James Newman had one of the more quietly awesome songs slated to compete in Eurovision 2020. “My Last Breath” was the first song under the BBC’s partnership with the BMG record label. Although it fit into the United Kingdom’s Eurovision sound of recent years, it still felt like progress for a country that has struggled to compete in the past decade.
When I saw that the song title for this year’s entry, “Embers,” I thought to myself, “We’re going to be sticking in that solid middle ground, aren’t we?”
No. No, we are not.
“Embers” is brassy. I mean, in the sense that it has a lot of brass instruments on it. All of the brass instruments. No brass instruments in the United Kingdom were left unused. “Embers” has more brass than the Pentagon. It has so much brass that Martin Wallace needs to make a new edition of his Brass board game series called Brass: Settle, North Yorkshire. It’s got a lot of brass in it.
Now, I can’t tell at this point if my enjoyment of “Embers” has to do with the quality of the song or because James Newman seems like such a lovely bloke. Maybe it’s a combination of both? It is a little hokey, but I really don’t care because it’s so irrepressibly catchy. It hooks me in the same way Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners’ “This Girl” did. I am a sucker for brassy bops, I guess.
What I am enjoying the most out of this year’s Song Contest selection is the variety of ways everyone is addressing the post-pandemic world. Some folks are internal and self-reflective (see: Bulgaria and North Macedonia), while others are busting out and just dancing (see: Lithuania and Czech Republic). The United Kingdom falls into that second camp, and I love James Newman for it.