ESC Insight

ESC Insight
04
July
2020

Was Eurovision 2020 The Contest Of The Racial Watershed?

Was Eurovision 2020 The Contest Of The Racial Watershed?

There was always something that felt special about the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest. Looking back, I’m not sure if I started sensing that on August 30th 2019 when Rotterdam – one of the most culturally diverse cities in Europe – was chosen to host at the Ahoy Theatre in Charlois, one of its most culturally diverse neighbourhoods. Perhaps it was on January 10th when Jeangu Macrooy, a black artist born and raised in Suriname was announced as the Dutch representative at said contest.

Whenever it was, I definitely felt it by the time the confetti had rained down at the end of Melodifestivalen on March 7th as five years of solo male (and mostly white) winners had been brought to an end by three black women singing a song packed with hope, love and overcoming adversity.

By that point, we had our full list of artists competing at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest including nine entirely BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) competing acts (nine and a half if you include half of Ben & Tan).

Eurovision has had BAME representation since Anneke Grönloh competed for the Netherlands in 1964; with BAME performers winning the Contest in 2001 (Dave Benton’s triumph for Estonia alongside Tanel Padar & 2XL) and Loreen’s 2012 victory with ‘Euphoria‘. 2020 was shaping up to be the first time that racial representation at Eurovision wasn’t just sporadic; BAME artists comprised a remarkable 23 percent of the competing acts. Not only that but subjectively, they were all very high quality from a range of different genres around an incredible variety of themes.

Then came March 18… The day when the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest was officially cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Initially, I hoped that the songs and artists from this year’s competition would be automatically carried over to next year so that the Song Contest would not lose this brilliant opportunity to showcase racial diversity. Two days later, the Reference Group confirmed that this year’s songs would not be eligible and each broadcaster would have to make their own decisions about inviting artists to return in 2021.

As a BAME Eurovision fan and writer, I felt robbed of not only high quality songs, a fantastic stage, and a brilliant team of Dutch hosts; but importantly robbed of the opportunity for BAME people like me across Europe and the world to see ourselves on the stage of the world’s biggest song contest.

Then of course, I felt sick for the competing artists. Every artist who won their nation’s ticket to the 2020 Song Contest worked hard to earn that right, but I guarantee that BAME artists worked even harder to ensure that they were recognised and respected in predominantly white nations. That’s before we discuss any personal abuse or prejudice that they may have been subject to.

Black Lives Matter

Which brings us to May 25 2020, the day when George Floyd was asphyxiated by police officer Derek Chauvin who had kept his knee on George’s neck for almost nine minutes. The result was international outrage leading to protests around the world, widespread debate on social media and most vitally commitments from governments, organisations and individuals that they need to do better.

I feel conflicted about this movement. On one hand, it is really positive to see the extent to which people of all ages (particularly young people) care about these issues and seeing that all types of organisations are sitting up and paying attention to the widespread injustice sewn into the fabric of our society. On the other hand, we have all most definitely been here before.

Protestors carrying placards at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in New York City in 2014 (All-Nite Images / Wikimedia)

Protestors carrying placards at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in New York City 2014(All-Nite Images / Wikimedia)

‘Black Lives Matter’, the slogan for the movement against racism that many of you may have seen on social media, was first used in 2013 when George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges after shooting African-American teenager Trayvon Martin (see the Black Lives Matter). It became nationally recognised in 2014 during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Now here we are again in 2020 and once more this message is on everybody’s minds again at protests, on social media, and in politics.

Many organisations will make promises during this time to combat racism but for anybody who well and truly cares about racial inequality beyond its current topical relevance, it is our responsibility to hold all of them to account for the promises they make no matter how big or small they are or what their industry is. For BAME people, our struggle against racial inequality will continue far beyond this discussion being topical. I refuse to get excited about the positive effects of this particular edition of the movement until I am able to see and experience change in our society from governmental level all the way down to interactions with people on the street.

For too long, we have been promised that moments like these are a watershed for society and what have the results been? The optimists among us have gotten our hopes up only to seem them dashed when we are inevitably confronted by racism again and the cynics amongst us have lost faith in the commitments and words of organisations in power from top to bottom. The only way that we can move towards peace is if all of us (especially white people) act towards diversifying our society to become more inclusive of those who are marginalised, no exceptions.

