[United Kingdom] Lucie Jones / Never Give Up On You

Lucie Jones’ song Never Give Up On You written by former Eurovision winner Emilie de Forrest, is the UK’s best entry for years.

It’s been carefully crafted by a team of people whose work proves to me as a hardened fan that there’s a commitment to transforming the UK’s standing at the contest.

Jones is invested in the number and that’s illustrated in her committed and self-assured performance on stage. She creates a dramatic performance and possesses a voice that delivers every time.

The song is a slow-burn. A heartfelt plea, and a bit of a tear-jerker. Quite whether the song will cut-through sufficiently in the Eurovision running order remains to be seen. But, the production has impact in the arena, the vocals are solid, and the reaction warm.

Many here have commented on how impressed they are with Lucie Jones’s performance. Others will expect to see these positives to be reflected in the scoring. In theory that is absolutely the case. I’d hope it appears on the left-hand side of the leaderboard, and, if we’re really lucky, in the Top Ten.

I’ve seen press centre polls listing the UK in 4th place, but I’m not counting my chickens. What’s important is that its a well-produced affair – Hugh Goldsmith, Helen Riddell, Guy Freeman, and Lucie Jones will rightly be proud about the finished product.

Lucie Jones wins Eurovision You Decide 2017 with ‘Never Give Up On You’

Truth be told, I approached the 2017 UK Eurovision selection programme struggling to summon up excitement and enthusiasm.

I was tired. Dispirited. Unconvinced.

Only the night before a good friend of mine had helped me understand how my focus on Eurovision had shifted. After years of investing in the UK and hoping for the best, I was now far more invested in the process of Eurovision and the promise of a celebration at the end of it.

The atmosphere that emerges when Eurovision fans convene is a far more realistic guarantee compared to trying to hedge your bets (and therefore manage your own expectations) as regards the UK’s place in the final leaderboard.

Lucie Jones’ live performance of ‘Never Give Up’ on last night’s BBC Two show defied the low-level expectations of the song I’d ended up with after hearing it on Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show earlier in the week.

A studio recording doesn’t do Lucie Jones’ considerable vocal stamina justice. The live performance (above) with the mix of the crowd and a breathtakingly simple staging amplifies the song’s considerable poise transforming it into a bit of a heart-breaker.  I adore it.

Not everyone will like it. Lazy cynical journalists will dismiss it. I don’t really care.

Eurovision is brutal. The only thing that really counts is whether the song has an impact on a personal level. And frankly, you’d have to be a cold-hearted bastard if this year’s UK Eurovision song didn’t touch you in some way.

Progress has been made. That’s what’s most important.

Eurovision 2017: Six songs for Eurovision You Decide on Friday 27 January 2017

Earlier today the six shortlisted songs for the BBC’s selection programme Eurovision: You Decide were aired for the first time on Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 morning show. So begins Eurovision on the Thoroughly Good Blog for another year.

Improved songs

The songs mark a distinct improvement on last year’s selection, and a gear-shift in the BBC’s efforts to find a ‘good’ entry for the UK.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re remarkable pop songs, but in most cases they meet the music criteria for Eurovision’s now arena-scale setting. Holly Brewer’s I Wish I Loved You More is a good illustration.

Live vocals are everything

Of the remaining five performed live at the Eurovision You Decide final on Friday on BBC Two, Danyl Johnson’s Light Up The World would sound OK in the Eurovision running order. The only caveat is Johnson’s live vocals will need to be top-notch every time in rehearsals for me to feel comfortable this number is the right choice for the UK. I have reservations.

I Don’t Wanna Fight has a fleeting Clean Bandit vibe to it right at the start, builds to an OK chorus, but peters out rather unsatisfactorily at the end.

My choice

The best of the bunch with a soaring melody in its heartfelt chorus is Lucie Jones’ Never Give Up On You, written by a whole army of people from Canada and Sweden, plus Denmark’s 2013 Eurovision winner Emmelie de Forest.

Much of the talk from the UK camp last year was around our Eurovision strategy being more of a marathon than a sprint. The training is clearly paying off but this year seeing a personal best isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion.

