Want to win Eurovision? Just get invaded by Russia, that’s all…

But then again… what would any of that even matter? We’d have ‘won the Eurovision Song Contest’, wouldn’t we? And, well, isn’t that the only thing that has ever really mattered…?

At the time of writing, a Times online poll is asking readers the following, imponderable question:

“What was to blame for Malta’s Eurovision failure?”

Gee, that’s a tough one! Let’s see now: could it be, perchance, because we were stupid enough to even participate at all… in a contest where the winner was actually decided more than two whole months ago (i.e., the moment the first Russian tanks rolled across the border into Ukraine)?

Duh! Honestly, though. How many times does this sort of thing have to happen, exactly…  before people finally get it into their heads that ‘winning Eurovision’ has NOTHING WHATSOVER – repeat after me: NOTHING WHATSOEVER – to do with any of the ‘answers’ provided by that Times poll?

That is to say, with any of the following:

a) ‘The song’;

b) ‘The performer’;

c) ‘The organisers’; and (my own personal favourite),

d) ‘Others’.

Oh, OK: I’ll take back a small part of what I’ve just written, there. Obviously, any category called ‘Others’ is going to be sufficiently vague to include, not just all the REAL reasons we didn’t win this year (or any other year, for that matter)… but also, every single conspiracy theory  that is currently doing the rounds on Facebook (including those of the, let’s just say, ‘borderline psychotic’ variety…)

Meanwhile: to be fair, there is something to be said – quite a lot, actually – about Options A, B, and C, too. Let me put this way: even if there was precious little point in Malta even competing at all - or any other country that wasn’t ‘invaded by Russia’ earlier this year - it still remains (on paper, at least) a ‘SONG Contest’, at the end of the day.

And as such: if we’re insane enough to still harbour such unrealistic ‘expectations of victory’, in spite of everything… well, we also have to come up with something that is at least a tiny bit, um… ‘WINNABLE’, if you know what I mean.

In fact, I’m not even sure what confuses me more, at this stage: the fact that so many people seem to have genuinely fancied Malta’s chances, under this year’s (laughably predictable) circumstances… or that they genuinely believed it was possible to win - under any circumstances at all - with a song entitled… ‘I Am What I Am’!

I mean… what the heck were we even thinking? OK, here I feel I have to let Emma Muscat herself off the hook, a little – if nothing else, because she was probably born around 30 years after the movie ‘Popeye’ was actually filmed, here in Malta - BUT…

… do you mean to tell me that there was not a single member, of the entire Malta Eurovision committee, who heard Emma Muscat’s song for the first time… and wasn’t instantly reminded of the theme-song of that particular movie? (Sung by the late Robin Williams, no less?)

Here, let me refresh your memories a little: ‘I Yam What I Yam! (and I Yis What I Yis!) I’m… Popeye the Sailor-Man! TOOT-TOOT!’

Now: much as I hate to break the news, to all concerned (in particular, the organisers)… but that is PRECISELY what millions of Europeans heard Emma Muscat sing, on that Turin stage last week. The theme song of a 1980 Robert Altman film – which also flopped, by the way – called… ‘Popeye: the Movie’…

And, what: you mean to tell me that y’all expected to actually…WIN?!  With… THAT?!

Oh, well: on the plus side, I suppose, it does raise a few other fascinating questions. (Like… um… what are we going to try and win with next year, I wonder? A remix of: ‘Scooby Doo, Where Are You?’)  Because apart from reminding everyone (above a certain age, of course) of our favourite childhood ‘spinach-swilling’ cartoon-hero… Malta’s song choice for Eurovision 2022 was also– how can I put this? – just a little ‘discordant’.

And no, I not talking about Emma’s actual vocal performance – that’s a judgment I will naturally leave to others - but rather, about the general tone of the actual song itself.

Here, once again, I feel compelled to exonerate Emma Muscat herself: partly because she is, after all, still only 22 (and let’s face it: at that age, we all still felt we were somehow ‘special’)… and partly also because her own circumstances probably make it that much harder for her to actually appreciate the intrinsic problem, to begin with.

But I find it harder to exculpate ‘the organisers’, this time round – who, by the way, must also have been the ones who approved of Emma’s decision to ‘change song’, at the eleventh hour – because… well, it is actually part of their job to gauge how the wider voting European public might actually react to any song’s core message.

