The annual Eurovision Song Contest (semi-final 1 featuring Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke airs Wed., May 15 at 5am AEST; SBS) is known for many things, but ABBA and Céline Dion aside, creating enduring stars is not one of them – especially recently. Instead, the annual spectacle, which had a worldwide audience of 186 million for the 2018 final, brings fans together for an in-the-moment celebration of the camp, quirky and catchy.
Each May, representatives of 40-plus countries provide a musical smorgasbord of instant gratification – an in one ear, out the other festival of cheesy pop and the occasional heavy metal track by mask-wearing Finns. The songs, even those that win, tend to have flash-in-the-pan success in the aftermath. You have to go back to 1987’s “Hold Me Now” by Johnny Logan to find a winning tune that made a lasting impression on the ARIA chart.
As for the performers, I’d suggest few people are hanging out to see what Israel’s Netta – last year’s victor – releases next. In fact, besides bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, who won for Austria in 2014, no winner this century has been able to capitalise on the global platform afforded them by Eurovision. They may be regionally noteworthy, but they don’t have a significant international presence.
And it’s not because they’re not good singers or don’t follow Eurovision up with anything else worthwhile – Swedish winner Loreen released a string of great singles in the wake of 2012’s ‘Euphoria’, for example – it’s just that audiences don’t seem to watch Eurovision hoping to find their next musical obsession.
At house parties around the country, we all just want to hoot with laughter at outlandish costumes and even more outlandish mid-song costume changes, and marvel at the acrobatic stunts and drum-beating grandmothers countries manage to work into their acts.
It’s a similar situation with another not quite as long-running singing competition: The Voice (starts Sun., May 19 at 7pm; Nine). Now in its eighth season, the reality-TV staple continues to draw solid ratings year after year, but the show has not produced a Guy Sebastian, Samantha Jade or Jessica Mauboy. Inaugural winner Karise Eden broke all sorts of chart records in 2012 with the songs she performed on The Voice, but her post-show career has been less impressive. Her 2018 album, Born to Fight, spent a single week on the ARIA top 50 at number 37. Again, not because it wasn’t good.
The same fate has met subsequent winners, with Season 2’s Harrison Craig enjoying the best run, until his career faltered with 2016’s Kings of Vegas. But it would seem people aren’t that interested in The Voice contestants beyond their time on the show. We love hearing their personal stories, being blown away by some impressive voices and still getting a kick out of the novelty of the revolving chairs, but we don’t buy or stream their music in significant numbers. But maybe, like Eurovision, it’s enough to enjoy The Voice as it happens, before moving on to the next flash in the pan. •