ESC Insight

ESC Insight
01
June
2020

Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Exciting Renewal Of Finland’s UMK

Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Exciting Renewal Of Finland’s UMK
http://media.blubrry.com/eurovision/p/archive.org/download/escinsight_20200601_695_UMK2020/escinsight_20200601_695_UMK2020.mp3

The last few years have seen Finland’s performance at the Eurovision Song Contest stuggling to reach the top of the table. In a push to reach the left hand side, broadcaster YLE has revitalised its National Final, and Ellie Chalkley wants to find out how it benefits every artist that takes part, how it benefits the Finnish music scene, and how the public can feel involved.

The interview with Tapio Hakanen (UMK’s producer) was recorded in February, and the artist interviews recorded at UMK in early March. The story, like many this year, changed during March after the cancellation of Rotterdam 2020. But the story, about what UMK is and what it wants to be in the future, is important to explain some of the things that have happened since.

Looking Back, Looking Forwards

Ellie Chalkley explores the exciting renewal of Finland’s UMK selection in ‘Looking Forwards, Looking Backwards’.

Stay in touch with the Eurovision Song Contest over the summer months by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have our email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

23
May
2020

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Welcome To The Summer

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Welcome To The Summer

http://media.blubrry.com/eurovision/p/archive.org/download/escinsight_20200522_694/escinsight_20200522_694.mp3

The Eurovision pace is going to calm down over the next few months. Before the summer kicks off, let’s go over the news from Shine A Light and the last seven days..

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Welcome To The Summer

As the Eurovision Summer begins, we move into the ‘off-season’. Ewan Spence and the ESC Insight team bring you the news from the world of the Contest, including Junior Eurovision 2020, Eurovision 2021, and #EurovisionAgain’s 1974.

Stay in touch with the Eurovision Song Contest over the summer months by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have our email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

19
May
2020

Nine Things We Expect From The Netherlands And Eurovision 2021

Nine Things We Expect From The Netherlands And Eurovision 2021

Well, this is a curious year to do our traditional ‘Nine Things…’ post. For a start I can’t draft it on the flight home! We’re not going to cut and paste last year’s ‘Nine Things…‘, (even though most of them are still valid) because Eurovision 2021 is not Eurovision 2020 – a phrase that is going to be needed a lot over the next twelve months.

Looking Forward

One of the benefits of ‘Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light‘ was the closure it offered. The Eurovision Song Contest in 2020 is a landmark year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. How would the narrative end?

Shine A Light‘ brought that ending, drawing a metaphorical production line under the cancellation of the Song Contest. While there will rightly be an acknowledgment of the pandemic at Eurovision 2021, the hosts should then bridge into the Contest and the greatest light entertainment musical show the world has ever seen.

No ‘No Show’ Allowed

Don’t expect the Song Contest to be cancelled next year. While the loss of Eurovision 2020 can be acknowledged this year with the aforementioned ‘Shine A Light‘ and tribute shows from individual broadcasters, to not have a competitive show next year would mean three years between Tel Aviv and wherever a 2022 Contest would take place. That gap would make it harder for the Contest to come back, so there will be a competitive show… in some form.

The EBU’s press release on the 2021 Song Contest quietly confirms this:

In this ever-changing and challenging environment, the EBU will, therefore, work with its Dutch Members and the City of Rotterdam to ensure the continuity of the event in a number of different scenarios.

The format of next year’s Song Contest is going to be dependent on science as much as song.

New Branding

It might be spectacular, it might have won awards, but the data-drive ‘bullseye’ logo for Rotterdam 2020 is… the logo for Rotterdam 2020. The Eurovision Song Contest 2021 is a new show, and must stand on its own. That means, much as we love it, the 2020 branding would be a bigger marketing hindrance compared to the cost saving in recycling the logo. I’d expect it to change, and a new slogan to replace #OpenUp, arriving in due course.

Given the spreadsheet that generated the slices is still around, maybe next year will be lots of coloured squares representing the historical results?

Dates

We know a lot more about 2021 than we would normally know in the week before the Contest. We know it’s Rotterdam. We know it’s the Ahoy Theatre, after all the 2020 tickets are going to be valid in 2021. What we don’t know are the dates.

