Image Credit: Parlophone // Harry Carr – Capitol Records – EMI
On Thursday 9th March 2023, the BBC revealed that Mae Muller would represent the United Kingdom with ‘I Wrote A Song’ at Eurovision, which will be hosted on home soil in Liverpool. Within the same week as the announcement, tickets to the contest sold out within 36 minutes of going on sale.
The 2022 contest saw Sam Ryder’s ‘Space Man’ return the UK to 2nd place for the first time in 25 years. He himself has embarked on a sold out tour in Europe to support his #1 UK album, and played the country into the New Year on his very own BBC special, which then transitioned into a showing of the Dutch annual Eurovision concert Het Grote Songfestivalfeest. It is safe to say that the contest has truly eclipsed the country within the last year.
In this editorial, we’ll be exploring whether the United Kingdom are finally opening up to the modern Eurovision Song Contest, and whether a shift in approach towards the show from the BBC will see the contest become a serious music staple, as it’s seen across other European nations, instead of one to sit down and laugh at on a Saturday night each May.
A Brief History Of The UK In Eurovision
The United Kingdom are one of the longest competing countries in the Eurovision Song Contest, making their debut with ‘All’ by Patricia Bredin in 1957, before returning in 1959 with ‘Sing Little Birdie’ by Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson – which came 2nd. Since 1959, the UK has appeared in every single Eurovision final, and as a member of the Big 5 will continue to do so unless they either withdraw, their financial contribution to the EBU decreases or if the EBU change the contest rules.
The UK has won the contest 5 times, these being:
- 1967 – ‘Puppet On A String’, Sandie Shaw
- 1969 – ‘Boom-Bang-A-Bang’, LuLu
- 1976 – ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’, Brotherhood Of Man
- 1981 – ‘Making Your Mind Up’, Bucks Fizz
- 1997 – ‘Love Shine A Light’, Katrina & The Waves
Aside from this, the UK has the most 2nd places for any country, with 16 – the most recent coming in 2022. They have also hosted the contest the most times, often stepping in to host when the previous winner was unable. Eurovision has been hosted in the UK on the following occasions:
- 1960, London – The Netherlands (1959 winners) declined to host due to already holding the contest 2 years prior
- 1963, London – France (1962 winners) declined to host due to holding the contest twice already in 1959 and 1961, and for financial reasons
- 1968, London – Host Country (won in 1967)
- 1972, Edinburgh – Monaco (1971 winners) couldn’t provide facilities to host
- 1974, Brighton – Luxembourg declined to host due to two successive wins, already holding the contest in 1973 in the country
- 1977, London – Host country (won in 1976)
- 1982, Harrogate – Host country (won in 1981)
- 1998, Birmingham – Host country (won in 1997)
- 2023, Liverpool – Ukraine (2022 winners) unable to host due to the on-going Russian invasion of Ukraine.
How Did Such Negative Attitudes Towards The Contest Develop?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the United Kingdom became so cynical about Eurovision, with a lot of the negativity and disregard growing rapidly throughout the 2000s. One of the earliest examples of the British public’s attitude towards the contest can be traced back to the 1988 contest, in which Scott Fitzgerald lost to Celine Dion by just 1 point. During a phone in on Open Air after the contest, a viewer spoke of how the jurors actually changed their votes during the voting to ensure Switzerland would win instead of the UK, saying:
It seemed very strange to me that of the last three juries, I think only one gave us a vote. […] I suspect that some of those juries who were voting last, namely Yugoslavia and so on, were watching the voting and realised that the only way that Switzerland could win would be by starving us [The UK] of votes.Ivan (Viewer), Open Air
It wasn’t until 2003 – where Jemini found themselves as the first UK entry to come last (and achieve the dreaded ‘nil points’) – that the tide really began to turn towards the contest.
You can read more about Jemini & the UK’s journey in Eurovision 2003 in the article below:
Throughout the 2000’s, the UK managed to put forward a string of songs that were less than impressive. Despite running a national final called ‘Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up’ in order to find the best entry for the country, viewers had clearly changed how they viewed the contest – choosing to pick songs such as ‘Teenage Life’, ‘Even If‘ and ‘Flying The Flag‘ to represent the UK on the European stage.
Looking at 2007, the UK had drama from beginning to end with the national final and Eurovision. Cyndi’s ‘I’ll Leave My Heart’ missed out on the opportunity to go to Eurovision to Scooch’s ‘Flying The Flag’.
