Nay Mr Wilkes – TVE aren’t that bad

Spain at Eurovision

In this editorial piece, Phil Colclough, Webmaster of OnEurope shares his thoughts about Spain and their fall out of love with Eurovision.

Spain at EurovisionIt generally starts so well.  Lots of fan support – some verging on the fanatical – getting behind one or two local artistes. The tension builds around a national final, whipping Spanish and international fans and supporters into an anticipatory frenzy for the big reveal …

And then it arrives, the song from Spain. This usual kicks off eight or nine weeks of internet panic and fervent poll voting. Spanish fans (online at least) decide that their favourite country is going to be to the wonning and nothing can stop their march to glory. Except for the juries and the televoters. This baffles the very same Spanish fans, who can’t get their minds around the idea that real people and juries don’t like their song very much.

That, dear friends, is Eurovision Spain in a nutshell. Not having won since 1969, the Spanish have never stopped turning up. However, for the last decade and a half, it seems that the powers that be at TVE Towers have lulled themselves into a false sense of security. They have caught what I like to call “BBC-itis” – meaning they believe that they have uncovered the formula for a Eurovision song. Nothing will persuade them to deviate. Because they know that this sort of song is what Europe likes. And of course, they don’t have to try to change this ‘winning formula’ because they have the safety blanket of being exempt from relegation. Sadly, it seems that everyone in Spain who follows the contest buys into this idea too.

It’s at this point in the article – if you’ve got this far – that you will be about to furiously type an email to me saying: “Why do you hate Spain? You Spanish hater…”

Let’s look at the evidence for my point of view.

Since 2004, Spain has not finished in the top nine in any contest. Their best showing is three tenth-placed songs (in 2004, 2012 and 2014). Otherwise, it’s a string of contest failures.

Spanish Eurovision entries are predictable. TVE aim squarely at a minority … and not the one you would immediately think of either. The songs are often throw-away pieces of pop with a fan-friendly big note or key change. There’s lots of heavy choreography – to distract the casual viewer from the lack of depth or feeling. The performance (or the staging) lets down a singer often doing their best.

The fans – think of them what you like – and the Spanish viewing public deserve better. When Spain does well at Eurovision, the rest of Europe is buoyed by the result. Their current malaise makes it hard to see how the run of poor results, the internet meltdowns and recriminations will end.

TVE have listened to the fans in recent years, but should they?

Are fans in the right place and frame of mind to know how to get a good Eurovision result, as opposed to push for their idea of what they think makes for a good Eurovision song?

It’s all about the televote and the jury in our brave new Eurovision world, and to get the success that the Spanish crave, you’ve got to be good at everything. It can certainly be argued that there has been an amount of papering over the cracks with choreography, but the whole package matters.

TVE need to work from the ground up. Someone needs to work out what a good result looks like, and how that is achieved. They need to stop continuously asking for – and getting – outdated variations on the same theme: Traditional Eurovision stompers. Those songs don’t work anymore … because Eurovision has moved on. Its audience has grown up and wants a piece of music that it likes, not one that it is told it should like.

The juries have added the quality dimension to the overall package and are actively told to mark up songs on a range of criteria. They cannot be dazzled by a populist piece of choreography or stereotypical songs. Entries now have to be good. TVE needs to be brave enough to ditch their traditional very late call for songs, and put the ground work in to get what is needed. If they are currently doing this behind the scenes, then I’m afraid to say it’s not paying dividends.

Is their national final structure working? It airs late at night and can go on for hours … that’s not engaging television, that’s a very long and boring show for 4-5 songs. Either cut it down to something manageable or get rid of it entirely. A national final is only worth its salt if there is enough quality to make a meaningful contest. The coronation of one artist does no one any good, and the ratings suffer. It is a TV show after all.

Image result for TVEAlso, is language a problem? Say Yay! was performed in English – a massive step for TVE. Should this have happened earlier? I believe it should have. Or at least they should have opted for a song sung half in Spanish, half in English. English is, like it or not, the language of popular music.

What should TVE do?

So what do TVE do? – nothing? – That’s the TV Executive option because “It’s a TV Show”.

Revamp? – That’s the fan option (and mine for the record) because results count for everything in the contest. “Doing badly because we can” isn’t the right way to go.

Personally? I say get TVE out there, pressing the flesh, speaking to record companies, getting rid of the joke entries. Eurovision has the potential to be the biggest talent show in Europe for the right talent.

Getting that right talent won’t be easy, but it will pay off in record sales and viewing figures.

Remember the Operacion Triumfo bubble? That feeling is something to recreate. Spain started talking about Eurovision, not talking down Eurovision (that is the easy route).

What say you, readers? – Of course this is all just Phil’s opinion, so what’s yours??  Get in touch and tell us!!