The Responsibility Of Eurovision 2021

There’s one last date for you to consider, May 22nd 2021, the day that Rotterdam will (potentially) host the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 that it was destined to host a year earlier. Eight of the aforementioned ten BAME acts have been confirmed to return next year, with Denmark and Sweden sticking to their existing National Final structures to find their 2021 songs. With several internal selections yet to be confirmed and National Finals to be heldl, we could very easily add to that roster.

At that point, the question turns to the quality of the songs, staging and performance.

It is not enough for BAME people to be represented; it is essential that that representation is of all-round high quality. Whilst quality is admittedly subjective, broadcasters across the EBU can all take note of the events taking place around the world and offer the benefit of the doubt to artists from BAME backgrounds. They can work closely with them to understand their artistic vision and how to best bring it to the stage, giving the artists support, investment, and most importantly professional respect.

Jessy Matador (France 2010)

Jessy Matador (France 2010)

As many of next year’s competing BAME acts as possible need to reach the Grand Final so that they can be showcased in front of that global audience of almost 200 million viewers, so that they can express their truth live on stage with their music, and so that maybe, just maybe next year will be the one where we have a third BAME winner of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Maybe then the Song Contest will be able to prove itself as a platform built on cultural diversity where racism is unacceptable and black lives not only matter but are celebrated.

I am too painfully aware that racism won’t be fully taken care of come the next Grand Final. I am also conscious that even with a lot of hard work and the best of intentions, we could be waiting years for a third BAME winner of the Eurovision Song Contest. To quote The Mamas, “there ain’t no mountain baby that I wouldn’t move” to get Eurovision to that point and, with a nod towards Ben & Tan, that is an opportunity and a hope to which everybody should “say yes.”

Categories: ESC Insight

26
June
2020

The Spotter’s Guide To ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga’

The Spotter’s Guide To ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga’

Is The Film Any Good?

If you were expecting a soaring epic with ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga‘ then you might have missed the memo. It’s a Will Ferrell film with a pretty straightforward plot. Every Chekhov’s Gun is obvious both in their placements and denouements, every expected twist that you guessed would happen after watching the first five minutes comes true, and no risks are taken at any point.

But the biggest question in the Eurovision Song Contest community is not “is it any good?” but “how does it treat the Song Contest?” In short, it treats the Contest with respect. We didn’t cringe massively over the presentation, nor did we want to throw rocks at the screenwriters during any of the scenes at the Contest.

That doesn’t mean the Contest on screen reflects an actual Contest. This is not the Eurovision Song Contest, this is a standard three-act drama that has the Song Contest as a backdrop. Packing in a National Final, a Semi Final, and a Grand Final; alongside as many elements of Joseph Campbell ‘The Hero’s Journey’ as possible in 123 minutes means that some short cuts have to be taken.

In a sense the short cuts add a layer of comedy for the community. To take the portrayal of the Semi Final; in this world the Big Five are in the Semi Finals, and the jury and televote points are announced as if it was the Grand Final. There are countless other tiny moments – the wrong flags being used, Graham Norton has a huge commentary booth and all the other commentators and bloggers are squashed onto a bench – perhaps in years to come Eurovision fans will take great delight in midnight rewatches and Sing-A-Long-A-Fire-Saga but it’s not a film that calls for an immediate re-watch.

Just as ‘Blades of Glory‘ used ice skating as a backdrop in a comedic setting, ‘Talladega Nights‘ used NASCAR, and ‘Bewitched’ used, err, ‘Bewitched‘, ‘Fire Saga‘ in essence laughs with the Song Contest as the story takes place, rather than laughing at the Song Contest.

It’s just a shame that, as a Will Ferrell film, it’s rather… pedestrian and by the numbers.

Spotter’s Guide

With Eurovision pushed into the background for most of the film, the moments for the Eurovision community to enjoy are focused in specific areas rather than scattered throughout the film. So here’s our traditional ‘Spotter’s Guide’ for ‘Fire Saga’, and obviously some light spoilers now follow.

Of Course They Start With Abba

Because it’s a film about the Eurovision Song Contest. For almost everyone watching that means Abba. And for most of the people watching, Abba can also mean Mama Mia, leading us to Pierce Brosnan in a supporting role. It’s a nice bit of circular film connections.

