Let’s make two assumptions around the United Kingdom’s entry for the 2013 Eurovision. The first is that there’s not going to be a traditional National Final show. The second is that the BBC will want to have some form of public involvement in the selection process - perhaps for no other reason than to be able to share the blame with the UK public if the chosen act ends up in 25th place once more.
Putting aside the fan dream of 32 top-of-the-line musical acts touring the country in a sell-out Melodifestivalen-style production, what other meaningful ways are there to select the UK’s song for Europe?
Back in 2010 when it was unclear if there would be a National Final or an internal selection for Düsseldorf (in the end Blue were chosen by the team), I put forth the idea that the ‘Later…’ show from Jools Holland would make a perfect vehicle for a selection show. I still think that people involved with the music industry will be far better placed to pick a popular song for Eurovision than the team behind Children in Need.
In these belt-tightening times, a single ‘Later…’ show with four or five bands selected by Holland and some of the big ‘new music’ fans from around the BBC (Vic Galloway, Zane Lowe, Edith Bowman, and Bruce Dickinson spring to mind) each championing one performer or band in the show would be a fantastic format to find the UK Eurovision entry.
No reality show histrionics, no light entertainment fluff, just the music, the performances, and a decision at the end of the day. It might even given the winning act an air of respectability in the music press.
The BBC’s big Eurovision name is Graham Norton, and he conveniently has his own show. Why not use that show over a number of weeks to showcase potential performers and songs? It’s not quite a National Final, but the benefit of singing on a prime-time TV show may be attractive to a number of artists. Of course The Graham Norton Show is a rather high-profile show, and tends to pick up all the ‘Hollywood’ and ‘A-List Musicians’ that are doing the press tours. The BBC may not want to trade away that ability to give a platform to a new track from ‘We Were Promised Jetpacks‘.
But the biggest problem here is Norton’s show is pre-recorded and edited, which would make any live voting on the songs a touch problematic, but not insurmountable (Estonia seem to manage just fine with pre-recorded semi finals). If we want the live experience, though, there’s already an answer on the BBC schedules.
The BBC’s nightly magazine program, going out live at 7pm Monday to Friday, is probably the best TV venue for a National Selection. A ‘Eurovision Week’ could see four acts perform their songs Monday to Thursday at the end of each night, with an extended one hour show on Friday to recap all the songs and take care of the voting.
If some form of public involvement is going to be used for the UK’s 2013 entry (and remember, the EBU would like the public to be consulted as much as possible during national selection) then my money would be on The One Show being the vehicle.
All credit to Sharleen for this one, but if you want a prestigious music competition that could get the United Kingdom a credible act with a mix of showmanship, style, and part of the modern zeitgeist, then the UK need to be looking at the shortlist for the annual Mercury Prize as the contenders. I would love a situation where the Mercury shortlist becomes the de facto Eurovision shortlist, with the winner getting first refusal.
That would mean the 2013 UK finalists would be Alt-J, Ben Howard, Django Django, Field Music, Richard Hawley, Michael Kiwanuka, Lianne La Havas, Sam Lee, The Maccabees, Plan B, Roller Trio, or Jessie Ware. I could live with that.
Of course you come up against the expected UK mainstream media reaction against someone entering Eurovision, so it might be tricky for the first year or two, but if this is the route to go, then expectations need to be set by the BBC PR machine so the performer is not hampered with an insanely confident “we are going to win it this year” that Engelbert Humperdinck had to deal with.
Eurovision starlets come and go, songs are sung (lost) and forgotten, but there’s always been one constant in the UK’s coverage. Since 1988 the dulcet tones of Ken Bruce have brought commentary from the back of the hall to the airwaves of Radio 2.
While it might not show off the visuals, if we’re looking to really bring the cost in, let’s use ‘The One Show‘ idea of showcasing the artists and having a selection, but put them on the radio instead. There would be a lot more time to explore their music, play a few songs (unplugged, or perhaps a session at the Maida Vale studios), and a chance to really get to know the artists and their music. With a listenership of over 7 million during 2012 this would probably be the selection format that would involve the UK public the most.
How would you choose a song for Eurovision? We’ve went through five ideas that aren’t the traditional national final format, but everyone will have their own ideas what could work. Let’s go over them in the comments and come up with some options for 2013 and beyond.