They say Eurovision reflects politics. If that’s correct, take a guess which country’s national selection was characterised by frantic last-minute u-turns, economically-unwise decisions and elements of rising populism?
You guessed it, it’s Greece. Settle down with a nice glass of ouzo and bowl of taramasalata while I tell you a story.
Greece’s public broadcaster ERT decided late last year that it needed a change of tack for Eurovision. Since the heady days of My Number One, Greece has been steadily slipping in the rankings and Something Needed To Be Done. So ERT decided to revert from internal selections - which had been used for the last two years - to a national public televote to select its participant. So far, so normal.
However, they complemented this with three inexplicable decision. First, they set €20,000 as the ‘entrance tag’ to take part. In a country still recovering economically, I’m not convinced that was sensible. Second, they set up a ‘manel’ of 8 distinguished male Greek music professionals: great if you’re deciding the next national anthem, but perhaps a narrow demographic when trying to appeal to a pan-European audience.
And third, they decided that the Greek song should be sung in Greek. With a ‘Greek sound’ too. Oh dear.
Now I have no problem with that decision from an artistic point of view. It’s absolutely their right, and it brings welcome diversity to an English, pop-dominated Eurovision. Indeed, it’s also not necessarily a vote-losing decision: see Portugal last year, or Serbia 2007, for example.
My issue is more that by making its Eurovision entry ‘Greek’, Greece made it’s Eurovision entry not very ‘Eurovision Greek’. For ‘Eurovision Greek’ doesn’t mean lilting cadences, haunting Greek vowels and ancient instruments evoking the gods of Mount Olympus. 'Eurovision Greek’ means white, tight-fitting crotch-hugging trousers (for the topless boys), and fabulous wind-machine-created vortexes of luscious hair and sequinned dresses (for the girls). It means all the drama and passion of a Eurozone crisis channeled into the 2:15 minute key-change moment. It means lyrics you scream at the top of your voice in the stadium, and can’t remember by the time you get to the Euroclub. Indeed, my love of ‘Eurovision Greek’ is exactly why I volunteered to write up the Greek national selection.
Enough, I digress. You get my point.
Anyway, these decisions had an interesting outcome. Instead of getting a strong field of ethnic music challengers, Greece ended up with, er, one option. All but five were rejected by the ‘manel’. Two were then dismissed by ERT for being ‘insufficiently Greek'. And two more didn’t stump up the €20k and were disqualified.
And then there was one: Yianna Terzi, singing Oneiro Mou (‘My Dream’). In other words, the world’s cradle of democracy didn’t have a democratic decision this year. Then again, given the recent track-record of democracy I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.
What’s it like? Well, I can’t really tell. Having listened to the video-less song on YouTube, it seems pleasant enough, with the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus arrangement. But it does feel a little, well, slow; and there are lots of dramatic pauses (1:12 for example) which make it sound like Yianna’s just bored. How it’ll look on stage and on screen I’ve no idea - perhaps she’ll be able to convey the passion she no doubt seeks. But it’ll be a hard sell: being in Greek it’s already at a disadvantage; and similar songs which won (Portugal, Ukraine, Serbia) had a real emotional tug which I can’t envisage in this one.
Be that as it may, great that she’s entering and that Greece is putting up a Greek-language song. All the best to Yianna and Oneiro Mou!