Thankfully Brosnan does not sing in ‘Fire Saga‘…

Eurovision fans will of course be ahead of this when April 6th 1974 pops up on screen. Eurovision fans will also be wondering why the Icelandic population is watching the Song Contest with the UK commentary from David Vine. Also, the crate of cold beers that gets passed around is 100 percent illegal. Beer was only legalised in Iceland on March 1st, 1989.

Hold On, What About ‘Volcano Man’?

The heavily trailed track and musical video for ‘Volcano Man‘ is not Fire Saga’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s more like a Bond Theme that introduces the film, but is never heard again. Instead the song is ‘Double Trouble‘ – but not this ‘Double Trouble‘…

How does Fire Saga’s ‘Double Trouble‘ compare to the Eurovision greats?

The intro is classic Nordic pop – and it feels like they were aiming for Euroband’s ‘This Is My Life’ by way of Paula Seling & Ovi’s ‘Playing With Fire. Even autotune can’t stop it from taking a turn for the worse when Will Ferrel joins in on the chorus.

Let’s take a look at the staging. An act with as little support from their broadcaster as Fire Saga are depicted as having would not have been able to enlist the support of a star production designer like Kevin Swayne (I like to imagine Will Ferrel being excitedly told that “someone has a Sasha Jean Baptiste staging!” in Lisbon and him going, oh, right, that’s good is it?) and certainly wouldn’t have had expensive props that would have required several layers of risk assessment.

Finally, in the classic Eurovision fashion, Rachel McAdams isn’t actually singing any of Fire Saga’s material… it’s Molly Sanden.

Let’s Talk About Iceland

Just a few things of note. Fire Saga‘ portrays a Eurovision world where Iceland doesn’t seem to like the Eurovision Song Contest and RÚV’s management would rather echo that episode of ‘Father Ted‘ than push for a victory. Could this be the most unrealistic part of the film?

The Iceland portrayed in the film isn’t the one we know. It’s a nation that seems sartorially and artistically stuck in the 1970s. You couldn’t imagine the Iceland of the film producing Reykjavikdeatur or Une Misere or Hatari. There are a lot of natural, wholesome brown lopapeysur around, which people do wear, but you’re more likely to see a young Icelander in a technical parka or puffa jacket as outerwear.

A picture of a lopapeysur

A picture of a lopapeysur

The Songvakeppnin final is one of the TV events of the year, and while I’m sure there are some people who don’t watch it, widespread indifference to the contest doesn’t seem realistic. And in the event of a disaster befalling the whole cast and crew of Songvakeppnin, it seems highly unlikely that RÚV would have the personnel or the heart to send anyone to the Contest. We remember the story of Sjonni’s Friends coming together to sing ‘Coming Home’ after Sigurjon Brink, the songwriter, died days before he could compete in Songvakeppnin. What happens in the film is… not like that.

A Postcard To Edinburgh

Can we just stop and think about how Edinburgh is able to host the Eurovision Song Contest? Either whoever won the Song Contest the previous year has turned down hosting and the BBC is the alternate host… or the United Kingdom has won the Song Contest for the sixth time.

Either of these are more likely than Salvador Sobral busking in Scotland’s capital.

They Took Him Away

Good news! Jon Ola Sand is in the film! After a fashion…

The First Sight Of The Stage And Arena

Every Eurovision Song Contest fan who has been on the ground knows that the Fire Saga’s awe and wonder at their first sight of the stage and arena is one hundred percent accurate.

The Production Design

If you like your movies with lavish, extravagant attention paid to costuming and production design (and you’re a Eurovision fan so, yes, you do) then you’ll enjoy the costumes and styling of the whole backstage area. The costumes for the Croatian, Belarussian Finnish artists look amazing, there’s a Greek dressing gown that’s beyond belief and don’t even get us started on the looks for the Russian Delegation Party…

The Russian Delegation Party

If the production team landed the ‘first stage’ moment, they almost nailed a delegation party – the male/female ratio doesn’t quite ring true to life. As for the ‘Song-A-Long’, well this is the part that is the biggest indulgence to the Eurovision community. Just sit back and see how many of our favourites you can spot.

And with the pace-destroying fan-service complete, it’s back to ‘this is a Will Ferrell film…’

The Rehearsals And The Rules

They are, frankly, all over the shop.

Does this matter to the film? In terms of servicing the storyline and the fracturing of Fire Saga, it works. But in terms of the Eurovision Song Contest, it takes so many liberties that it feels like someone saw a highlights reel of a single Contest before writing the script.

