It may be hard to believe, but the UK is actually among the most successful countries when it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest. We are in the top five when it comes to winning countries, having won it a total of five times, (1967, 69, 76, 81, 97). In fact, only Sweden and Ireland have more victories than us, with six wins and seven wins, respectively.
Having said this, we have unfortunately struggled at Eurovision during recent years. Between 2008 and 2018, we have finished last twice, (Andy Abraham, Even If in 2008, and Josh Dubovie, That Sounds Good To Me in 2010), and at the bottom a further four times. Alarmingly, in the last decade, we have only finished inside the top ten once, with Jade Ewen’s It’s My Time reaching fifth place in 2009.
There have been all kinds of suggestions as to how this complete reversal in prowess has come about. The most popular, is that Europe just doesn’t like us. The War in Iraq put our Eurovision goose in the oven and now Brexit has cooked it. This, however, is pure denial I feel. The theory certainly doesn’t hold much water, when we consider that Russia tends to not win many points in the popularity contests, either, yet seems to do rather well at Eurovision.
Despite being one of the only countries I know of to be booed, they have had six top ten finishes during this last decade. This includes a win in 2008, for Dima Bilan with Never Let You Go. They also had a near miss in 2012 with Buranovskiye Babushki (AKA: the dancing grannies) and Party For Everybody. They have certainly had a better time of it than us, even though they did not compete in 2017 and failed to qualify for the final last year.
And then there is Israel, which also has a rocky relationship with Europe. Even so, they ended up winning the contest last year, with Netta and Toy. Hence, this year, the contest will be held in Tel Aviv. (This is not without controversy, it has to be said, and has been met with call for the contest to be moved or boycotted.)
In truth, our failures at Eurovision, have been of our own making. We really have sent some utterly appalling efforts in recent times, not least Engelbert Humperdinck (2012), Bonnie Tyler (2013), Electro Velvet (2015), and Joe & Jake (2016). And last year, SuRie also failed to get off the ground, with Storm. Even with the possible sympathy vote, having had to cope with a stage invasion, she only managed 48-points. Unfortunately, we just lost our Eurovision mojo a little since the turn of the millennium.
However, things are looking up! The United Kingdom recently chose its entry for 2019 – and it’s not bad at all. 21-year-old, Michael Rice, from Hartlepool, will represent us on stage at this year’s contest, in Tel Aviv. He won the BBC’s Eurovision: You Decide last Friday evening, with the anthem, Bigger Than Us.
Rice is no stranger to performing, or high-stakes contests. Back in March last year, he won the talent show All Together Now, netting himself a £50,000 cash prize. He used the money to take his family to Disneyland and start a business for himself selling waffles and ice cream.
During You Decide, (which was broadcast live), he went up against five other artists, all hoping to earn their chance at Eurovision success. Michael was certainly one of the early standout performances, with a powerful voice and big stage presence. He was put through to the final by the on-stage jury of Rylan Clark-Neal, Mollie King, and Marvin Humes. And in the final, he was the choice of the public in a phone vote, to fly the Union Jack this year in Israel.
I feel that Michael Rice and Bigger Than Us is the United Kingdom’s best offering to Eurovision in a very long time. It is too soon to say if it is a potential winner, especially as not all the competitors are known yet. Furthermore, while it is a really good anthem, it is unlikely to be the only one, so Michael will have to put in a very special performance and over all campaign. These days, PR and social media is as much a part of Eurovision as what happens on stage.
However, Michael now has a few months to get everything together and polished, before the contest in May. And, if we look at 2008 to 2018 as a ‘decennium horribilis’, there is at least great potential, to start the next ten years off well!