You are currently viewing 🇬🇧 Until The Moment Never Ends: What Will The UK’s Future In Eurovision Look Like?
Credit: EBU // Corinne Cumming

A famous artist, a well-produced pop song, an elevated performance, arguably some of the best staging in recent years – so how did the UK manage to fall short when it came to Eurovision 2024?

When Olly Alexander was selected, it seemed like the dream scenario for those from the UK – for years, artists of his calibre stayed away from the contest, spoke negatively of it, or didn’t want any association with the connotations surrounding Eurovision in the UK. After the great success of Sam Ryder in 2022, things began to change, and suddenly, Olly Alexander doing Eurovision didn’t seem like the biggest shock – especially as he was rumoured to be up for the gig against Sam originally.

As we’ve done since 2021, we’ll be taking a look back at the 2024 Eurovision season for the United Kingdom, and discussing what is next for the second half of the 2020s.

Reflecting On 2023

In 2023, Eurovision came to Liverpool after the UK accepted hosting on behalf of Ukraine, who were unable to host due to the ongoing Russian invasion. The slogan for that year was ‘United By Music’ (which has now been adapted for future contests), and the contest truly lived up to its name thanks to the fantastic collaborative effort by the BBC and Suspilne to produce a contest that equally highlighted Ukrainian and British culture and music. It gave us some fantastic hosts in Alesha Dixon, Graham Norton, Julia Sanina and Hannah Waddingham, and some important interval acts – most notably the Liverpool Songbook and the Alyosha Alyosha & Rebecca Ferguson interval in Semi Final 1. From personal experience of attending both semi-finals, being in Liverpool for Eurovision week and as being a British fan of Eurovision for 13 years by that point, the shift in the way the country embraced Eurovision’s arrival on our shores was an unexpected yet welcome experience – the contest had truly not just captured the hearts of those in Liverpool, but those across the UK too, which also was in part down to Sam Ryder’s astronomical success the year prior.

Mae Muller was chosen to represent the UK on home ground, and despite ‘I Wrote A Song’ only managing to place a disappointing 25th, it went on to chart within the UK Top 10 a week later – one of 4 Eurovision songs to achieve this historical placing, and one of 5 to chart in the Top 40. Not long after this, TaP Music – who’d been helping the BBC with their selection in 2022 and 2023 – announced they’d be handing the reigns back to the BBC for 2024. Eurovision fever continued to have a grip on the nation, and Mae’s result wasn’t received with the same backlash as the British public had targeted at the contest in previous years, with most saying the same things – unfortunately, the song and vocals on the night just weren’t up to standard. You can read more about our assessment of the UK in Eurovision 2023 here.

Olly Alexander’s Selection & Announcement

In October 2023, the BBC confirmed that their search for an artist and song had taken place over the summer. A month later, The Sun newspaper published an article which hinted that Olly Alexander had been selected with a song produced by Danny L Harle, who has been behind songs for Dua Lipa, Caroline Polachek, PinkPantheress, Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama. The news was later confirmed by Olly himself during the final of Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1 – one of the biggest entertainment shows in the UK, with this specific episode pulling in 9.9 million viewers. Announcing Olly on this show was proof the BBC had changed course with their reveals, previously opting for a same-day release for the entry and artist reveal on radio after the end of You Decide in 2019.

Lee Smithurst, a member of the UK’s delegation, and Will Wilkin – who is the executive music commissioner at the BBC – spoke to The Euro Trip Podcast about how they chose Olly to represent the UK…

We had artists approach us, we approached artists, we sat down with the management of multiple artists signed to major labels and at different areas of their career as well, some who were pre-first album and some who were a few albums in. […] The perception of Eurovision has shifted within the UK both to the audience and to the industry phenomenally in the last two years. […] That recognition has allowed us to then have the license to be having these conversations with major labels about artists who are established, artists who are reaching the top of that long curve that they have in terms of their career, they’re very much on the rise or there about’s rather than necessarily in other spaces on that curve. […]. (Will)

Will assembled a lot of people from radio & that was across all the different genres to sit in that room […] we asked loads of questions to everyone, we told them about Eurovision – who would you like to see? Who are you championing on your stations? Who do you think is a great artist? Who have you seen perform live? […] That was really integral to how we started this whole process. (Lee)

