Dubstep, or the 21st-century injection that Eurovision needs

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Far from being an institution of musical trendsetting, the Eurovision Song Contest is a pawn in a continual game of catch-up. Often to its detriment, the competition is deeply rooted in a heritage of cringe-worthy pop songs, innumerable ballads sung by ladies in billowing dresses and, of late, guitar-wielding twenty-something men in decked trilbies and skinny jeans. But every few years, a couple of acts latch onto something current, and nudge Eurovision’s contemporary parameters a little further along. This year’s trend: dubstep.

Three of this year’s acts feature the underground electro sound, if not performing their entire track with avant-garde intent. Slovenia’s Hannah Mancini mixes mainstream pop verses with a heavier yet club-worthy chorus, while traditional instrumentals played by Elitsa and Stoyan are accompanied by an unexpectedly off-piste dubstep base that gives the Bulgarian track a very different edge from the direction dictated by its introlude. The latter track unfortunately has nowhere near enough lyrics to make a significant impression on the competition, but is pushing a boundary of its (very bizarre) own.

The leader of the 2k13 dubstep pack is Montenegro’s entrant: hip-hop duo Who See, featuring singer Nina Žižić. For its complete deviance from everything that Eurovision lovers have to come to expect, Igranka is  brave entry from a country whose Eurovision history has so far hasn’t included a spot in the final. Montenegro have learnt their lesson from last year with the borderline-offensive sounds of Rambo Amadeus, but since Igranka is verging on rap, the dubstep beats will quite likely be too strong for the majority of voters. Last year’s winning anthem, Euphoria, may well have sparked the trend for heavy bass; could Who See take the competition any further?

Anyone listening to the 2013 semi-finalist line-up will find Igranka‘s change of pace jarring, and for all the right reasons. The Contest certainly hasn’t escaped the internet generation’s consciousness just yet: Igranka is storming ahead on the official Eurovision YouTube channel with 1,302,047 views and counting, with Zlata Ognevich as the next most viewed Malmö hopeful, 300,000 views behind. An appeal to a younger demographic is the injection that Eurovision needs, to revitalise its fast-crumbling future from beneath the flagging stalwarts of yore.

By submitting platinum record sellers as their entrants on a regular basis, Germany might be dubbed the most ‘respectful’ towards their guaranteed place in the final. On the other hand, the United Kingdom are never afraid to insult the privilege by consistently entering acts who, although once successful, have long since put their musical careers behind them (as must be equally evident to the rest of Europe by the annual abundance of crows-feet). The UK’s decision to enter ‘bad acts’ may be tactical, one that avoids the winner’s fee of staging the Contest the following year. Even worse, perhaps it’s a derisive, vainglorious case of those in charge ‘giving the rest of Europe a chance’ by not entering acts that would win year after year. But how to justify the humiliation that follows?

As the country whose greatest rival in the European charts is the United States, if mockery were dismissed and a contemporary British act were chosen to enter, it would easily make for a winning (a feat which the UK hasn’t managed since Katrina and the Waves in 1997) show of support. Although British national pride may be at its peak, will Eurovision ever be accepted as an arena ‘worthy’ of that pride again? While other nations are pulling out due to valid economic difficulties – including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, Luxembourg and Andorra this year – the Big Fiver island has yet to offer a worthy excuse for its pathetic display of support for the Contest.

So perhaps it falls to dubstep’s Eurovision debut to propel the contest into the twenty-first century. The future of the competition may well see YouTube hits being taken into account, and the sooner the EBU embraces that latter-day demographic, the better. That’s what Igranka‘s all about anyway, right? Clearly one big Eurovision metaphor?

“I’ll take you to the party

No sweat just gotta get on with it

The beat and the bass are so catchy