Why Eurovision should take a tip from Simon Cowell

On an average year, the Eurovision song contest is dubbed a ‘joke’ by the majority of viewers, due to a running standard of low expectations: off-key ballad by alright-looking-20-something male; at least three horrendous ‘pop’ numbers; points scored for belly-dancing; political voting where the United Kingdom seems to have absolutely no allies; the underdog who actually produced a decent tune which you will secretly vote for and download later.

However, this year it has been branded farcical for an entirely different reason: the emergence of arguably concrete talent. The German winning entry, ‘Satellite’ by 19-year old Lena Meyer-Landrut, entered the competition as a certified platinum single, having rested at number one in the German charts for five weeks and charting in the top ten in other European countries. She won by a huge margin of 76, totalling 246 Eurovision points.

Whilst, along with thousands of others, I don’t believe entering the competition with recognised success seems entirely fair, Lena’s supporters are arguing that ‘Satellite’ should be judged on its own merits. Niamh Kavanagh won the competition for Ireland in 1993, and performed again this year but only ranked 23rd out of 25 contestants – her performance this year can’t possibly be compared to her outstanding contribution of 17 years ago. These two examples prove that previous critical acclaim isn’t everything, and that talent alongside acknowledgement of contemporary trends can be valued beyond renown.

Lena’s success may well spark a positive Eurovision trend, setting a precedent for the inclusion of a higher standard of artists in the contest. From a British perspective, the United Kingdom has undoubtedly submitted a host of atrocious entries in recent years, culminating in the (still painful to reference) year of ‘Nil Points’. Surely this is another reason to push for higher quality entries? When Sandie Shaw won in 1967, she had already produced two number one singles. We have found hugely successful acts like Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle through talent competitions, and it’s getting rather embarrassing that as one of the Eurovision ‘Big Four’ who hold guaranteed entry that we can’t even seem to rank consistently in the top ten.

Today, the Eurovision song contest genre is a cliché. Although I would be bitterly disappointed if such gems as ‘Eastern European Funk’ by InCulto (the Lithuanian entry which, to my utter dismay, did not make it into this year’s final) completely disappeared, an infusion of credible acts would certainly make things easier when trying explain my genuine love of Eurovision. Its winners are generally acts which have the potential to be signed, but conform to the Eurovision genre, in its own – popular, albeit corny – right.

Each country is allowed to choose just one act to represent their nation – so perhaps it is only right that the majority should be vaguely talented, even if it means that they’re an ‘up and coming’ artist? We’ve accepted political voting as a matter of course, so maybe it’s time to take it all a bit more seriously – a true contradiction in Eurovision terms, I realise. I’m sure Jean-Paul Philippot, the President of the European Broadcasting Union, wouldn’t object to the competition regaining its international respect. Who’s to say that the Eurovision genre can’t also be internationally popular due to talent rather than novelty? Just look at ABBA.