This Friday, UK TV viewers will see six acts and their songs on a BBC Four broadcast live from Kentish Town in London. The 90 minute show is a big deal for UK Eurovision fans (people like me) because its the first time in a long time we’ve been given the chance to decide on who to send to the Eurovision Grand Final, this year in Stockholm.
The line-up of songs is the work of an important collaboration between the BBC (Eurovision Chief Guy Freeman and producer Helen Riddell), BASCA and the Eurovision fans network OGAE. And that’s reflected in the quality of the numbers you’ll hear on Friday night.
Bear in mind that I’m a Eurovision fan (nerd/weirdo – delete as a applicable). At the same time I’m also aware that Eurovision is about pop, and because of the three minute rule, its necessarily formulaic too. Inside the Eurovision bubble these are good songs.
Not only that, considering I’ve followed our post-1997 efforts with a combination of keenness, optimism and, ultimately, naivety, any one of these songs does the job just fine for me. From my perspective, I feel like Guy Freeman and his team have given me an early Christmas present with this lot which have reignited my enthusiasm for the UK at Eurovision.
And just to ram the point home even further, in comparison to the selection of songs the pre-1997 national finals used to offer the public, this lot is consistently good. Back in the 80s and early 90s, there were one or two but the rest of the line-up was a bit of a disappointment.
So, there’s choice here. And choice is a good thing. And because there’s choice I cannot wait for the National Final on Friday night. And for a UK Eurovision to say that without a moment’s hesitation is the most telling thing of all.
Before you read the personal views I’ve cobbled together, a sort-of disclaimer first.
I work at the BBC (but I don’t work on Eurovision). I don’t know the people who work on it, but I have witnessed the enormous energy they pour into their work. I’m proud of that and I am proud of them, just as I was proud of them last year when I saw them at work in Austria. And as a staffer at the organisation I’ve always wanted to work for, I’m bound to regard the people who work on Eurovision as ‘sort-of’ colleagues. And I will be loyal to those colleagues first.
I’m also someone who would rather praise than criticise. The bitchiness in Eurovision is something I really despise.
There. Now that’s been said, let’s get on with the real point of this post.
As the opening number in the UK’s first National Final in years, this is a good’un. It’s designed to make people watching say “Oh, you know what dahling, that was actually quite good.” That’s what I thought when I first heard it on the radio this morning, and what I saw people saying on Twitter. This stuff isn’t accidental.
It would look good on stage in a big arena too – lots of sweeping cameras and dramatic lighting. The UK would reclaim a bit of respectability sending this. It is isn’t my favourite number of the night, but like all of them in this show, its a very good effort. I can’t imagine the press ripping it to shreds if it didn’t do well.
This is by far the most distinctive song of the night. It begins with a bit of an unusual edge which could set it apart in the Final running order if it ends up going to Stockholm. Musically, it is the perfect response to the verse’s distinctive sound, but I worry that the mid-tempo ‘meat’ of the number might get lost if an up-tempo final. Personally, I think mid-tempo numbers have to work harder musically in Eurovision that higher-octane songs, and that’s definitely the case with the visuals.
Don’t dismiss this one too early on. This is a number best supported with wide shots of a packed arena. It combines a country feel with an unexpectedly satisfying audience participation element in the middle eight. There’s lots of tub-thumping and foot-tapping and that’s really not a bad thing. I cannot remember the last time a UK song got the audience swinging their arms up in the air.
This song has a beguiling hook: the first chord change you hear after this song starts has an unsettling effect: its a musical gift shift without resorting to a modulation. That makes it a little sophisticated in Eurovision terms. Listen out for the growling bass in the middle eight too – that will work well in an arena. For a mid-tempo number it has integrity and, come the final chorus, I think it might even have some tits. Quite how you’d stage it, I’m not clear.
From a PR perspective I worry about having an artist who was big in the 90s (Matthew was part of Bad Boys Inc.) If their live vocals are good, for example, I wonder whether there’s a bolder statement to be made if we send Darline or the lovely Karl. But, a real plus point is that one of the songwriters is SWEDISH. Eurovision loves anything Swedish. So again, it could be a goer.
I don’t tire of listening to it, but its final chord may not be resolute enough to generate a massive whoop from the arena crowd. And such things are important (to me) at the Eurovision Final.
Melodically strong, gratifyingly upbeat number infused with a hefty dose of country. A gorgeous little thing which would sit very well in the Eurovision running order and, if everyone’s on our side, do us very proud.
If I was to be brutal, I’d say that its a number that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a dramatic staging (Lithuania’s country number from last year looked all colourful on stage and had plenty of smiles but only scored 30 points). Sweet songs demand something distinctive in terms of visuals to make all the effort worth it.
In this studio version the number proves itself as way better than anything we’ve sent for the past 15 years. Country has a massive crossover appeal which means (potentially) more telephone votes from more members of the family as they watch the final show.
Don’t underestimate their pulling power in terms of audience reach either. They played the massive Country 2 Country Festival (as glorious an event as the Eurovision itself) at London’s 02 last year. And, usefully, Country 2 Country has a foothold in Sweden and in Norway too.
Miracle has a resolute start that doesn’t hang around waiting for the all-important rousing drum beat to kick in. The chorus has an uplifting feel dripping with that all important optimism and melancholic mix that makes this a bittersweet number with anthemic aspirations.
Interestingly for me, as I listen to it for the third time, I actually want the chorus to play out over and over again which says something good about the song’s melodic hook.
Like Matthew James’ song, Miracle doesn’t finish resolutely – a symptom of the song’s musical foundations (listen to Keane’s This is the Last Time for another illustration). But, if the cheer is good come the final chord, the fact the song finishes like it does may not be an issue.