Infamously, Terry Wogan announced Cyndi as the winner at the same time as co-host Fearne Cotton announced Scooch, leading to shock and confusion in the studio. The hosts then managed to quickly correct Terry’s blunder, but the BBC had to issue a written apology for the incorrect announcement. The vote between both was pretty tight, with Scooch receiving 54% compared to Cyndi’s 46%.
After the national final, The Darkness member Justin Hawkins, who came 4th that year with his duet with Beverlei Brown, called viewers “racist and stupid” for not voting for him nor 3rd place act Big Brovaz. Brian Harvey, formerly of 90s pop group East 17, accused Scooch of “duping the public” into voting for them, mentioning that two backing singers were purposely left off stage in order to improve their performance without being obvious to the viewers. The accusations lead to the BBC making another statement, insisting that all the artists had followed the rules set by the EBU, and defended Scooch against Brian Harvey’s claims – saying that off-stage backing singers are a common occurrence on live TV and at Eurovision.
If Eurovision 2007 told us anything, Europe weren’t ‘Flying The Flag’ for the UK. Malta gave Scooch 12 points, which has often been noted as a “protest vote” against the alleged bloc voting going on between countries at the time. This “bloc voting” was also a factor in why Terry Wogan, the BBC commentator, decided enough was enough after Russia won in 2008, stating that it was no longer a ‘music contest’. British viewers also picked up on this, and to this day you’ll still hear the “they all vote for each other/their neighbours” excuse to explain poor results for British songs – even though when points are exchanged between the UK and Ireland, there isn’t an issue from the British perspective. This only developed after the 2016 Brexit vote, when casual viewers assumed that the reason the UK was continuing to fail was because they were leaving the EU.
The Lasting Influence Of Terry Wogan
Speaking of Terry, his commentary in the 2000s started to show a clear shift from enjoying the contest to enduring it. He would occasionally speak over songs when they were performing and even got in trouble for comments he made about the Danish hosts in 2001, calling them ‘Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy/The Little Mermaid’, which saw the BBC issue an apology for his comments. With British viewers at the time knowing Terry as ‘the voice of Eurovision’, his opinions often reflected, or influenced, those at home who weren’t fans of the contest.
Terry’s criticism of entries in the contest clearly saw competition from ITV’s choices for commentators – Mark Durden-Smith and Tara Palmer-Tompkinson – for Junior Eurovision 2003. Their comments about the contestants – specifically Durden-Smiths, were nothing short of cruel, especially when you consider that this is a contest for children. During Greece’s postcard, Durden-Smith commented:
Nicholas Ganopoulos from Greece gets the first ever Junior Eurovision Song Contest off to a dying…sorry flying start with his song ‘Fili Gia Panta’ or ‘Friends Forever’. Rumour has it that Nicolas has had the good fortune to share Jemini’s singing coach, helping to blend his unique mix of musical styles ranging from rap to Greek tragedy. He’s a fine chap young Nicolas but has he been performing on Pop Idol tonight I think the aftermath might’ve been a little ugly.
His sister apparently cries when she hears a song she doesn’t like. I think it’s odds on she’ll be bawling her eyes out any second now.Mark Durden-Smith, JESC 2003
On Spain’s entry he commented:
I saw Spain’s Sergio yesterday in rehearsal and I was a little surprised to see he hadn’t ironed his shirt which doesn’t go with his all-round chunky, big tooth, upholstered hair look.Mark Durden-Smith. JESC 2023
The pair also made questionable comments about the hosts, specifically Camilla Ottesen, resulting in Palmer-Tompkinson reminding Durden-Smith that it was a children’s TV show. Despite a lack of outrage at the time, listening back it’s clear to see both commentators treated JESC like Terry treated ESC at the time, with no consideration of the feelings of those on the receiving end. Whilst Eurovision is something to have fun with, and all commentators do have a duty to entertain those at home, there’s a line between laughing with the contest and laughing at the contest.
Since a new batch of fans came along in the 2010s, dislike for Terry’s commentary style has only grown – and it’s safe to say he’s not as popular with Eurovision fans as he still is with the general British public. In 2014, Terry wrote in The Irish Times a review of Conchita Wurst’s win for Austria, saying:
I’m bound to say that the Bearded Lady who won this year, reducing Graham to tears, might have had a slightly different effect on me. I’ve always seen the Eurovision as a sometimes foolish farce, but not as a freak show.Terry Wogan, The Irish Times (2014)
In 1997, Terry spoke about why he commentated on the contest.
