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Opinion: Follow Steef's road to Oslo (2/4)

21 May 2010 at 22:30 CEST

The following piece is an opinion article by an independent young journalist. The article and its contents do not necessarily represent the opinion of the organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest, and is meant to challenge you to write down your opinion as well in the comments section below this article.

Change has come to Eurovision!

Despite criticism, the Eurovision Song Contest is liable to changes just as much as any other event. Over the last decade, a Semi-Final was introduced, and the voting system was changed a few times concluding in the reintroduction of the professional juries. Also the hosting country changed every year: ten editions, ten different winners. Change hasn't just come to America; it has touched the Eurovision Song Contest as well! Let's have a look at the changing songs of this year.

Ask your friends who never watch the Eurovision Song Contest why they don't, and nine out of ten will probably answer something like this: ‘Why would I watch the final scores, if it's all so predictable? Every country gives their twelve points to a neighbor!' After hearing those phrases over and over, I have developed a standard answer to throw back at people's feet. Because if the Eurovision Song Contest would be that predictable, how come the countries in the top ten all change so much every year?

One of the few stable factors over the last few years has been Turkey. Even when the polls predicted an early elimination for Mor ve Otesi, a 7th place was the final outcome. This year, the Turkish group MaNga is one of my favorites. The rap & metal combination stayed true to their roots. We could be the same is based on a simple but energetic tune, and in the refrains the guitars are really tested. 

Still, even MaNga choose to make some Eurovision Song Contest sacrifices. A new version of their song was released a few weeks ago, in which a few details in the composition were changed. But that wasn't everything: the song itself already contained a big change. A change in language, to be precisely. We could be the same will be sung in English, instead of the Turkish language MaNga won an MTV award with.

Some other countries changed their compositions slightly as well (Greece for example), but the most changing country without any doubts this year is Ukraine. For those who didn't follow the soap: first Vasyl Lazarovych was chosen as the Eurovision Song Contest artist. A national final was then organized, in which Vasyl sang five songs, and I love you was chosen. In that final, the jury already pointed out that the song needed change before it would be ready for the contest. 

A few weeks later that voice of criticism raised unbearable heights when the broadcasting station announced a new national final. Vasyl took part, but lost to Alyosha, who then had to change her song as well, to act up to the Eurovision Song Contest rules. The final entry is called Sweet People, but despite the cheerful title the song is a dark and depressing ballad about the upcoming end of the world. A very sharp contrast to the slimy love ballad they chose at first.

Belarus changed their entry the exact opposite way, but without having to disappoint an at first appointed artist. The group 3+2 remained the performing artist, but their catchy pop song Far away gave way to the extremely sweet ballad Butterflies. A remarkable move, especially in a year in which so many ballads were already chosen. Butterflies is now one of the non-favorites to qualify, and reminds me a bit of the Swiss entry of 2006: If we all give a little.

Except for that failed ballad, Switzerland has recently produced a nice row of modern entries. Complete different styles they chose, but Era Stupendo, Vampires Are Alive, Cool Vibes and The Highest Heights all had one thing in common: they all could have come from the regular music charts, instead of from a Eurovision Song Contest podium. This year, Switzerland changed that image completely, and turned back the clock thirty years to come up with Michael von der Heide. Il Pleut De L'or sounds old and overtaken in my opinion, and is an enormous change compared to, for example, the Lovebugs from last year.

Another failed entry from last year was the Dutch entry Shine, sung by the Toppers. This year, the three old men are sitting at home watching television, but Shine is back: now performed by Sofia from Georgia. And what a change that is. Cheesy dance tunes and glamorous outfits gave way to a simple and sometimes even boring ballad. But fair enough, Sofia knows how to sing it, and deserves credit for that at least. 

The Croatian girl group Feminnem took a few years to somehow make the exact same change. In 2005, they stole from everything that Sweden has ever sent to the Eurovision Song Contest to come up with Call Me. This year, I wasn't thrilled to see them back in my favorite national final Dora, but after hearing their new song Lako Je Sve, I completely changed my mind. In a long list of ballads, Croatia may well be one of the best composed, and I sincerely hope the girls will end up in the top ten of the final rankings.

Of course, there were also a lot of countries who chose not to change too much. Ireland dug up good old Niamh Kavanagh, and Norway voted for a cute male singer with violins; never change a winning strategy. My own country, The Netherlands, doesn't seem to have learned their lesson after the humiliation of the Toppers last year. We came up with composer Pierre Kartner, a man whose credits are based on hits from the late seventies.

It would be great if change wouldn't just come to America, or to Eurovision. I keep hoping that maybe change will come to the Eurovision mentality of all those people saying the Contest is predictable. If that kind of cynicism would disappear, maybe countries like the Netherlands would come up with serious entries as well. At the moment that doesn't seem to be happening in short terms, but I can always hope, can't I?

It will never be impossible (Dima Bilan, Russia 2008)