10 January 2007

Please, Please, Please Let Me Win Eurovision

For those of us on the North American side of the drink, obsessed as we generally are with American Idol, we really have no appreciation for the meaning of the word "obsession" until we see how Europeans react to the Eurovision song contest. That 50-years-old competition launched the career of ABBA in the 1970s when they won with "Waterloo", was won by Celine Dion in the late 1980s, and last year caused a sensation when the highly-theatrical Finnish heavy metal band Lordi won it all.

Not performing so well in last year's competition was the entry from Britain, which has prompted the BBC, which selects Britain's national champion, to try to pull in a ringer for this year. Their secret weapon is Morrissey, who has proved himself as a songwriter time and again for decades, first as co-writer (with Johnny Marr) of the numerous hits by The Smiths and since as a successful solo artist.

Notwithstanding last year's unusual winner and the contest's support for music of all kinds -- rock, folk, Latin, and tribal songs are all common entrants -- Eurovision is traditionally dominated by meticulously-produced pop music. As such, the Beeb's selection of Morrissey has raised a few eyebrows.

He's undeniably talented and writes a pop hook as well as anyone, but he's an expatriate now -- he's lived in Los Angeles for many years -- and his themes are... well, challenging at times. As his Wikipedia entry notes, he's written songs about such topics as "child murder, gang violence, domestic violence, prostitution, racism, homosexuality, drug use, assassination, political protest, suicide and terrorism".

A college friend put it more succinctly one day when he heard me playing a few Smiths albums: "These songs are so cheerful. I love them until I actually listen to the lyrics. And then I want to kill myself."

Last evening on public radio's "Marketplace" program, the "Marketplace Players" speculated in song about what Morrissey's Eurovision entry will sound like:
Oh, Britain is dead and it's dying now
It's drunken and falling down
And broken its head, it's dead and bleeding
Stop feeding me lies, Britain!

I'll stab out my own eyes
We're smitten with money, wealth and fame
But lame like a horse that's been broken
Again and again

Our former colonies rise as we fall
India booms, Britain's profits appall
So let's end it all with tall bottles of poison
We deserve it
We deserve it
We deserve it, we deserve it, we deserve it
We deserve it
We deserve it
We deserve it, we deserve it, we deserve it

The lyrics are entertaining enough (and probably not far off as a prediction), but you really do yourself an injustice if you don't listen to the whole thing.

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