The obvious choice is same again, which means Saturday May 15th for the Grand Final, but there’s a strong argument to go as late as possible to push back the go-no go decision dates. That would mean Saturday May 22nd or even Saturday May 29th.

The Ahoy Theatre

Remember the CGI views of the staging elements for Eurovision 2020? We’re going to see them next year.

First of all, although the fans have seen the representations, they’ve not been seen on television by the public. The reveal of the stage next year will be a new television moment. Given every single publicly sold ticket can be carried forwards to next year’s shows, that means the capacity issues in each area, including the floor zones, has not changed. The design is staying.

Eurovision 2020 staging (NPO/AVROTROS/NOS)

Eurovision 2020 staging (NPO/AVROTROS/NOS)

A Smaller Circus

Outside the venue events, there’s likely to be a scaling back of the ambitions of the Eurovision Village and the use of public spaces. Coronavirus will still be part of the world, even if a vaccine is developed, deployed and proves to be highly effective. The key product of the Eurovision Song Contest is the television show. The external activities are a big bonus for the host city and country, but they are not a critical part of the televised show. While they will not disappear, they are likely to be scaled back for public health reasons.

A Chance For Change

This year saw Jon Ola Sand step down rom his role as Executive Producer for the Eurovision Song Contest, with Sweden’s Martin Österdahl now in the role.

Much like a new political leader can make wholesale changes in the first few months of their new role, Österdahl would have his own ideas to keep the Song Contest relevant in the second decade of the 21st century. With the break in continuity and multiple formats being actively considered to cover all circumstances, Österdahl has the biggest blank sheet of paper to reinvent the Eurovision Song Contest since Marcel Bezençon.

The empty stage after Junior Eurovision 2017 (image: Ewan Spence)

The empty stage after Junior Eurovision 2017 (image: Ewan Spence)

Junior Eurovision Goes Remote

We may see the first radical change at this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Announced during ‘Shine A Light‘, Poland will be doing back-to-back hosting duties.

With the best will in the world, heading into winter with the spectre of coronavirus still hanging over us, the duty of care to the performers will need to be considered. Should they be gathering together in Warsaw?

Or will this be a good time to test the idea of a ‘remote’ Eurovision with the Junior performers staying at home and travelling the much shorter distance to the broadcaster’s own studio for a satellite link-up?

The experience might come in useful for May 2021…

Measuring The Songs

And so to the songs of 2021. I suspect the stronger voices in the community may fracture into two camps. The first camp will be the ‘we must compare this artist’s song to the song they had last year and decide which is better‘. The second will be the camp that makes a specific point to ‘ignore the 2020 songs and try to judge the new entries in isolation.’

The returning artists are going to be under more pressure by virtue of having been carried forwards, the mental highs will be higher and the lows will be lower. To have three months of build up to a non-qualification is hard; now imagine that after more than a year.

Even countries that send a different artist, either through an internal selection or National Final, would have a tough time being compared to 2020’s entry. Imagine being the Icelandic act that has to follow ‘Think About Things‘?

What are you looking forward to for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2021? What needs changed, what should stay the same, and what would be your wildest expectation? Let us know in the comments.

Categories: ESC Insight

17
May
2020

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Some Thoughts As The Season Ends

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Some Thoughts As The Season Ends

http://media.blubrry.com/eurovision/p/archive.org/download/escinsight_20200517_693/escinsight_20200517_693.mp3

With the ‘time to Eurovision’ clock now reset, the new season has begun and our eyes will soon turn towards Rotterdam 2021. Before that journey starts, let’s take a moment to think about the last year and how it will impact the future of the Song Contest.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Some Thoughts As The Season Ends

As the Eurovision Song Contest season comes to close, Ewan Spence and the ESC Insight take a moment to look back and reflect on Rotterdam 2020.

Stay in touch with the Eurovision Song Contest over the summer months by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have our email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

16
May
2020

Fan Fiction, Finals, And The Eurovision Song Contest 2020

Fan Fiction, Finals, And The Eurovision Song Contest 2020

With the cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest, and no official competitive element either in the EBU’s ‘Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light’  tribute show or the online ‘Eurovision Song Celebrations’ of the semi-finals, the community is missing its definitive ending to the 2020 season.

