Jon Acuff (New York Times Bestselling author) has repeatedly shared the following advice in terms of productivity and creativity: “The best ideas will eventually stand out”. The same goes for music. The best songs will eventually stand out and usually, these are not the most mainstream ones.
Culture works retrospectively and music disruptively. That’s why the mainstream media try to kill the game-changer personality of music through their fact-checking addiction. In the older days, music and media were close friends, because music had the power that social media have today. Who can forget the awakening and empowering effect of the song “Another brick in the wall” during the fall of the Berlin wall or of “Give peace a chance” during the ‘Flower Power’ movement? But do we still want these effects anyhow? This is where the problem begins and Eurovision is no exception to the problem.
In the older days, music and media were close friends, because music had the power that social media have today.
Major media outlets like Reuters and Associated Press run critical shadowing teams targeting over alternative approaches to their strategy, in an effort to pull down everyone who tries to break the cultural mold. That is an ugly truth that is everywhere around us but nobody speaks about, making it untraceable at the fact-checking procedure.
I have spent most of my Communication and Media career behind the camera, off the spotlight and at the backstage. Therefore, I am boldly aware when I say that we are oppressed 24/7 and that we have our freewill stolen, through the fear of what will the others say. And since the Eurovision Song Contest advocates for our free will, it’s no surprise that NRK, ERT, BBC as well as other renowned press offices have never invested in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Eurovision is the biggest live platform in the world. A platform that only creative and genuine humans have access. Ever year, it is a 2-week live cultural protest with the unique ability to convey up to 43 different messages at it’s 220 million followers. Therefore, all participants usually take their chances. Whatever is on stage must be broadcasted. No matter what. No shocker why the media world tries to preserve the current mold, through the minimization of the Eurovision Song Contest’s importance.
Media do not really want to stand out of the crowd to become “the few exceptions, who push their selves to their limits”, as the American academic in Psychology Angela Lee Duckworth famously pointed out. Instead, they prefer to abuse the contest as a marketing canvas for positive or negative attention harvesting. That’s their biggest mistake. A mistake that only money-oriented and power-oriented people do. The marketization and consumerism of culture, before its current time.
Another reason for this mistake is the corporate cultural demand for going bigger, faster, and better on paper numbers. No shocker that the Øst-Norge Semifinal prioritized numbers over value, names over music, fame over substance and noise over quality. The social media kind of noise. You know… Clicks-4-clicks, comments-4-fame, hate-4-noise. And nobody lived happily ever after.
In addition, NRK clicked all the boxes to deliver a show that looked too sparkling for what it really was: The floor of Alexander Rybak from MGP 2018, a parking-lot location, pret-a-porte arrangements, connectivity issues, and lack of actions to do their job. The result was to water down everybody’s expectations and power up everybody’s criticism at the most significant anniversary for the MGP of the 21st Century that coincidentally arrived right after Norway winning the popular vote in the Grand Final of Eurovision 2019. The Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix (Norsk MGP) started at 1960.
The same way the spectators deserved a better arena, the same way the semifinal deserved better songs. Therefore, criticism began even before the first semi-final began. But there is something about criticism that we don’t understand. Criticism is nothing more than feedback. And we may not like it, but everyone has a different opinion (about anything). This is the reason why people who try to please everyone end up without personality. The same psychological pattern follows the songs that were created to please everyone, biasing Eurovision’s unique personality.
Negative feedback will always exist. The social media are the first to teach us that in the ugliest way possible. Yet, it doesn’t have to be frustrating, because it can be constructive. And to be fair with everyone, that is no easy task. But there are ways to recognize which feedback is constructive.
Rule number one is ‘justification’. Any constructive feedback needs to be justified. Rule number two is ‘intention’. Any constructive feedback needs to be positively intended. For the rest… You can either hold on to a million comments around the web and use them as examples to avoid or to reflect on what I usually do:
Give feedback in a retrospective mode. The process of reflection is way different from the process of reaction. Reaction is all about instant gratification. Reflection, on the other hand, needs time. Thus, in a world that is longing for instant gratification, a delayed feedback is more meaningful, valuable and trust-worthy. Be time-cautious, however. If your feedback comes way too late, it will go wasted.
2. DRAG THE ATTENTION
Be bold, loud and sarcastic (for a little while). In a modern society, where the humane attention span is shorter than the goldfish one, you first need to drag the person’s attention. Some drama can be fun & educative! Ask the Ancient Greeks about it. But don’t be a drug – Just be a Queen. Or a King…
3. GET IT OUT
Most of us save a negative feedback “for later”, hoping that the matter will eventually be forgotten. Almost always, however, the matter becomes so frustrating that we finally cannot speak about it and the matter remains unsolved. On the other hand, getting your thoughts out of your mind can help the matter itself, as well as the relations and the sanity of everyone involved.
4. WALK IT PERSONALLY
It is always about the person. By default. Therefore, the best constructive feedback is the one that engages the person is a productive way. My favorite way to achieve this is to portray the incident as a “random happening” and help the person realize what has happened.
5. CHALLENGE THE SENSES
Speak with examples, use pop culture associations or find daily life allegories. In a nutshell: Make it relevant. Everyone has its own language code and cultural preferences and it’s easy to be lost in translation. To avoid this, use storytelling to bring the person in an ‘objective view’ mode and help him/her to visualize the situation.
6. BE SOLUTION-ORIENTED
Most of the time, we don’t know what we are doing wrong, unless we are told so. Therefore, we need to tell someone what he/she has done wrong. However, doing so without providing an alternative solution, makes the feedback empty of meaning and yourself a very nagging person.
7. FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Any feedback is a great opportunity for a change. Therefore, give this opportunity! Instead of coming to a conclusion, finish things off with an open question or a general wondering that would not expect an answer.
After being in the media loop for a solid 10-years, I learned the hard way what is the most challenging thing about criticism: To stop the included intended hatred and turn it into self-awareness, while keeping criticism’s forcing power alive. Sounds difficult?
On Monday and for the next four weeks I will showcase my above guide into my constructive feedback for all the entries of this year’s Norwegian MGP. Then, it is up to you to either use it wisely or to drop all your comment bombs on what I haven’t done right, according to my guide.