Britain and Eurovision 2017 – Where Did It All Go Wrong?

    23 May 2024

    Eurovision 2017 is over for another year and once again we here at VIVAescorts™ laughed at loud at the gaudy spectacle, cringe-worthy presenters and Romanian rap/yodel fusion music.

    Actually, the music was a bit better this year in our opinion, and Belgium’s entry was a slice of classic dance. And although we wouldn’t really listen to the winning song while driving to work in the morning, we can imagine listening to it in a Lisbon coffee bar some time.

    Once again, however, the UK disappointed, and if it wasn’t for the Australians (who will be next to join? China?) giving us 12 points, we wouldn’t have made it as far as we did. Lucie Jones’s shouty-screamy ballad of ‘Never Give Up On You’ was pretty naff, like something Tina Turner might have released in the mid-80’s, but would it not have done better had the song been spelled, “Never Give Up On EU?”

    Anyway, it has now been 20 years since the UK won Eurovision. Do you remember Katrina and the Waves? Us neither, but we vaguely remember the song ‘Love Shine a Light’, and how it came top of the table in 1997. In fact, this was a huge winner, finishing a massive 227 points above the second placed country (Ireland), and this record margin of victory was never beaten until the contest was massively expanded in 2004.

    What is even more surprising is that back in 1997, it was deemed to be expected for the UK to do well. “Love Shine a Light” was a fifth win for the UK, following victories for Sandie Shaw (1967), Lulu (1969), Brotherhood of Man (1976), and Buck’s Fizz (1981). Even more amazingly, the UK has finished runner-up on 15 occasions, between the very first contest in 1959 and 1998 (the last time we came close). And if it wasn’t us winning or coming second, it tended to be our neighbours Ireland, who achieved a still-record total of 7 victories between 1970 and 1996.

    Given this Anglo-Irish dominance in Eurovision before the turn of the millennium, it is only fair to ask, what the hell happened afterwards? Since 1998 we have had null points on several occasions, and very rarely end up in the top half of the table.

    One possible reason that was always brought up by the late Terry Wogan was the fact that the newer participants which entered the contest after the fall of the Berlin Wall tended to vote for each other. This friendly voting phenomenon became even more pronounced once Yugoslavia fell apart, when suddenly there were six countries who understood the same languages, watched the same TV shows, knew the same musicians, and could vote for each other.

    While Cyprus had always given top marks for Greece and vice versa, these twelve points were never enough to swing the vote on their own. Now there were blocks of 72 (or more) votes up for grabs, and you could really see this effect on the voting.

    Even the Scandinavians tend to vote more as a bloc these days, with Norway, Denmark and Sweden (twice) reaping wins in the last 8 years, thanks in no small part to the votes of their neighbours. Meanwhile, larger countries such as Germany, Spain, Italy, France and the UK don’t have so many natural allies in Eurovision, and their rankings have slipped.

    Having said that, the likes of Germany and Italy have occasionally done well in recent years, with Lena winning for Germany in 2010 and Italy coming close on several occasions, the most recent being this year’s dancing gorilla. On other occasions, however, both countries have come close to the bottom, which tends to make us think that while Terry Wogan isn’t exactly wrong, he isn’t totally right either. Maybe people in general tend to vote for the songs that they enjoy listening to.

    And if you look at recent winners, most of them tend to have either a song or a story which wins over the crowd, whether it be the catchy tune of Lena’s Satellite, the shock factor of Finland’s Lordi, or Conchita Wurst’s bearded lady performance, which was always going to appeal to the gay demographic. Against that, is the UK really likely to win when they either send the likes of the terminally unfunny Scooch or this year’s Lucie Jones, whose last claim to fame was coming seventh in the 2009 X-Factor (she lost out to Jedward, if you must know)?

    And it’s not as if music lovers in the rest of the world hate British music. You can’t spend an hour in a bar in Belgrade, Stockholm or Athens without hearing what is top of the UK charts. Why do we insist on sending in songs which sound out-of-date, or acts which are just plain weird? Nobody wants to listen to 90’s easy listening dross any more, and nobody who knows who Engelbert Humperdinck is watches Eurovision. The winning songs these days tend to have contemporary tunes and/or be performed by artists who people know and love.

    So what can Britain do to perform better in Eurovision 2018? VIVAescorts™ thinks they should hire the most popular song writers of the day and get them to write songs for the most happening artists, and watch them win in 2018. Our pick would be Dua Lipa singing a song written by Ed Sheeran. Which singer-songwriter combo would you like to see represent the UK in 2018?