It’s supposed to be bad. The worse it is, the more fun it is. There is a group of people called the ‘Eurovision Song Contest Fan Club’ […] and they take it deeply seriously […] there are thousands of them, and they hate me with a deep and abiding hatred. Every time I go there I’m accosted by German commentators who say things like ‘if you don’t like the Eurovision Song Contest, why do you do it?’. I say you miss the point, I love the Eurovision Song Contest.
[The competition] is getting worse, every year I go to see it and I say “Isn’t it terrible? It’s worse than last year!”. But if it wasn’t how could I do what I do? What saved our bacon was Katrina this year, because if the UK hadn’t won it, it was going to become increasingly impossible for us to scoff at the foreigners, that’s the whole point of it, of course, sneer at the foreigners.Terry Wogan on Eurovision, 1997
Terry passed away in 2016, and Graham Norton – who has commentated for the United Kingdom in the final since 2009 – always dedicates and encourages a glass to be raised at song #9 for Terry, who famously would start drinking at that point in the contest. Sweden’s Christer Björkman – who was the producer for Eurovision 2016, and Melodifestivalen producer from 2002-2021, spoke on the UK’s attitude towards the contest, causing backlash from former Eurovision stars Cheryl Baker & Duncan James, who both said that it was all down to “humour”:
He did this for 28 years and his commentary always forced the mockery side and there is a grown-up generation in Britain that doesn’t know anything better. He raised a generation of viewers believing this was a fun kitsch show that had no relevance whatsoever.
It totally spoiled Eurovision. Because of what Terry Wogan did, the UK don’t put in their best efforts.
But it’s the BBC who wanted him and let him, they did not stop him. He did his best and he did what he did very well, make fun of something, but if I would have been in charge I would never have chosen him.Christer Björkman on Terry Wogan, 2016
It’s clear Terry’s stamp on the UK’s attitude and reception of Eurovision runs deep still in more casual viewers. Whilst those born too late to remember him at the helm of Eurovision on the BBC will grow up with memories of Graham Norton (and potentially Scott Mills, Rylan and Mel Giedroyc) leading the coverage into the 2010s and 2020s, it’s important that Terry’s legacy, influence and more-often-than-not questionable comments and views are not ignored or shunned. For older viewers, Terry’s time was ‘the golden years’ of Eurovision, also helped by the frequent success of the UK in the contest in the 20th century, and by recognising that, we can begin to gain a deeper understanding of how “hating” the contest became popular, and being a fan of the contest became ‘weird’. Humans are social people and for those joining at different stages through Terry’s tenure, battering the contest and its artists at any opportunity became the right and acceptable thing to do. Psychologist Robert Cialdini notes that being ‘popular’ is ‘good’ – if everyone around you thinks a certain way about something, in this case Eurovision, then following the crowd allows individuals to function better in that environment, and saves time researching and developing knowledge on the subject alone.
It was clear Eurovision had lost it’s way a little in the 2000s: getting used to an orchestra free contest; countries across the continent becoming more interested and involved; and a bigger demand for an impressive TV show across more than one evening was a difficult task. Entries became more original, yet also struggled to keep up with the modern music scene. Eurovision 2009 is often noted as a contest with one of the best finals amongst the fandom, with its music – specifically songs such as ‘Dum Tek Tek’, ‘Jan Jan’ ‘Always On My Mind’, ‘Is It True’ and ‘Fairytale’ – becoming a lot more in tune with what would’ve been on the charts over the years, whilst also having a specific identity and unique quality that helps them to standout in a contest like Eurovision. In 2011, Russia enlisted the help of music producer RedOne, who’s worked with Lady Gaga, Usher and Jason Derulo to name a few, for ‘Get You’ by Alexey Vorobyov – which despite coming 16th, was still a step forward. In the same year, Eric Saade was Sweden’s foray into showing Europe a glimpse into the strong export of Swedish pop that had started to rule the international charts – reaching 3rd in the contest overall. Loreen followed this up with ‘Euphoria’ – regarded as one of the best winners of all time, as well as a huge turning point for Eurovision as a whole.
What Exactly Was The BBC’s Strategy In The Last Decade?
