Are OGAE contests too focused on Eurovision artists and not focused enough on non-Eurovision acts?

For many die-hard Eurovision fans, being a member of OGAE is an absolute must. The organization, which stands for the Organisation Générale des Amateurs de Eurovision (or in English, the General Organization of Eurovision Fans) was founded in 1984. It is comprised of a network of over 40 Eurovision fan clubs around Europe and the world. As a result, it has members from not only from Europe, but all areas of the world, thanks in part to the fantastic work done by the Rest of the World club.

As a member of an OGAE organization, I love the many perks we get as members, such as access to tickets that allow us to sit and stand amongst other hardcore fans. But over the past few years, I have really enjoyed taking part in voting in the many OGAE contests that exist for fans. And thanks to technological advances and easy access to music via services such as YouTube, it is now easier for OGAE to run these contests and help us fans discover loads of new great music.

In this article, I want to highlight the many contests that OGAE organizes. But I also want to touch upon my one small quibble regarding these contests. However, I want to leave this discussion up to my fellow fans that have been kind enough to take the time to read this.

Websites of Interest
First things first, I need to give a shout-out to two websites.

First, http://www.ogaeinternational.com/ is the home of the OGAE International, which serves to help connect all the OGAE clubs while informing the general public about OGAE’s mission. Maiken Mäemets currently serves as the President and is a joy. I have yet to meet the other Board members, but if they are as hard working and diligent as Maiken, then OGAE International will surely continue to prosper and succeed in helping Eurovision expand and maintain its faithful fanbase.

Second, http://www.sechuk.com/ is the site to check out all the many contests that have previously been conducted. You can see firsthand the rich history of the fan-led contests over the years.

OGAE Eurovision Song Contest Poll

Since 2007, OGAE has conducted a pre-Eurovision Contest poll in which fans could vote for the entries for that upcoming Eurovision Song Contest. Every national club plus OGAE Rest of the World votes for all the entries using the Eurovision voting system we know and love (i.e.,the top 10 receives scores of 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Each club can choose its own method of designating these votes, be it an open vote amongst members, or a select group serving as a “national fan jury.” Nevertheless, the results of the Poll have been quite accurate as the OGAE Poll has correctly predicted the winner four of eight times (2007, 2009, 2012, 2013). The winners of the poll in 2010 and 2014 also finished 4th This” and “Undo”). The best part is that those members from countries that have an OGAE club, but don’t currently participate in the Eurovision Song Contest (such as Slovakia and Turkey), can still participate.

OGAE Second Chance Contest

OGAE fans enjoy following the national finals as much as they enjoying watching the Eurovision Song Contest itself. So many times, fans are upset when their favorites do not make it out of a country’s national final. But fear not! The Second Chance Contest allows fans to continue cheering for their favorites!

Following the Eurovision Song Contest for that year, each OGAE club enters one song that was not selected to represent their country. For example, OGAE Spain this year selected Brequette’s “Mas.” OGAE Rest of the World works with countries without their own OGAE club and selects a song among their national finals. They actually won with Yohanna’s “Nott” in 2011, although Iceland now has their own OGAE club. This year, OGAE Rest of the World selected Bogi’s “We All” from Hungary. Every participating OGAE club votes using the Eurovision voting system (i.e., the top 10 receives scores of 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). OGAE club whose countries selected their act with internal selection or do not currently participate in Eurovisio are still eligible to vote as special juries. One quirky aspect of this contest is that winning OGAE clubs “host” the next year’s contest. In other words, that OGAE club is put in charge of organizing next year’s contest. Many clubs have fun with it, designating a host city, and providing fans with information about their country.

In order to up the fun even more, OGAE has also instituted the Second Chance Retrospective, where members go back in time looking at those songs that did not win their national selection. So far, songs from the years 1975-1986 have competed.

OGAE Song Contest/OGAE Video Contest

Two other popular contests utilize songs that had not appeared on the Eurovision or even competed to be at Eurovision. In some ways, they may be simply a platform to introduce fans to global music. The OGAE Song Contest has OGAE national clubs enter an original song released in the previous 12 months in their countries, and sung in one of the country’s official languages. The OGAE Video Contest is similar but focuses on the Music Video accompanying the song.Last year, Pastora Soler won the Song Contest for Spain with “Te Despertare” while Stromae won the Video Contest for Belgium with “Papaoutai.”

Bias?

