Saturday, December 4

It’s not politics that turns the UK into rubbish at Eurovision, it’s the fact that our songs are bad | Chris lochery

mesame year, the cycle is the same. He performs abysmally in Eurovision. Threaten to boycott him. Make an announcement that there will be a radical overhaul of the UK selection process. Spend some time talking about ABBA, Bucks Fizz, and Katrina and the Waves. He performs abysmally in Eurovision. Repeat to fade.

Even for the most optimistic pop fan, it can be hard not to feel cynical about our recent Eurovision record. No points in 2021. Last in 2019. Not a single win in almost 25 years. More than a decade since our last top 10.

This week’s announcement that Tap management (the team behind Dua Lipa, Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding) will select the UK entry for Turin 2022 feels like a promising step. The UK is a global pop powerhouse, generating talent that dominates the charts around the world. We have recruited people of impeccable pedigree, yet we constantly trip over our laces on the Eurovision starting grid. When the votes come in, the reason we use is always the same: politics.

As a nation, we have become convinced that Eurovision is nothing more than a festival of petty complaints, organized with the specific intention of humiliating the UK. Which begs a question: If politics is the issue, what’s the point of recruiting top-tier producers to revive our chances of winning?

The answer, in my opinion, is that politics plays less of a role in the UK’s dismal record than we want to believe. For the past five years, Brexit has been our excuse, but blaming the UK’s withdrawal from the EU misses two fairly pertinent facts. One, that rot set in long before 2016; and two, that in the first contest after the referendum, the UK scored the most points in nearly a decade.

At Kiev in 2017, Lucie Jones was ranked 15th for the UK with 111 points. While it is true that our scores have dropped since then (48 points, 11 points and zero points respectively), our songs in those years have also been quite out of date with the sound of the rest of the contest.

Perhaps we are too close to these more recent results to have any degree of objectivity about the influence of policy. In which case, maybe it would be useful to expose our other infamous zero-point outing: Jemini’s 2003 offering, Cry Baby. At the time, we were absolutely certain that our poor score was broadcast in retaliation for our involvement in the invasion of Iraq. There is a simpler answer. If you have protective headphones on hand, you might want to shoot that performance on YouTube and see if the theory still holds up. (I’ll save you the trouble: it doesn’t.)

I postulate that the main flaw in the viability of the UK’s attempts to win Eurovision year after year is not our foreign policy record, but the fact that our songs are simply not very good.

Which is not to say that Eurovision is totally devoid of politics. But individual countries tend to exaggerate its importance when trying to account for their continued failure. We are by no means alone in this search. In 2019, when Spain was ranked 22nd (four places above the UK) after a long streak of poor results, El Mundo published exactly the kind of exasperated op-ed we’re used to seeing here. Why do we bother sending something to Eurovision? Why does the same thing always happen to us? What’s the point if even our friends and neighbors, like Portugal and France, don’t dare to give us a point?

The difficult truth is that we, and other countries that mourn in this way, are caught in a time warp. While our chart-topping pop is world leading, the UK’s notion of what a Eurovision song sounds like hasn’t really evolved since we last won in the late ’90s. A look at last year’s top 10 shows a broad range of musical styles, from Italian groove rock to Icelandic indie disco, Ukrainian folk-rave to Finnish nu-metal. Meanwhile, the UK’s top priority in selecting a Eurovision contender has been to find a mid-paced pop song that Ken Bruce can debut on his Radio 2 show.

Maybe it’s too much to wait for the Dua team to discover the next global pop sensation in time for Turin 2022. But if it saves us another year to relive 1997, and all the nostalgia for Katrina and the waves that goes with it, it’s worth a try. . .

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