How Britain can win Eurovision in 10 easy steps

Lucie Jones: The UK's 2017 Eurovision entry - in 60 seconds Lucie Jones: The UK's 2017 Eurovision entry - in 60 seconds
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1.  Go back in time and pick a better entry

We haven't had much luck with our Eurovision entries in recent years. In fact, for the last two years in a row, we've finished 24th out of 26 countries. Sadly, at the moment it doesn't look like the UK's entry for 2017, Lucie Jones singing Never Give Up On You, is going to bring home the trophy either. It's a straightforward ballad performed by an experienced singer with a beautiful voice, but it lacks the oomph to make a real impact on the gigantic Eurovision stage.

UK entry Lucie Jones in rehearsal Credit: rex

However, the creative team have made some strong staging decisions, so Jones might actually stand a good chance of finishing on the left side of the scoreboard for once - maybe even towards the top. The song sounds relatively current and is a definite improvement on some songs we've sent in previous years (Englebert Humperdinck and Scooch, we're looking at you), so things are heading in the right direction.

2. Keep the song selection format

In a huge relief for Eurovision fans, last year the BBC decided to revert to choosing its representative through the medium of a live competition in which the public could vote for the act they want to send. In both this year and last year, the BBC even selected a decent shortlist of Eurovision-friendly acts and songs for us to choose from. This is a dramatic improvement on the last few years, when some faceless executive at the BBC has picked an act behind closed doors, generally going for whatever song they could find that most closely matched their own personal (often questionable) taste in music and ignoring whatever might actually do well at Eurovision.

Måns Zelmerlöw, who won the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden last year Credit: REX Shutterstock

It’s great that we have the live song selection show back, but we need to take it a step further. At the moment the show is a one-night-only affair. This is inexplicable given the enormous viewership and fan base that exists for all things Eurovision. Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s Eurovision selection show, is one of Sweden's most popular TV shows and lasts for six weeks. No wonder Sweden keep winning.

Italy, meanwhile, have decided to send as their representative the winner of their own most popular long-running song competition, Sanremo, which was in fact the original inspiration for Eurovision. There's no reason why the UK can't do something similar. Though at least this year the selection show was broadcast on BBC Two rather than hidden away on BBC Four, so again, we're on the right lines.

3. Promote our act

One of the biggest misconceptions about Eurovision is that it’s a one-night-only event. But most countries parade their acts for weeks in advance on TV and radio, in everywhere from Portugal to Azerbaijan. And people are more likely to vote for songs they’ve already heard and liked.

4. Don’t neglect performance

Austria's bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst wins Eurovision Austria's bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst wins Eurovision
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Eventual 2014 winner Conchita Wurst first seemed like a gimmicky outlier. But then the semi-finals aired and we experienced her belting voice, flame-themed staging and defiant charisma live. If you can knock your audience’s socks off, they’ll be putty in your hands. Singing in tune also helps, as nul points-scoring British duo Jemini discovered to their cost in 2003.

5. Perform in the second half

Contestants draw lots over who sings in the first or the second half of the final. From there, the producers confirm a running order. Voters can forget the early performers. Conversely, 2014’s UK act, Molly Smitten-Downes, performed dead last, by which time viewers can get a bit jaded and go off to make a cup of tea (or borscht, or Apfelwein). In 2015, Italy were hotly tipped to win, but were allotted to perform last on the night, and ended up just missing out on the prize. Two thirds of the way through is the sweet spot.

6. Have a message

Wurst’s winning song for Austria in 2014 was all about being yourself, rising above people who doubted you, and having a beard. Who could vote against that? Songs about peace, love and overcoming the odds often do well. The 2016 winner, Ukraine's Jamala, sung a moving song inspired by her grandmother and the history of Stalin's deportation of Tatars in Crimea. Meaning is important.

7. Think human rights

Boos as Russia reaches Eurovision final Boos as Russia reaches Eurovision final
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Russian acts have been booed by the live audience for their country’s reported human rights abuses. If the PM’s top priority is for the UK to win Eurovision (and it should be), then human rights need to be first on the political agenda. There are probably a few other good reasons for this too but Eurovision is, obviously, the main one.

8. Write a song that sounds current

Eurovision voters don’t always like cheesy, outdated music, as Germany proved in 2010 when Lena Meyer-Landrut won with shiny modern pop song Satellite. Sweden in 2012 and 2015, and Denmark in 2013, were similarly chart-ready. Voters buy music, so entries should reflect pop trends. 

9. Don’t treat not winning as a failure

After Jade Ewen sang Andrew Lloyd Webber’s It’s My Time and came fifth in 2009, we scrapped the existing selection process, and came last again in 2010. Imagine a football team being promoted to the Premier League, finishing near the top, and then sacking the manager for failing to win. That’s effectively what we did in 2009.

10. Stop whining

When Britain doesn’t win Eurovision (which is every year), we don’t shut up about it, making us the annoying kid nobody wants at their party. Send a quality act with good grace and get into the spirit of it – we’ll stand a much better chance.

 

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