The 2010s saw Eurovision move into modern music, yet the UK stayed 5 steps behind. From sending formerly successful artists such as Blue, Engelbert Humperdinck and Bonnie Tyler to bringing back a national final in 2016, nothing seemed to work. Let’s take a look at some of the potential strategies the BBC tried in the 2010s…
Your Country Needs You 2010
In 2010, the BBC continued on with their national final Eurovision: Your Country Needs You. Previously called Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up from 2004-2007, before being renamed to Eurovision: Your Decision in 2008, Your Country Needs You was a selection which saw the song selected internally, and the public choose which artist was the best at performing it.
With shows such as The X Factor at their absolute peak in the UK in the late 2000’s era, the BBC developed a similar style show for their Eurovision selection. In 2009, they partnered with musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who created the entry ‘It’s My Time’ for the finalists of the show to perform, with the public selecting Jade Ewen for Eurovision 2009. She came 5th, the best result for the UK since Jessica Garlick came 3rd in 2002, and the BBC seemed to have their hands on a working formula.
In 2010 Your Country Needs You returned, with the BBC choosing 80s pop music producer Pete Waterman to produce that year’s Eurovision entry. Unlike 2009, which ran over 4 weeks, the 2010 edition was just one evening, where all 6 acts performed a cover of a Stock, Aitken & Waterman hit song, with the public voting for the three to enter the second round, where they performed different versions of the song ‘That Sounds Good To Me’ – with Josh Dubovie beating Alexis Gerred and Esma Akkilic to get the opportunity to represent the UK in Oslo. The song received criticism for being ‘dated’, and on the night, Josh and the backing singer were also critiqued for their vocals. In a now-deleted video from 2019, Josh revealed that they changed the key at Eurovision without giving him any preparation or time to rehearse the new version, which resulted in the performance being less than impressive. At the end of the night, the UK found itself back at the bottom of the scoreboard with 10 points, finishing in last place.
Internal Selections: Big Name Stars
For the first time ever, 2011 saw the BBC decide not to give the public any choice over their Eurovision Act. Instead, they chose an internal selection, opting to send 2000s boyband Blue with the song ‘I Can’. The track was well received, and during the week of the contest, it peaked at #16 on the official charts. Despite being a favourite to win, ‘I Can’ came 11th – a respectable result, but a disappointing one nonetheless – especially as the UK were at the top of the leaderboard just three votes in. Blue came 5th with the televote, yet 25th with the jury – which is often rumoured to be because the band didn’t realize that the jury show was actually important, and treated it more like a final rehearsal before the big night. Despite this being seen as a failure – even being put in ‘The Hall Of Shame’ by the BBC in their 2013 documentary How To Win Eurovision, it was the highest placing for the UK in the 2010s, and as of April 2023, the 4th highest placing entry for the UK since 2000.
In 2012, rumours circulated that Pixie Lott or Alesha Dixon would be representing the UK in Baku. However, this didn’t happen, with the BBC going left-field and selecting Engelbert Humperdinck. Famous for his hits ‘Release Me‘, ‘The Last Waltz‘ and ‘A Man Without Love’ back in the 1960s, at 76 years old he became one of the oldest contestants in Eurovision 2012 and in the history of the contest. His song ‘Love Will Set You Free’ was a gentle ballad, which got the grand final off to a slow start due to the then-randomised running order. At the end of the night, Engelbert finished in 25th place – though he didn’t seem too bothered, saying he ‘did the best for [his] country’ and that ‘Eurovision has been a wonderful experience’.
Not content with one formerly successful act representing the UK, the BBC went for Bonnie Tyler in 2013. The Welsh songstress was hugely popular in the 1980s for her songs ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart‘ and ‘Holding Out For A Hero’, and her song ‘Believe In Me’ followed a similar style to Engelbert the year prior. The phrase ‘Believe in Bonnie’ was coined for the contest, and despite the efforts of the team, she ended up in 19th position – an increase on 2012, but still another low result for the UK in the 2010s.
2014: BBC Introducing
The BBC turned to BBC Introducing in 2014, picking the unknown Molly Smitten-Downes and ‘Children Of The Universe’ to represent the UK in Copenhagen. The song was an instant hit with fans, who enjoyed the new direction from the BBC, and Molly was 6th in the odds to win going into the final. However, the song didn’t translate to viewers at home, seeing it end up in a surprising 17th place – 16th with the jury, and 21st with the televote. It’s hard to explain why exactly ‘Children Of The Universe’ didn’t do well in 2014, with both the running order (it was on last) and the staging being blamed for the result in recent years.
