This year marks the 50th anniversary of a very important landmark for the Eurovision Song Contest. Yes, it’s been fifty years since the United Kingdom, Austria & Denmark first participted…but it’s not that. It’s fifty years since duos were first allowed to compete…but it’s not that either. After Italy sent Nunzio Gallo with the over five minute long Corde della mia chitarra it was decided that no entry to the Contest could exceed three minutes long. Half a century later that rule still stands.
There are arguments to shelve the rule in the modern Contest but for the time being we aren’t going to see a song go beyond the 180 second mark. That’s not to say, of course, that a song has to be three minutes long. If you’re a certain Finnish punk band you could afford to perform your song twice and still have six seconds to spare. Which I’m sure the Eurovision masses would have loved!
What if you so happen to have a spare hour of an evening, at three minutes long you could listen to 20 songs. You could get through the whole of the 1958 Contest twice or 77% of the way through this year’s show or you could listen to the same song 20 times. We all have our favourite songs, those songs that strike a chord within us. Songs that we think that we could just listen to time and time again without ever tiring of. Well, it’s time to put that to the test.
Although not necessarily my favourite song Katrina and the Waves’ Love Shine a Light was the reason I started watching the Contest. It’s a song that elicits joy and elation every time I hear it. If there’s any Eurovision song I couldn’t fall out of love with it’s this one. What about after 20 consecutives listens? To keep the experiment controlled it was the studio version every time and I did nothing else but listen to the song. No phone, no laptop, just me and the song on repeat for a whole hour. (Technically, 57 minutes and 40 seconds as the studio version comes in at 2 minutes, 53 secons. Who doesn’t love a pedant?)
To begin with all was fine and dandy. It felt comparable to popping on a pair of slippers you haven’t worn in a while. I hadn’t heard this song for some time and at once it was both comforting and reassuring. Toe tapping, air drumming and singing along all accompanied those initial plays. I had a giddy euphoria for these first forays into the 1997 winner, as my flatmate was out I could sing along at the top of my voice. However, within 15 minutes my mood began to change. After the fifth play all accompanying percussion I was providing came to a halt, the singing stopped and the smile began to fade away.
A few more plays looped and as the half hour mark approached the realisation of how stupid this experiment was began to dawn. Two to three consecutive plays washed over as I stared blankly at the curtains directly in front of me. It was a blessed relief after the tenth rendition to know that I was over the hump and I was nearer the end than the start. Where 10-20 minutes previously excitable singing and clapping accompanied Katrina all I could muster at this stage was the odd exasperated sigh and ever increasing amount of forehead rubbing.
Within the last quarter of an hour any happiness this once beloved song held for me had dissipated in a haze of patience testing repetition. The percussion, the guitar and Katrina’s vocal all grated like I never thought they could. The message of love and peace Love Shine a Light was one that I was rallying against by the final listen. By this point all I wanted was every brother and sister in every little part to feel as miserable and drained as I did after this experience. Katrina wanted us to shine a light together, by play number 20 there was no light shining any where. Just darkness.