Fast Cars, Amazing Music: An Italian Legacy.

Ever since Italy’s withdrawal from the Eurovision Song Contest (with the fantastic farewell song Fiumi Di Parole) in 1997, fans have been eagerly anticipating their return. And in 2011, when RAI made the unexpected announcement that Italy will be returning with the San Remo Festival once more as their national final, fans and Contest enthusiasts welcomed them back with open arms, much like the father embracing the prodigal son.

It’s a well known fact that Italy is famous for its fast cars, soulful music and delicious food. However, on a recent trip to Ferrari World I realised what the Eurovision Song Contest was truly missing out on.

It is that Italian zest for life in the fast lane, to dare to dream and then the determination to see it through, much like Enzo Ferrari and his pursuit of excellence. And then have all this passion embodied in music… No one can do it like the Italians and this is what they bring to the Eurovision Song Contest, what we’ve been missing this past decade. No wonder then when Raphael Gualazzi took to the stage for Italy with Madness Of Love on the 14th of May, it just felt right.

So welcome back Italy. Keeping your Eurovision-winning entry Insieme: 1992 in mind, its indeed wonderful that we are all together again in 2012, twenty years on.

How to get Andorra back in the Eurovision Song Contest.

News, rumours, gossip and scandals are flying thick and fast in the run-up to the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. One piece of news that caught my eye is the lamentable decision by Andorra to not return to the Contest. Andorra of course has a special place in the hearts of those in the Eurovision community, after their shocking exit in the epic Semi-Final of the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest with Salvem El Món. The country was forced to withdraw in 2010 and in 2011 due to financial restrictions. It is this same reason that they cannot return in 2012, despite strong local interest in the Contest.

However, RTVA has stated that should they find a suitable sponsor, Andorra would most certainly participate. Now let’s consider the facts. The Eurovision Song Contest is a huge, unique platform with some 125 million viewers plus thousands of journalists and participants come under intense media and national scrutiny. You simply cannot buy the kind of publicity a Eurovision participation can award you. And if your song is exceptional, it will increase hundred fold. So using this as an enticement, who would be the best to court as a sponsor? A sponsor who would benefit, and take advantage of, this exposure and would have no trouble procuring talented singers and songwriters for Andorra? My answer: record companies.

Imagine, if Andorra could get a major record label such as Sony Music France or Universal Spain to sponsor them, it will be very benefical to both parties. The record company now gets access to an exciting, unusual platform upon which it can promote or launch an artist on their roster. It will be economical as well, for the return in the degree of exposure and media attention would far outweigh the costs of procurring the same. And Andorra gets their participation funded, their flag flown as well as be represented by a professional, talented artist. In short, one can almost say that this strategy calls for turning Andorra into this generation’s Luxembourg. Luxembourg was of course notorious for importing their singers from abroad, having done so throughout their participation. So in some way, Andorra will be fulfilling a rather bizarre Eurovision tradition.

Could a partnership with a record company bring Andorra back?

Plus, I believe Sony Music France and Universal Spain would be the best two to approach about this possible venture. This is because these record companies are located in two of (well actually all of) Andorra’s neighbors and there is alot of shared culture so Andorra’s representatives would be much closer to home. Furthermore, these two record companies have the most Eurovision-friendly stable of acts. For example, Sony Music France has Lorie, Jonatan Cerrada, Antoine Clamaran, Christophe Willem, Natasha St-Pier, Patrick Fiori, Ricky Martin and even Lordi. Universal Spain’s got David Bustamante, Sergio Dalma, Ainhoa, & Chenoa. And these are just the ones I’m familiar with. I’d imagine there some talented artists amongst their ranks who would benefit enormously from representing Andorra at the Eurovision Song Contest. You just can’t buy this kind of publicity.

All in all, I believe that Operation Luxembourg could very well be a win-win for Andorra and which ever cognizant record company. I’m sure a semblance of this plan was bandied about, but as the name of the endeavor states, Andorra will need to go big and shamelessly take up the mantle left vacant by Luxembourg.

