Why is Australia in the Eurovision when it’s 12000 miles away?

23 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Everything you wanted to know about Eurovision but were afraid to ask.

It’s the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest and the organisers have added a wildcard in the form of Australia – a country not traditionally in Europe. The reigning champion is thrilled at Australia’s involvement this year for the contest’s 60th anniversary, with the grand final airing on BBC One on May 23. “I think that’s great. But like every year, deciding who should be crowned the winner may not come down to a question of singing ability or stage presence; it may come down to politics. Countries in Eurovision vote by drawing up a list of their ten favourite songs – giving 12 points to the first, ten to the second, and then eight, seven, six and so forth to the rest. Regarding the likes of Dickens and Shakespeare, my expertise is limited to what was compulsory at school and what I’ve picked up through Gwyneth Paltrow movies.

The 60-year-old singing contest in which viewers phone in to vote for their favourite has always largely been political, says Karen Fricker, a professor of Dramatic Arts at Brock University who is in Vienna for Saturday’s grand finale. “What goes into the reasons that people vote is always going to be about more than the songs; it always has been. Ireland no longer does well because we are out of step with what amounts to a viable entry nowadays and there is an apparent lack of investment and will on RTÉ’s part. A YouGov poll in 2013 showed Britons have the strongest conviction that “it’s all political.” Sir Terry Wogan famously stepped down as UK host in 2008 for this very reason, claiming that the event was no longer a music competition. Bojana Stamenov, representing Serbia, performs the song Beauty Never Lies at a Friday dress rehearsal for the Eurovision final. (Ronald Zak/Associated Press) How many countries compete?

Anyway, the contest has had a cult following Down Under (think how much we liked Neighbours and Prisoner Cell Block H) for many years and has been given a one-off invitation this year. After several elimination rounds, the contest is now down to 27 nations competing for the win, with performers from Sweden, Italy, Russia, Estonia and – oddly – Australia considered the favourites. There were 40 competitors this year, but after the semifinal rounds, there will be only 27 competing on Saturday. (Seven of those countries got their spots in the final automatically: The host country, Austria; special guest Australia; and the five major financial contributors to the contest, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K.) How many people will be watching? Most important to me, you can come as you are, you can do whatever you want on stage. “If you want to come as a bearded lady, there’s no one in the entire Eurovision family who will say you’re not allowed to do so.

While these aren’t exactly Game of Thrones-style warring factions, certain groups of countries tend to score each other’s acts favourably on the night, and are therefore known as voting blocs. Last year, bearded Austrian diva Conchita Wurst walked away the winner, earning headlines around the world, even in places where few had ever heard of Eurovision before. I think that’s just so beautiful.” “I would like the whole world to join Eurovision because that would be fun, but maybe not (let) Madonna do it because nobody would have a chance,” she said. “I’ve got many messages from social media saying they were inspired by what I did and what I said, and it’s still unbelievable to me. Since then, it has awarded more than twice as many points to Russia as to any other country, with almost a third of them going to either Russia or Ukraine. Since then, Wurst has become a huge celebrity in Europe, playing sold-out gigs, penning a bestselling biography, meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and addressing the European Parliament on LGBT rights.

Countries are now allowed to sing in their choice of language, meaning most sing in English, while historically only Ireland, the UK and Malta had that privilege. I can’t understand it because I’m just me and I’m not the Dalai Lama,” she admitted. “It’s a huge honour that people think of me as an icon or a role model, but I don’t see myself that way. If that doesn’t sound like much, remember that the voting system forces each country to spread many of its points across fourth, seventh and tenth preferences. Then, one fateful Friday night, channel surfing and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon took me to the city of Malmo in Sweden, where the loosely defined countries of Europe (i.e. including Israel) were taking to the stage. And one of the Aussies’ more successful musical exports (apart from Nick Cave, Kylie and INXS) is of course Bjorn Again – the wildly successful parody act which pays tribute to Eurovision’s most famous winner, Abba.