This isn’t a foregone conclusion

From a Eurovision perspective Friday night’s live show on BBC Two will be a test to see whether the most convincing song gets chosen – there’s always a risk it won’t.

Only then will the pundits have an idea of which side of the leader-board the UK can hope to find itself on when the final votes are in.

Eurovision 2016 – United Kingdom: ‘You’re Not Alone’ (Joe and Jake)

Let’s get some of the simple stuff out of the way first. We’re not totally useless at Eurovision, we’ve just had some trouble in recent years.

We used to win (when the contest was smaller) – we won five times with Lulu, Brotherhood of Man, Bucks Fizz, Katrina and the Waves, and Sandi Shaw. Over the last thirteen years or we’ve come last three times. We were second in 2002. We’ve had a fifth place in 2009, and an eleventh in 2009. We haven’t been totally useless.

Part of the reason for us stumbling around in the voting table isn’t down to political voting (on that score, Christer Bjorkman is right). To explain the reason we’ve stumbled around the voting table on the rest of Europe hating us is, effectively, blaming everyone else for our continued apparent inability to understand Eurovision. We’ve struggled to enter into proceedings with the material that suits the programme’s running order and pleases the audience back home at the same time. In trying to satisfy both those aims we’ve ended up creating a bit of a chasm between us and the rest of Eurovision.

Since our breathtakingly awful performance in 2003 when we came last with ‘Cry Baby‘, there have been years when it’s felt as though we’re not even watching the Eurovision when we’ve sent the songs we have. These were the years we got it wrong; the years when I was scared of even looking at the screen.

It might have been sung in tune but ten years on ‘Teenage Life‘ (19th, 2006) still looks like a misadventure in pantomime accompanied by an ill-advised ‘rap’ track. ‘Flying The Flag (For You)‘ (22nd, 2007) saw a more polished stage act of what was an infuriating song (I still despise it with a passion the way I did the morning after the public selected it).

That Sounds Good To Me‘ (25th, 2010) was subject to moments of rank live vocals – singer Josh Dubovie lacked the necessary experience for delivering the song and at times had a terrified look in his eyes whenever he looked down the lens.

In its defence, Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘Love Will Set You Free‘ (25th, 2012) was a beautiful number but, come the key change, poorly executed. It was poorly drawn too – it was first in the running order and came nearly last in the voting. Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Believe in Me’ (19th, 2013) fared a little better but still didn’t really cut any ice. Disappointing as their results were, I’m proud that an albeit internal selection did buck the Eurovision trend and demonstrate a commitment to diversity on stage.

There have been other years where there’s been good intent, but we’ve stumbled at the stage presentation. ‘Even If‘ (25th, 2008) was a perfectly serviceable pop song with an impressive live vocal but looked a little bland on stage. Similarly, Molly’s ‘Children of the Universe‘ (17th, 2014) was a good number but, as with a lot of band-based songs, difficult to present. With Molly stuck behind a microphone the visuals were always going to be a little static. A slightly more adventurous stage production might have elevated the UK a little higher than the place we ended up in.

The years we got it right were undoubtedly when boyband Blue helped nudge us closer to Eurovision respectability. ‘I Can‘ (12th, 2011) was an ambitious number with punishingly high notes in the descant and surprisingly tight harmonies towards the end. Similarly Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s carefully crafted ‘It’s My Time’ (5th, 2009) for Jade Ewen saw hard work and attention to detail pay off.

And while few will agree with me, I won’t have a bad word said about ‘Still In Love With You‘ (25th, 2015). I enjoyed the song, recognised the enthusiasm both Alex and Bianca, and songwriters David and Adrian had for participating in the competition. I also observed from a discreet distance the hard work the UK delegation put into producing the number.

This year’s song – ‘You’re Not Alone‘ – marks a change in the efforts of the UK. Joe and Jake were selected at a UK selection programme, something we haven’t had in the UK since 2007 (at least not a selection for the actual song). The song is upbeat, uplifting, and something which sees the corners of my mouth tentatively turn upwards every time I hear it. Importantly, it sounds like a crowd number, meaning that I think it will fill the arena and, as commanded by the tagline for this year’s contest, help encourage everyone to come together.

