When Swedish and EBU officials announced Malmö as the choice to host Eurovision Song Contest in 2013, the initial reaction of fans was “What are they thinking?” Now Swedish plans to take the contest in a new direction make that choice crystal clear. Instead of continuing in the trajectory of bigger, more technically dazzling TV productions for the show, the organizers want to show a scaled down contest where the songs and artists don’t get lost in the mega-production. The EBU has lamented that the gigantic shows of the past few years, from Moscow, Oslo, Dusseldorf and Baku, were discouraging smaller, less wealthy countries from even trying to win. Someplace small like Malta, or financially-challenged like Spain or Iceland, could never hope to compete on that technical playing field. But now with the hosting country choosing a small city and medium-sized arena to host a more intimate show, maybe everyone will feel they can get back into competition.
Martin Österdahl is the executive producer for 2013 and head of the Swedish organizers. He looks to the Swedish experience of Melodifestivalen, which has increasingly attracted bigger stars from all areas of popular music, as a template for this year’s Song Contest. The postcards before each performance will no longer be a promotional or propaganda tool for the host country, but will give more time to get to know the artist and song entry. This year’s show will utilize only a single host who will be more involved in all parts of the evening. (Eurofans were recently cheered when Gina Darawi and Danny Saucedo were announced as Melodifestivalen 2013 hosts, since this might clear the way for hugely popular Sarah Dawn Finer to host ESC. Finer is a Swede who grew up in New York and Stockholm, and her unaccented English, sharp comic timing and onstage charm would give her all the ingredients for a great host.)
According to Österdahl, “There is no continuation of the route taken in Moscow and Baku. It just doesn’t work to create an interesting narrative with the same equipment they used. It isn’t possible to create a more extraordinary technical light show than in Moscow, even if you have a bottomless pit of money,” he says.
“If you want to take this program forward, you have to choose another path, and our path leans more towards emotions and a good narrative. It is going to be noticeable and it is going to be about taking the show forward into a whole new dimension. There is nothing left to tell when it comes to big LED screens and a fantastic amount of flashing lights. This means that the camera angles have to be taken from a big distance, which means that the artists become very small. There is a very large distance, and between them and the background there is a lot of air. We don’t get enough emotional engagement and I believe that people have begun to realise this – consciously and unconsciously but actually more consciously.”
“This is what made Loreen stand out. When the background was turned off, you could get much closer to her and see her eyes. The words that she sang started to mean something. One develops a connection and a relationship is created, and this is completely decisive. I absolutely believe that this is the way forward.”