Probably not; the ranks of Eurovision alumni include a lot of one-hit wonders, novelty acts (remember Dschingis Khan, anyone?) and groups famous only in their home countries. I also say stupid things.” “And the only goal I had for myself was to enjoy it and collect experiences, getting inspired and this definitely happened. In his recent book Ireland and the Eurovision, former RTÉ executive David Blake Knox argued this selection format arguably “inflicted some professional and personal damage on some of the performers who had managed to qualify for the Eurovision.” This was dumped in favour of a public voting selection process on the Late Late Show, embellished from 2011-14 by the introduction of a mentoring system which, as Blake Knox has argued, effectively further shifted the responsibility for crucial decisions away from RTÉ and into the hands of music industry professionals, some of whom had little or no television experience. But the Russian contestant, Polina Gagarina, is still managing to raise eyebrows with a song about fraternity called “A Million Voices.” “The song is extremely effective and I would argue, manipulative,” says Fricker, “because it’s one of those songs that’s all about how we should all get together and link hands and be human beings together and believe in peace.

While Molly Sterling is a promising young songwriter with a lovely voice, the presentation of Playing with Numbers did not help it stand out from the contest’s many other ballads. Indeed, in a broader world where music is becoming more and more like pornographic processed cheese (Hi, Beyonce), Eurovision celebrates the niche and unexpected. While that may be a reflection of the Ukraine situation falling off the top of the news agency, Fricker says “it’s also perhaps because fans just love the song.”

Once again we are left wondering why those in decision-making positions are not producing the cutting-edge presentation, staging and camerawork required to succeed in today’s Eurovision. If Australians want to watch the contest live, it will be aired by Australian broadcaster SBS at 5am Sunday morning Australian Eastern Standard Time, and repeated later at 7.30pm Sunday night.

The country, which had a Eurovision viewership of more than three million last year, was invited under this year’s theme of “Building Bridges,” and their entry, Guy Sebastian’s Tonight Again, is among the bookmakers’ top five favourites to win. For example, a 2014 study conducted by UCL and Imperial College grouped the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia with the former USSR, forming a giant bloc which they said split into two more-or-less random groups each year. In his 2008 study into Eurovision voting alliances, Dr Derek Gatherer identified six countries who are still generally considered to be unattached to any kind of vote exchange: Monaco, France, Israel, Switzerland, Portugal and Germany. Beyond bearded transvestite Conchita Wurst’s winning performance last year, the 2007 runner-up was a Ukrainian drag queen who marched about in silver Dolce & Gabbana, hollering a gibberish folk-techno track.

The Malaysian-born singer-songwriter was the first winner of Australian Idol in 2003, and signalled his intent by penning a whole slew of potential songs in just three days. While it seems clear that countries vote positively for their neighbours, this doesn’t necessarily mean that other European countries, such as those in the West, are being actively discriminated against. For those who may have woken up from a deep sleep, This is Uptown Funk: The rest of the odds are as follows: 7/4 Sweden; 11/4 Italy; 5/1 Australia; 8/1 Estonia; 10/1 Russia; 16/1 Finland; 33/1 Azerbaijan; 33/1 Israel; 33/1 Norway; 33/1 Slovenia; 33/1 United Kingdom; 40/1 Cyprus; 50/1 France; 50/1 Iceland; 50/1 Latvia; 50/1 Spain; 66/1 Belgium; 66/1 Georgia; 80/1 Albania; 100/1 Armenia; 100/1 Austria; 100/1 Belarus; 100/1 Czech; 100/1 Denmark; 100/1 FYR Macedonia; 100/1 Germany; 100/1 Greece; 100/1 Holland; 100/1 Hungary; 100/1 Ireland; 100/1 Lithuania;’ 100/1 Malta; 100/1 Moldova; 100/1 Montenegro; 100/1 Poland; 100/1 Portugal; 100/1 Romania; 100/1 San Marino; 100/1 Serbia; 100/1 Switzerland Now here’s an interesting one.

I have a strong enough sense of self-preservation not to suggest that the music is a standout part of Eurovision (admittedly, at times, it can be the worst). Traditionally the winning country is the host of next year’s contest so if Australia takes the prize will the whole of Europe have to traipse over to Oz in a sea of sequins and glitter? Organisers have said that Australia can’t host the competition, but their broadcaster SBS could co-organise the event with another European country where the contest would take place. And along with the endless songs about broken heartage, the Eurovision canon includes artists examining topics like Facebook, passwords and free booze. Wurst, meanwhile – who was denounced last year by the Russian Orthodox Church as an “abomination” – said Thursday that she would “love to spend at least a week” with Mr.

