Saturday, January 31, 2009

You know it's Eurovision season when...

It's still only January (well, just about) and he's at it already! Keith Mills has commenced his annual bout of UK-bashing over at his All Kinds of Everything blog. I'm sure his regular readership will be struck dumb in amazement as he declares - "Being honest I don't see any of the three acts left in contention setting the Eurovision stage alight and Lloyd-Webber obviously has his doubts as well."

Of course Keith is entitled to his own opinions (however tediously predictable those opinions are), but it's the blatant distortion of plain facts that always irritates me with our Mr Mills. Just a slight misrepresentation of the statement from Andrew Lloyd-Webber that I posted about last night, surely? He "had his doubts" about ONE of the three acts, but expressly NOT about the other two. I think Keith must have skipped his "close reading" classes at school.

Who needs the miracle?

Something of a bombshell on the eve of the UK's Eurovision selection - the BBC website is reporting that Andrew Lloyd-Webber thinks that one of the three remaining acts would definitely be the wrong choice, and he apparently feels so strongly about it that he wouldn't even travel to Moscow for the contest if that act were to be selected. "I really can't be a miracle-worker," he says.

This is extremely odd. Of the acts he's expressed severe doubts about over the weeks, all have been picked off one by one. Admittedly he did appear to have some slight reservations about Mark last week, but surely not enough to imply a need for "miracles"? So he must surely be talking of the twins - in which case it might well be fair comment, but the question must be why has he been so overtly championing them thus far? He's repeatedly gushed about how "something magical" happens when they sing in harmony. Perhaps not the best choice of words if he was hoping to avoid a stint as Merlin.

Of course, there's another possibility - he could simply have concluded that one of the acts is particularly ill-suited to the song he's written. Either way, I'm confident he's not talking about Jade. I just wish I could be so confident she is going to win tomorrow night!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Liberal Use of the Wrong Name

Mike Smithson at is forever complaining about Gordon Brown's irritating tendency to refer to the Liberal Democrats as "the Liberals". Presumably the reason the PM does this is to subcommunicate that they are so small and insignificant a party that it's hardly worth the effort to bother remembering what they're calling themselves this week. It has to be said, though, that Scotland's own Great Helmsman has precisely the same habit, and as far as I can remember has had for the full twenty years the Liberal Democrats have existed under their current name. It was on full display in his Newsnight Scotland interview with Gordon Brewer tonight, as he gave tantalising hints of the potential deal on the Scottish Budget between himself and "the Liberals". In Alex Salmond's case, though, it doesn't appear to be a calculated insulte - he genuinely seems to believe that it's a legitimate shorter form of the name. He uses 'Liberal' and 'Liberal Democrats' interchangeably in a way that Gordon Brown simply doesn't.

Indeed, the SNP more broadly have a long-standing problem with accurately recalling the Lib Dems' current name. In 1991, a party activist addressed conference on the subject of the many and varied shortcomings of "the Democrats" (the Lib Dems' original post-merger name). He even went as far as going down the road of "D is for Deceitful, E is for Egotistical, M is for Mendacious..." (I may not have the words quite right but you get the idea.) By the time he got to "S is for Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (not)" no-one quite had the heart to tell him they had stopped calling themselves the Democrats in September 1989!

Don't double-up Swiss-style

So it's now less than forty-eight hours until the UK's Eurovision entry My Time will be unveiled. One potentially ominous piece of information is that Andrew Lloyd-Webber has revealed he conceived it as a song that could work either as a ballad or a dance track. For me, that immediately brought to mind Paolo Meneguzzi's Swiss entry Era Stupendo from last year. Hardly the happiest precedent...

But on the other hand...

Having just made quite a cynical post about Your Country Needs You, let me balance that out with one much more positive observation - it's been a Barrowman-free zone thus far.

'Nuff said.