Take just the refrain, for instance: ‘Take Me or Leave Me, I Am What I am.’

For starters, you don’t exactly need a lifetime career in showbiz to instinctively understand that – if the song itself invites the listener to ‘Take It, Or Leave It’ – there’s always going to be fair chance that some listeners will actually choose ‘Option B’.

Now: in this case, the overwhelming majority of the Eurovision’s entire international audience took that option; and, looking at it from their perspective… it’s not altogether very ‘surprising’, is it?

What did those millions of viewers actually see on their television screens, anyway? How would Emma Muscat’s ‘unapologetic self-assertion’ – to borrow an entirely apt description from the Internet – have gone down, on the night… with people who would no doubt have taken one look at her, and concluded (fairly, or unfairly) that she has the words ‘affluent’, ‘entitled’, ‘privileged’, ‘white’, etc., written all over her?

Oh, they took ‘Option B’, all right. (And the organisers would have done well to take precisely the same option, when it came to vetting Emma’s song-choice.  Not, mind you, that her original song would have stood any more chance of ‘winning’; but it would, at the very least, have given the audience a little less reason to be, well… ‘put off’.

A little harsh, I know; but sorry, it had to be said…

All the same, however: none of the above actually amounts to a full answer to that Times poll question. (“What was to blame for Malta’s Eurovision failure?”, remember?) For that, we need to look far, far beyond the confines of this year’s Malta entry… and instead look at the Eurovision Song Contest itself, as a whole.

Surely, you will not need me to tell you that this competition has degenerated, over the years, into nothing more than an undisguised ‘popularity contest’ between (mostly) European countries. And, well, part of the answer is already staring us in the face, right there.

For in case you still haven’t noticed…  Malta is not exactly at Number One in Europe’s ‘Top of the Pops’ chart right now, is it? No, indeed: in between David Walliams describing us as ‘an island famous for money-laundering’, and Zelensky himself giving our Parliament a good old-fashioned bollocking this week, for ‘selling passports to Russians’… I think it’s safe to say what position Malta is really occupying, in terms of popularity with other countries.

We’re in the dog-house … that’s where we are! And I won’t you bore you with all the precise circumstances that landed us in the equivalent of ‘Europe’s Hall of Shame’ – you know as well I do, that it is mostly part of the residue of the explosion that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017; and of the Panama Papers debacle, that exposed the filthy-dirty inner workings of the Maltese state for all to see…

… but hey, let’s not dig all that up again. Suffice it to say, for now, that if Malta hasn’t exactly ‘done very well’ in recent editions of the Euovision Song Contest… it is partly because we haven’t exactly done very much to ‘endear ourselves’, in the eyes of all those millions of European citizens (who are actually the ones who decide who gets to ‘win’ this contest, in the first place)

And yes, yes… I know it’s ‘unfair’, and all the rest of the things we end up moaning about, year after year, after year. But it’s also a simple fact of life that we cannot just keep ignoring forever. It is, quite frankly, impossible to win a (mostly European) ‘popularity contest’… at a time when most of Europe simply ‘hates our f***ing guts’…

But hey! That’s no reason to lose heart, is it? And besides: if nothing else, Ukraine’s victory should also teach us all a valuable lesson, about successful Eurovision-winning strategies.

And guess what? Not only is Ukraine’s winning formula entirely within our own capabilities, as a nation (which is already more than I can possibly say for ‘writing a Eurovision-winning song’)… but we’re practically half-way there already!

Think about for a second: we are participating in EU sanctions against Russia, as we speak; Vladimir Putin himself has already branded ‘Malta’ as an ‘unfriendly country’… so all that remains, to trigger an instant turn-around in our country’s international reputation, is…

… well, the next logical step, I suppose. ‘Get invaded by Russia’…

Of course, there may be a few minor ‘inconveniences’ to take into consideration: like, erm. dead bodies piling up in the streets… or who knows? The entire population being shipped off to a Russian Gulag in Siberia…

But then again… what would any of that even matter? We’d have ‘won the Eurovision Song Contest’, wouldn’t we?  And, well, isn’t that the only thing that has ever really mattered…?