Eurovision world hoping their reputation and fan base will bolster the entry's appeal.  (Note: Looks desperate)

Despite using this strategy a number of times in recent years, from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2009, reformed Blue in 2011, Englebert Humperdinck in 2012 and Bonnie Tyler this year, the United Kingdom has yet to find it successful.

Andrew Lloyd Webber co-wrote and co-performed the UK's  2009 entry "My Time"

9.  Mega Props
Filling up the stage with big, moving props giving the performers lots to do while singing.   Particularly useful in distracting an audience from noticing it's actually a pretty average song.

This is deployed by all countries from time to time when budgets are willing.   Memorably used by Greece in 2009 by Sakis Rouvas during the song "This Is Our Night" when he straddled something that resembled a giant stapler.   Investing in the prop probably did little to ease the country's debt issues.

Greece's "giant stapler" prop of 2009

10.  Topical
Forcing relevancy by making your entry so "now" it hurts.  (Note: you're history)

San Marino's 2012 entry Valentina Monetta went with "The Social Network Song", while Ukranian Svetlana Loboda sang "Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl)" in 2009, just months after the GFC began. Sadly, songs about topical events are usually relegated to the history books.

Valentina Monetta's "The Social Network Song"

11.  Popera Power
Combining the power vocals of an opera singer with a killer dance beat

A range of classically-trained performers have trodden across the Eurovision stage accompanied by a thumping beat and light show.    Often used in conjunction with Strategy Seven: Club Anthems.  They can either be uplifting or just plain loud.

The vocal acrobatics of Malena Ernman with "La Voix" represented Sweden in 2009

12.  Burn Baby Burn
Harnessing the fascination we have had with fire since we lived in caves.  (Note: you could get burnt)

Eurovision's health and safety officers are kept busy on the night as acts frequently deploy fire, fireworks and sparks to illuminate their act.   Finding a novel way to incorporate all things fire into the act now remains the key.  In 2010, Turkey had a lady dressed in a metal suit bounce an angle grinder off her arm creating impressive sparks.

Bright spark during maNga's "We Could Be The Same" performance in 2010

13.  Daze and Confuse
Leaving audiences wondering "WTF?"

Rarely a winning strategy, sometimes it seems this approach is embraced by countries that really don't want to host next year's Eurovision, but still want to turn up this year.

Albania's Kejsi Tola in 2009 with "Carry Me In Your Dreams": A blue man and two breakdancing midgets.  Make sense?

14.  Crank Up The Wind Machine to 11
Turning up the wind machine to literally blow the audience away.  (Note:  apply extra hair spray)

All countries are guilty of using this one at some point, particularly during the inevitable dramatic key changes during a song.  It can help add energy and excitement to a song and/or create some wardrobe and hair malfunctions.

Norway's 2010 entry by Chanee and N'evergreen' called "In A Moment Like This"

15.  Keep it Pretty
Distracting the audience with good looks

Eurovision doesn't just attract musicians, but also a fair share of actresses, models and others all vying for European attention.   However sometimes they aren't as easy on the ears as they are on the eye.

Norwegian model/singer Tooji performing 2012's "Stay"

Azerbaijan's 2010 entry Safura with "Drip Drop"

Norway's Alexander Rybak won in 2009 with "Fairytale"

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