2015: The Final Internal Selection Of The 2010’s
2015 saw the BBC put out an open call for song submissions, eventually selecting Alex Larke and Bianca Nichols to form the duo Electro Velvet. This led to the release of the electro-swing song ‘Still In Love With You’, which was created as a modern homage to music of the 1920s. It was a completely new sound for Eurovision, but one that didn’t work for viewers, coming 24th. We took a deep dive into this entry in our ‘Revisiting’ series, which you can read below.
2016-2019: You Decide
A national final returned in 2016 in an attempt to combat the poor results and public’s ever-growing negative view of the contest, with the introduction of ‘Eurovision: You Decide’. 6 artists took part, with the winner being chosen by a televote. In 2016, this saw Joe & Jake win the opportunity to head to Stockholm with their Britpop-lite song ‘You’re Not Alone’. Both Joe & Jake had already been on The Voice UK, so had the experience of performing live and on television, and despite being outside of the odds top 15 to win, the entry was decently received back in the UK. The change in the voting system saw the UK get off to a good start, receiving 12 points from Malta’s jury – their first 12 points since 2011 – and placing 17th in the jury overall. The televote however was a different story, placing them at just 24th with 8 points and seeing ‘You’re Not Alone’ keep the UK at 24th for a second year in a row.
In 2017, the national final was back again, in the same format as before, won by Lucie Jones with her piano ballad ‘Never Give Up On You’. It was the first year in a long time where it felt as though the BBC had belief in the entry. Receiving a strong revamp ahead of the contest to make it more impactful, as well as a stunning mirrored staging that exploded into shimmering gold light at the end, the UK seemed to be putting themselves back on the map at Eurovision. Along with Lucie’s incredible vocal performance, the jury had the UK 10th – with Australia awarding them 12 points. Once again, the televote wasn’t on side, putting Lucie at 20th place with only 12 points. This result meant ‘Never Give Up On You’ fell to 15th place. While this is still one of the best results for the UK since 2000, it was a disappointing and bittersweet one after the jury had the entry on the left-hand side of the scoreboard.
SuRie was selected via You Decide 2018 with the song ‘Storm’, controversially beating fan favourites Raya with ‘Crazy’ and Asanda with ‘Legends’. The BBC put her song through a revamp but it had little impact on the song’s reception. The message of hope and ‘coming together’ was expected from the UK at this point, and when countries started upping their game, it meant the UK began to fall behind. During the show, SuRie suffered a stage invasion, which saw the crowd chant along as she waited to retrieve the microphone. She received one of the biggest crowd responses of the evening and shot to the top 10 of the odds to win but in the end ‘Storm’ only managed yet again 24th place. SuRie returned to You Decide 2019 to perform a piano version of her entry and has since become a regular fixture at multiple Eurovision events. She’s a host of the London Eurovision Party and in 2023 performed at and hosted PrePartyES in Madrid.
The BBC went for a different approach to You Decide in 2019, seeing 6 acts split into three groups, with them performing two different versions of one song. The studio panel chose which entry would go into the final round of the two that were performed before the public selected the winner. Michael Rice won the show with ‘Bigger Than Us’, which again, was about not giving up. Even though Michael had the vocals to pull the song off, the BBC’s promise of the staging being something ‘never seen before’ fell short when at Eurovision, all the staging had was a galaxy on the LED and backing singers. It’s worth noting multiple delegations have stated or are rumoured to have had issues with the staging due to restrictions and struggles from Israeli broadcaster KAN about what they could provide, meaning it’s all too possible the planned staging couldn’t be executed. ‘Bigger Than Us’ rounded off the decade for the UK just as it had started: in last place, with only 11 points.
As a new decade approached, it was clear something needed to change. The BBC was facing backlash not only from fans but also from the British Public. Accusations were coming left, right and centre, with comments including ‘Europe hates us”, ‘No one will vote for the UK because of Brexit’, ‘The voting is all political’, as well as demands to withdraw coming from the public and media.
