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THE IVORS, EUROVISION - AND ISTANBUL
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THE IVORS, EUROVISION - AND ISTANBUL
by David Stark
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The Ivors
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Eurovision Song Contest

Two of the most important events for UK songwriters take place over the next two weeks, namely the Ivor Novello Awards this coming Thursday and the Eurovision Song Contest on May 29th. Two very different events which have traditionally represented the hallowed pinnacle of success for British songsmiths over the past fifty years, but which also have very different audiences and modus operandi. While the Ivors - a real celebration of British songwriting, composition and craftsmanship - remains as virtually the only major UK music awards ceremony not to be broadcast on TV or radio (at least since its very early days), Eurovision will of course be beamed into the lounges and sitting rooms of hundreds of millions of cheesy pop fans in Europe and beyond on Saturday week.

It's therefore somewhat ironic that while the nominations in the two most important Ivors' song categories (Best Contemporary Song and Best Song Musically And Lyrically) are noticeably bereft of songs by today's equivalent of vintage songwriting teams, it's the old firm of Mike Stock and Pete Waterman who have managed to wangle their bland 80s-style thumper as the British entry for Eurovision. I for one will be extremely surprised if "That Sounds Good To Me" by Josh Dubovie matches anything like the reasonably creditable fifth position achieved by Jade Ewen last year with Andrew Lloyd Webber's "It's My Time", which itself was pretty much forgotten as soon as the contest was over.

Nick Hemming
Nick Hemming
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Lily Allen
Lily Allen

And that's the point: had that song been a genuine classic, or at least more than half decent, then it should have gone on to be nominated for this year's Ivors. But it wasn't and it didn't, which isn't that surprising. But what is a big surprise is that some virtually unknown songwriters have been nominated in the category Best Song Musically & Lyrically, arguably the most prestigious award apart from 'Songwriter of the Year'. Nick Hemming of the band Leisure Society received a load of publicity last year as being the first-ever unpublished songwriter to be nominated for an Ivor for his song "The Last Of The Melting Snow" and would you believe it, he's back again this year with "Save It For Someone Who Cares", albeit now published by Notting Hill Music. Hemming's up against Lily Allen's "The Fear" (co-written with Greg Kurstin), as is another bunch of unfamiliar names, namely Ed and Will Adlard, Ali Digby and George Addy, collectively known as Patch William, a very young new band with no record deal but who are published by Chrysalis Music and produced by veteran knob-twiddler Steve Levine of Culture Club fame.

How did this happen? I have no idea, and have no problem whatsoever with the integrity of the Awards Committee put together by event organiser BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors), but it's extemely puzzling nevertheless that two unknown songs have been nominated in favour of major 2009 hits by the likes of Florence & The Machine, Kasabian, Leona Lewis, Pixie Lott and Robbie Williams among others - many of which are co-written by jobbing British songwriters who would just relish the opportunity to be nominated, let alone win. I think the Academy needs to take a good hard look at its nomination process in future, and maybe create a new category for 'Aspiring Songwriters' in the same way that the Brit Awards has successfully created a 'Critics Choice' award for new artists.

Admittedly it hasn't been a vintage year for British songwriters in general, some of our biggest hits being written or co-written by overseas writers, but I'm also just a little perturbed to see the complete disappearance of the Best Selling British Song category, or as it used to be known when I researched it for many years, the 'International Hit of the Year'. This has now been dropped to make space for the new category of Best Original Video Game Score, for which such names as Guerilla Games, SEGA and FluffyLogic Development are making their Ivors debut - a real sign of the times.

Jay Sean
Jay Sean

The international winner will instead now be recognised by the Academy's newly-created special International Achievement award, of which I hope the first recipient will be Jay Sean, who has become, according to the BBC, "the most successful male UK urban artist in US chart history", with his song "Down" going to No. 1 on Billboard's top three charts (singles, pop and R&B) and which has sold over 6 million copies worldwide, including 3 million downloads - an incredible success for the Hounslow-born, Asian-background singer/songwriter, who had the seventh best-selling US single in 2009 and has had airplay of over two billion listener impressions on radio worldwide. However, as Sean co-writes most of his tracks with American DJ's and producers, it may be that his estimated 20-25% input per song isn't quite enough to justify an Ivor, according to the Academy's rules and regulations. Another contender could be Havering-born singer/songwriter Imogen Heap, who has enjoyed chart success in the USA, Canada and on the Internet with her latest album "Eclipse".

Sarah Class
Sarah Class

Others in the running this year for the famed bronze Ivors' statuettes depicting Euterpe (the Greek goddess of Music, Lyrics and Poetry) include Dizzee Rascal, Bat For Lashes, La Roux, Paolo Nutini, James Morrison and Girls Aloud, but whoever wins, I'll be at Grosvenor House on Thursday for the big day which I wouldn't miss for anything. BASCA and Ivors sponsors PRS For Music always manage to come up with some breathtaking special awards recipients, such as Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Quincy Jones and Lou Reed in past years, and I'm sure this week's event won't be any exception.

I'll also be keeping an eye on Eurovision next week, although it will be have to be on my mobile, as bizarrely I'll be doing jury service the very same night at a song contest in Istanbul, Europe's current Capital of Culture, where upcoming British singer/songwriter Sarah Class will be representing the UK along with artists from a dozen other countries. However this a contest with a difference, as all the contestants have to perform a song associated with Istanbul, sung in Turkish! The event is likely to be attended by the Turkish prime minister and other local dignitaries, and is organised under the auspices of the recently-formed World Association of Festivals and Artists (WAFA). It is rather strange that it's on the same night as the world's biggest song contest, but as the organiser told me, "It's no problem, we don't worry about Eurovision here so much any more." Until they win it again, of course...

2010 David Stark / SongLink International

LINKS:

> Ivor Novello Awards

> Eurovision Song Contest

> Istanbul Songs Competition

> BASCA

> PRS For Music

> WAFA

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