Back to the Bad Old Days

So, the United Kingdom finished last. Again! Whose fault was it? Where do we go from here? Will the BBC change the selection process for the umpteenth time in a decade?

No doubt the BBC will be blamed by most for the failure last Saturday. I think this would be unfair and simply wrong. The system of contracting an established songwriter to write the song, while the public choose the singer, worked well last year. Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (collaborating with award winning Diane Warren) and Jade propelled their country up the scoreboard to fifth place. Not surprisingly, the Beeb stuck with the formula and asked Pete Waterman, someone who has written scores of number one hits, to write the song. Given his pedigree for writing tunes that are popular, it was a sensible choice. However, it seems that ‘The Hitman’ hasn’t listened to the contest for a while.

I started to become concerned when he was interviewed on radio about his involvement. He was asked why he had agreed to do it. His answer was quite revealing. He said “Because it’s europop, it’s what we do.” Sorry Pete, but the last time a song that could be described as europop finished in the top 5 was in 1999. That type of song just doesn’t work anymore. A quick browse through the recent history of the contest would reveal that although pop songs have been popular, they have been more than pure pop, there has been an extra, contemporary edge to them, Shady Lady and Song # 1 being cases in point.

In another interview, given a few months ago before he had agreed to the BBC’s request, Pete was genuine when he revealed that he would love to write a song for Lady Gaga. Now if he had written the type of song he would have to write to be included on one of her albums, we would be looking at a completely different result on Saturday. If he had bothered to listen to even the last couple of contests, he may have realised what he had to do to succeed.

Those at the BBC responsible for organising the song selection will certainly meet to review the result and discuss 2011. They should stick to the current format. The difference between the results in 2009 and 2010 was the approach of the writers. While Pete Waterman wrote a song with the contest in mind, Lord Lloyd Webber sat down with just one objective, write a good song. He didn’t attempt to stick to a formula, he didn’t write with anything particular in mind, he simply did the best he could for the song he was writing, and it worked. For next year, the BBC should approach a songwriter who doesn’t conform to a particular style but has a track record of writing good songs, like Gary Barlow, or a writer who is writing hits at the moment for contemporary chart acts. And when they have signed the contract, the chosen writer should be given a DVD of the last three contests!

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