It’s my home country, the United Kingdom, always one of my most challenging entries to place as it can be hard to be truly unbiased. This year though I feel far more comfortable in saying this has a genuine place in my top 10 and for the first time in quite a few years there has been a genuine buzz around the UK entry, TikTok sensation Sam Ryder and his song “Space Man”. Will 2022 see the UK get on the left hand side of the board for the first time since 2009?
The BBC ended their 2020 and 2021 collaboration with BMG and launched a new partnership with TAP Music, tasking them with the search for the artist and entry. They duly delivered a very fresh artist, Sam Ryder, who made his name on TikTok over the pandemic doing some amazing cover songs. “Space Man” is his own song, cowritten with two other writers, one of whom won a Grammy for her cowriting of an Ed Sheeran track in 2016. Unusually for the BBC, the track was released and promoted on BBC Radio before it was officially announced as the UK’s Eurovision entry.
When I first heard the song, I instantly could feel the “British pop” sound of it, something that I think we often really miss out on – the focus goes on being a “Eurovision song” (whatever that may mean) and not on a strong authentic song that draws on British music influences. He is a very strong vocalist – one of the strongest in the contest, and with the catchy hooks, it all added up to something positive on first impressions – even if not super daring.
What has really surprised and delighted me and other UK fans is the reaction Sam and his song have been getting outside of the Eurovision bubble in the UK and also across the fandom in other countries. People seem to have really responded to both the song and to the ebullient Sam, whose enthusiasm for and robust defence of the contest has been so refreshing. It’s also been a huge help that he’s had a record label to support doing the biggest Europe-wide promotion since Jade Ewen in 2009 – and that is something only a label can do, not the BBC themselves.
Now I am not saying that this means the UK is going to win all of a sudden! But there is a real chance of a good result come grand final Saturday. Juries, one hopes, will be impressed by his vocal of what is a challenging song to sing. The public vote may be a bigger hill to climb, but more than one commentator has mentioned the Elton John feel to the song and instrumentation, and the Freddie Mercury quality of Sam’s voice and that quintessentially British music sound may all mean this could score decently with the public – especially if the staging is not messed up!
However the votes go, Sam has and will win many more admirers beyond his 12 million TikTok followers. There is a real hope that the UK may finally be turning the corner in their approach to the contest. Some great results in pre-contest polls of various kinds suggest we can at least expect the most votes since 2017, and maybe even 2011, or most optimistically 2009. At fifth in the betting odds, the UK is even a dark horse to win – that may be a hope too far, but it goes to show that this has already felt like real progress and I hope Sam, and the whole UK team gets a reward for it.
First entered: 1957
Appearances (excluding this year): 63
Best result: Winner 1967, 1969, 1976, 1981, 1997
Last year’s result: 26th (and last)