Time now to switch from overtly political subjects – the lifting of Iraqi sanctions at the UN Security Council – to a phenomenon which may seem apolitical (in fact, it’s downright shmaltzy) but which contains within itself potentially very serious political implications. I refer here to the Eurovision Song Contest, which came to its conclusion on Saturday night by declaring the Turkish entry, “Everyway [sic] That I Can,” sung by Ms. Sertab Erener, the winner of the 26-nation competition. (Those of you from outside of the European continent who don’t know what I’m talking about – or, bless you, even those of you who actually live in Europe but still haven’t a clue – click here for an explanation.) That Turkey would win – and for the very first time in the contest’s 48-year existence – is serious enough. Really: serious. I’m working on an essay on the subject, to tell you what I mean. When I post its link to the left side of this website under “My Articles,” I’ll re-edit this entry to announce this and give you the link directly.
But right here I’d rather like to call your attention to the other end of the scale, namely the very bottom, occupied for the year 2003 by Great Britain whose entry, the song “Cry Baby” by the boy-girl duo JEMINI, came in dead last with zero points.
It was the first time Britain had ever achieved this feat in the Eurovision contest’s entire history – Norway, on the other hand, has managed it four times – and as might be expected it set off bitter recriminations in the English press. Now I know that you, beloved reader, can already read the English press, but I wanted anyway to make sure you didn’t miss a few articles. These comment on the sad British Eurovision Song Contest results in a way which demonstrates that, if the land of Lennon, McCartney, and Jagger is having periodic trouble in coming up with a catchy tune and performers who can do it justice, their wordsmiths can still wield the English language like masters.
Rupert Smith of the Guardian is in a particularly unhappy and catty mood. He admits that “Cry Baby” was “bloody awful” – “Gemma Abbey [the female element of the duo] sang the first verse of Cry Baby off key, and spent the rest of the performance like a rabbit in headlights.” Still, “it was not alone in that respect,” i.e. in its bloody-awfulness. What about the entry from Austria, he asks (“an apparent cretin with toy animals on stage”), or the Ukraine (“featuring a contortionist in a turquoise leotard”), or Poland (“a man with bright red hair who looked like a hormonally challenged Lulu”)? All of these other entries, if they did not win, did at least manage to win at least some points from a voting system in which judges from the different countries award points , prompted by telephone-voting from spectators across the continent, and are forbidden from giving any to the entry from their own country.
Now, here’s where things get all political: Many could find no better explanation for Britain’s unprecedentedly-poor performance this year than Iraq (yes, Iraq) and the rest of Europe’s alleged displeasure with the support Tony Blair showed for American designs to topple Saddam Hussein. This is explored in further depth in the Times’ treatment of the affair: “Song contest duo refuse to cry over Eurotrash rating.” Noted Labour MP and critic of the War in Iraq Jeremy Corbin was ready to seize this as an explanation – “It could be that the song was just truly awful and deserved it,” – aha! could it be? – “but I think there’s actually a deeper story here. People across Europe are fed up with Britain’s over-close relationship with the United States and arrogance in the rest of the world, and the war in Iraq demonstrates this very well.” “Cry Baby’s” author, Martin Isherwood, of something that is called the “Sir Paul McCartney fame school in Liverpool” also blamed the reaction to Britain’s participation in the War in Iraq; so did JEMINI, at least implicitly. “Something has rocked the boat with the countries across Europe,” declared Chris Cromby, the male component of the ill-fated duo.
In the Independent, the unfortunately-named Paul Peachey delves deeper into the issue of an anti-British conspiracy. What about this now: Alone among the other twenty-five entrants, JIMINI had their dressing rooms broken into and trashed while they were away giving interviews immediately after the show. “I think it was specifically targeted,” their manager, Martin O’Shea, is quoted as saying. And for Peachey, there’s more: “Why did the sound equipment not work properly during the first 30 seconds of their performance? Why did Turkey (which did more than any other country to frustrate the US plans to invade Iraq) win?” Then, taking a page from the Guardian’s Smith: “How was the UK beaten by Austria’s entry, cabaret artist Alf Poier, whose ecological protest song contained the lyrics ‘Little rabbits have short noses, And kittens soft paws, And Mother Holle likes her wool, From the African dromedary’?” EuroSavant regrets extremely to report that Austria in fact placed sixth in the competition, with 101 points.
Anyway, those who are interested and who have the RealAudio player installed on their computers can see the video of each of the national performances here, thanks to the ARD (specifically, the first German public television channel – don’t worry, language won’t be a problem, as it is obvious what is where on the website). No, I didn’t take a look at JEMINI’s performance; even the “good” Eurovision performances – even the number-one Turkish number – inspire in me at least mild nausea, so that I placed JEMINI definitely far beyond the call even of EuroSavant duty.