Recent years have seen more and more Eurovision songs become swathed in technological macguffins and acrobatic madness. But is filling your stage with bits and pieces the surefire way to success? Or is it better to keep things simple? Well let’s have a look at the evidence.
We’ve all know the form. A country creates a stageshow so devastatingly original and goes on to a decent result, which encourages everyone and their dog to try and replicate that magic the following year – but to varied success. We’ve seen it this year, with a multitude of countries employing ever-more complicated bits of stage machinery to try and do a Måns, but sadly end up doing more of a Greta Salome.
It’s a story as old as time. Svetlana Loboda‘s giant cogs of doom, Sakis and his massive stapler, Paula and Ovi‘s musical toilet seat – all of these and more must have felt like a great idea at the time. But when it came to performing with them in front of millions of viewers things didn’t seem to go as planned and they all dived to embarrassing defeat.
So has having massive bits of kit on stage helped or hindered anyone this year? Well there’s certainly been a lot of it. The stage hands have been looking more exhausted than ever this time round, and many of the back corridors have been littered with giant screens, glittery boxes and spongey climbing walls. But all that stage furniture didn’t help the poor Bosnians any.
On paper their barbed wired and marathon blanket concept should have hit the popular zeitgeist, but it seems that people didn’t care about their admirable message enough. Either that or it all looked a bit silly. Either way, they were doomed to rare failure on the night. Likewise the giant Belarussian baby-projecting teleprompter. As a spectacle it arguably bested Russia’s big bouncy box, but it turns out that all those projections may just have been a bit too strange for the average Moldovan housewife at home – and most certainly the cognac quaffing jurors in their luxury offices.
Big projections didn’t help Iceland either. Despite having a massive uplifting song and an engaging performer, it was perhaps just a little too dark for your average midweek light-entertainment viewer – although to be honest we’re still struggling to get our lobes around that one.
And don’t get us started on the Moldovan spaceman or Slovenia‘s bloke-on-a-stick. Both of them were pointless fripperies that distracted from the song, and would almost certainly encourage the jurors to put a black mark by their name for abject gimmickery before they even got started.
But look at the songs that have kept it relatively simple this year. Ukraine‘s Jamala walks toward the camera and emotes, Bulgaria‘s Poli gets by on her winning smile and a tiny bit of light show at the end, Latvia‘s Justs just stands there and airgrabs, while Gabriella from Czechia simply sings her heart out, plus there’s been a couple of honest balls out rock and roll performances too. And every one of them was a semi-final success.
However, many of the fancied runners and rider do have lots of equipment on stage with them. Sergey Lazarev lurches about in front of his dangerous wall of death, Dami Im looks like a fairy sitting on a box of tissues while watching Minority Report, while Armenia’s Iveta Mukuchyan suddenly splits into many versions of herself when you don’t expect it.
But at the heart of every one of those performances is a pretty decent song (yes, even Russia), and as the disappointing results of many countries who thought it was all about the show will attest, you need the full package of memorable song, decent stage show and consummate performer to come anywhere near challenging for the title.
Although every year there’s something sweet and simple that’s sung well that makes a pretty decent showing in the voting run in. So keep an eye on people like Sweden, Austria, Israel, and dare I say it, the UK, as in a year of noise and craziness, being normal is the new standing out. Just look at Johnny Logan in 1980…