ROTTERDAM 2021 (?) ■ Songs are not toiletpaper

Today the European Broadcasting Union revealed per official communication that all 2020 songs are not eligible for the 2021 competition. For many artists this is quite a blow, as hours, days, mostly months of work is now suddenly thrown away. And in this instance not because of the Corona Virus. By: Gert Waterink

I find this decision regrettable to say the least and outright cynical and disrespectful if you reason it with pragmatic arguments:

© EBU, European Broadcasting Union

Christer Björkman, Head of Delegation for Sweden and producer of Melodifestivalen, quickly sidelined The Mamas and their victorious song ‘Move’ last Wednesday. He mentioned the current EBU rules and that because of these rules all 2020 songs would be completely eligible after the September 1 cut-off time. Once that date passes, all songs from this year’s cancelled contest would be ‘released before September 1st’.

I find it cynical that in these times of the Corona virus, which is still wreaking havoc across planet Earth, we grab such a rule as the prime reason to walk over an artist’s song as some kind of throw-away pulp. Björkman, and now by default the EBU, should have known better. That at least for this crisis the almighty EBU-rules could be postponed until September 1st 2021.

Instead, lots of other interests, sadly, come into play here. The cancellation of Eurovision 2020 could have meant that by default the winners of next year’s national finals would be eligible themselves for the 2021 contest. Or worse, that certain national finals would not have been necessary to be held in the first place. Obviously, now it seems, that was a hard pill to swallow for the tremendous success of Melodifestivalen (although creatively the lineup was going downhill a bit this year, but that’s beside the point), both financially and viewing figure-wise. Mr Björkman feared that outcome. And so did the influential record labels of Melodifestivalen, who 2020 A.D. seem to have a tight grip on it as well.

It is utterly sad that these interests played a pivotal role in side-lining all 41 Eurovision songs from this year’s contest. Obviously there will be some kind of ‘programming’, as stipulated in today’s EBU-announcement, that will honour these songs. But to me it’s not enough.

For me these songs deserved to be ‘put on ice’ for a couple of months until they could be used again in the 2021 competition. Not just because they deserve to be judged like any other Eurovision song. Obviously these songs are written for a competition. And frankly, many composers and artists really used that competition element as the prime motivator for Eurovision participation.

But even more so are these songs 3 min proof of artistry, soul and sometimes even heartfelt stories of people making them. Sometimes with happy cheerful messages, other times containing a more sad emotional story (‘Grow‘?). In a way they can be poems when taking a closer look at the lyrics.

Christer Björkman © SVT, Sweden

All that work, which was for many artists a hardworking process in which both emotions -the motivator of the artist- as well as pragmatism -making a song for a competition-, is now being thrown away. And although many participating nations for 2021 have already announced that they will stick with their artist, it will be no easy task to come up with a new song that potentially could touch many strings of people’s hearts. Especially those countries that were already bombarded favourites in polls and bookmakers, thus receiving that extra bit of joy and motivation (think about Switzerland, Iceland, Bulgaria and Russia), could now consider to give the 2021 contest a pass.

Let’s not forget that the song ‘Arcade’, the Dutch winner from 2019, and now becoming a curiosity of being the longest reigning winner in Eurovision history, was made not just made with one snip of the fingers. It took Duncan Laurence, Wouter Hardy and Joel Sjöö several years to compose and produce it. From mixing, writing sheet music, finetuning it in studios, it wasn’t an easy pregnancy, although the birth delivered us a truly marvellous song.

Having said that the argument from certain fans that the Eurovision songs should feel fresh once they participate in the contest, to me is truly ridiculous. If you say this about music now, you are only looking to serve hitmaking record labels and not the good old adage that music should by all means be timeless. And for God sake, one year delay makes a song stale, out of sink with music trends and outright boring? Come on, you can give better arguments than that. You can support all these artists and their songs better than that. And you all can say to Mr Björkman & Co: You could have done better than that!

For now I welcome everyone to support those people who seriously want to honour the 2020 Eurovision songs like they were meant to. Please follow the 2020 Eurojury on coming April and May. Their passionate and unpaid efforts deserve our love now.

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