Where to start? How about the multiple changes to the backing tracks, countries with seven performers on stage, language and lyric changes in the Semi Final, and there are even more transgressions in the Grand Final. RUV in the film is facing a ridiculous number of financial penalties here, and probably a disqualification. And as mentioned previously, the Semi Final appears to be following the format of the Grand Final.

A script editor working alongside someone knowledgeable about the Contest should have been able to accommodate the fact and the fiction. Imagine watching a film about football and the match is portrayed as running for 35 minutes in each half, both teams get 17 substitutes for the 9 players on the pitch, and home goals count double. You want to watch Pele, but all you can think is Sylvester Stallone is the goalkeeper.

What football fans feel when watching ‘Escape to Victory‘ is what Eurovision fans will feel when watching ‘Fire Saga‘.

A Man In A Hamster Wheel

Naturally.

But everything following that would never have happened… the broadcast would have switched to the backup tape and Henric von Zweigbergk’s booming voice would yell “Stop!

The Grand Final

Nope, we’re not going to spoil the final act, but what goes unsaid in the conversations between Sigrit and Lemtov, and then Lemtov and Mita, is quite explicitly political for something that got signed off by the, ahem, 100 percent non political event that is the EBU’s Eurovision Song Contest.

And Now, For Viewers in Scotland…

With Edinburgh hosting the Eurovision Song Contest, there are a lot of landmarks to watch out for, and hilarious juxtapositions.

The Songvakeppnin afterparty is in Newhaven harbour; the Elves live in Salisbury Crags; the 90 seater Bedlam Theatre has been replaced by the 14,500 seater SEE Hydro… (which is in Glasgow); the Usher Hall (Eurovision 1973’s venue) is never show; you can see where Pif Paf Blog’s Ross Middleton works; the dramatic driving scene is as hilariously geographically consistent as the opening to ‘Trainspotting‘, the Starbucks nearest to the fountain is in the other direction, and of course Edinburgh’s Eurovision stage which is inside Glasgow’s Hydro is actually in Tel Aviv.

Here’s a fun game… see how often you can call out “Edinburgh! Glasgow!! Tel Aviv!!!” in quick succession… fun for all the family…

Finally… if Edinburgh is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest, I’m pretty sure that not only would the hosts be Scottish, but it would be Jackie Bird and Des Clarke up front, and Susan Calman in the green room.

Finally…

Play ‘Ja Ja Ding Dong!’ Can’t think where that came from…

‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’ is available from June 26 2020 on Netflix.

Categories: ESC Insight

18
June
2020

The Right Decision: Eurovision To Allow Vocals On Tape 

The Right Decision: Eurovision To Allow Vocals On Tape 

Introduction

First up, let’s start with the core message from the EBU today regarding the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s not the rule change around backing vocals, it’s not the temporary nature of the rule change, it’s that the Song Contest will continue. Executive Supervisor Martin Ōsterdahl:

The lessons learned from the spring of 2020 are that we need to plan for a global crisis, and we have tailored the rules of the Contest to that effect. We must be able to be more flexible and to make changes even to the format itself and how we organize the event in these challenging times.

The Eurovision Song Contest will return. When it does return it will have changed. Good. Change is not only good, but necessary, for the Contest to survive.

One Show Or Many Shows?

Let’s look at another beloved TV series with a highly engaged community and ask a simple question. How long has Doctor Who been running? 

Given the show first aired in 1963, the easiest answer is 57 years. But is that actually the case? Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor was a dandy helping the authorities on Earth to fight off alien invaders, something that was vastly different to the impish and innocent Doctor played by Patrick Troughton the year before. Every actor brings his or her own interpretation, and each regeneration could effectively be a different television show, albeit sharing the title with a previous show.

Naturally there are other voices in the community that suggest each show should not be determined by the actor, but by the production team. Looking at Tom Baker’s run, there were three different shows – the gothic horror Phillip Hinchcliffe, the lighter tone of Graham Williams, and the soap opera stylings of John Nathan Turner.

Doctor Who in the 21st century has also had multiple series, depending on your viewpoint, and the now highly connected in real time community will defend ‘their’ series against all others, decrying the ‘death’ of the show at the point of any major change. Yet ‘Doctor Who’ continues.

Which leads to a fundamental question for our community.

