An academic known as ‘Professor Song Contest’ has advised Malta to change its style at the Eurovision and try competing with a more authentic song in Maltese that reflects what Europe is going through.
“You must understand that Eurovision has changed and that the typical Eurovision pop songs don’t work anymore,” said Dean Vuletic, a lecturer and researcher of contemporary European history at the University of Vienna who has written a book called Postwar Europe and the Eurovision Song Contest.
“Those songs did very well in the early 2000s, and maybe that’s why you feel like Malta used to do better in the past.
“But today, the winning songs are the ones that stand out. Maneskin’s victory last year showed that clearly, and Malta’s entry did not stand out this year.”
The 44-year-old Croatian-Australian, who is arguably the world’s leading academic on the social and cultural impact of the Eurovision, attended Emma Muscat’s performances last week.
'Catchy song and compelling performance'
The atmosphere was great, he said. The song was catchy and the performance compelled everyone in the arena to stand up and dance. But the music style was outdated and needed to be more diverse.
“Singers and bands who write their own songs, in their own language, speaking about relatable personal experiences, are blossoming right now.
“Europeans voted for the artists who reflected the current social and political context – they voted for those who wrote about the suffering Europe is going through right now. Malta’s entry does not reflect that zeitgeist.”
'Theme of accepting oneself powerful a few years ago'
Emma Muscat’s theme of social diversity and the idea of loving and accepting oneself was more powerful a few years ago, he said. That had culminated in Conchita Wurst’s 2014 victory.
But that’s been done and Eurovision has moved on to experiment with other themes and music styles – and he recommends Malta seriously consider doing the same.
“Most of the songs that were not written in English made it through to the finals. Malta should consider competing with a song in Maltese, because that’s another growing trend in Eurovision.
“Standing out does not necessarily mean you have to be over the top with colours and special effects. The Portuguese 2017 Eurovision winner is an example of how you can stand out simply but effectively.
'Just think of the singing doctor. He stood out'
“Just think of the singing doctor, Gianluca Bezzina. He did well because he stood out.”
While Malta’s chances of winning may seem bleaker than ever right now, Vuletic is convinced it stands a good chance one day. Victory used to seem equally impossible for Latvia and Estonia before they won it, he pointed out.
“Don’t underestimate yourselves and never think you’re insignificant. I was in Malta when you hosted the Junior Eurovision for the first time in 2014, and I was impressed. The atmosphere and the organisation were incredible, and you have what it takes to host it.”
He also argues that the benefits of taking part in Eurovision extend way beyond winning it, but if Malta keeps measuring success by whether it wins, it will feel like a failure every time.
'Emma is an extraordinary performer'
“The truth is, Malta is not doing badly in Eurovision. You’re doing quite well. Emma is an extraordinary performer and she electrified audiences this week. You did well with Destiny last year and you had some strong entries in the previous years.”
However, just by competing Malta is spreading its name across Europe to a 200-million strong audience. “Rarely, if ever, does any country have that opportunity.”
While he acknowledges the pattern of neighbouring countries voting for each other he refuses to blame Malta’s results on this phenomenon.
“The winner always has a strong vote from all across Europe.”
He also refutes the notion that Malta should take the Eurovision lightly: just because it may seem silly, it doesn’t mean it’s a joke.
'Single biggest event in the world'
“Eurovision is the single biggest event in the world that brings Europeans together, so much so that when the European Commission started to develop the idea of a European identity, it looked into the cultural and social history of Eurovision, and even sponsored it for some time,” he said.
“There is something special about the way small nations live Eurovision, and in Malta you capture its spirit in such a way that creates an extraordinary sense of community.
“It is so important to you that sometimes you even vote politicians in parliament who were on the Eurovision stage, and they go on to make very successful policy makers. Do not take that lightly.”