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Pop CultureJune 28, 2018

How New Zealand could enter (and win?) the Eurovision Song Contest


New Zealand may have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to join Eurovision – so who would give us the best shot of a win? Eurovision enthusiast Robyn Gallagher has some thoughts.

The Eurovision Song Contest – the annual music extravaganza that combines songs, performance, fireworks and always some weird stuff – usually only pops onto the radar in New Zealand once a year, during the week of the contest itself. But this week, Aotearoa attention has unexpectedly turned to Eurovision for another reason.

European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who is currently visiting New Zealand to launch free trade talks between New Zealand and the EU, has been dragged into a discussion about whether New Zealand could take part in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Malström was a recent guest on Q + A, where Corin Dann asked if she would consider New Zealand joining Eurovision. The commissioner responded, “I think you would be very welcome if you want. The Aussies just joined, so why don’t you?”

This raises the very important question: could New Zealand actually take part in the Eurovision Song Contest? Do we all need to go out and buy lycra body suits printed with the New Zealand flag?

The short answer is: yes, technically New Zealand could compete in Eurovision.

The song contest is normally only open to members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) — a broadcasting alliance that actually has no relation to the European Union. This doesn’t include New Zealand. But, there is a loophole.

Since 2015, Australia has managed to get a guest invitation which has allowed them to compete. Australian broadcaster SBS is an associate member of the EBU and has been enthusiastically broadcasting Eurovision since the early 1980s. The EBU even changed the rules to formalise the involvement of guest competitors. So if SBS can do it, surely TVNZ could too. After all, our national broadcaster is also an associate member of the EBU.

The tough thing would be getting European viewers on board. It’s been three years since Australia’s debut, but there’s still plenty of “But they’re not even in Europe!” Sadly, our Oceanic neighbours sometimes struggle to get votes from the European public, mostly relying on the half of the vote that comes from the expert juries.

Plus, it might also be a tough sell to New Zealanders given Eurovision isn’t even broadcast here. But back in the mid-1980s, a clever promo campaign suddenly turned New Zealanders into staunch international yacht racing fans, so anything is possible.

If we did get to compete in Eurovision, who should we send? There’s a lot of overlap between Eurovision and the world of TV talent shows. So why not send Australian Idol winner and local pop hero Stan Walker? He’s a confident entertainer, he has music competition experience, he can perform in te reo Māori and – most importantly – the boy can sing.

Or what about flipping the script and sending te reo thrash metal band Alien Weaponry? It might seem like an odd mix for Eurovision, but in 2015 Finland sent a noisy punk band and this year Hungary sent a screamo band – and they both kicked arse.

Eurovision is also known for glamorous divas in glamorous gowns. But that’s boring. Let’s grab someone like Georgia Nott from Broods or Kimbra and let them deliver some edgy pop. Or maybe we should just round up Six60 and let them beguile Europe with their unique brand of student-friendly reggae. They’d probably end up winning.

Realistically though, New Zealand at Eurovision is not likely to happen. At least not in the immediate future. But that doesn’t mean that Eurovision can’t be enjoyed by New Zealanders. It’s free to watch on the official Eurovision YouTube channel, whether you stream it live at 7 am on a Sunday morning in May, or catch up at a more civilised hour.

Maybe now’s the time to get New Zealanders more interested in Eurovision, so that if in the future that elusive invitation does come our way, we’ll be ready with our lycra bodysuits.

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