They have come in for a lot of criticism since the introduction of the semifinals, but the Big Four are showing that this year, they really do mean business.
Call it envy if you like, but there are those who think that the Big Four should have to fight for their place in the final like every other country has to. They forget that without the huge financial contributions to the contest of Big Four, there would be no contest – fact! In my view that gives them the right to be in the final. However, this does present problems of its own. They have the disadvantage of being the only songs in the final that some viewers haven’t heard. Those viewers probably already have a favourite from the semifinals and there is a good chance that they will stick with that song. That said, Greece proved in 2005 that you can win without first participating in the semifinal. This hasn’t stopped some pretty poor, all right, dreadful results for the Big Four over the last few years. Since 2005, the best result for any of the Big Four countries was 14th for Germany’s Texas Lightning. This has led to accusations that they do not take it as seriously as the others because they are already in the final.
There are arguments to support both side of the debate but this year, I don’t think anyone can deny that the Big Four are back with a bang, or a Kiss, Kiss, Bang in the case of Germany. The BBC started it when they announced that Andrew Lloyd Webber would write the United Kingdom song. He’s written almost as many hit musicals as there are songs in this year’s contest. Like his music or not, his pedigree and expertise are not in doubt. The BBC even made the sensible move of reducing the influence of the British public by giving them the opportunity to select the singer, but not the song. After the choices made over the last few years, this was a very wise decision. The singers on show had already been vetted and selected by Lord Lloyd Webber and so were going to be up to the task. Just to almost take away any risk of illogical voting, the final decision about which singer would leave the process each week was made my Andrew. The result, a song that seems to be going down very well all over Europe.
France was even more careful, the French public didn’t get a say in the choice of singer or song. They are in safe hands, though. Patricia Kaas is probably the best known singer in the contest this year, and fame and popularity count for a lot. If you already have a fan base, you already have votes in the bag before you even sing your song. Similarly in Germany, the act and song were simply presented to the German public. Their song is going to stand out because it is quite different from anything else that will be on show and will therefore stick in the minds of the viewers. I’ve never subscribed to the opinion that original is good (there is usually a reason why a particular sound hasn’t been tried before – because it’s rubbish!) but Alex Swings, Oscar Sings have managed to give us something different which actually sounds really good.
Spain has been the boldest of the four. They returned to the internet submission system which produced Rodolfo Chikilicuatre, fun and interesting, but never going to trouble the top ten. This year, the top ten could see Soraya make an impact with a catchy and modern song which will appeal across generations.
So after years of propping up the scoreboard, the Big Four may all find themselves in the top half for the first time since U2 released a decent album.