James Newman & The Second ‘0 Points’
In 2020, the BBC announced their collaboration with publishing giant BMG ahead of Eurovision that year, seeing James Newman – the writer behind hits for artists such as Little Mix, Louis Tomlinson and Olly Murs – be selected with the song ‘My Last Breath’. Unfortunately, the contest was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and James was reselected for Eurovision 2021. Instead of the more mid-tempo sound ‘My Last Breath’ had, James opted to go upbeat with his song ‘Embers’. After the BBC revealed impressive staging plans that were in place for the 2020 contest during Europe Shine A Light (the replacement show for Eurovision in 2020), expectations were high – until the rehearsals began. It was revealed that there were two polystyrene trumpets used as staging, which meant a song called ‘Embers’ with the lyric ‘light up the room’, couldn’t actually have any pyro in case they set the stage on fire. However, overwhelming backlash from fans meant the BBC did add pyro eventually, though it didn’t help: the UK got 0 from both the public and jury, resulting in an overall total of 0 points – the worst result for the UK since 2003, and the second time that the country received the dreaded ‘nul points’ in the contest. This again led to calls to withdraw. You can read more about this in our article from 2021 about ‘Embers’ in the contest:
Was Sam Ryder The UK’s Eurovision Saviour?
With 2022 basically being a blank slate for the United Kingdom, expectations were low. Although never formally announced, the BMG collaboration had ended, and now the BBC had partnered with TaP Music – the management company behind Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding and formerly Dua Lipa – to find the UK’s next Eurovision entry.
On March 8th 2023, TikTok star Sam Ryder was announced as the UK’s artist with ‘Space Man’. This year, the song was released two weeks prior on February 22nd and played on radio stations, most notably Radio 1. This was a new tactic for the BBC, and Sam made his first live performance on The One Show on the very same day he was announced. Throughout the season, he took on the British media circuit, was sent on a promotional tour around Europe, and completed the pre-party run throughout April. ‘Space Man’ remained top 3 in the odds to win the contest, and when rehearsals came around, UK fans got a new sense of hope. Sam’s rehearsal received rave reviews from journalists and going into Eurovision week all eyes were on the UK to live up to the building hype. During his performance, a new ending was presented, with an electronic guitar solo and vocal ad-libs added for extra effect.
The United Kingdom won the 2022 jury vote for the first time ever, receiving 283 points (including 12 points from Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Georgia Germany and Ukraine), and placing in the top 3 of 23 countries, getting points from all but Croatia’s jury. In the televote, the UK came 5th with 183 points, gaining 12 points from Malta. This placed the UK at 2nd with 466 points, making ‘Space Man’ the most successful UK entry points-wise, the first 2nd place for the country since 1998 and 16th second place overall. It also saw the contest’s biggest points jump ever, going from 0 in 2021 to 466 in 2022.
After the contest, ‘Space Man’ went to #2 on the UK charts, Sam was invited to perform at the Platinum Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace, his debut album ‘There’s Nothing But Space, Man!’ went to number #1, he was booked to perform his own show on the BBC to welcome in 2023 on their annual ‘[Artist] Rocks New Years Eve’, and he embarked on a sold out his Europe & UK tour. You can read more about Sam’s success in the article below and what that means for the UK, written after the 2022 contest:
Sam’s success reignited Eurovision in the UK, who were finally able to see that no, Europe doesn’t hate them – the trick was sending a great song, that was deserving of the trophy. Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine beat Sam with ‘Stefania’, but due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EBU deemed it too unsafe for Ukraine to host the contest. As the UK came 2nd, the BBC were offered the opportunity to host alongside UA:PBC, which they accepted. Therefore, Eurovision was back in the United Kingdom for the first time in 25 years and the country had the opportunity to show Europe they were now taking this contest seriously.
Eurovision In The UK: The Response So Far
For the first time ever, and even before The Netherlands (the origin country of the show), the BBC opted to show Het Grote Songfestivalfeest after Sam Ryder Rocks New Year’s Eve, featuring the performances and interviews from Rylan with the artists. Ukraine’s 2022 winner ‘Stefania’ was also played as part of the London Fireworks display to welcome in the New Year.
As mentioned above, the UK was chosen to host Eurovision 2023 on behalf of Ukraine, with Liverpool being the chosen city to do so. Almost instantly, hotel rooms and accommodation in the city sold out on the day of the announcement, with rooms going spare being posted for thousands of pounds. This also saw fans getting accommodation cancelled so owners of hotels, B&B’s and guest houses could re-list them for double, sometimes triple the price. This saw many being priced out of getting accommodation and saw numerous media reports on the matter.
