So, for the first time in many years, the UK were serious contenders in the Eurovision song contest. For much of the might, Great Britain were in fact the front runners, only to be pipped by Ukraine at the very last minute from the final popular vote. No more “nul points” – we nearly did it.
Of course, everyone had expected Ukraine to win. They had a strong contender but they also had a ground swell of support and sympathy behind them because of the Russian invasion. Yet what of the UK entry, why did it perform so well? Well the artist had built up a strong support base and it seems to also have been viewed as a good song by many. However, we’ve been there before only to flop. So, was our relative success just down to pure artistic ability?
I suspect not. I suspect that whilst we decry the politics of Eurovision when we fail believing that we were robbed that in fact, when we are successful we also benefit from politics too. The last time we won was with Katrina and the Waves back in 1997. Back then we had a popular artist and a catchy number but success also seemed to come against the back drop of Tony Blair’s recent election victory. Due to Blair, Britain for a short period of time seemed to be leading the world in a new progressive politics and Blair was seen as much more pro-European than his predecessor.
For a number of years, the view has been that the UK has been punished partly from lazy entries and significantly for Brexit. Perhaps Europe has decided that we’ve been punished enough and that it’s time to move on. At the same time, it has been clear that Britain has been seen to be one of the strongest and staunchest allies of Ukraine, being willing to stand up robustly and unequivocally against Putin, to help arm Ukraine and not to be scared off by threats of nuclear attack. Clearly, Putin sees us as Ukraine’s strongest ally. It’s no surprise that others do too.
Now of course, the point about such votes is that we cannot say for certain what motivated people, what caused them to like a song and to be positively pre-disposed to a country so I could be wrong on this. However, what I wanted to stop and think about here was whether it was a bad thing that other factors come in to a music competition.
And here’s the surprise. I’m not sure that it is. You see, the reality is that our views of music are shaped not just by the quality of the music itself but by its context. Music is a cultural phenomena and so there are broader factors that affect our enjoyment of it. At a personal level, there are songs I love because I link them to specific memories. There are other songs I find hard to listen to because I associate them with sad memories. There are worship songs for example that I particularly associate with a tough time in my life through depression and the pandemic -these were the songs I kepty singing and listening to that helped me get through.
Practically for church life, this means that when we choose songs for worship, we don’t just need to think about the words or even the music we also need to be sensitive to what our church family associate the music with.