Dear BBC of Stuff,
We at OnEurope often write to you at round about this time of year to hand out constructive and blindingly obvious advice on what went right – or more often, wrong.
It’s a rather different letter in 2023 because your contribution to the contest was so much bigger than usual. And we must, of course, begin with, well, the entire contest.
You did that. And it was fantastic. You were faced with the sensitive artistic challenge of bringing together the very different cultures of Ukraine and all the constituent regions and cities of the UK, and all of Europe. And Australia. They have culture too. (Adds Australia to the “Offended By Nick” sticker album). We wouldn’t have known where to start, you knew exactly where to start – two ordinary children brought together by the thrill of the moment. Every interval and every postcard was crafted with love, and it showed.
You were responsible for showcasing 37 disparate (and in some cases desperate) national performances. Every one of them looked perfectly bespoke, tailored – I don’t see how any act could have any complaints about the stage they were given to work their magic on, and many were complimentary about how they’d been offered bigger opportunities than they expected to find.
Did things go wrong during the stage build or early rehearsals? Surely they must have done? They always do. But if they did, we couldn’t tell – every move in the live shows looked polished, or at least studiedly unpolished, and we in the press room saw those final bits of polish being applied during final runthroughs. We saw, and noticed, those jokes that were deemed to have a cruel edge being quietly dropped from the script, and the final show was better for the substitutions.
So we have to turn to Mae, and that disappointing 25th place, all in that wider context that there was so much more to do this year than to fight for the top of the scoreboard.
I think a couple of minor but basic errors were made – the staging, heavy with clever and colourful graphics, overshadowed Mae when she needed to be the star of the show. The song was a great, sassy middle finger raised towards YOU, complete with a spoken part finalising the contempt and ending of it with YOU. Except it all changed and that spoken part was suddenly a message of empowerment towards… who?
At the same time though, “YOU” is that one person sitting in their living room enjoying a nice music show, and poor dear Mr Olafsson in Reykjavik may have been left wondering quite what he’d done to upset the angry British lady, before accidentally setting fire to his TV listings magazine. Again.
Try not to alienate the person you’re trying to convince to vote for you. It was a really good effort, but this was a year where a couple of minor faults – a song that wasn’t especially demanding on the singer, a singer that only found a 98% performance on the live stage when it mattered, a staging that didn’t sell the song, and even the unavoidable horrible bad luck of being 26th in the running order – it all compounded, and it ended up with a poor result.
So next year in Stockholm, or Maaaalmurrrr, or Goat Borg, or oh for heaven’s sake I’m not even going to try and pronounce that other one in writing. We know all about SVT, and SVT know all about us. SVT are going to make it incredibly easy for you. So bring your A game. Sell your performer first, then find the song to be a vehicle for your performer, then drive that vehicle like there’s no tomorrow.
You got this. Go create something magical and we’ll see you next March!