How long has the Eurovision Song Contest been running? Is it the sixty-four editions since 1956? Is it nine years old, spanning the reign of Jon Ola Sand as Executive Producer? Did it only start four years ago with the changes to the voting presentation? Or three years old, starting only with the new voting system?

The answer is all of the above. The Eurovision Song Contest is an ever-changing constant.

Things That Have Been Lost And Gained

By the very nature of being a long-running television show, things will change at the Eurovision Song Contest. By the very nature of fandom, when certain elements are changed the show will never again be the show that someone fell in love with.

A look back through the history of the Song Contest shows that elements of the show that were once considered fixed have been diminished or removed. At one point the Contest’s entry list was full up and some countries (such as Malta) stayed on the alternates list for years before appearing. Then relegation was introduced, before a single Semi Final, followed by two Semi Finals.

The invited audience in their finest evening wear is part of history now. Tickets can be bought by anyone, and a standing audience around the stage is the current norm.

Not only do we not have an orchestra providing live music, we also no longer have an artist able to play their own instrument on stage.

Certain songs have also led to changes in the Contest. Sometimes they force a change on the music presented at the Contest; ‘Poupée de cire, poupée de son‘ dragged the Song Contest away from its earnest Variety Hall years into a more pop orientated sound, ‘Making Your Mind Up‘ brought an increased focus on staging and choreography, and ‘Ooh Ah Just A Little Bit‘ forced discussions on the orchestra and how music was presented.

If you are looking for a turning point in regards the use of vocals and vocal effects on the backing track, Jowst’s ‘Grab The Moment‘ may end up as being one of the key songs of this decade, as Ellie Chalkley lays out here:

“The post-chorus ‘kill…kill…kill” section in ‘Grab The Moment’ is clearly intended to be interpreted as vocals…. the fact that we have cyber-Aleksander’s mouth opening and cyber-vocals coming out does put us in a new area for which the original rules aren’t enough any more.”

If the Song Contest is to stay true to Marcel Bezencon’s goals, of reflecting modern society and culture, it has to change with the times.

Why The Change Is Good For Music

In 1957, mathematicians Yutaka Taniyama and Goro Shimura theorised a connection between the two different fields of elliptical curves and modular forms. It was elegant, it was easily understood, and it was an incredibly useful tool. It was also not proven until 2001. Until then, mathematicians would start their own proofs with ‘Assuming Taniyama-Shimura…’ and carried on as if the theorem was true.

Thankfully for more than forty years of mathematics, it was proven.

The changes to the pre-recorded vocals on backing tape are just for Rotterdam 2021, to offer more flexibility in how next year’s Contest will operate in the face of Covid-19:

“The ESC Reference Group agreed to trial the rule change for one year. As with all the rules for the Eurovision Song Contest it will be reviewed following next year’s event.”

For now, though, let’s ‘assume Taniyama-Shimura’ and consider this a permanent rule change (much like Australia’s one-off invite to enter the Contest).

This is a rule change that will benefit the Eurovision Song Contest

Firstly, the sound of modern music is not easily replicable on the Eurovision stage while staying within the ‘no pre-recorded vocals’ rule. Any treatment of vocals was not allowed, at which point we return to Jowst’s vocals and highlight contemporary tracks such as Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande’s ‘Rain On Me‘.

This features vocal samples on the backing track in the chorus. These are clearly not part of the lead vocals, and you would not be able to replace them with a synth. And they add complexity and power to the sound.

Break My Heart by Dua Lipa has close harmony ‘voice chords’, an effect that you would never get with five backing singers on stage… but put it on the backing track and you have magic.

Black’ by Dave creates an immense and emotional soundscape infused with choral effects and vocal treatments alongside a critically acclaimed blend of reportage and rap.

The Impact On Eurovision

Anyone looking to bring popera to the Contest can bring a powerful choral section to the backing tape, although the limit of six people on stage could make it look awkward… almost as awkward as Gina G having to wheel a PC on stage in 1996 because ‘all instruments used in the song had to be visible’

It leaves scope for more spectacle on stage. With a limit of six performers and a need for backing vocalists, a delegation’s presentation choices are limited. Freeing up five positions on stage will allow for many songs to be presented in a way that the audience at home will be more familiar with… namely a music video

This of course stands out as a negation of the ‘potential for a smaller delegation’, but as with any artistic choice, budget will always play a role. The option is there to leave the backing singer at home and reduce the number and expense of the delegation in attendance.

