We used to have a page in our Eurovision Fundamentals section called Most Hopeless Countries, which we got rid of because we decided it was a bit too mean-spirited. But the United Kingdom was right at the top of that list. We complained that a country that produces so much great music had no business sending tired warhorses like Engelbert Humperdinck or Bonnie Tyler or miserable pop throwbacks like “Flying the Flag” or “That Sounds Good to Me.” It seemed to us that the BBC was more interested in generating online buzz for its entries than actually competing well. And while they could luck themselves into an 11th place finish with Blue or a 5th place finish with Jade Ewan singing an Andrew Lloyd Webber song, they were more likely to finish middle of the pack or worse. We felt like the BBC wasn’t even trying.
This year, ahead of the announcement of the UK Eurovision entry, BBC executive producer Guy Freeman published a post on the BBC Eurovision blog called “Our Vision for Copenhagen.” In it, Freeman acknowledged the United Kingdom’s “fortunes have waned somewhat” even though the Song Contest remains as popular as ever. He also pointed out the gulf between what type of songs were winning Eurovision and what type of songs the UK considered Eurovision songs.
Freeman and his team decided it was time to take a different approach for this year and make use of an artist using the BBC Introducing service, in which unsigned acts can post their music to promote themselves to the powers that be at BBC Radio. This artist would then write a brand-new, “Eurovision friendly” song for the UK to use as their entry. This way the UK gets a talented artist early in their career, looking for their big break.
It is a promising idea, and to judge from what we heard yesterday, it’s already paying off. Here is this year’s Eurovision entry from the United Kingdom, Molly with “Children of the Universe”:
Goddamn, can Molly write hooks: the opening “power to the people” chant grabs you immediately and the “whoa-OH-oh-oh-oh” that kicks off the chorus can generate ear worms epidemics. It’s big and anthemic, designed to play to a big room and get them to clap and sing along. It’s also memorable – a day later, I can still hum the tune.
Lyrically, it’s safe: it kicks off with a “power to the people” chant, so you kind of know where the song is going from the outset. “Shining like diamonds,” “hope on the horizon,” “not giving in,” “love in our hearts,” all this is standard issue Eurovision lyrical fare. And yet, Molly sells it. She’s a great singer with the kind of charisma the camera eats up. She may not be breaking new ground lyrically, but she makes it sound fresh.
I hope that regardless of how the UK does in Copenhagen that Guy Freeman and his team at the BBC stay on this path. I have a feeling they will: they issued a vision statement, for crying out loud! I don’t worry about the United Kingdom this year, though. Unless they get completely screwed over by the draw, they should finish substantially better than in previous years. We’ve heard more than half the songs at this point, and this one is rising toward the top.