What a surprise…NOT!
All of Sweden appears to be in mourning today over the country’s dismal showing at the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest over the weekend. This campy music competition (and I use that term lightly) is regarded as something of an institution in Europe…or at the very least, an excuse to party. Swedes take it VERY seriously, however. There is actually a month-long nationwide televised contest here (Melodifestivalen) each year to choose the song that will serve as its entry.
This year, the combination of professional judges and phone-in voters selected a cheesy song about a night out in Las Vegas for its Eurovision entry. The singer, Martin Stenmarck, was competent enough…and certainly easy on the eyes. But sending a song about the excesses of “Sin City, USA” to represent SWEDEN in a *European* event was, as I predicted to a number of Swedish friends, a disaster waiting to happen.
“Las Vegas” placed 19th out of 24 entries…Sweden’s worst performance in the 50-year history of Eurovision. And next year, for the first time, the song that Sweden selects for the contest will have to “qualify” in order to make the final. Only the top 10 acts from the previous year, plus the UK, Spain, Germany and France (the top financial contributors to the event) get automatic bids to compete in Eurovision the following year…everyone else has to participate in a semi-final competition, of which the top 10 finishers will go on to the actual contest.
But while Sweden’s ego is a bit bruised over having to qualify next year…it could actually be a good thing in the long run. The “semi-final” is televised all over Europe, so the songs that advance to the main competition have already been previewed by most of the countries that will be voting in the final. Of the top 10 placing songs at this year’s Eurovision, seven were semi-finalists. Clearly the extra exposure didn’t hurt. (Though I’m not sure that even a semi-final appearance would have saved “Las Vegas”.)