It also means that in a band with seven members, the ‘Sad Tony’ seventh member can be involved in the final performance, albeit still out of sight.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the EBU has been explicit that lead vocals are not to appear on the tape… that includes any ‘lead dub’ where a backing singer matches the melody of the lead singer’s vocals. If a delegation wants to go down that route, then it will have to put that singer on stage, either as part of the performance or in an ‘off-camera but still counted as the stage’ location.

Why Change Is Needed

Is the Eurovision Song Contest behind the times in terms of music? To quote the revered text of ‘Love Love Peace Peace‘, ‘…this can easily be fixed by adding a DJ who pretends to scratch. In real life of course, this is thirty years old but in Eurovision, it will give your number a contemporary feel.”

In practice it’s clear that there are many massive hits that could not translate to the Song Contest. With the new rule on backing vocals, that will change. While the superstar artists may not join us, the Contest just became a little bit more attractive for songwriters.

There’s a reason that this change has been announced at the very start of the season. This is when the Eurovision songs are composed, submitted to broadcasters, and selected either for National Finals or to go directly to the Contest. Changing the rules while the canvas is blank is the right time to change the rules.

Nothing Stays The Same

Over the years, the Eurovision Song Contest has changed. There is a clear line from ‘De vogels van Holland‘ opening up the first Contest though to the reprise of ‘Arcade‘ last year, but between those two moments almost everything has changed.

Change is hard, but change happens.

It’s also natural that something a community of fans are going to feel comfortable and connected to the current format of the Contest. Those feelings are going to be challenged by new rules and formats, and there will be resistance.

But Eurovision will be renewed, and while many will feel a loss for the old Contests, there will be a lot of love in the new Contests.

The more the Eurovision Song Contest changes, the more the Eurovision Song Contest stays the same.

Categories: ESC Insight

17
June
2020

Adventures In Plastic With Lego Eurovision 2020

Adventures In Plastic With Lego Eurovision 2020

Although the 2020 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest was cancelled, the community has stepped up to create a cavalcade of replacement content. Be it website polls, live streams, bonus editions of podcasts, Rotterdam 2020 exists… just not with the tentpole broadcast.

The week sees the release of another recreation of the lost Song Contest, with a recreation of the Ahoy Theatre, interpretations of the props and staging, and the music of the Semi Finals and Grand Finals all showcased… in Lego.

Bricks As Far As The Camera Can See

The shows come from Alexandro Kröger and his Lego Eurovision channel on YouTube. He’s already brought previous Song Contests to life in bricks, along with Junior Eurovision, Melodifestivalen, and the opening to The X-Files. Ahead of the premier of the 2020 shows, I spoke to Alexandro about the project.

The set for Lego Eurovision 2020 is a far cry from your normal lego set. “I think a regular set maybe holds two hundred to three hundred pieces,” Alexandro tells me. “For the Rotterdam 2020 model, there are nearly 50,000 bricks used, and cost over 2,500 euros. But a lot of the pieces have been bought over many years, and used in many models.”

Designing The Ahoy

The reveal of the stage is one of the many storytelling moments at Eurovision. Although the official site released the visualisations of the stage in December last year, there are not many reference points on the stage itself. How does that translate to the Lego design?

Planning started at the same time as the stage pictures were revealed. It takes around two months to plan the construction, and then another three months to actually build. On the look, I was lucky enough to see the actual stage plans for Rotterdam. Over the years, the set designers have often praised my work and attention to detail.”

Eurovision 2020 staging (NPO/AVROTROS/NOS)

Eurovision 2020 staging (NPO/AVROTROS/NOS)

Putting on the individual songs is another challenge. “After listening to each and every song I just get ideas of colours and stagings that could work and then I build and try different ideas. Many of the songs have up to five different versions with different props and colours until I became rather satisfied with the final result.”

One of things that surprises me is how recognisable the various Lego Minifigs look. “That’s easier,” Alexandro explains, “becomes Lego Minifigs are made with more hairdos and faces nowadays than in the past.”

That means it’s possible to say, with a lot of confidence, that this medley opens with Lordi

Traditional Techniques

Then there is the filming. Lego Eurovision is built around a rather classic interpretation of stop-motion animation brought forward to the digital world. There’s no specific animation software used, “no, I just use my iPhone to take the photos and after that I put the pictures together on my Mac. One fun thing I do is that I use additional lenses you can put on your phone to create fun effect, which makes some camera angles look more powerful.”

