The UK is once again choosing its entry relatively early in the Eurovision finals season, although it won’t be the first of the Big 5 to decide with Spain and France’s final already done and dusted. Sadly I am not there to see it in person this year – tickets were done on a ballot basis as the show takes place in a TV studio (in Salford) rather than at a live performance venue – but the upside is I’ll be watching from the comfort of a living room with good friends (and drinks aplenty).
The format has altered quite significantly this year – while there are still 6 artists, there are only 3 songs, with each song performed by 2 of the artists, each with their version/interpretation. A jury panel will select their favoured version of each song, leaving three artists in a superfinal, to be decided by televote. Germany tried something similar not so long ago.
I’ve done a quick preview of all six artists – and for what it’s worth, my thoughts on their chance of winning the national final and how they might fare in Tel Aviv.
Michael Rice – “Bigger Than Us”
At present Michael is looking like the (joint) favourite and given that’s even before his live performance, that puts him in a strong position. His big-stage live credentials are well established as winner of the BBC’s All Together Now show last year. The song itself is one of those X-Factor winner anthemic numbers but while that may lack originality, they are tried and tested for pulling in votes. The crescendo from 2 mins on would lend itself to some big staging. That plus his live vocals might be enough to keep the UK from the bottom 5, if not breaking out of the right hand side of the scoreboard.
Holly Tandy – “Bigger Than Us”
The alternative to Michael’s version of “Bigger Than Us” is bouncy and country-inspired and with some very lovely vocals from Holly Tandy. I suspect the juries will not place this above Michael but I would put this mid-table in my own rankings of the six. I think that while she’s made the song her own, her voice would have been better served by something else. Eurovision-wise I think this would struggle – it would be a classic UK/Germany/Big 5 “nice” song that wasn’t disliked, but just wasn’t loved enough to pick up many votes.
Jordan Clarke – “Freaks”
So this is an interesting one. Aside from the unforgivable use of “soccer” in a British song (for rhyming purposes), this one has been dividing opinion. Many people have dismissed this, and really aren’t keen on it, but at same time, others are liking the modern sound of it, the infuriatingly catchy chorus, strong bridge, positive message and the telegenic Jordan.
As I have said so many times before, it doesn’t matter if a song is disliked by many or polarises opinions as all that matters is if people feel strongly enough to vote. That’s where this could do better in both You Decide and even at Eurovision than the fandom’s reaction might suggest. This is definitely the “dark horse” candidate.
MAID – “Freaks”
Now I really wish I could be more positive about this one but this is bottom of my own rankings. Individually and even as a group, I am sure that they could impress vocally, but the song and the interpretation just don’t add up for me. In the highly unlikely event of this winning You Decide, I think this would be a very low placing at Eurovision itself.
Anisa – “Sweet Lies”
This slow ballad version of the third and final song is overshadowed by the other arrangement of the song and while I am sure Anisa is a good singer and there is a touch of the Leona Lewis in this, it doesn’t really provide anything exciting or new, and lacks the big “moment” that Michael Rice’s ballad has.
Kerrie-Anne – “Sweet Lies”
For many/most in the UK fandom, this is arguably their favourite, and it’s a big old bop that is perfect for filling dancefloors. Of course, there is a risk it suffers from what happened to Asanda’s “Legends” – dance numbers are harder to pull off live though I think Kerrie-Anne is a more experienced performer than Asanda.
It is my personal favourite although that doesn’t necessarily make it right for Eurovision. It’s pretty retro (very 90s/Freemasons feel about it) but I love that sort of dance music, and there may well be others across Europe who like that too (though don’t expect much from juries for this).
If Kerrie-Anne wins, then I think the UK fans will be able to get fully behind it knowing that we’ve got a dancefloor-filling bop that will be played A LOT at Euroclub and other Eurovision nights – even if the result itself on the Saturday won’t be troubling the upper half of the scoreboard.
So who will win? Well my predictions for who the jury will put through to the final 3 are: Michael Rice, Jordan Clarke and Kerrie-Anne. Out of those three, I still think televote trends and demographics would lead to a Michael Rice victory but Jordan and Kerrie-Anne are still both in with a chance (caveat: live performance dependent).
That’s my two pennies’ worth – but what do YOU think?
Eurovision: You Decide airs on BBC2 at 7.30pm (GMT)