Eurovision déjà vu

I don't want to puncture anyone's enthusiasm for the UK's selection process for Eurovision this year, but long-term followers of the contest will surely back me up on one point - haven't some of the phrases we've heard from Graham Norton, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and the contestants sounded startlingly familiar? Like "with people of this calibre on board, it's just got more credibility this time". I think I remember Gina G using a variant of that line in 1996! In rather the same way, just about every actress to play a Bond girl in the last twenty-five years has at some point uttered the words - "ah, but she's not your normal sort of Bond girl, she's a real match for him".

Another one is "let everyone know we're taking it seriously this year". Michael Ball in 1992, anyone? In fact, we've heard that line every single time (and it's happened quite a few times) the selection process has been given some sort of makeover. Most recent was the introduction of the Making Your Mind Up format in 2004, leading to the bold selection of (ahem) James Fox. Which brings me on to to another moment from the most recent show on Saturday that really made me wince. It was Norton and Lloyd-Webber groaning their way through Albania's entry and then declaring that if Lloyd-Webber couldn't beat such rubbish, he might as well retire. But unfortunately I seem to remember an 'expert panel' saying much the same thing in the wake of James Fox's selection - they reviewed a handful of other countries' entries and smugly asserted they could already say we'd beaten those. Imprudent words as it turned out, and Lloyd-Webber may similarly live to regret being quite so quick to write off Albania. Of all the Eurovision countries, they seem to have had a particular knack in recent years for getting the best out of what initially sounds like quite a ropey song.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jade Remains Slight Favourite in 'Your Country Needs You' Betting

Well, if the bookies are to be believed, there's still a modicum of hope - in spite of Jade finishing (presumably) third in the public vote on Saturday, she remains marginal favourite for the ticket to Moscow on the Betfair market ahead of Mark, with the twins as the outsiders. But before anyone comes out with that old chestnut 'the bookies aren't often wrong', I must have slept through a heavily pregnant Katie Price singing for the UK in Kyiv in 2005. And, for that matter, Anthony Costa the year after. And Justin Hawkins the year after that. And the Revelations the year after that (if only!). And, in particular, Ulrika Jonsson's victory in Celebrity Big Brother last week must have just been a particularly bad dream.

Conclusion - the bookies get it wrong all the time. They may still make an obscene profit, but it doesn't change the fact that they get it wrong all the time!

SNP storms back into opinion poll lead

A perfectly justifiable headline in my view, given that it's only a week or two since the Scotsman published an article reporting that the SNP had "surrendered it's poll lead to Labour" - the only snag being that this 'poll' turned out to be the absurdly tiny Scottish sub-sample of a UK-wide poll. So I look forward to the Scotsman giving equal weight to the fact that the latest ComRes poll has a Scottish sub-sample showing the SNP ahead by 32% to 28%. On second thoughts, maybe I won't hold my breath.

Eurovision season upon us again

Yep, the title says it all, so I suppose it's high time I updated this most utterly ridiculous of all blogs! And of course, I could hardly fail to be excited by the prospect of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Diane Warren composing the UK entry. The only downside is the casting-show format, which means the chances are that we'll end up with a terrific song (hope I'm not speaking too soon) but yet another inexperienced artist. Admittedly, if the BBC had opted for an experienced singer it would have amounted to a classic French-style internal selection, and thus sacrificed the unprecedented positive publicity the Eurovision Song Contest is currently receiving in the UK.

And of course, the other saving grace is that there just happens to be one singer in the selection who is up to the standard (and then some) of a seasoned performer - the truly extraordinary Jade. But will the 'Great British Public' (aye, right) have the eminent good sense to pick her? After she finished in the danger zone on Saturday, I must say I have no confidence whatsoever. Even before that, I had my doubts - a primarily female voting audience (which seems to be standard for talent/reality shows) will always tend to go for the 'phwoar' option (Mark) or the 'cutesy fairy-tale' option (the twins).

But what do you think? Does the obvious strongest contender still have a chance of booking her rightful place in Moscow? Pointless question, I know, because no-one ever comments on this blog except to point out that Vânia Fernandes is not very pretty. (Evidently there are those who would disagree!)