For 2+2 = 3 reasons, this is to celebrate 60 years of Eurovision and the fact that Australia is such a great mate of the contest – with so many faithful viewers every year. The team of six deaf artists and two hearing interpreters will “tell stories and convey the emotions behind the songs,” rather than translating lyrics, a spokeswoman for Austrian broadcaster ORF told the BBC. So this weekend, when the finals air on our TV screens, we can’t just sit on the sidelines and giggle about the lady who inexplicably sings opera-style in Armenia’s act.

The contestants at Saturday’s final include Monika Kuszynska, who is partly paralyzed and is the first Eurovision contestant to perform from a wheelchair. Turkey and Croatia are the first and second most popular pieces, and Serbia is the fourth – indicating different groups still vote for different countries. But the band is still pleased to have come that far. “We didn’t make the finals,” drummer Toni Valitalo told Finnish television. “But we won the whole contest.” Acts who are already well known tend to do well in the competition, and performers are bound to be familiar in the countries close to where they are from.

While there was some concern that Australia stumped for Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian – and not someone cooler – to sing its song, three thoughts are comforting on this front: It is easy to view Eurovision as a cultural pestilence with an expensive light show: the musical equivalent of the Logies. Her performances at festivals and events in Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia meant she already had a following in these countries, and therefore received more points from the Balkan bloc.

When the UK tried a similar tack, organising a European tour for 2009 entry Jade Ewen, it worked out well, Ewen came in at a respectable fifth place, a big improvement on our last place performance in 2008. Or it is for something like the Olympics that takes up two weeks of your life and provides just as much heartbreak and disappointment as it does happy victorious moments.

After 40 years in the Labor Party, 29 years in Parliament, eight years Labor’s Senate leader, six years a minister across seven portfolios under three prime ministers, and the last surviving minister from the Hawke and Keating governments of the 1980s and early ’90s, J.P. William Adams, founder of Eurovision news site WiWi Bloggs, suggested “Russia could show up without a song and they could still make the final”, such is the unwavering nature of the ex-Soviet vote. For example, Germany won in 2010, high school student Lena gaining points from over two thirds of the participating countries with the song Satellite. At 10am on Monday, before a small group of officials and a couple of his former ministerial staffers, in the National Archives building which used to be a post office behind stately Old Parliament House, Faulkner signed a so-called Deed of Gift, ceding ownership to the Commonwealth of what is now the John Faulkner Collection, made up of 40 years of personal and official records, documents, files, transcripts of interviews and policy advice “created and maintained in various ministerial roles”, minutes of meetings both ministerial and party political in government and in opposition, and umpteen other materials hoarded over the years.

Anne McLean, a senior Archives official, remarks: “The collection represents a rich record of a significant individual’s political career, and also provides a unique insight and record of the ALP.” It is an observation likely to cause a certain tightening of the sphincter muscle among various of Faulkner’s colleagues, not least in NSW where he was state assistant general secretary for nine years until he entered the Senate in 1989, the same year Faulkner became a delegate to Labor’s rigidly-factionalised national executive, where the left and right factions, with the centre now gone, collude to keep both happy, and bugger the rank and file membership. With Ukraine not partaking this year, and Belarus and Moldova failing to quality for the final, Russian favourite Polina Gagarina could be in a good position to receive high scores from ex-Soviet states. When Carol Mills, the controversial former head of the Commonwealth’s department of Parliamentary Services was sacked last month by Sydney’s ferocious Bronwyn Bishop, the Speaker of the House, and Tasmania’s Stephen Parry, the Senate President – both from the Liberal Party – one joyous twitterer, a bloke, wryly emailed: “Somewhere, John Faulkner closes a file.” Faulkner does not Twitter or Facebook or selfie or anything else that seems to stir the latter-day communications multitude, but he delighted in the remark when he learned of it, his office having been spied on by Mills’ snooping department via the Parliament’s security TV scanners last year. Both Rudd and Clark now live in New York, where Clark heads up the United Nations’s aid agency and Rudd, after giving up a senior academic post, is apparently with a new think tank involving the Pacific rim and various Asian countries. Last year, when New Zealand put up its hand for a seat on the UN security council, Australian diplomats advised them not to run, as Australia had only recently completed a two-year term and another South Pacific country would be most unlikely to be voted in.

And in winning, New Zealand gained seven more votes than did Australia when it had won after spending an absolute poultice duchessing UN members’ support.

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