Oooh I think it’s time for another of the Big Five, this time my glorious homeland of the United Kingdom. Am I swelling with pride? Well sort of. I’m not disillusioned with our lack of success this century (though people are quick to forget Jade’s 5th place finish in 2009, or to appreciate Blue’s 11th place in 2011). When we’ve failed, it’s usually been for a reason.
Since the last appearance in the top 3 (Jessica Garlick’s 2002 entry for Tallinn), the UK have performed the worst it ever has in its 55 year relationship with Eurovision. This included three last-place finishes, one of which being the UK’s only ‘nul points’ to date.
But instead of embracing our long history of success at the contest – including five wins, one of the biggest hauls in Eurovision – and wielding the vast might of the UK music industry, we’ve decided to follow in the lead of neighbouring Eurovision champion Ireland, whose public also seems to have a collective chip on its shoulder. It’s a lot less effort to just blame the rules, blame the foreigners, blame the war in Iraq, whatever. IT’S ALL POLITICS. Such is the legacy of latter-day Terry Wogan on the public consciousness.
I hate this mentality, and it’s been truly toxic to our efforts in the contest. Major artists (or labels) wouldn’t dream of entering, at risk of having their careers tainted with desperation. We are stuck in a cycle, why should voters take us seriously if we can’t do it ourselves? You only need to look at the UK chart peaks to see that we haven’t supported our own entries, and media coverage for flops is always bigger than for successes.
In an effort to get some column inches out of the whole sorry affair, the BBC have taken the policy of recruiting ‘names’ to represent the UK. These aren’t current stars, but have enjoyed success at some point. Blue were a good bet, but long-dormant. The viewers of Europe liked it, they finished 5th in the televote, though the juries didn’t share the enthusiasm. Last year it was Engelbert Humperdinck, carbon-dated crooner, who had a nice enough song but it wasn’t great, further hobbled by performing first in Baku. It finished second-last, but the opening slot provided a scapegoat at least.
This year, BBC have picked up Bonnie Tyler, famous for her 80s hits “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Holding out for a hero”. And since then… well, not so much. There’s the much trumpeted ‘success in Europe’ from about a decade ago, but as Blue showed, that’s no guarantee. But she’s committed to promo at least, she’s got a new album out, and she realises that Eurovision has an almost unparalleled scope for promotion across Europe. Even without a win, she’s surely got several more opportunities to get out there to plug the album.
So we have a motivated singer, singing a song co-written by Desmond Child, writer of some of Bon Jovi and Aerosmith’s biggest hits, as well as a few Bonnie tracks and a catalogue of other massive hits (“Livin’ la vida loca” was a surprise!). I think people were expecting another MoR disaster like last year, but I think it’s actually quite a lovely, dignified love song. I don’t think there’s anything like it this year, which could be good or bad.
Fortunately the UK (along with Spain, Germany, Italy, France and hosts Sweden) don’t need to qualify, so Bonnie has one shot to make a success of this one. I’ve heard doubts about the strength of her vocals, but without hearing a live performance yet I can’t comment. Though if there are worries, there are plenty of tricks to cover the cracks.
A success this year would be much appreciated. I feel a win is unlikely, but all I’m after is progress in UK attitudes to the show. After all, Loreen got top 3 single on the back of her win last year, despite a infuriating snub by Radio 1. It CAN work. If Malmö is another disaster, then I plead that the BBC needs to start sending unknowns and focus on the song like it did in 2009. If they are willing to put the hours in, they can make the UK proud of its place in Eurovision again.
For more reviews of Eurovision’s entries this year, click on “Malmö 2013” in the top menu, or just click here!