Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Making a song and dance about Eurovision

Australia was both excited and confused this week having unexpectedly found itself dining at the cool kids table - the Eurovision Song Contest. Sure – the Aussies could get their heads around the idea of competition, but were completely flummoxed by the absence of a ball. Cynics of course suggested that the work experience kid in the Eurovision office had just put the invite intended for Austria in the wrong bag. That sort of error might be expected of Americans, who tend to classify anywhere foreign as either 'dangerous' or 'Canada' and regard it all with deep suspicion. England, on the other hand, is pretty good at knowing its countries, having been something of a collector in years gone by.

 I strongly suspect therefore, that Australia's 'wild card 'invitation to participate in Eurovision was Pommie-inspired. A return joke for the one Prime Minister Tony Abbott played on England when he offered the Duke of Edinburgh a demotion to being a mere knight.  It's the sort of mutual pranking that seems really funny at a particular point in the evening, but is inevitably going to end up with someone waking up and wondering where all the traffic cones came from.

There were fears that our initiation rites into Eurovision would involve becoming part of the single currency and handing over our lunch money, dinner money and the contents of our national bank to Greece, the equivalent of having the Euro-gang flush our Aussie heads down the financial toilet. Luckily the threat of a retaliatory repatriation of Leo Sayer brought a rapid back-down.
England clearly felt safe from any sort of musical competition from Australia as Kylie wouldn't lower herself to those sorts of shenanigans and Rolf's diary was a bit full for the next six years, which pretty much left just Peter Andre. This is much like realising that you've only got Francesco Schettino available to cox your rowing eight. However, England didn't bargain on Australia's famed resourcefulness, finding as we did  someone who had won a singing competition only a dozen years before and who wasn't doing anything in May.

Guy Sebastian was an obvious choice, with the dual qualities of having a voice that didn't make your ears bleed and a crazy afro hair-do, which is pretty much as wild and gender-bending as Australian entertainers get. At least those that want to eat regularly and not get a good kicking when they tour regional towns.  The 'Go Guy' campaign hit a hurdle though, with the discovery that the man known and loved across this wide brown land as ‘The 'Fro’, had had a haircut and looked worryingly normal. Unfortunately, singer Redfoo had come up trumps in the ballot to wear the nation's token mad hair style, and clearly we weren't desperate enough to ask him to represent us. Guy was duly despatched with a ''good luck mate'' and an emergency bag of sequins in his back pocket.
Of course, now we were playing with the big kids, Australia had to familiarise itself with the delicate Eurovision politics if it wasn't to end up with 'nul points' and turn instantly into Norway. In a set-up that relies on more mutual back-scratching with close friends than a humid night in a psoriasis clinic, Australia was feeling a bit lonely without even its tormented kid brother, New Zealand there. It had been very carefully explained too, that any ‘sledging’ or boisterous badinage with competitors about the sexual proclivities of their family members vis a vis close relatives or domestic animals would not only be frowned upon but likely result in armed warfare. As would suggesting that the leaders of any Eastern European countries looked ‘a bit gay.’

Tough though the competition was, Australia would not adopt any dodgy palm-greasing tactics- it wasn't after all, the Football World Cup. Any brown bags in Guy Sebastian's vicinity contained only vegemite sandwiches and it was a safe bet that no non-Australian was going to touch those.

With no gimmicks or political alliances, Australia was going to have to fall back on its vocal talents alone, historically, a pretty insubstantial safety net at Eurovision. That said, in achieving fifth place, Guy Sebastian scrubbed up pretty well. There have been some lessons learned and next year’s contestant will no doubt apply for funding to upgrade the bag of sequins to magic glitter and develop a killer six pack, as this can only be what got that funny little Swedish song over the line.


© Wendy Wardell