It was a slightly new way of doing things […] stakeholders from BBC studios were there, people from the music teams at Radio 1 & Radio 2 […] people that had worked in record labels […], social leads from the BBC, the person that’s mostly responsible for our biggest TikTok accounts came, it was a real demographic in terms of age and sex and how people identify. […] Really importantly we brought BBC Introducing along because so many great British artists have started their journeys there and they are such an incredible knowledge base. […] We sat down for maybe an hour working out who we thought it would be […] and we had them all [artists] on post-it notes and then we started the painstaking process of being like would they? Wouldn’t they? That might be the best idea we’ve ever had! […] We then sent [their ‘definitely maybe’ and ‘it would be amazing if they did’ artists] round – there was a big polling exercise around that and Olly came out right up there in terms of how people felt across all of the networks in terms of him being the right artist. (Will)

He was definitely on that list of “wouldn’t it be great if he did it” then I think, whether it’s fate or not, Olly’s plugger got in touch to say management would “love to have a meeting with you about Eurovision next year”. They didn’t know we were talking about him so we had a meeting with management probably in very early summer last year and I think Olly’s mentioned himself when he was in discussions a couple of years ago he didn’t feel he was in the right place or had the right song. They mentioned he’d been working with Danny L Harle for a year writing lots of music & said they said they’d got some really great stuff, so now he was in a position where he’s got several songs they were considering as a lead for his next album and we discussed Eurovision – why he wanted to do it and, as he said before in his own interviews, he’s a genuine fan of contest and it’s something he’s always wanted to do and I feel like for Olly he definitely thought this was the right time and the stuff he’s been writing with Danny – who is also a Eurovision fan – he just felt this was the right moment with the right kind of music that he would want to take to the contest. […] From there the next thing we asked them to do was when they were ready – and this is what we asked for every artist we spoke to – we asked them to send a couple of songs not just one so Will & I could take it back to a wider team. […] Olly’s songs that he sent to us were really strong so it was a tough decision from there. [Lee]

Will Wilkin & Lee Smithurst, The Euro Trip Podcast

Immediately after the reveal, it’s safe to say the UK fandom went into shock – an established artist, known internationally, with a wealth of experience and multiple number 1 albums and singles under his belt representing the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest! Before Sam Ryder, this was something very much unheard of. Despite the BBC selecting legacy acts like Engelbert Humperdinck and Bonnie Tyler, the last time the BBC had chosen someone as “relevant” as Olly was arguably in 2011 with Blue, otherwise we’d be looking back to the early 90s. The hype was immediately high, and despite no confirmation on when the song would be revealed, small hints were dropped in Olly’s announcement video, leading many to theorise the use of emojis in the background of said video correlated to the song’s title, ‘Dizzy‘.

‘Dizzy’ Reveal

On February 6th, Olly posted another teaser to his social media accounts, showing a weather map. In this video, he hinted at the song title again, as well as displaying specific numbers that correlated to certain dates (11, 1, 29, 7). A day later, he confirmed his song would be titled ‘Dizzy’ as speculated, and would be released on March 1st 2024. Later that afternoon he and the BBC Eurovision team posted the first snippet of the song online.

Around this time, Olly spoke to Cosmopolitan magazine about his participation and why ‘Dizzy’ was the right song for the contest…

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 initial reaction to the release of ‘Dizzy’ was lukewarm, and a little less positive than the reaction to the snippet. Many believed the song’s second verse was too short and were confused as to why this was chosen as the teaser a few weeks before. There was also criticism that the last section wasn’t enough of a ‘moment’, and the spoken-word section in the bridge received a mixed response after the BBC had used a similar structure with ‘I Wrote A Song’ a year earlier. One of the biggest issues people had was that it wasn’t ‘competitive’ enough for the contest – ‘Dizzy’ was released the same week as ‘The Code’ from Switzerland, ‘Europapa‘ from The Netherlands, ‘Liar’ from Cyprus and Austria’s ‘We Will Rave’, and in comparison, Olly’s song unfortunately struggled to be the stand out of these releases. However, there was some excitement for the staging due to Olly using his team – notably Theo Adams, who had staged his Night Call tour – and a potential ‘Eurovision version’, a method the BBC had been doing since 2022, which would elevate the song beyond its current form. Chart wise, ‘Dizzy’ didn’t make the top 40 – coming in just outside at #42.

