Gone are the days of zero points! Brave little Britain cornered Eurovision’s sympathy vote | Zoe Williams
OWhat can the Eurovision Song Contest teach us about the human condition? Some years, not much except that we like shiny things; this year, that we all thirst for justice, supporting the victim against the aggressor, being overwhelmed by the spectacle of love and courage – and as a result, Ukraine had to win. In fact, if winning was all that mattered, it would have been quicker for the rest of Europe not to show up. But (another lesson) winning isn’t all that matters.
It’s horribly poignant to remember that last year we mostly complained about peace, as a subject of song. “No more bloody harmony,” we quibbled, as we patiently waited for the next Nordic duo, harmonizing tightly and asking, “Why the war?” “Enough international love already!” Ah, the hollow cynicism of peacetime. Wouldn’t it be great to be hollow and cynical again, and not have to take a song’s metaphors so literally about a nation’s destroyed infrastructure.
Thus, Eurovision is not so much a song contest as an exercise in international perceptions of justice, set to music. His superficial novel is densely politically allegorical. Commentators used to be mystified, or at least pretend to be mystified, by the drastic fall in the UK’s international standing in the 21st century. After four decades of victories, of races, at the very least by a bullet somewhere in the Top 10, suddenly the European community united: we were irretrievably shit.
All the usual and well-documented neighborhood biases, where countries that shared languages and cultural norms tended to vote for each other, were, in our case, reversed. The closer you were to the UK, the fewer points you gave us. Although it’s hard to say when these points overall weren’t.
The first year we scored zero points was in 2003. Everyone thought it had to be because of the war in Iraq. It made sense at the time. You reap what you sow, and when you turn your back on the international peacekeeping order, you pay the price in the unwavering and cruel light that shines on Jemini, those quirky poppets. It was, at the time, an international first for us to score nothing at all, so whatever the explanation, it had to be something major.
But, in retrospect, I think it was more likely a reflection of the new voting system, introduced in 2000, whereby the four nations contributing the most cash (France, Germany, Spain, UK) were automatically allowed to skip the semi-finals. and enter the contest. He defies, no, translated the very principles of fair competition, producing an instant physiological disgust reaction. It would be like taking the richest nation in the Olympics and just pushing it forward 10 meters in the sprint, then letting the spectators vote for who was the fastest.
Italy joined the monetary group in 2011, so it became the Big Five. It didn’t improve the band’s position, but it was still only the UK that everyone really hated, and for much of the last two decades we came last or in the bottom five. It’s been worse since Brexit: we could have achieved the ultimate treble and finished three years in a row, if the competition had not been canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
The best explanation is the most obvious: there is a limit to the number of years a nation can spend strutting around, preaching its own exceptionalism, before it becomes all anyone can hear. Play any music you like on it, and it’s just an increasingly irritating noise.
But then, just when you think you understand, everything changes and the UK comes second. Sam Ryder, who even looks a bit like Aslan, has discovered a deeper truth. Music is elementary. Whatever the pre-existing aggravations, they are all eradicated by the purity of the song, as long as the song is pure, or it bananas (thanks, Norway).
No, just kidding – it was actually a vote of sympathy. After watching us for a number of years, our neighbors near and far have concluded that no one suffers more at the hands of our heinous political class than we, their own melodious people. Mercy would never get us to No. 1 – justice will always win – but it can put us at an honorable second.