Benidorm Fest, ‘twelve points’: the festival begins to choose the Spanish representative for Eurovision | TV

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Those responsible for RTVE want Spain to rejoin Eurovision again. The years of selection by decree, of experiments with triumphs and of chikilicuatres democracies had left the representatives of the country as an inevitable guest who is cornered in the least lit corner of the room. A list of winners in black and white, the stratospheric audiences of other national television channels and the hopes of the irreducible Spanish Eurofans demanded to return to the spotlight to be once again a recognizable star, like Norma Desmond in The twilight of the gods. From the public entity they mixed formulas of success, nostalgia, the diversity of Spanish musicians and an incessant bombardment on social networks. And nothing illuminates more than the Benidorm sun. This is how the Benidorm Fest was born, the selection process for the next candidate from Spain to the Eurovision Song Contest, which begins this Wednesday.

Three galas (two semi-finals and one final) will pave the yellow brick road for the 14 minus one participants who have reached the stage of the l’Illa de Benidorm sports palace, venue of the new event. A mixed jury, with professionals from the sector recruited to issue their verdict, and another popular one, who will be able to vote from home, will be responsible for sending one of the selected songs to Turin, the venue for Eurovision in 2022 after the victory of the Italians Maneskin at last year’s gala. In the window, fruit of the most varied. Pop, rock, flamenco, urban rap, indies and even Galician folklore. In the freezer is the auto tunethe technological tool that corrects pitches whose use is prohibited in Eurovision, due to the cancellation at the last minute, last Sunday, of the candidate Luna Ki, who opted for her theme I’m going to die.

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The first semifinal will be opened this Wednesday by Varry Brava with the song Raffaella. They will continue Azúcar Moreno with their posturingWhite Dove with water secret, Unique, with Top and Tanxugueiras, with land. The initial gala will close SloMo, from Chanel. Thursday will be Xeinn’s turn with EchoMarta Sango with You’re still on my mind Javiera Mena with GuiltRigoberta Bandini with Ow momRayden with Lloreria Street and finally Sara Deop with make you say. Gonzalo Hermida, who competes with Who’d say, He will not step on stage for having tested positive for covid this Tuesday, so instead of performing live, his video clip will be played. The four chosen in each batch will star in the final, which will take place on Saturday 29.

The preparations for one of the stages of the L'illa sports palace where the Benidorm Fest will take place.
The preparations for one of the stages of the L’illa sports palace where the Benidorm Fest will take place. Joaquin Reina (Europa Press)

The new format is born winner. “Without having yet chosen the song that will represent us”, celebrates José Juan Santana, president of the OGAE eurofans association in Spain, “we are already one of the favorites in the bookmakers”. The secret to harvesting the 12 points that each opponent distributes was, apparently, in taking the festival seriously. “The Benidorm Fest repeats the formula of the San Remo festival, in Italy, or the Melodifestivalen in Sweden”, explains Santana, obviously a fan of all kinds of festival music. In this way, it has been possible to talk about the Eurovision again in this country, but “also outside”, something essential to capture the attention and favor of an international audience with a voice and a vote. In Santana’s opinion, “the semifinalists present good songs, with great variety and competition”, in which youth and experience, fame and novelty are mixed. “There is enough and good material to get something positive out of Benidorm”, he settles.

In the tourist capital of Alicante, meanwhile, the arrival of the event is awaited “with enthusiasm and satisfaction”, says its mayor, Toni Pérez (PP), a lover of singer-songwriter music. The City Council, Generalitat Valenciana and RTVE allied themselves to put out a proposal that in the summer of 2021, when it was presented, was expected to explode as a splendid debut in order to “overcome the pandemic and regain hope,” the president of the public body, José Manuel Pérez Tornero. But that ómicron has been in charge of turning it into a luxurious dress rehearsal. “We are aware that the situation is complex”, admits Pérez, “the festival was a bet to start the recovery”. Six months later, on the verge of the gala, the perspective has changed. “The success now will be to start off well so that in 2023 everything grows.”

The president of the Generalitat Valenciana, Ximo Puig, between the mayor of Benidorm, Toni Pérez (left), and the president of RTVE, José Manuel Pérez Tornero, at the presentation of the Benidorm Fest this Monday.
The president of the Generalitat Valenciana, Ximo Puig, between the mayor of Benidorm, Toni Pérez (left), and the president of RTVE, José Manuel Pérez Tornero, at the presentation of the Benidorm Fest this Monday. MORELL (EFE)

The brand sells itself. Benidorm is, in most of the big international tourist markets, the biggest pin on the map of destinations in Spain. It is a city that is explained from the inexplicable. The fishing village turned into a high-profit Manhattan. As seedy as it is cosmopolitan, as the writer Esther García Llovet said in this newspaper last week. Sea and mountain; excess and winter. “It seems like a city for old people,” adds Santana, who has visited it several times, “but it is modern, a hook for young people.” “Benidorm has a leading role that no other Spanish destination offers,” says its mayor, who is rubbing his hands with the opportunities that will come with the end of the pandemic. “The hard core of the eurofans is in markets among which the city has a lot of prestige”, underlines Pérez, “but the audience is so large that it also includes countries that do not usually look towards the western Mediterranean, like a good part of those in the East. of Europe”. A powerful hotbed of votes in Eurovision, by the way, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Baltic countries.

The musical history of the capital of the Costa Blanca passes, inevitably, through the Benidorm Song Festival, born in 1959 from the head of the visionary mayor Pedro Zaragoza Orts, the architect of everything that came after. Inspired by the Italian San Remo, during its first years it was a contest with luck and eye. The first winner, a telegram, performed by Monna Bell, is still embedded in the memory of the Spanish with its refrain of “I already knew it, I already knew it”. Later, artists like Raphael, the Dynamic Duo or Julio Iglesias took off to stardom as satellites of Elon Musk. But if Benidorm’s musical roots are Italian, its consolidation is British. is a huge resort on vacation that sounds like a radio formula, Zumba classes on the beach, a carousel and piped music, but also “every afternoon and evening, in all the bars, restaurants and hotels in the city, there are live music shows”, certifies Nuria Montes, general secretary of the hotel management of Benidorm, Hosbec, and devotee of the Queen group. “Benidorm is one of the Spanish towns with the largest number of active musicians,” she insists, “something that came with British tourists but that the Spanish have spread throughout the city.” It is the office of María Jesús and her accordion, the refuge of star impersonators, the litmus test of talented studio performers.

The singer Blanca Paloma, one of the participants in the Benidorm Fest, this Tuesday in the city of Alicante.
The singer Blanca Paloma, one of the participants in the Benidorm Fest, this Tuesday in the city of Alicante. Joaquin Reina (Europa Press)

Montes confesses that the Benidorm Fest generates a bittersweet feeling. “The image campaign of Benidorm through RTVE, linked to the Eurovision phenomenon, with millions of followers, is brutal”, he declares. But “when it was planned, nobody thought that we would be affected by a sixth wave and with restrictions.” Two thirds of the 140 hotels and 42,000 available beds are moored in port. The expected reactivation of the low season has not occurred. “There is no pull in reserves,” lamented Montes, although they hope to “revert it next year.” “The image of the city is linked to fun, to leisure linked to music”, he continues. “The connection with Eurovision is magical, there is no other city with this connection”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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