You are currently viewing 🇬🇧 All About Olly Alexander: United Kingdom’s 2024 Artist Preview
Credit: NME // Hugo Yanguela

In a surprise announcement during the final of Strictly Come Dancing 2023, Olly Alexander revealed that he’d be flying the flag for the United Kingdom in Malmö at Eurovision 2024!

Olly’s career spans over 15 years and has seen him perform in some of the biggest venues in the UK as part of Years & Years, and now he’ll be taking the stage under his own name in May.

Here’s all you need to know about Olly!

Who Is Olly Alexander?

Oliver Alexander Thornton (who goes by Olly Alexander when performing) was born on July 15th 1990 in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. He wrote his first song at just 10 years old, before going on to study performing arts at the Hereford College of Arts before dropping out to concentrate on his acting career.

Early Career

Olly began acting in 2008 after landing a role in the film Summerhill, followed by the Academy Award Nominated film Bright Eyes. He also had roles in Skins, God Help The Girl, The Riot Club, Penny Dreadful and Funny Bunny. He also landed the role of Peter Pan in West End show Peter & Alice in 2013 and appeared in Mecury Fur at The Old Red Lion in Islington.

Years & Years

Olly joined the band Years & Years in 2010, which also consisted of members Mikey Goldsworthy, Emre Türkmen, Noel Leeman and Olivier Subria. Their first single ‘I Wish I Knew’ was released in 2012, with Subria and Leeman leaving the group not long after – making Years & Years a trio. Their second single ‘Traps‘ followed in 2013, with ‘Real‘ being released the year after.

In 2014, Years & Years signed with Polydor, achieving their first chart entry with ‘Desire‘. It wasn’t until 2015 however that they’d reach mainstream success – in January, they won the BBC’s Sound of 2015 poll, where industry experts and music critics selected the most promising new talent, with their next single ‘King‘ being selected as Zane Lowe’s ‘Hottest Record In The World’ on BBC Radio 1. The song was released in March, shooting to the top of the charts in the UK – it’s currently certified 3X Platinum in the UK, 2X Platinum in Sweden and Platinum in Australia, Germany and Denmark. The follow-up single ‘Shine‘ went to #2 in the UK, again certified Platinum, and in July Years & Years released their debut album ‘Communion‘, which reached #1 in the UK & Ireland.

The group were nominated for three BRIT awards in 2016 – Best British Breakthrough Act, British Single and British Video (for ‘King’).

In 2018, they released their second studio album, the critically acclaimed ‘Palo Sant’o, which featured the top 10 single ‘If You’re Over Me‘. The accompanying tour kicked off in the same year, with dates in North America, South America, Asia and Europe before reaching arenas in the UK. Later in 2018, they collaborated with Jax Jones on the top 10 single ‘Play‘.

In 2021, Years & Years became a solo project for Olly, with Mikey Goldsworthy remaining solely for live performances. Olly’s first release as a “soloist” was ‘Starstruck‘, which later went on to feature Australian singer Kylie Minogue, followed by title track ‘Night Call‘. Both songs were included in the album ‘Night Call‘, which went to #1 in the UK. ‘Sweet Talker‘, a collaboration with Galantis, was released in November 2021, followed by the BBC selecting Olly to headline their annual New Year’s Eve Concert ‘The New Years & Years Eve Party’. ‘Starstruck’ was re-released in February 2022, this time featuring Japanese singer SIRUP.

In 2023, Years & Years was awarded a BRIT Billion Award, just one of 25 artists to receive this honour. The award is given to artists who have achieved 1 Billion streams in the United Kingdom. Other recipients of this award include Billie Eilish, Ed Sheeran, Olivia Rodrigo and Lana Del Rey.

It’s A Sin

In 2021, Olly played ‘Ritchie’, a lead role in the Channel 4 drama miniseries ‘It’s A Sin’. The show focused on the lives of Gay men and their friends during the AIDS/HIV crisis in the United Kingdom between 1981 & 1991. The show received critical acclaim, with calls for Olly to win a BAFTA for his performance which was praised by both viewers and mainstream media. For the show, Olly was nominated at the TV Choice Awards, National Television Awards, Critic’s Choice Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, BPG Awards, RTS Programme Awards and the BAFTA’s.

Years & Years released a cover of the Pet Shop Boys classic ‘It’s A Sin‘ to promote the show’s release, with part of the proceeds going to George House Trust, a charity providing help and support for people in the UK living with HIV. A further version was released with Elton John to coincide with their joint performance at the BRIT Awards, with all proceeds going to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. This version went to #1 on The Official Big Top 40, which compiles the chart based on Global Radio Station Airplay, Apple Music streaming and iTunes downloads.

Campaigning and Advocacy

Olly is part of and openly calls for support of the LGBTQ+ community, which has garnered widespread praise from fans and media. In 2018, he hosted a documentary on BBC called ‘Growing Up Gay’ about mental health issues faced by those within the LGBTQ+ community which you can watch here, and was part of Sport Relief’s efforts to raise awareness about mental health in the same year. In 2019, he used his time at Glastonbury to promote LGBTQ+ Rights, whilst calling for an end to racism, abelism and sexism. You can hear his speech below.