I will start off by saying I love these contests. I love learning about the music that is outside of the US, where I reside. However, what drives me nuts sometimes is the songs and videos that are selected. For example, in this year’s Second Chance Contest, rather than choosing Ace Wilder’s “Busy Doin’ Nothin,” which lost to “Undo” by two points, OGAE Sweden went with Helena Paparizou’s “Survivor.” An alright song, but nowhere as good as Ace’s in my opinion. And this comes from someone who loved Helena’s past work inside and outside of Eurovision. I just question why OGAE Sweden went with the 4th is that Helena has more international fans and they figured she’d have a better shot of getting them more votes. And honestly, I was sure OGAE Sweden was going to go with Alcazar, who had previously won Second Chance. But given that Sweden has won Second Chance the most times out of any country, I am 100% sure that they know what they are doing!

The winner of the OGAE Song Contest last year was Pastora Soler “Te Despertare.” A great song if you have yet to hear it, and written by Thomas G:Son! However, this year, OGAE Spain once again picked Pastora with follow-up “Esperame.” Pastora is talented and I love the new album, but sometimes I feel like I’m listening to the same song over and over again. It felt like a safe choice to me. I wanted to hear something from Spain that featured a new up-and-coming artist, not a song from an artist that has already won the OGAE Second Chance (2012 “Tu Vida es Tu Vida”) and OGAE Song Contest. Looking at the list of songs selected for this year’s OGAE Song Contest, you’ll see many familiar names including Harel Skaat (Israel 2010), Zeljko Joksimovic (Serbia and Montenegro 2004, Serbia 2012), Beth (Spain 2003), Johnny Logan (Ireland 1980, 1987), and Emmy (Armenia 2011). Out of all the awesome songs that I’d like to think that are being released in these countries and just waiting to gain an international audience, I do find it disappointing that Eurovision alumni are typically seen as the obvious first choice. I have to assume that these decisions are similar to my reasoning with OGAE Sweden’s choice of Helena in Second Chance – they want votes, and people will give songs by Eurovision alumni a better chance than artists they may not know. Look back on www.sechuk.com and you’ll see many more Eurovision alum being used. Is this a bad thing? I’m not sure…

On the other hand, some countries will go in the other direction and select an internationally successful song to increase its chances of winning. The OGAE UK group has been highly successful with such a strategy, winning in 2009 (Coldplay “Viva la Vida”), 2010 (Freemasons featuring Sophie Ellis-Bextor “Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer)”), and 2011 (Adele “Someone Like You”). This year, OGAE UK are competing with another smash, Ellie Goulding “Burn.” One can question if choosing powerhouse songs that were international hits have an unfair advantage. However, they fall well within the rules and it’s a strategy that works. And as a member of OGAE UK, I can attest firsthand that the selection of the songs are entirely up to us members. And of course, other countries are just as capable of choosing their powerhouse acts as well. For example, Italy won the Video Contest in 2012 with “E’ L’Amore Che Conta” by superstar Giorgia.

Silver lining

Despite my quibble, I have to remember two things. First, in no way do I think any OGAE club is selecting any song or video with malicious intent. It’s all about fun and I’m sure the OGAE UK club are damn proud that they can claim an act such as Adele as one of their own! Second, here I am complaining about OGAE contests promoting past Eurovision artists. But then I wonder…isn’t that the point?! I think it is fantastic to be able to see the music that is currently being released by our favorite Eurovision alumni. Rather than wondering what ever became of these artists after their three-minute performances, I can see through these contests that they are doing quite well and are still releasing music. Thanks to contests like these, as well as companies such as YouTube and Spotify, I can continue having a relationship with my favorite Eurovision artists. For example, Severina’s live album (Croatia 2006) from a few years back gets a lot of play. And when I need good music to play in the background while writing, I turn on one of Malena Ernman’s albums (Sweden 2009).

On the other hand, what I love about Eurovision is it’s a microcosm of European music and lets me discover music outside of the American market on an annual basis. The OGAE contests further this by allowing me to continue discovering other countries’ musical superstars. Participating in the UK song selection for this year’s OGAAE Song Contest exposed me to some fantastic artists, such as Jake Bugg and Rebecca Ferguson.

So I suppose that this article is a request to the OGAE clubs to continue thinking about the Eurovision acts that we know and love. But at the same time, I ask them to also let these contests continue to be a venue to introduce us to long-established and up-and-coming acts from their respective countries. I can’t imagine how excited hardcore OGAE fans were in 2009 when Svetlana Loboda won the Ukraine national final, given that she won the 2005 OGAE Video Contest with “I Will Forget You.”

What do you think? Have you participated in the OGAE contests? What do you like? What don’t you like? How can these contests serve to introduce fans to new artists while helping fans keep in touch with their favorite Eurovision artists?

 

The views expressed in this editorial are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of ESC United, its editorial board, its readers, or any other person, entity, or organization.

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