Withdrawal Calls

Due to Israel’s participation in Eurovision 2024, many pro-Palestinian voices called on the artists to withdraw and boycott the contest. Olly was one of these artists, receiving a letter from Queers For Palestine whilst in Madrid asking him to withdraw, which was also supported by the BDS Movement. Olly, alongside 9 other participants posted the following statement to their social media accounts:

Olly also posted his own statement alongside the joint artists’ statement, in which he addressed the letter from Queers for Palestine:

Most Eurovision artists participate in pre-parties before the contest, and Olly took on PrePartyES, London Eurovision Party, Eurovision In Concert and the Nordic Eurovision Party. As the UK artist, Olly headlined LEP, but many noticed his performance seemed unnaturally toned down, and that he didn’t seem too happy to be onstage. He also didn’t do any interviews whilst there, leading many to speculate what could be the cause of his less than enthusiastic performance that evening. In an interview with The Guardian, he revealed the what had been going on behind the scenes:

I was holed up in a room trying not to have a breakdown. Normally, you get on stage and turn it on, but I felt really unable to do that. It was tough. […] It has been quite tricky to say the least. I just could not get it together and then I felt ashamed of myself and embarrassed.

Olly Alexander, The Guardian

In this interview he also spoke more about the letter he received from Queers for Palestine, and his feelings surrounding what was a controversial year for the contest:

I know quite a few [who signed the letter] and nobody reached out to me. It’s quite tough to receive a letter like that. Obviously there are a lot of things I wish were different. And this is so much bigger than me and Eurovision, it really is. But, obviously, I wish there wasn’t a war or this insane humanitarian crisis. I wish for peace and I have found this experience, at times, extremely…I’ve just felt really sad and distressed. But I still believe it’s a good thing when people come together for entertainment. That’s why I wanted to do Eurovision. […] I think a lot of our goals are the same as those of Queers for Palestine — a ceasefire, returning the hostages, the safety and security of all people in Gaza. All the Palestinians and the people in Israel. That’s not controversial. And my participation in Eurovision or not isn’t going to make a difference to those things, so that’s why I’m still doing it. I believe it’s good to come together with music. I’m still hoping to enjoy some aspects of it. […] Even to talk about my feelings is hard because I don’t want it to seem like I am asking for sympathy or painting myself as a victim. I have a lot of support – my boyfriend, mum, cats and therapist. I’m in a good place to handle it and, like everything, Eurovision will come and go, and then there will be something else.

Olly Alexander, The Guardian

Eurovision 2024

In a new change to proceedings, the Big 5 countries performed for the first time in between semi-final acts. Therefore, Olly’s first performance took place at Semi Final 1, and it’s safe to say that staging director and long-time collaborator Theo Adams had elevated the staging considerably. It seemed to take place in the shower room of a boxing ring, with a grungy feel and some pretty risqué dance routines from Olly and his dancers – more on this a little later on.

Olly’s performance went down decently, with many praising the performance but criticising the vocals – an issue that was once again mentioned during his performance in the Grand Final. The UK drew first half, and took to the stage at position #13, between Greece and Norway. Despite a loud reaction from those in the Malmö Arena and hopes back home that ‘Dizzy’ would take the UK back to the left hand side of the scoreboard, it wasn’t meant to be. Despite doing well in the jury – placing 13th with 46 points (in the top 3 for Sweden & Iceland) the public were not so kind.

In fact, the public did not respond whatsoever – with Olly getting the dreaded “0 Points” – much to the shock of those in the crowd, ending up at 18th overall. It didn’t get much better when the detailed results were released later that night, with ‘Dizzy’ placing in the bottom 5 of ten countries, below 15th in 15 countries and only coming close to points from Albania and Estonia, whose televote had placed the UK at 11th. You can see a detailed overview of these results in the below graphic produced by Eurovisionario on Twitter.

Despite the 0 points, Olly took it well by laughing and smiling with the UK delegation – though the reaction back home was not so bright…

Where did things go wrong for ‘Dizzy’?