Set against the rest of the songs, Joe and Jake’s song has a clarity and freshness to it that is lacking from a lot of the other richly-mixed pop. Importantly, they’ll perform (though not be voted on) during the second semi-final on 12th May which should mean they get a lot more exposure, and experience. Given that show’s running order, we’ll get a sense of the impact of the song too.

Ultimately however, much will depend on where in the Final running order they appear and we won’t know that until, I think, Friday 13th May when the running order is announced.

The preview video might seem unadventurous visually but it’s a creation which helps reassure the rest of Europe that we’re sending something credible. That’s vital. If experience has shown me anything it is that Eurovision fans are vocal and unforgiving in their judgements.

If we can hold our nerve and make the stage act look good, I think this puts Joe and Jake on the same level as Blue from 2011, perhaps even a little higher.

You’d expect me to proud of our own song for Eurovision, and I am. I really hope it does well.

Eurovision 2016: UK picks Joe and Jake

UK viewers chose pop duo Joe and Jake and their song ‘You’re Not Alone’ following their performance at Eurovision: You Decide last night. The live broadcast featured five other acts, but only one other real contender for the opportunity to represent the UK in Stockholm on 14 May.

Joe and Jake’s ‘piano-driven’ anthemic number is a pleasing thing, with an integrity to its sound I can’t recall any other UK Eurovision songs having in the past. Ever. Looks like the BBC’s pairing up with former Innocent Records MD Hugh Goldsmith as consultant, and their closer work with composers association BASCA and fan network OGAE has paid off.

The show which pulled in 678,900 viewers on BBC Four – the first UK ‘national final’ since 2010 – was a bit of a treat. The warm inclusive atmosphere created by the 2000-strong audience seemingly unconditional enthusiasm for the night was a reassuring reminder that UK Eurovision fans need not feel alone. I’d normally have to attend another country’s national final or the Eurovision final itself to experience that – to get a taste of it after a short tube journey from work is a rather glorious treat.

joeandjake2

If Joe and Jake do well at Eurovision this year, its not hard to see how last night’s show could be expanded upon: more episodes, different venues and maybe even more majesty? Hire venues like last night’s Forum are the way to go too. I’ve spent enough time in TV studios during live broadcasts to know they are the worst places for atmosphere. It is the audience that underpins the Eurovision’s ongoing popularity.

As a member of the audience, having the chance to think about what song I’d like to represent us (and reflect on whether that’s the same as the song I think would be best suited to the Eurovision stage – often two different things), is as it turns out quite a fun thing to do. It’s starting the Eurovision Bus earlier, getting me in training for the main event when rehearsals get underway in April.

joeandjake

Both performers assured performances combined a powerful combination of confidence and youthful optimism they demonstrated in the press conference directly after their win hints at their potential impact in the run up to and during Eurovision this year. They fielded the inevitable if tiresome question about what plans they had about staging the song in Stockholm, with a realistic response. But they also revealed during the press conference that their families were back home in Stock on Trent and had been watching proceedings on the TV. “We haven’t spoken to them yet,” said Joe or Jake (I’m not quite sure which is which yet).

I was surprised. I had assumed that their families would be there in force to cheer them. There was something rather charming about the idea that they weren’t. Something reassuringly normal and everyday about. For a split second both of them appeared as though they’d set off for ‘That London’ to compete in a song competition together, leaving their families at home to follow their progress on TV.

Radio 1’s Newsbeat interviewed them backstage and secured what every self-respecting Eurovision fan insists upon: a demonstration the artist can sing a-capella. And it appears they can. Which is also … very, very good for the UK.

This year’s goals for Eurovision are quite straightforward. It would be nice if the UK could be talked and written about for all the right reasons at this year’s Eurovision. We want our performance to look and sound good, and for the voting to reflect that accomplishment too. In Joe and Jake and their song ‘You’re Not Alone’, I think we might just be OK.