For broadcasters, the EBU’s two-hour tribute show would help fill the four-hour slot reserved for the Song Contest. With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, programming is in short supply, another advantage in airing a marque Saturday night show. It also acts as an anchor to build other Eurovision programming around it. A large number of these shows will involve viewer votes to select a winning song – essentially replicating each country’s televote and providing a resolution for the general public

But the community? Well, that’s where things get interesting.

Fiction And Eurovision Fandom

Fandoms built around media properties – be they novels, films, television series, anime, or anything else – have existed long before the intent was here, but the internet has allowed them to flourish. Fan fiction is a strong part of these communities, as Bronwen Thomas lays out in “What Is Fanfiction and Why Are People Saying Such Nice Things about It?”

“While the activities of fans may take many forms, writing stories deriving from one or more source texts has long been the most popular way of concretising and disseminating their passion for a particular fictional universe.”

While it may not be a fandom built around a fictional property, the Eurovision community loves to tell stories around the Eurovision Song Contest. It provides a rich tapestry for everyone to enjoy, to debate, to discuss, and to engage with other members of the community. While there is very little fan fiction that would be recognisable compared to, say, the fandom of ‘Sherlock’, the ongoing coverage by the community in news reports, videos, podcasts, and social media reflects the storytelling that you find in every community.

(That’s not to say there is no Eurovision fan fiction, as a glance at Archive Of Our Own clearly demonstrates).

Culture, Rebellion, and Exploration

Fan fiction becomes part of the culture of community, and can have an impact on the property. Take the fan fiction writers of Doctor Who after the cancellation of the show in 1989. They have fed back into the world of the show itself. The Big Finish range of licensed audio dramas grew from fan fiction and early audio productions; a number of fans were asked to write the continuation novels (with many of these being the first books they had published), and of course the fans eventually found themselves in a position to bring back and run the show in the 21st century.

Fan fiction can be rebellious. It runs alongside a property in real time. When something goes ‘wrong’ in a storyline, not only will there be discussions online about the rights and wrongs of the decision, there will also be those ready to write – sometimes in great depth – about what should have happened. Many of these can prove to be more attractive than the parent property.

These alternatives can explore other more dangerous areas, where different ideas and relationships can be examined and discussed. Harry Potter fandom has a huge amount of fan fiction that explores countless different variations of the world of Hogwarts and beyond. You can find storylines that take a drastic turn from that of JK Rowling’s original timeline (with some of the best, in my opinion, diverging just after ’The Goblet Of Fire’); curious approaches to the basic story (what if Harry Potter was a prodigy that applied rational scientific methods to studying magic?); or different relationships between the main characters (“of course Draco and Ginny were the power couple who defeated Voldemort, why would you think otherwise?”).

The Song Contest Community

Let’s return to the Eurovision Song Contest and the three tenets of culture, rebellion, and alternative timelines.

For the EBU and its members Eurovision is a large scale event that allows new technology to be tested, a place to share knowledge, and to expand public service broadcasting as a whole, but this is mostly behind closed doors. For the public, the Song Contest is a few hours of event television on a Saturday night and a good reason to have a party.

The culture of the Song Contest? That comes from the community. Outside the week of the Contest, Eurovision is a much smaller affair, but with an incredibly strong fandom. The Eurovision Song Contest flame is kept alight outside of May by a community with its own tropes, cliches, and affiliations.

As for rebellion, the critiquing of the songs and artists selected starts with the announcements of internal selections of National Final contenders. Examinations of back catalogues to decide if these acts are Eurovision material; reaction videos to instantly decide an opinion on the songs; and the coverage around national selections all feed into the idea that the broadcasters are somehow ‘doing it wrong’.

Just ask which act was ‘robbed’ at a National Final or a Song Contest (pick any year, someone out there knows someone who was robbed of victory) and you will find parts of the community happy to rebel.

Every year, the community builds its own alternative timelines. Before, during, and after the Contest, countless polls and rankings allow different parts of the community to declare their own rightful winner. Sometimes that winner matches the winner of the Song Contest, in which case that part of the community has proven that it understands the culture (perhaps even leading it). If the polls differ then you have your fan fiction… it’s just not as nicely packaged as ‘The Paladin Protocol’s’ exploration of Sheldon and Penny in The Big Bang Theory.

