Searching for New Pop Song

The last time I looked, Britain's James Blunt was riding high in the American pop charts with a sentimental song called "You're Beautiful" and some in the media over here were starting to brag that this could be yet another renaissance for British pop.

Could be, I guess, and James is a nice enough bloke, for an ex army officer who has done the same as Sergeant Barry Saddler did all those years ago, only with a better song and a nicer message.

But before you get too excited, I should warn you about something else coming soon from this part of the world, called the Eurovision Song Contest. This lunatic annual event has
thirty five European countries, each contributing one specially composed pop song for a Saturday night live telecast across the continent, and teams of national juries voting for the best. If they can find it.

In the past, songs like Diggey Diggey Lay, Boom Bang A Bang and Ding Ding Dong, have lead the way. In terms of kitsch, and sheer tackiness, you have nothing, America, like the Eurovision Song Contest. It makes Liberace look like Dick Cheney, but without the shotgun.

Because, however appalling the songs and often the performers, this is all about national pride. And because the voting is so complex, groups of countries can gang up together to force out unpopular rivals. Serbia is currently having a spat with Montenegro about its entry, because Montenegro is holding a referendum about breaking its link with Serbia, on the day after the contest.

We Brits haven't got a chance of winning after we joined you in the Iraq war. That's how serious this gets. And the ultimate irony is that nobody really wants to win.

For a start, it's usually the kiss of death for the winning artist, who will probably sink without trace. But, even worse, under the rules, the winning country has to host the event in the following year and the whole farrago has become so big and so expensive, that it's liable to bankrupt the television company staging it.

Spookily, James Blunt's current success in your charts is the first British chart topper since 1997, the last time we won the Eurovision Song Contest. And that entry was sung by Katrina Leskovitch, an American. You see what I mean?

This May the twentieth, the Eurovision song contest will be staged in Athens and will be watched by six hundred million people, which is dismaying. Me? I'll be in the pub next door.
by Simon Bates