Reviewing the Eurovision: You Decide candidates so you don’t have to

Originally published in The Edge

The Eurovision Song Contest is a glorious celebration of everything endearingly (and horrifyingly) bizarre about our extended continent. (Here’s a 425-word love letter I composed around a year ago to that effect.) It’s just a shame that, at least in recent memory, the UK hasn’t quite got the memo.

Since 2003’s nul points courtesy of Jemini being so bad at performing music on a stage in front of a television audience of millions that it was actually mildly adorable, only Jade Ewen has experienced life in the top 10. Blue, the first act to be selected internally after the public chose Josh Dubovie in 2010 as the lamb for the slaughter last-place finish and the record low of 179 in the singles chart, reunited to be the only other act to follow and dwell in the all-important left-hand side of the table at the end of the evening.

You’d think that these moderately successful flirtations with genuine contemporary-ish pop talent would have given the powers that be at the BBC some kind of idea of what it takes to not embarrass the nation on the most important of political stages. So they then picked Engelbert Humperdinck, who hadn’t picked up a hit single since 1972, and Bonnie Tyler, who hadn’t picked up a hit single since 1984, in an effort to suggest that the only people who cared about Eurovision in any way were the same audience that found the musical selections on Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show to be verging on shockingly cutting-edge.

The particular brand of abject failure displayed by Electro Velvet’s 2015 entry – a Gatsby-appropriating debacle of squelching sci-fi synths – beckoned a revitalisation of the TV selection process, but the 24th place finish was the same for Joe And Jake, former contestants on The Voice who covered Jason Mraz and Coldplay before finding fans in the BBC Four audience.

This year’s lineup of six contestants, announced earlier this week on Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show, do at least get the chance to warble on BBC Two for your affections. Will any of them be demonstrating moments that could snap this slump? Can anybody Scooch it up and just be so ridiculous for three minutes that you can’t help but guiltily develop a massive soft spot that endures a decade later? Are we destined for a floundering scatter of X Factor rejects who will make the rest of the audience – including Australia – rush to change the channel before you can say “red, white, and blue Brexit”? Let’s embrace the inevitable pain together.

Danyl Johnson – ‘Light Up The World’

Who: Someone who came fourth on The X Factor in 2009, competing against such luminaries as cricket ground performer Olly Murs, eventual winner and Miley Cyrus-coverer Joe McElderry, and palatable two-time Eurovision contestants Jedward.

What: Utterly vapid lyrics about vision and its accoutrements sung reasonably well that plays heavily on a choir and a stomping pop drop. I think it might have been on Avicii‘s last album.

Why: Even if it is a little bit of a ripoff of a bland Avicii record, there are 10 of those with over 100 million plays on Spotify. It’s not exactly a hideous recipe.

Prediction: Blue – 11th in 2011

Holly Brewer – ‘I Wish I Loved You More’

Who: Someone who auditioned for The X Factor, plays the piano, has supported Jess Glynne and McFly, and cites Beyoncé as an inspiration.

What: The result of people sitting in a studio listening to ‘Halo‘ and giving up on even trying not to paraphrase Ryan Tedder’s work.

Why: Everybody loves Beyoncé and if you can get Europe to pick up on the glaring similarities without realising then the endeavour isn’t entirely hopeless.

Prediction: Molly – 17th in 2014

Lucie Jones – ‘Never Give Up On You’

Who: Someone who came eighth on The X Factor in 2009, competing against such luminaries as cricket ground performer Olly Murs, eventual winner and Miley Cyrus-coverer Joe McElderry, palatable two-time Eurovision contestants Jedward, and Eurovision: You Decide rival Danyl Johnson. She was also on Midsomer Murders once.

What: A dreary ballad with a cello and piano co-written by Emmelie de Forest, a Dane who picked up 12 points from the UK in Malmö in 2013 on her way to victory with ‘Only Teardrops.’ I survived 2:22 before giving up completely.

Why: de Forest’s work has already won Eurovision once. If you’re going to throw things at the wall in the vague hope that something sticks, at least her name equips it with some sort of pedigree.

Prediction: Electro Velvet – 24th in 2015

Nate Simpson – ‘What Are We Made Of’

Who: Someone who reached Nicole Scherzinger‘s house last year on The X Factor and wears a hat.

What: See above and substitute Scandinavian writing ability for unnecessary sentimentality and silly key changes.

Why: Silly key changes can be a sign of a great pop song. This isn’t even ‘Perfect Illusion,’ though.

Prediction: Joe And Jake – 24th in 2016

Olivia Garcia – ‘Freedom Hearts’

Who: Someone who reached Simon Cowell’s house last year on The X Factor and wears a hat.

What: A bassy ballad not unlike something Tove Lo could pull off but sorely lacking the too-cool-for-you vocal charisma or lyrical clarity to match.

Why: Its chorus has ohs amidst lyrics that mean absolutely nothing whilst attempting to foster a sense of togetherness.

Prediction: Engelbert Humperdinck – 25th in 2012

Salena Mastroianni – ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’

Who: A genuine pop star who you might remember from numerous global chart hits. (Spoiler: No. She’s another someone off The X Factor. Does Simon Cowell shift them onwards in six-packs now?)

What: VANT’s ‘PEACE & LOVE’ if you traded guitars and potent lyrics for shoddy tropical house. It’s a microcosm of the shifts in mainstream pop over the last decade-and-a-bit that somehow does even that notion a terrific disservice.

Why: If Theresa May is to have all her demands met as she endeavours to pull the country out of the European Union, the thought of her singing this song to the European Parliament amuses me greatly.

Prediction: Andy Abraham – 25th in 2008

Little Mix – ‘Touch’

Who: Four someones who actually won The X Factor in 2011 and have been steadily refining their pop craft since.

What: An absolute tune.

Why: Somewhere, there’s an alternate reality where this is the real entry and everything is alright with the world. A man can dream…

Prediction: Sandie Shaw, Lulu, Brotherhood Of Man, Bucks Fizz, and Katrina And The Waves. All in one package.

Hosted by Mel Giedroyc in her new scramble for presenting roles now the cake thing has buggered off to Channel 4, Eurovision: You Decide airs live from London’s Eventim Apollo on Friday at 7:30pm on BBC Two. Unless you enjoy the idea of 90 minutes of misery and a performance from The Vamps, avoid it like the plague.

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Author: Xavier Voigt-Hill

I write words.