Eurovision 2011 Preview: United Kingdom

So, after nearly three weeks of previews and nostalgic archive trawls, we reach the 43rd and final song to be given the once-over in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. And, in the tradition of those preview shows with Ken Bruce that used to be shown on the two Sunday afternoons leading up the contest, we’ve left the United Kingdom until last. The story is one we know all too well – dominant for so many years, we’ve spent most of the last decade scrabbling around for votes (and of course getting none at all in 2003). When Jade Ewen finished 5th with Lloyd-Webber-penned ditty It’s My Time in 2009, it looked as though we might have remembered how to do this Eurovision malarkey. But then last year, as if scared that we might be in danger of winning the contest, we reverted back to form with a miserable excuse for a selection contest won by Josh Dubovie – winner by default in the end, as he was the only one on the night who could sing vaguely in tune or remember the words. The song, That Sounds Good To Me (rivalled in the hostage-to-fortune stakes only by the 2000 effort, Nicki French’s prophetic Don’t Play That Song Again) came a resounding last and our briefly rescued reputation was once again in tatters.

So this year, the BBC decided they couldn’t be arsed with a Song For Europe/Your Country Needs You-style jamboree and instead went down the internal selection route. The result of this is that boyband Blue have got back together and penned this effort, called I Can. I pretty much critiqued this, along with the intelligence-insulting “documentary” about the entry broadcast last Saturday, so I’ll say no more and let you hear for yourselves:

I’m still finding it hard to locate my pulse after listening to it, but that hasn’t stopped it being installed as one of the bookies’ favourites – you suspect that might be something to do with Blue’s prior reputation, and that for once we’re sending an act that other parts of Europe have heard of, although they have by all accounts been touring the song doggedly. However, whilst I think this will do much better than most recent UK efforts (and, let’s face it, it would be hard for them to do much worse), I think France, Estonia and Sweden are all better bets. Indeed, these, the UK and Hungary are the top five favourites to win. Latest odds would suggest that Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Denmark, Norway and hosts Germany are all also worth a punt. However, if you fancy throwing all caution to the wind and backing a total outsider, then you can always go for Portugal, with odds as much as 400-1. But I really wouldn’t contemplate banking your life savings on that one.

And so our preview of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has come to an end on this very warm Good Friday. I’ll be live-tweeting both semi-finals and the final (the latter from a party in Manchester, so my tweets may become steadily more incoherent as the night progresses) – you can follow me @crispeater. And I’ll provide a more in-depth analysis of all three live shows on this blog, including some number-crunching when the semi-final voting results are released after the final. So to round things off, it’s time for one final classic. And it’s one that’s a personal favourite of mine out of all the songs that have represented Royaume Uni since 1957. Furthermore, it was the late, great John Peel’s personal favourite (he loved Eurovision, so go rationalise THAT, indie snobs). It’s the 1982 entry, One Step Further performed by Bardo, aka Sally Ann Triplett (who had also represented the UK as one-sixth of Prima Donna two years prevoiusly) and Stephen Fischer. I’ve chosen their performance from Cheggers Plays Pop (no, really), as their performance in the Contest itself was ill-served by some heavy-handed orchestral backing – with nerves getting to the vocals not helping matters. Here, however, they’re just great:

And let’s face it: Stephen Fischer, in those trousers. You SO would. Or Sally Ann in that dress and those white boots, if you’d rather. Something for everyone. Which, in my mind, sums up the Eurovision Song Contest itself. Enjoy the rest of Easter – including, of course, a certain TV show that returns tomorrow night at 6pm on BBC1. I’ll be blogging that too. See you then!

Chris x

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