The slogan ‘United By Music’ and the logo were revealed on January 31st 2023, with the Semi-Final Draw being shown live on BBC2 – the first time ever for the contest. Host city Liverpool have since revealed their plans for Eurovision, which you can see in the video below:
The BBC announced two documentaries to coincide with Eurovision being in the UK, these being:
- Eurovision Calling: Jason and Chelcee’s Ultimate Guide – hosted by Jason Manford & Chelcee Grimes, the show will celebrate Eurovision, featuring 20 reasons why it is ‘the greatest show on earth’. The documentary will feature archival footage, interviews, a backstage look at Liverpool 2023, and the legacy of Eurovision over in Sweden, to discover why the contest is so popular there. The show will air on BBC1 & BBC iPlayer on Monday 8th May.
- Eurovision: Everyone’s A Winner – hosted by Fleur East, the show will countdown the 20 most successful songs that didn’t win the contest. It will feature an array of celebrity fans and artist interviews, including commentator Scott Mills, UK Eurovision 2011 artist Duncan James and SuRie. It will be broadcast on BBC1 & BBC iPlayer on Friday, May 12th.
Tickets went on sale on 7th March and sold out in just 36 minutes. After complaints about losing out on tickets, BBC Radio 4 have conducted an investigation into the allegations that bots managed to get onto Ticketmaster (the provider) and snap up tickets before fans. Tickets were also offered on Comic Relief, the UK’s annual charity show, which also included a Eurovision sketch. Despite this, all events are currently sold out, including the evening and afternoon preview shows.
Is Mae Muller The UK’s Next Eurovision Success Story?
After a long wait for any news from the BBC, along with rumours of Rina Sawayama, Birdy and Ellie Goulding being thrown around as potential names, it was confirmed on 9th March 2023 that Mae Muller would be representing the United Kingdom at the contest on home soil in Liverpool in May. You can read more about her below:
The immediate reaction to Mae wasn’t too positive – mostly because she wasn’t the fans favoured choice – but a few days later opinions began to change on ‘I Wrote A Song’. It has a distinctly British feel, not sounding out of place on the radio. It gained significant airplay on the Global Radio networks, which run ‘The Official Big Top 40’, which combines the data from Apple Music & Global Networks Airplay. ‘I Wrote A Song’ peaked at #3 in its first week in this chart, and on ‘The Official Charts’, it became the first Eurovision song since Blue to chart in its first week at #30, and also became Mae’s second entry to chart within the Top 40. Within 5 days of it being available, it reached 1 million streams on Spotify, currently sitting at just under 5 million at the time of writing.
In April, Mae recieved backlash from the British media for her tweets in 2020 regarding the British government and its policies, which saw her receive a wave of criticism from the general British public, as well as demands for her to apologise and for the BBC to remove her as their contestant. However, this wave of backlash was combatted by fans, especially those within Europe, who have been supporting Mae against the comments she’s been receiving. Mae hasn’t commented on the reports.
She has also seen criticism for her pre-party performances, styling and vocals – which she has responded to with humour on TikTok:
Tabloid The Daily Mail framed an article saying ‘Nul Points! Eurovision hopeful Mae Muller is savaged after forgetting the words to her OWN song as she performs ahead of the competition‘ after her performance at PrePartyES in Madrid, although she didn’t forget the lyrics at all. Mae – like other performers – is treating these preparties as they should be treated – pre-contest events to connect with and perform for fans, whilst gaining the experience of performing the song before Eurovision. It’s worth remembering that the set up and sound quality of these parties are never on the same scale of Eurovision, and that judging any artist harshly for their performances here doesn’t always lend itself well. In 2019, Switzerland’s Luca Hänni was widely criticised for his performance of ‘She Got Me’ at Eurovision In Concert, which saw him place 4th at the actual Eurovision Song Contest. The only time Mae’s performance can be judged fairly is when she’s on stage in Liverpool, and we get the official clips from the EBU ahead of her first performance at the Evening Preview of Semi-Final 2.
Despite this, it’s safe to say TaP and the BBC are fully focused on getting the UK another good result. Mae is an experienced live performer, and whilst Eurovision will be one of the biggest moments in her career, ‘I Wrote A Song’ has the same distinct ‘British’ feel that ‘Space Man’ did in 2022. Whether it achieves the same result is yet to be seen, but we can only wish Mae all the best for the contest and hope that no matter what the result is, the BBC continue changing the face of the contest in the United Kingdom for good.
How do you think the UK will do in the contest this year? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow us on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest Eurovision News – @ThePhoenixESC!