Boring and carnivalesque

A festival that really has no seriously artistic clout and is today subject to global amusement and disgust.

The more they pump it up in between sunning in the bright lights of global glory and dishing out a music that does everything but unite, the more the Eurovision Song Festival gets boring, predictable, and carnivalesque. And, please don’t let me be misunderstood. This no-holds-barred critique has nothing to do with the gayness of the event. LGBTIQ+ persons have the right to participate in whichever, wherever, talent competition they desire.

The main reason for the sad demise of the festival as a genuine competition between artists in Europe (which perplexingly includes Middle Eastern Israel and remote Australia) is its politicisation. Not by the artists, who can easily be brought to heel by being ordered to alter some offensive words from their lyrics, but by the politicians, the shadowy characters that actually pull the strings.

Of course the festival is consistently billed by the organisers as non-political, but there has hardly been a year when it wasn’t. So strong is the political fist thumping from behind the scenes that even this year, while thousands protested against Israel’s inclusion as long as its war in Gaza continued, the EBU hierarchy resisted the pressure to exclude Israel.Contrast this with the expulsion of Russia soon as its first soldier set foot on Ukrainian soil. But Russia is an enemy in Western eyes while Israel is a nuclear-weapon-hiding ally committing genocide in Gaza.

Eden Golan, Israel’s representative at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024, advanced to the grand final despite widespread calls to boycott the country’s participation. Photo: EFE.

Some may erroneously interpret this tirade as inevitable disgruntlement over the result achieved again this year by Malta’s entry. While there was a time when Maltese entries were on the verge of actually winning it – Ira Losco, Chiara, Mary Spiteri – it has now become practically impossible to go past the semi finals and even avoid finishing last. What has happened? Malta certainly had a better song than some of the circus stuff that made it to the final.

This of course triggers off the annual national debate on whether we should or should not continue to participate in a festival that really has no seriously artistic clout and is today subject to global amusement and disgust. I am totally against any form of censorship, but I have had to agree with friends who insisted after last Saturday that this year’s festival should have banned children from watching. Again, no problem with being gay and participating, but it is if you want to show off your butt on stage. Sorry.

But back to us poor participants, should the charade continue to be our prime musical target? Is it fair or is it not to deny our singers/authors/composers the chance to hope of one day getting there? I think the continental plates are shifting on this one. It costs Malta millions to send her singer, only to feel humiliated and overlooked year after year. Why should the country fork out so much for the benefit of a three-minute slot that is resulting in utter helplessness and disgust? Not due to the singers who have always given their best even among the best, but due mainly to an utterly unfair lobbying system that is purely territorial, if not political.

Sarah Bonnici performed Malta’s entry ‘Loop’ at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Photo: Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU.

I doubt there is one single person who believes that Malta’s success in the tourism sector can be in any way attributed to our participation in the Eurovision Song Contest. That is of course the argument of many, but in truth no one watches the festival and, on the spur of the moment, says, aah, yes, I will go to Malta. It looks like a nice place. No, people would be just saying they hope their country’s song wins. No more, no less.

Then there will be those who insist Malta’s participation should go on, however boring and carnivalesque the festival has become. I just hope no one is thinking of introducing bare butts, devillish poses, and bare-faced plagiarism so we could hope a bit more. This, coming from a declared liberal, may sound strange, but it is certainly time to rethink and to reassess how profitable it is for Malta to keep taking part in the Eurovision Song Festival.

Perhaps it is time for Malta’s participation, if it continues, to be built on a simplistic platform. Good composer. Good author. Good singer. We can do without expensive choreographers and stylists. Keep it simple. Stop the imitations. Once back there, it won’t be as difficult to accept the result and to masticate the embarrassment of a whole nation.

Momentum

The European elections campaign is typically gaining momentum in Malta. It is a struggle for attention on the continent. People there have seen through the Brussels smog to the extent of having politicians going on their knees begging citizens to use their vote.

Malta is in a better shape and a better frame of mind as polling day approaches. We may be one of the few countries in the world that regularly register high voter turnouts, but Malta’s performance in the European Union has been so impressive that the very mention of the European Parliament does make many eyes sparkle.

This is not the Eurovision Song Festival, where we fare so badly every year, but the European Union whose very statistics reflect, among other things, a vibrant Maltese economy, 100% usage of funds, full employment, the cheapest utility rates, convincing green-based budgets, and the best social benefits. Maltese failure in Lala land is made up for by Maltese success in what is real, the result of true grit, of a small nation that can be big when it deals with social realities rather than artistic delusions.

Main photo: Getty Images

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