September Is A Most Wonderful Time Of The Eurovision Year Written by on September 8, 2016 | 3 Comments

Andy Williams might have thought he was singing about Christmas, but he was wrong. September is the most wonderful time of the year… at least it is for Ewan Spence.

There’s a long way to go to find the winning song of the 2016/17 Eurovision Song Contest season, but the season has started and once more my excitement is building.

You’re Just Making It Up!

Perhaps the greatest part of September for myself as a fan of the Song Contest is the crazed speculation and justification that can be found. Any artist name that gets attached to an appearance in a National Final or as a possible Internal Selection will send everyone to their latest release. Anything that passes the critical date of September 1st (which means any chartable single from now onwards) and is under three minutes (or can be edited down to that) is going to be labelled as ‘the one’.

For example, Sia’s latest single ‘The Greatest’ was released on September 6th. Let’s see what the blinkers can offer:

The video might be nearly six minutes long, but once you knock out the arty introduction and ‘powerful message’ ending it’s 3 minutes 10 seconds with a really long fade out. After Dami Im’s second place in Stockholm, Sia could obviously win for Australia because she’s a big name.

And the kicker is that when she performed it live on stage at the launch of Apple’s iPhone 7, she was accompanied by only five dancers. Six people on stage! It’s perfect for the Song Contest!!

See, this is easy!

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

In previous years the open submission process run by various countries has allowed some absolute gems to surface in the first few weeks of the season. It has also allowed some absolute clunkers to sneak through as well (thankfully Ben Robertson has moved up to join the Melodifestivalen jury).

As more artists (and more national broadcasters) come to grips with the idea of telling a story around a song to build up interest in the public’s mind ahead of any voting, fewer songs are surfacing in public early. Many National Finals have a strict ‘not performed yet in public’ clause that applies to all submitted entries. As many of ESC Insight’s regular readers will know, Melodifestivalen is incredibly strict on this (Moldovan heats notwithstanding). Submissions for Finland’s UMK have closed already so those tracks are under legal protection, and composers who know the Eurovision Song Contest also know that a song rejected by one country has nothing to stop it being submitted to another country the following year… assuming it stays out of the public eye.

Which means that the exciting audio pickings are reliant on broadcasters using an open submission process – Switzerland has moved on from this strategy, but Ukraine is picking up the online ball and I can’t wait to see and hear what gets uploaded to the public site to be voted on.

Thunder And Lightning, It’s Getting Exciting

I’ll let you into a little secret. I’ve already heard a handful of songs that are going into this year’s National Final process. No I’m not going to name names, that part of the story is not for me to reveal, but running a potential song past a few of the old sweats is not an unheard of occurence – and we’ve passed comment on songs that made it to May before (not that we recognised the genius of ‘Still In Love With You‘ at the time).

For the record, if you’re reading this and want another opinion, feel free to get in touch. We can be really discrete when we have to be. Send your dodgy MP3s in a brown digital envelope to ESC Insight!

The Joy And Curse Of The First

There is a problem with Eurovision music in September. It’s a long time until May, and anything that breaks cover now is going to have to try and stay fresh to the fans’ ears for over eight months. That’s a tough ask when you consider that most successful songs in recent history haven’t become public until late January or early February. Adding another four months to the life of a hit record requires a lot of PR and marketing skill – and any PR is going to suggest that you lock the song down until you need to build up public momentum in the two weeks before the voting opens.

Perhaps that explains why the ‘first’ song that I have heard in every Eurovision season since 2011 has never made it to May and the finals. Come to think of it, not one of them has made it to a televised round in a National Final… even with a dash of dance floor Abba!

When we reach May, there’ll be handful of songs left, and eventually just one song. Right now in September there could be upwards of ten thousand songs joking for position to be one of the eight hundred or so that are discoverable online. Inside that ‘Greatest Hits’ collection will be something for everyone. It’s just a matter of sifting through them all and finding a few gems that I’ll love forever.

That process of discovery, of hidden treasure, of musical secrets, is why I love the Eurovision Song Contest… and in September all of that waits me. Bring on the anticipation!

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (facebook.com/ewanspence).

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3 responses to “September Is A Most Wonderful Time Of The Eurovision Year”

  1. Robyn says:

    I am really going to miss Switzerland’s public submission process. I mean, their old national final system was a terrible way of picking a song, that unsurprisingly resulted in years of clunkers (and one bright spark) and they were right to overhaul it, but I’m really going to miss the public uploads, all those weird and misguided videos.

  2. Ewan Spence says:

    Indeed, without the Swiss submissions I would never know the glory of ‘Wild White Horses’ by LA The Voice!

  3. Matt says:

    Ewen, you say under ‘The Joy And Curse Of The First’ that breaking cover now could affect public momentum, so I wonder what your thoughts are on Poli and Bulgaria this/last year?

    Because conversely, I felt such a late reveal on 21st March (it may have been the last?) led to a last minute surge of interest that maybe didn’t peak in time for the Saturday final. Looking at the Semi Final results, there was certainly an improvement in placing when it came to the Final.

    A lot of fans I know (me included) were still listening to ‘If Love Was A Crime’ after the contest. Ultimately, I couldn’t see it winning but I find it interesting that the time of release/announcement could play its part in success at Eurovision. Food for thought for any Head of Delegation wanting to find the ‘sweet spot’ of popularity.

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