Artists who should give it another go: Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1, I’m listing out really great singers that, for one reason or another, either didn’t get the result they were hoping for, or were more deserving of a better score in the Eurovision Song Contest. Here are some artists that I’d really love to see back on the Eurovision stage:

Ines (Estonia, 2000)

Ines was the hot favourite to win the 2000 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Once In A Lifetime. It was a catchy, uplifting number but nerves and bad styling quickly stifled any chances of victory. Fast forward to the present day and Ines has now become one of Estonia’s most popular singers and is just plain stunning. Here’s a recent video of her performing Once In A Lifetime:

Manuel Ortega (Austria, 2002)

Widely touted as Austria’s very own Ricky Martin, Manuel Ortega took to the stage in Tallin and gave a spirited performance of his song Say A Word. While it was definetly a crowd pleaser, I thought the song failed to excite with the chorus being rather repetitive. I’d really like to see Manuel back with a fiery ethno/Latin-inspired number. Given the success that has been granted to this genre on the scoreboard, I think Austria could definetly pull off a Top 10 placing.

Jonatan Cerrada (France, 2004)

France had one of the best songs in 2004. A Chaque Pas was beautiful, wonderfully performed and continued the great tradition of French balladry at the Eurovision Song Contest. Unfortunately, it also fell into another tradition of gimmicks. Using ‘Le Petit Prince’ as inspiration, France had a contortionist atop a pair of stilts. Suffice it to say, people paid more attention to the lofty gyrating antics. Next time Jonatan, please come solo. With feet planted firmly on the stage.

Shiri Maimon (Israel, 2005)

Shiri’s breathtaking performance of Hasheket Shenish’ar (The Silence That Remains) is Eurovision at its best. A talented songstress in a gorgeous dress singing a beautiful ballad. Give the girl another ballad, throw her in an evening gown and let her do her thing again Israel! This was, in my opinion, was one of Israel’s more finer entries this decade and never fails to remind me of Contests of decades past.

NOX (Hungary, 2005)

Hungary got everyone’s feet tapping with their entry Forogj, világ!, featuring tap dancing and powerful vocals in the mystical Hungarian language. The song is really catchy and it was a pity that they were drawn first, for had they performed in the second half, I’m sure they would have done better in the scoring. NOX ought to enter again with the same formula but they should do what Kati Wolf did this year and keep the song mainly in English with a verse in Hungarian.

Baku 2012: Should we be worried?

Despite elegant boulevards, Baku still needs a venue for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The EBU have met with İctimai and have been apprised of the host broadcaster’s plans for the staging and organization of the 57th Eurovision Song Contest. While lauding the ambitious plans for the construction of a completely new arena at Baku’s National Flag Square, the EBU is also insisting on a Plan B to fall back on in case construction cannot be completed in time. It makes sense, but just how logical is it to be working on two separate scenarios in parallel? Furthermore, precious weeks have already flown by, and the time in which construction should be taking place is not happening. At this point, we should be seeing concrete plans, renders and timelines, not vague hints from the government on how “everything will be ready”.

I have no doubt that with the right conditions (unlimited national coffers not withstanding), Azerbaijan could host a spectacular contest the likes of which we’ve never seen. But given the severe lack of infrastructure, I would have imagined the folks over at İctimai would have had a well thought-out plan on procuring these before being all gung-ho about winning. Surely they must have seen this coming? Plans should have been set in motion the moment Azerbaijan won. Now weeks have gone by and summer is nearly over and we still haven’t heard anything concrete.

Or course, rumours are abound that Italy and Sweden have been asked to be on stand-by to step in and take over hosting. Of course, these have been hotly denied by the EBU but I can see why they would. They would not want to appear as being doubtful in the capabilities of one of their (most enthusiastic) members. My guess is that they are still evaluating if they are up to hosting. Notice that at the Winner’s Press Conference, Jon Ola Sand merely extended an invitation to begin discussions on hosting, rather than stating outright “See you in Azerbaijan next year”, as they’ve done for the years past. Perhaps they’ve had their reservations then? Furthermore, the insistence on a Plan B underscores this. The EBU would be very foolish to not at-least hint to Italy and Sweden of such a possibility.

Of-course, these very same apprehensions were cast when Estonia, Ukraine and Serbia were all preparing to host, but then again, those were different circumstances. In this instance, the host country has no suitable venue, barely-there infrastructure and severe political problems with a neighboring participant country. I really do wish that Azerbaijan can get their act together because this could potentially be a very lavish, exotic and amazing show. But time is ticking. Ticking on an amazing opportunity for the country.