The mere competence of Guy Sebastian

When the decision was announced this morning, it had the daggy inevitability of a zinger at a Bill Shorten press conference. Inexplicably ignoring my helpful list of suggestions for an interesting, unexpected option like Prince Philip, SBS has opted for Guy Sebastian as our Eurovision representative.

Well, of course they did. They had only a few weeks to decide, which didn’t allow them enough time to conduct the traditional selection process, so instead they chose somebody who had already been anointed by an excruciatingly drawn-out reality TV talent contest, as they did last year when Jessica Mauboy performed at the semi-final. Jess’n’Guy are both pleasant people who are household names, which means that everyone’s mum knows who they are, even if they couldn’t name a song.

Guy Sebastian ticks all the boxes, if you’re the kind of person who likes making decisions by ticking boxes instead of coming up with an idea that gets everyone excited. I presume that the decision was made by a large committee piling into the SBS boardroom and throwing around ideas, until all the interesting suggestions got vetoed and they arrived on a consensus that the management team would sign off on.

I can’t imagine that anyone in the room had a burning desire to showcase the music of Guy Sebastian to the world, but nor can I imagine that anybody objected to him. Because you really can’t. Objecting to Guy Sebastian is like objecting to the offer of a nice cup of tea.

Not only is Sebastian so blandly pleasant that he makes Kylie seem a racy alternative, but his talent is absolutely unquestionable. I was looking around for some recent tracks, and found this incredible video of his song ‘Linger’, where he sings along with a few stripped-back loops. There is no question that he’ll nail the song. That’s what he does.

Or at least nail it musically. Because Eurovision is a television event, which means that there are supposed to be pretty images to go with the pretty sounds. Or, more often than not, bizarre, kitsch images to go along with the bizarre, kitsch music. That, surely, is why we watch in droves. (Please tell me it is, because otherwise, I may have completely misjudged my fellow Australians.)

If raw talent is a factor, Guy will do very well, but Eurovision voters tend to like spectacle and quirkiness. (Don’t they, Mr Lordi?) And I really can’t imagine Guy Sebastian coming up with an especially compelling visual presentation. He won’t be accompanied by an army of babushkas, or semi-clad himbos in outfits that reinterpret their centuries-old national dress through the timeless medium of Lycra. He’ll probably just have a few other highly talented musos alongside him, perhaps in black t-shirts, sitting on stools. At the end, Guy will blow the roof off with the spectacular vocal climax of a well-crafted song that practically nobody will be humming the following morning.

And in that sense, Guy Sebastian might just be the least appropriate person we could have chosen, especially given the humorous nature of Australia’s affection for Eurovision. He is zero percent kitsch, and about as ironic as a branch meeting of the Australian Greens. Put it this way – each year, most of the Eurovision songs are barnstorming dance tracks that are on high rotation at my gym the following week. Whereas the only time Guy Sebastian features in a gym is to pump weights himself.

The gulf between Guy and the spirit of Eurovision is especially apparent when you recall last year’s winner, Conchita Wurst, whose very appearance in a beard and a dress was inherently interesting. Even Britain’s peculiar idea of nominating Engelbert Humperdinck in 2012 was a more interesting idea than choosing Guy Sebastian, even though the results are likely to be considerably more pleasant for the ears.

Perhaps the idea is not to overplay our hand? Perhaps we are aiming to be like a dinner guest who goes out of their way not to upstage the hosts, in the hope of being invited back? If being as inoffensively pleasant as possible is the goal, sending Guy will be a diplomatic triumph.

We might have chosen an exciting young talent (and sorry, because I’m 38, I’m far too old to suggest anyone – ask these guys). We might have chosen Sia, who would have come up with an exceptional pop song, staged in some fascinatingly original, faceless way. Or we might have chosen Gurrumul, who might have thrilled the world with little more than an acoustic guitar and his extraordinary voice.

Instead, we chose Guy, and he’ll do a fine job. Nobody can’t say he won’t, even if they’re admitting it through gritted teeth. I just wish that in keeping with the jamboree of quirky kitsch that is Eurovision, we’d chosen someone a little more likely to be spectacular. Nevertheless, like a courtesy invitation to your wacky Austrian neighbour’s Oktoberfest party, it’ll be fun, and somewhat surreal, just to be there.

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