Even though there were a few of those classic comments from the casual viewers – most notably about how politicised the contest is and how Europe apparently “hates” the United Kingdom, the general consensus was a more balanced and fair view of what went wrong – the song was simply not good enough. Despite being a great radio track, was ‘Dizzy’ really a competitive entry in such a diverse field of songs? Authentic to Olly’s style maybe, but just look at the most popular songs this year and compare them to ‘Dizzy’. Switzerland, who won the contest, showed off not just Nemo’s out-of-this-world vocal range – even whilst rotating on a spinning platform – but the song told Nemo’s personal story of their acceptance of their non-binary identity. Croatia’s Baby Lasagna had a crowd pleaser in ‘Rim Tim Tagi Dim’, with a catchy hook and dance routine to lyrics that told the story of his own anxieties and the lives of young Croatians who have had to move away from home to seek better opportunities. Ukraine’s Jerry Heil & Alyona Alyona gave us a female empowerment track in ‘Teresa & Maria’, displaying cultural Ukrainian elements, their native language and a blend of genres. The Netherlands – although disqualified- had the biggest hit of Eurovision 2024 with ‘Europapa’, a song which, on the surface, may not seem to be as meaningful as it truly is but was actually written by Joost as a tribute to his late-father who told him the world has no borders. Whilst it takes an upbeat route, the song ends in a simplistic ballad format in which he sings directly to his Dad – with the lyrics on screen to convey the meaning of the entry across the continent. You could even argue songs like ‘Ulveham’, from Norway’s Gåte, had much more of an identity. Despite finishing in last place, it was beloved by Eurovision fans who appreciated not just the difference in style for Norway, but also the folklore elements mixed with rock to create a captivating performance. ‘Dizzy’ told the story of how love makes you feel, well, dizzy – the staging also made you feel that way. But despite all this, the song just didn’t connect.

Unfortunately, Olly’s staging seemed to be a problem, despite its professionalism and huge step forward for the UK in the contest. Criticism for the staging looking too much like a music video was once again a topic of debate – and understandably so. In 2018, Benjamin Ingrosso suffered a similar issue with ‘Dance You Off’ – the camera never zoomed away or showed the audience until the end of the performance, and whilst Olly – unlike Benjamin – did leave his set for the final section of the song, that enclosed, award show and music video feel just doesn’t seem to work at Eurovision for those watching at home. A good comparison in 2024 would be that of Marcus & Martinus – again, maybe not getting the highest televote score, but still ‘Unforgettable’ was a top 10 entry overall. This song was staged in a similar music-video like set-up, another thing that drew comparisons and worries from Sweden’s fate in 2018, although the set moved with Marcus & Martinus throughout the song, opening up completely on stage during the second half so you were aware the twins were in fact on stage in the arena. Compared to Olly, we really didn’t have enough time to see him in front of the audience itself. For your three minutes on the Eurovision stage you have to invite the audience in, make them believe what you’re singing and understand you as an artist and performer – ‘Dizzy’ clearly struggled to do this.

There was also criticism over the sexual nature of the staging – but it’s not the first – and it certainly won’t be the last time we see a relatively sexually-themed staging at Eurovision. In fact, we look back to a now iconic entry in the contest’s history, dating back to 1997 with the contest’s first openly gay contestant – Iceland’s Paul Oskar – performing a sensual and intimate routine to their entry ‘Minn Hinsti Dans’. Though the song didn’t make waves on the scoreboard, it has since been heavily referenced when talking about some of the most memorable entries in Eurovision’s 70 year history – and whilst ‘Dizzy’ may not be remembered as fondly, it still made an impression.

Aside from this, there were once again comments regarding Olly’s vocals – following on from criticism both in 2021 and in 2023 regarding the very same issue with our performances. Making sure your artists can produce a good Eurovision song is one thing – ensuring they can pull it off live is another. While the juries didn’t seem to have the same criticisms they did for the vocals of Mae Muller & James Newman it was one of the public’s biggest criticisms of Olly this year.

Olly is no doubt a talented performer, and really he isn’t solely to blame for the fate of the UK. He may have been the face of the country this year – but we have to look at the BBC’s choices over the last few years as we get into the final section of this article: what does the future look like for the UK in Eurovision?

What Does The Future Hold?

