So we had two female singers for places 11 and 10 but for my #9 and 8, #it’s two male artists, and an appearance from our penultimate big 5 country in the countdown…
#9 UNITED KINGDOM: James Newman “My Last Breath”
It’s my home country, and perhaps a little local bias has pushed this into my top 10, but I think this is deserving of a high placing. There was huge amounts of speculation, leaks and shenanigans which inevitably occurred in the lead up to the BBC’s reveal but, once again, in James Newman the UK ended up with a thoroughly likeable personality representing them – and one who has a strong music pedigree, notably as a songwriter (and is of course, the elder brother of John Newman).
The song itself is definitely very catchy, it’s radio/Spotify friendly, and to my ears, it’s a very British pop music sound – a direction the UK needs to get back to and persevere with. The music video was slick, and involved “the Iceman” Wim Hof – someone James had a connection with prior to this
song and video. I wonder what would have happened with staging (it’s not been the UK’s strong point recently, aside from 2017 with Lucie Jones) – would Wim Hof have been on stage for example. There were certainly all sorts of rumours (though UK fans tend to be both over optimistic and over cynical). I don’t know if this would have dragged the UK out of the bottom 5; but as with Lucie Jones, I suspect it would have got more love from juries than the televote.
We don’t know if James will be representing the UK next year. The BBC tend to keep people guessing, though we do know that the partnership with BMG is planned for at least a couple of years.
That, and the ongoing pandemic/public health concerns, would suggest it will be an internal selection and I’m not sure with the BMG/BBC partnership they would go with same artist again. Nevertheless, the BBC were putting the promotional effort in with James – there was a lovely behind-the-scenes documentary of James’s run up to Eurovision, which of course ended up being quite a different and really rather poignant programme.
#8 CZECH REPUBLIC: Benny Cristo “Kemama”
I’ve been a big fan of the Czech Republic’s entries since their return in 2015 and their entry for 2020 kept up that personal trend. I was quite surprised/relieved when this won the online national selection, but perhaps I shouldn’t have worried as Benny Cristo is a well-established artist in the Czech Republic, as well as being an actor, an animal rights activist and somewhat of a sportsman as well (jiu-jitsu at a European competitive level) . His full name is Ben da Silva Cristóvão – his father was from Angola and you can certainly hear those global music influences in “Kemama” – which is all about dancing with confidence and embracing individuality.
Following the selection, it’s fair to say, the song wasn’t getting a lot of love from the Eurofandom that do their “My top xxx” videos but I really liked it – and actually there were others like me who could see this was a lot better than the fandom were seeing. There are some genres/performers who tend not to fit into the fandom’s usual comfort zone and I think that has been the case here. A live performance at Ukraine’s national selection showed me that not only is it a good song, he’s also a very charismatic live performer.
We did have a bit of a brouhaha over ae revamp of the song which did not go down well (and the revamp had itself come about because of online fandom feedback) – and I think I would agree with that view, the original was better. Poor Benny was a bit stung by the reaction and it looked liked he was thinking of going back to the old version (or else tweaking further) before the cancellation struck. I think the lesson here is for artists to trust their instincts and for the purposes of this post and in terms of the placing in my top 41, it’s that original version I am thinking of.
Great news for next year though as Benny has been confirmed as the Czech Republic’s entrant for 2021 and I’m looking forward to him providing that energy and difference/diversity he showed this year with “Kemama”.