Road to Baku 2012: Engelbert Humperdinck – “Love will set you free” (United Kingdom)

Oh go on then, my random number generator insists I don’t save my home country’s entry until last. On to a country whose relationship with Eurovision is all too painfully familiar to me, though perhaps it is showing signs of recovery. Time to talk about the United Kingdom, and its unlikely entry by 76-year-old crooner Engelbert Humperdinck.

The UK is of course a veteran performer in Eurovision, participating every year since 1959, and forms part of the “Big Five”, the five countries who automatically qualify for the final due to their large financial contributions to the EBU. Nothing dodgy about that of course.

It is also one of the most paranoid nations in the contest, partly down to the loss of their status as one of the major Eurovision players that’s come about during the last decade. Several factors contributed to this, and they do NOT begin and end with the break-ups of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

Of course there are many more countries in the contest these days, so any country would expect to win less often. Then a rule change in 1999 allowed nations to send entries in non-native tongues, so suddenly UK & Ireland’s duopoly over English-language songs was shattered. Long-time commentator Terry Wogan – to many the voice of Eurovision – was notable for his increasingly bitter commentaries about how “it’s all just politics” and how people only vote for their neighbours (though countless douze-points traded over the Irish sea never hurt).

In the end, we stopped trying, and in a curious mix of desperation and lack of effort, this reached a low-point in 2003 with our first nul-point entry. It was an off-key turbo-gay disaster of a song and fully deserved failure, but this only deepened the victim status in the British consciousness. Pre-occupied with “what do people want??”, the public dutifully elected more eurotrash entries to similarly poor results, and then we suddenly had a decade littered with last-place finishes, and a sulky temperament.

It seemed that we were on the right track sending Andrew Lloyd Webber and then-unknown Jade Ewen on a heavy promotional tour, with a good song, which claimed 5th place in Moscow’s 2009 contest. But the media made nothing of it, only failure was a story. The following year we came last with a half-arsed (and that’s generous) limp-wristed Pete Waterman off-cut, and it seemed we were back to square one.

Keen for a vehicle to launch their reunion, boyband Blue went last year, hoping to benefit from their European success during the early 00’s. 11th was a good finish, though as France and Estonia would attest, the bookies had them down as a real contender to win. They came 5th on public votes though, so maybe Europe didn’t hate use after all. Perhaps they weren’t shunning our pop songs because of our stance on Iraq (you wouldn’t believe how many times people have used this excuse for poor results).

We stopped winning because we stopped trying, and we stopped trying because we stopped winning. We need to break out of this cycle. So in a somewhat leftfield decision, internal selection gave us Engelbert Humperdinck, most famous for his 1870’s hit “Release me”.

ESC fans in the UK are putting a positive face on things, and for the most part I agree. It’s a very dignified and slow-burning ballad, with the core sadness of the song communicated well by Humpy. I wonder how it will play out on the stage, and if the double-edged sword of being the first song in the final will work in his favour or not. It’s certainly not alone in the ballad battlefield of the 2012 contest, but he’s an established name in Europe, and he’s got a punishing promotional schedule touring all over the world.

I honestly have no idea how this will do. I’m inclined to think he won’t come first or last, but I honestly think it could finish anywhere in between, with an inclination to think it will finish in the upper half of the leaderboard. Germany have recovered from their 00’s malaise, France never seemed too upset, Spain never did well anyway (but here’s hoping this will be their year), and Italy missed the worst of the backlash (real or imagined). The UK has such potential to do well in Eurovision, but its vanity or paranoia (probably both) have really hobbled their chances. SNAP OUT OF IT!

As ever, I’m going to point you at the “Eurovision 2012” tab at the top of the page, it’s an easy way to find out what I thought and what I parroted off Wikipedia about the other entries.

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1 Comment

Filed under Baku 2012, Eurovision, Music, Reviews

One response to “Road to Baku 2012: Engelbert Humperdinck – “Love will set you free” (United Kingdom)

  1. Pingback: Eurovision 2012: Grand Final set-list & preview | Verbal Diarrhoea

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