Considering Spain seem to have lost their way in this contest, I thought it was high time to examine another one of the Big 5. Arguably the biggest of them all. Germany’s recent history in the Eurovision is something akin to a rollercoaster, rather than a smooth upward curve.
Under the stewardship of NDR (and in 1994-5 MDR) German Eurovision fortunes hit rock bottom in 1995. Stone and Stone scored a massive ONE point.
As they were head of the Eurovision reference committee this meant a call for change. First, the head of the German delegation , Jurgen Meier-Beer, put a different broadcaster in charge. He then pushed for a pre-selection ahead of the 1996 contest. This, in theory, guaranteed German (and other big countries) participation for that (and future) years.
Sadly, the combined might of the juries did away with that notion. The Germans , it is said, finished in 24th place, meaning lots of head scratching at NDR towers.
What could they do? In the first recorded case of “buying the contest” they instigated ‘The Big 4 Rule’, whereby some countries couldn’t be relegated because they ploughed in loads of Deutsche Marks and, latterly, Euro.
Alles gut? – well … sort of.
To start this brave new welt, it was decided that 1997 would be the year of the past with Siegel and Meinunger and a ‘Stars in their eyes’ winner. That was not a good idea in retrospect. 1998, then, would be the real start of the new world order. But who to lead them into a brave new world? Enter stage left the man that would, in time, be the one (maybe) … Stefan Raab.
Raab, the anti Siegel back in the day, entered ‘shock singer’ Guildo Horn and, from then on the page turned. Trading blows like prize fighters through the ups and downs of the early 2000’s – Siegel and Meinunger had most of the lows. Raab stepped away from the contest in 2004, citing boredom. This move culminated in Gracia and her 4 points in 2005.
Without Raab at the helm, Germany suffered. Along with a last place, three dismal 20 somethings and a 14th followed. Not even the appearance of Dita Von Teese and her minge of destiny could help. By 2010, ARD had to ask Raab back. He claimed the crown and finally ran the selection as he saw fit. The ‘Unser Song’ format yielded immediate results in the form of Germany’s second win with Lena.
Back on form?
Lena was so good, they invited her back in 2011 to defend her crown (she didn’t) and Brainpool, Raab’s own production company, have ran the show ever since. 8th in 2012, however, is the highest they have managed since, with two consecutive last place finishes.
Germany have deep-seated problems. 68 points in the last four yeears. Just four 4 top ten finishes in the last 14, says that ARD and NDR need to change something. Unlike Spanish TVE, German broadcasters have been willing to try new ideas.
Unser Song has, in the main, not worked. Yes, it got a winner in its first year. Since then results show that either the juries have voted against the clearly popular songs so they won’t win (2013), or the complicated knock-out format (introduced for 2014 and 2015) has not produced the desired result. Despite this, Brainpool (or NDR) think that it’s a winner and produces the best song. It doesn’t. It produces the least worst song. The broadcasters input into that draw leads to a song that they know won’t win the Eurovision. They do this because their chosen entry has an easy path to the final.
A rule change for the national final in 2016 reintroduced a first round and super final, but this exposed another flaw. The poor quality of the songs. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Since 2012 the songs have been underwhelming and uninspiring.
Scandal and mismanagement
Then there is the recent mismanagement of the selection itself. In 2015, the winner, Andreas Kummer refused to go live on air in front of an agog audience. He insisted he was ‘not in the right place mentally’ to win. Ann Sophie was left to go in his place.
Xavier Naidoo was then picked as the representative in 2016, only to be removed for being a racist homophobe. Despite two spectacular failures, the Germans are sticking to this losing format for 2017.
A losing battle for Germany
Considering that the broadcaster courts German record companies for entries, it is hard to see why any would be willing to enter without a lot of coercion from NDR.
Look at it from their point of view. It’s a losing battle. They have no guarantee of a victory, or even a place in the final. Even if they do win, they have to promote the song themselves. Two dismal failures means there is a lack of home interest. The average German viewer believes that the song is bound to do badly. The artist will get hardly any international coverage for the same reason. The record companies are convinced everyone hates the German Eurovision entry, so why bother?
If NDR are not careful they could end up like the BBC – trapped in a self-fulfilling loop, convinced that the contest is against you, whereas the real truth is much closer to home.
The German national final needs to go back to a single show with decent songs. Get back out to the record companies and assure them that they have a chance. Stop pedalling any notion that international promotion won’t work (because it dies). Get back to what the Germans do best. Good songs, presented well in a national final in an arena. A national final that shows you are serious and keeps the interest high.
NDR knows what when a good song comes around, viewing figures are high. When they enter poor songs no one cares. Get the good songs in, no matter what it takes, but for pities sake make sure they are showcased to their best.
(First posted on OnEurope, Reproduced here for your pleasure….. cos i’m good like that!)