“Some of the artists have got in touch,” he proudly tells me, “and it’s wonderful to hear when they like what they see.”

Looking Back And Looking Forward

With almost a year until the next Song Contest, what happens next with lego Eurovision? “First of all I will take a few weeks of vacation from Eurovision. I’ll just stay home, read books, and relax. Then work starts on new content, which will be a celebration of all the past Eurovision winners. And later this winter more fun stuff will be made.”

Would this be a chance to replicate older Contests, say the missing shows from 1956 or 1964? “Right now I can’t build new stages. Since I can’t order the bricks needed from each nation that I want to, due to restrictions around COVID-19. But when all of this is over the plan is to create some of the past events. But that will take time.”

Lego Eurovision is debuting the 2020 Contest all this week, Semi Final 1 debuts on Tuesday 16th June, Semi Final 2 debuts on Thursday 18th June, and the Grand Final debuts on Saturday 20th June; all at the Lego Eurovision YouTube Channel.

Categories: ESC Insight

08
June
2020

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Open Up

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Open Up

http://media.blubrry.com/eurovision/p/archive.org/download/escinsight_20200608_696/escinsight_20200608_696.mp3

The following is the opening monologue from today’s Insight News podcast…

Here at ESC Insight we like to consider what the Eurovision Song Contest tells us about our society. Everything happening in the news today tells us that our society is racist and does not value black lives.

What we have been asked to do is to look at ourselves and try to rebuild our ways of thinking to reject the white supremacist society we’ve lived in. It’s going to be hard, we’re going to make mistakes along the way and it is going to mean that you are going to receive new information and be asked to change your mind.

Even though one of the things that we like to do at Insight is to host a wide variety of voices, we are painfully aware that we’re an entirely white group. We have no Black regular contributors and no Black eurofans have been interviewed for Castaways. Clearly, that’s not acceptable. Perhaps some of you noticed that this was the case, and perhaps that’s not even the kind of thing that you think about. Part of the work that white people are being asked to do is notice if your media only contains white people and their views and then demand change.

This podcast, this site can only work if it is part of the community and if it reflects the full diversity of the community. So I want to encourage you to join the team if you do not already hear your voice here. We’re 100% ready to move over and give you the platform. We’re big enough and established enough to make sure your voice really gets heard. We’re also well supported enough to be able to make payment for contributions. We’ve a track record of hosting articles that make people think more deeply about the contest – and you’ve got my full support as editor to say what you want to say.

We like to think about our little Song Contest as a force for good and for unity. Well here’s your chance – every white person hearing this can now make the choice to learn, to listen, and to be better in future. It will make a difference, I promise you.

And again I’d like to reiterate that ESC Insight is always looking for new voices. If you want to join the team, we’re ready to pass the microphone. It’s your fandom, it’s your Contest.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Open Up

Some thoughts on ESC Insight and Black Lives Matter, along with the latest news from the Eurovision Song Contest world. Read more at www.escinsight.com.

Stay in touch with the Eurovision Song Contest over the summer months by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have our email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

01
June
2020

Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Exciting Renewal Of Finland’s UMK

Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Exciting Renewal Of Finland’s UMK
http://media.blubrry.com/eurovision/p/archive.org/download/escinsight_20200601_695_UMK2020/escinsight_20200601_695_UMK2020.mp3

The last few years have seen Finland’s performance at the Eurovision Song Contest stuggling to reach the top of the table. In a push to reach the left hand side, broadcaster YLE has revitalised its National Final, and Ellie Chalkley wants to find out how it benefits every artist that takes part, how it benefits the Finnish music scene, and how the public can feel involved.

The interview with Tapio Hakanen (UMK’s producer) was recorded in February, and the artist interviews recorded at UMK in early March. The story, like many this year, changed during March after the cancellation of Rotterdam 2020. But the story, about what UMK is and what it wants to be in the future, is important to explain some of the things that have happened since.

Looking Back, Looking Forwards

Ellie Chalkley explores the exciting renewal of Finland’s UMK selection in ‘Looking Forwards, Looking Backwards’.

Stay in touch with the Eurovision Song Contest over the summer months by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have our email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

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