Take ‘Space Man’ out of the equation for a second, and look at the UK’s entries in the last few years – where is the variety? Upbeat pop tracks and ballads are fine coming from a country that’s built an incredibly impressive portfolio of successful pop stars – just look at Sweden, who have used a similar formula in ESC albeit to more success – but the UK isn’t just known for this style of music. There’s a wealth of indie, brit-pop, rap, grime and rock acts to name just a few genres that have made their mark in the musical makeup of the country, but none of this is reflected in our entries. The last time the UK sent something that wasn’t pop-adjacent was in 1995 with ‘Love City Groove’, and even ‘Space Man’ had a rockier-element in the Eurovision version of the song. It also had an identity – the song felt very culturally British, an entry you could identify as being from the UK straight away. Songs like ‘Dizzy’, ‘I Wrote A Song’ and ‘Embers’ could really be sent by any country, and whilst they may sound great on radio that doesn’t always translate live. Look at some of the most popular songs and artists right now and you’ll start to realise that whilst they’re worldwide hits, it’s unlikely they’d be a hit in the contest. At the time of writing ‘Espresso’ and ‘Please Please Please’ by Sabrina Carpenter are hugely successful on radio and in streaming – but put those songs in Eurovision, and there’s a chance they’d suffer a similar fate to Olly & Mae. In fact, Mae Muller has hinted on TikTok that her label were pushing her into making songs like ‘I Wrote A Song’ instead of the more authentic tracks she was making when she first came onto the scene, and that Eurovision wasn’t the best experience for her overall. The last time the UK sent a band was in 2011, despite being home to some of the biggest and most iconic duos and groups of all time – Queen, Oasis, The Beatles, One Direction, Spice Girls, Take That, Girls Aloud, Little Mix, The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Blur, Coldplay – the list goes on. There is no harm in trying something new at Eurovision – Switzerland took a year off from those “sad boy ballads” and gave us “The Code”, going on to win the entire contest. Italy found itself dealing with rock in 2021 with ‘Zitti E Buoni’ by Måneskin – worlds away from their previous entries – catapulting the band and the song to the top of the scoreboard and into international success.

There’s also a much needed discussion to be had around where our artists come from. The UK is made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – so why have the UK seemingly only gone for majority English performers? Lucie Jones was the last Welsh person to go to Eurovision in 2017, and for Scotland we have to look much further back to 1988 with Scott Fitzgerald, almost 50 years ago. The last Northern Irish act to represent the UK is even further back, being Clodagh Rodgers in 1971 – although, we have seen acts from here choose to represent Ireland instead more recently, Brooke Scullion being the latest in 2022. There have been some calls for the UK to split entirely in Eurovision – either into the four nations, or into three nations should Northern Ireland choose to join up with Ireland – and compete using the separate broadcasters not just for artist diversity, but potentially language diversity too – we saw Wales send two entries in Welsh to Junior Eurovision as a stand alone nation previously, and they already have an annual song contest that has been running since the 1960s, Cân i Gymru, which started due to plans back then that BBC Cymru would enter ESC separately to the UK.

Understandably, the hype for Eurovision was nowhere near what it was when it came to Liverpool from the public or the BBC, but the hopes we’d do well again were still there after Mae suffered what essentially has been known as the “host entry curse”. Olly didn’t even come bottom 5 – 18th for the UK is one of the highest results for the country since the beginning of the 2000s – but that televote score really catapulted many back to the same mindset they had in 2021. ‘Dizzy’ failed to get into the top 40 post-contest, charting at #48, although three other songs made it into the UK Top 40 this year – ‘Europapa’, ‘Rim Tim Tagi Dim’ and ‘The Code’, and all were outside of the Top 10. The mood around Eurovision in the UK has skewered slightly, but not enough to send us back to the days where sending bland and inoffensive pop becomes the way forward. Countless countries have had a good result followed by ones that didn’t do as well, before bouncing back again – why? Because they kept going. France are a great example of this in recent years; The Netherlands in the 2010s took a few years of great and not so great results before winning it all in 2019; Sweden came back after not qualifying in 2010 by turning themselves into the ones to watch in almost every single year; Switzerland took time to build momentum before getting their deserved win in 2024 – you have two choices with a Eurovision result like that of Olly & Mae. Give up for the foreseeable, or come back to show Europe exactly what you can do – it worked in 2022, and it can again.

With the UK now leaving Junior Eurovision despite a highly successful run in their two-year return, and with no information as of yet regarding 2025, we can only hope the BBC will deliver the way they clearly want to in the main contest. Olly and Mae both possessed two of the strongest studio tracks in last few years of the UK’s run in Eurovision; the task now is to make those songs truly connect with the public. It is not impossible, and whilst one decent result in 5 years isn’t enough to cement “powerhouse” status, it doesn’t have to be an anomaly. We look forward to what the UK have planned next year.

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