Sunday, 5 February 2012

Malta and the Eurovision Song Contest! - Updated

The selection process for Malta’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest was a Big Deal.  So much so that a semi-final featuring 24 acts was shown live on Friday night primetime TV.  And this resulted in an elimination of 8 performers, leaving a rather lengthy final to be held on Saturday – on primetime TV again, naturally.   I watched this final.  Yes, there are better ways to spend a Saturday night, but sometimes you just end up watching whatever’s on TV, don’t you.  Don’t you?  We were doing other things, okay?  It was just on in the background.  But anyway, this was a strangely fascinating affair, and this despite the fact that everything but the songs was in Maltese and so more-or-less incomprehensible to me.  Of course this does not preclude me from giving a judgemental and critical account of what went on.

The Presenters
The show was held in the big conference centre in Ta Qali, with the great and the good of Maltese society sat in the audience in their fancy duds.  The presenters were a nice looking boy and girl combo.  They seemed pleasant enough, although hampered by the lack of an auto-cue and forced to rely on Eurovision branded prompt cards instead, which they rifled through constantly as though searching for an urgent phone number.  The boy presenter in particular could barely tear his eyes away from whatever was written on the cards, occasionally looking up when forced into speech, eyes rabbiting around the hall.  Sometimes he would just look sad and frightened, or like he was glad to get the opportunity but could this please end now?   The girl presenter battled on gamely throughout, glancing at her cards and then bellowing out whatever was written thereon to the assembled audience.  As I say, it was in Maltese, so the subtleties were lost on me.  About halfway through, when whatever song it was finished, the cards had disappeared and they were both clutching i-pads, as if in an attempt to save the boy presenter from self-destructive OCD-like card shuffling.  I wonder what the production decision was like – ‘The cards aren’t working, he won’t look up!’  Little noticeable improvement occurred. 

The songs themselves were all in English, mostly of the American variety, from country-rock to ballad to R-n-B.  Most of them were really, really bad.  And I say that with all goodwill and sympathy for the participants.  What do you expect?  It’s the Eurovision, and Malta is very small.  In such a small country it’s difficult to develop the kind of mystique that the Star People in more populated areas can get away with.  Here the acts all seemed  like people you might bump into in Scotts supermarket, or stumbling around Paceville.   Just dressed up in flashily over-the-top clothes that don’t really suit them, or anyone.  A chap calling himself ‘Janvil’ becomes my favourite.  He is about ten years too old to be involved in this carry-on, but makes love to the camera like a teenager to a playboy playmate.

They all sang their songs, and there was some voting.  This is the stall for time segment.  The girl presenter flicked curls of hair out of her eyes, while the boy presenter smirked awkwardly and then stared concernedly at his i-pad, as though important family news was filtering through.  Then the girl presenter went one way, and the boy presenter the other.  They both interviewed segments of the finalists.  As they clambered up and down the ranks of singing groups, the boy began mingling about the singers as though he was born to it. It was all going to be alright!  He was a pro after all!  The girl presenter tried to reproduce the trick with her half of the finalist but couldn’t quite pull it off.   As usual with people who want to be famous, the singers lit up when being spoken to and then sat by glumly while others were in the spotlight.  Many of them were texting friends when they believed themselves to be out of shot.  When would this stalling for time period end?

A rather camp young fellow came on and sang a Kylie type song, which was half-heartedly received.  I think he was last year’s Maltese Eurovision representative.  Then he came back and sang ‘Heal the World’ with a gospel choir.  Nobody needs to see this.  Nobody wants to, that’s for sure.  Certainly not the assembled audience, most of whom seem to be wondering what exactly they have allowed themselves in for by coming to this thing.   Then a Thai-looking girl came on and commenced to sing in French.  Shots of the audience displaying stony, if polite, indifference.  This is the definition of filler.  She turns out to be Indonesian and representing France in the Eurovision.  Then she sings ANOTHER song.  Nightmare.  Now the Azerbajani winner of last year’s competition is singing… I can’t take any more, I’ll just find out the winner tomorrow.

And the Winner is................. Kurt Calleja!  Yes, Kurt Calleja!  Oh, you're not familiar with the man?  Well he looks like a nice chap, works in sales apparently, when he's not belting out europop.  Sounds very, very like Rick Astley, dressed by TopMan.  Best of luck Kurt - fly the flag!

The Times of Malta had an online poll the next day asking whether people thought this song would be successful at the upcoming Eurovision song contest.  80% of respondents answered "No".

(Photos from:;; Video from: eurovisionTV12)

...So, young Kurt didn't win the competition, but he did himself proud.  He qualified from the semi final, which was unexpected enough, and then garnered a total of 41 points for a 21st place finish.  Respectable.  This was followed by a lot of dark mutterings about east European conspiracies denying Malta their dues, but in all honesty the song was never going to win the whole thing as it wasn't the most memorable entry by a long way.
  Still, good job Kurt, you did yourself proud. 

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