The Contest That Never Was

Finally, the cancellation of Rotterdam 2020 and the Eurovision Song Contest. The story of this season started as Duncan Laurence’s ‘Arcade’ won in Tel Aviv… although someone could decide that the story started long before that – perhaps when Ilse DeLange phoned Laurence while he was shaving to tell him she had a song that he was taking to Eurovision, even if he didn’t want to; a call to action straight out of Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey’.

Nevertheless, the 2020 season was building up with the familiar tropes being rolled out; multiple songs from Symphonix, Mariette not winning Melodifestivalen, and Ireland loudly reminding everyone it had won the Contest seven times. Other tropes were being challenged: the BBC having major label support, Samanta Tina finally winning the Latvian selection, and Sanremo finishing on time…

Then the Contest was cancelled. The community’s story was incomplete. There would not be a winning song, there would not be an ending for the songs and stars that many were following, there would not be closure.

That loss spilled over into popular culture. On the day of cancellation news reports covered the loss of the Song Contest, talk radio discussed the impact, and broadcasters realised they had a big hole in their schedules that needed to be filled.

Who would provide an ending to the story? The community.

The online polls took on a new meaning. No longer were these alternatives to the Song Contest; for many they became the Song Contest. They became the only way to judge what could have happened on that Saturday night in May.

For many in the community, the urgency to replace the Eurovision show was a call to action. Recreations of the Eurovision format sprung up.  The annual Eurojury from Eurovoix took on a secondary role as a replacement for the big show. New projects sprung up to fill the void, with the fan-produced Eurostream providing one of many alternative broadcasts.

These replacement shows captured the core of the Eurovision Song Contest community. They allowed the year-long culture to define the 2020 season, they rebelled against the narrative that there should be a Celebration instead of a Contest, and they provided closure in the strongest possible way to each section of the community.

It should come as no surprise that in the wake of the cancellation, the fans would simply carry on regardless and create their own ending.

Citations and Further Reading

“What Is Fanfiction and Why Are People Saying Such Nice Things about It?”,  Bronwen Thomas, Storyworlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies , Vol. 3 (2011), pp. 1-24

“The bigger the plot hole, the better for the fan writer: Anglophone Weiß Kreuz Fandom“, An interdisciplinary workshop on Fan Fiction 14 – 15 February 2020, English Department, University of Zurich

“Ingroup Identification and Ingroup Projection in Fanfiction and “Star Wars” Fans” / Stephen Reysen, Courtney N. Plante, Grace A. Packard, Diana Siotos // Komunikacija i kultura online. – Vol. 10, No. 10 (2019), p. 88-103.
(ISSN 2217-4257)

“Fanfic As Academic Discipline”, Erin Blakemore, January 20, 2017, Jstor Daily

Categories: ESC Insight

15
May
2020

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury 2020 Championship, The Grand Final

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury 2020 Championship, The Grand Final
https://archive.org/download/escinsight_20200515_692_JBJ2020_12_GF/escinsight_20200515_692_JBJ2020_12_GF.mp3

Welcome to the Grand Final of 2020’s Juke Box Jury Championship. The eight winners of our regular shows, which started back in early March, were brought together at the start of this week. Two Semi Finals later, we have our four songs and this Grand Final.

No hit, miss, or maybe, today. It’s all about the points as we look to find our Juke Box Jury winner. It’s not about who would have won the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s about which song is our favourite.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury 2020 Championship, The Grand Final
with Ross Middleton and Samantha Ross

Lithuania: On Fire, by The Roop
Iceland: Think About Things, by Daði Freyr.
The Netherlands: Grow, by Jeangu Macrooy.
Bulgaira: Tears Getting Sober, by Victoria.

We might even have an interval act for you as well…

Thank you all for joining us on the journey through the 41 songs on this year’s Juke Box Jury. As always your comments are welcome. If you want to review the ESC Insight podcast in iTunes, Google Podcasts, we’d appreciate it.

ESC Insight will be here during the summer to watch over the world of the Eurovision Song Contest. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here

Categories: ESC Insight

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