We’re not exactly immune to a good song and dance here at The TEFL Org, and after some heated debates between our colleagues in Scotland and those in the north of England, some of us had to eat some sour grapes - because the Eurovision Song Contest is coming to Liverpool.
Yes, the world’s eyes will be upon the home of the Liver Bird, the Mersey and Echo and the Bunnymen (what, there are other famous bands from Liverpool?) on Saturday, the 13th of May. Qualifying European nations (and, erm, Australia ) will be battling it out to be crowned Eurovision Song Contest winners, with all the glamour and acclaim that brings. Or, in Ireland’s case, winning meant financial strain and having to host the event, watched by millions worldwide, in a town with a population of 1,500 people .
This year’s theme, ‘United by Music’, celebrates the bonds between Ukraine, Britain and the rest of Europe. Since Ukraine actually won the thing in 2022, it makes sense, and now all the songs have been made available to the eager voting public , it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of picking a favourite.
There are 37 songs, and being a dedicated and conscientious staff, we listened to all of them. Here are some of the highlights of the feedback we got, and something resembling a consensus. Who has The TEFL Org prematurely picked as the deserving winner of Eurovision 2023? Let’s find out.
Firstly, let’s try to get a scope of what the wonderful staff here are listening to, so their choices for a winner make more sense. Is it an exact science? No. Will it make anything about this any clearer? Also no.As you’d hope, tastes are diverse here. Our Customer Services Advisor, Debbie McConachie, tells us she’s listening to a lot of The Pixies, Electric Light Orchestra and Propellerheads which… let’s be honest, gives us very little to predict her pick for this year’s Eurovision. Sales and Marketing Manager (and vociferous campaigner for the Eurovision Song Contest to be in Scotland this year) Alan Moir has been listening to Jessie Ware and Beastie Boys, while Managing Director Andy Healy has been listening to Mason Jennings and “US folk-y poppy-like music”, which sounds vague, but fair enough.
The TEFL Org’s founders Joe Hallwood and Jennifer MacKenzie provided an exhaustive review of each Eurovision entry, but Jennifer explained that she’s been listening to a lot of Joy Crookes, the Ramones and The Bluebells. Joe insisted that he listened to whatever Jennifer picked. Smart.
Our resident hip-hop aficionado Luke Bartsch told us he’s been enjoying “BLK ODDYSY, Yaya Bey, Ahmad Anonimis, Pip Millett to name a few”. He’s also got an MF DOOM tattoo if that should give you any indication of his overwhelming enthusiasm to take part in this blog.
‘ Waterloo ’ by ABBA, obviously.
However, it wasn’t a total Swedish pop whitewash. Debbie hails Lordi’s ‘ Hard Rock Hallelujah ’ as a favourite, while Buck’s Fizz’s ‘ Making Your Mind Up ’ also got a shout from Jennifer. Andy’s pick is Andy’s: ‘ Diva ’, by Dana International, which was Israel’s winning entry in 1998.
So who have The TEFL Org christened as the finest entry of Eurovision 2023? Who is the winner with the peerless ditty, an emphatic choice, a no-contest, hands-down leader of the pack?
Well, it’s not quite that simple. Andy picked Armenia because it was as long as he could stand to listen to this year’s entries, which constitutes a great start. 12 points for Brunette’s ‘Future Lover’ , then, and away we go. If you’re wondering what Armenia’s entry sounds like, you could argue it’s a bit like an FKA Twigs song that didn’t quite make an album. You could argue that.
Joe and Jennifer, who it needs to be pointed out, spent a long, long time on their very detailed answer, went for two early favourites. Joe picked France’s entry, ‘Évidemment’ by La Zarra , describing it as “like Edith Piaf does Europop”. Jennifer, meanwhile, picked Mimicat’s vamping, pleading ‘ Ai Coração ’ : “I like this. For whatever reason it’s the kind of music I like (at Eurovision). I like a ‘hoy’ at the end. This is one I’d like to watch”. If you’re keeping score, it’s 12 each for France, Portugal and Armenia.
Wait, though: a challenger arrives in the form of Slovenia! ‘ Carpe Diem ’ by Joker Out gets Rory’s approval. Its “kind of indie-ish” appeal and instrumentation has garnered the all-important 12 points. If you hear the pounding of hooves, that’s another horse entering the race: Alan has plumped for the ever-so-slightly gothic pop of ‘ Samo mi se spava ’ by Serbia’s Luke Black, who looks and sounds a bit like if Jeff Buckley had been raised on Evanescence.Ah, but we haven’t heard from any Baltic nations yet, have we? They’re normally a force to be reckoned with on the Eurovision stage? Seemingly, that’s what Debbie’s thinking, giving 12 points to the Finnish entry, Käärijä’s ‘ Cha Cha Cha ’ . And no wonder: it sounds a bit like Rammstein on a steady diet of Eurodance. Somewhat perfect for Eurovision, depending on your point of view.
To further confuse things, Luke has chosen England, even though it’s the UK that has an entry in the competition. That entry? Mae Muller’s ‘ I Wrote a Song ’ . Mae Muller did indeed write a song, with a chorus delivered in a staccato vocal style over a Mediterranean synth line. It’s audible, there’s no question of that.
What did this prove?
It depends on your perspective. On one hand, it proves that democracy works, sort of, when there are more than about 8 people involved. Everyone had a different winner in mind, and that shows the diversity and musical divergence across the European continent. Plus Australia.
It also shows that enthusiasm for Eurovision wildly differs from person to person. One person’s event of the year is another person’s “What is this, why are you asking me to listen to this, I’m busy, please leave me alone”.
How does it relate to TEFL, though? Well, if the Eurovision Song Contest proves one thing (and it may only prove one thing), it’s that the world is actually pretty huge. For all we think we know our neighbours across Europe, they’ll hit us with a song so alien to us that you have to see if there’s a music scene attached, where that scene comes from, and who else sounds like that.
If you’re into music - properly into music - it’s a genuinely great reason to teach English abroad. There are only so many things you can hear locally, even if you live in a major city, so go out and dig for great, unusual records in a distant shop, head out to some shows that are nothing like what’s at home, and find the next big musical export before your friends do.
Maybe, then, the real winner of Eurovision is the spirit of wanderlust. The spirit of discovery, curiosity, invention. The real winner is all of us, for being able to enjoy the music of a fascinating, often bizarre and rarely dull continent. Singing songs with our friends, finding music venues across the world, exploring: maybe it’s us who are the champions.
Nah, only joking. It’s Croatia. Have you seen Croatia’s entry?