In 2020, he was named ‘Celebrity of the Year’ at the British LGBTQ Awards, and in 2022 led the ABSOLUT choir, which was formed to promote LGBTQ+ rights, self-love and awareness. The choir was made up of trans, body positivity and disability awareness advocates and creatives.

When ABSOLUT came to me with this project I instantly had so many ideas, from working with the TCC and Trans Voices to re-recording ‘Shine’, I wanted The ABSOLUT Choir to be entirely inclusive.

I have worked in this industry for a while and can genuinely say this has been one of the most diverse productions I have ever been involved in, from the crew to the people both in front of and behind the camera, it’s good to feel like things are changing.

I’m so lucky to have a platform for my voice and I want to use it to put the spotlight on people and things that need to be heard. We are literally here to amplify people’s voices and I can’t wait to see what else is to come from these incredible people.

Olly Alexander, Gay Times

Olly collaborated with ABSOLUT again in 2024 to platform changemakers, seeing him work with the founder of UK Black Pride Lady Phyll and founder of Curve Catwalk, ShayShay and co-founder of the queer, Asian cabaret night ‘Bitten Peach’, Trina Nicole.

Cosmopolitan asked Olly why championing diversity was so important to him, and what causes he’s currently passionate about:

For me, I get so much strength and courage from the queer community who have always inspired me. We can only achieve positive change by working together, that’s what bridges communities and brings us closer. Movements are built by small steps of people working together and now, more than ever, we need that. Being able to go into a physical space, have actual conversations and meet people can get lost in the online world, but it’s so valuable so I’m really happy to encourage more of that.

I’m learning all the time about the different needs for different communities. Each of us live in our own reality, but for me, I’ve always tried to champion queer communities and spaces. Lots of those spaces have been lost and whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, trans, we face a lot of attack in our current times and the only way through that is solidarity.

Equality means equality for everyone. Whether it’s civil rights, climate change, ableism, racial injustice, sexism, we need to have a holistic approach to engage with our own communities and others, as well. It’s good to start small, like just being nice in your day-to-day interactions, and it can turn into a big mosaic.

Olly Alexander, Cosmopolitan

Eurovision 2024

On December 16th 2023, Olly appeared during the final of Strictly Come Dancing, where he announced that he’d be the United Kingdom’s artist for Eurovision 2024. He had been rumoured earlier in the year and was also said to be one of the artists in the running to represent the UK in the 2022 contest.

Olly’s song is called ‘Dizzy‘, written by himself and Danny L Harle (who also produced it). Danny L Harle is known for being behind ‘Houdini’ by Dua Lipa,Anthems’ by Charlie XCX and numerous songs by Caroline Polachek amongst others. He said he was thinking about participating a few years ago, but when he started working with Danny – who also loved Eurovision – they decided to submit some songs to the BBC, getting confirmation of selection in November.

After the Strictly reveal, Olly released his announcement video full of clues about his entry – leading fans to guess the title, ‘Dizzy’ from the emojis in the background. A further teaser video was released on February 6th, where he confirmed the song title and dropped more hints – the numbers 11, 1, 29 and 7. A day later, a 20-second snippet of the song was released on social media, along with the announcement of the song’s release date – March 1st 2024.

This is what Olly had to say about his song and participation…

Any good pop song should take you on a journey. A Eurovision song, especially, should have drama and I hope people feel taken on this thrilling ride. As you can tell from the title, the song is about the overwhelming feeling you get when you’re with someone. It’s upbeat, you can dance to it, and it’s just wild.

I’m doing it because I just really want to take part and be able to look back when I’m in my 60s and say ‘wow, I was involved in this incredible legacy.’ I just want to put on the best performance that I can. I do feel the pressure, but mostly, I’m excited because it’s such an amazing opportunity and it feels very special to be a part of.

Olly Alexander, Cosmopolitan

The music video for ‘Dizzy’ was filmed in Georgia, which got press attention from the Georgian media due to Olly’s meeting with their 2024 artist, Nutsa Buzaladze. The video premiered at 8am on March 1st and was shown for the first time on TV during ‘Graham Meets Olly‘ on BBC 1 with Graham Norton.

Olly Alexander is one of the most successful artists to represent the UK in Eurovision in modern times, an artist that is still part of the mainstream, still in the charts and still relevant in the music industry today. For many, this is a sign that the BBC is continuing to take Eurovision more seriously. Just three days after the announcement, the UK rose to the top of the odds for Eurovision 2024 – an early prediction, but a sign that expectations are high. Whilst the UK has dropped in the odds as more songs have been released, we cannot count ‘Dizzy’ out of the running just yet.

We wish Olly & the United Kingdom the best of luck in Eurovision 2024!

You can follow Olly on the following platforms…

Twitter / X@alexander_olly

Instagram @ollyalexanderr

Facebook Olly Alexander

TikTok @ollyalexander

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