If you’re a recently reunited pop group looking for a little publicity, debuting your new single in front of 125 million people isn’t such a bad idea. Surely that’s the thinking of British boy band Blue, who have agreed to represent the U.K. at Eurovision 2011.
Simon Webbe, Lee Ryan, Duncan James and Antony Costa will perform a song they’ve penned entitled “I Can,” which naturally has Wiwi wondering what it is they can do. I can once again bring glory to British Eurovision fans? I can make up for Josh Dubovie’s abysmal last-place finish last year? Or, on a more pessimistic note, maybe I can become the laughing stock of Europe by failing to do well despite my big budget producers and choreographers?
Eurovision Executive Producer Phil Parsons doesn’t anticipate that third scenario taking place. He issued this statement via the BBC: “I’m thrilled that Blue will represent the UK this year. We have a highly credible act who have had a string of smash hits in this country and they’ve also been hugely successful around Europe too. There’s a lot of genuine affection for them here and abroad. They’re real pop stars who have superb vocal ability, have great on stage presence and can really deliver on the night in Dusseldorf. That’s why Britain’s backing Blue!”
Although this is the first time Britain will send an internationally recognized act, doing so is de rigeur in the rest of Europe. Malena Ernman, Sweden’s 2009 rep, is one of Scandinavia’s foremost opera singers. Turkey regularly fields heavyweights like belly-dancing Hadise and rock group maNga. And in 2003 Russia sent internationally-known faux lesbian girl group t.A.t.u., who already had a huge international following.
But in Britain, where Eurovision is routinely mocked, flying the flag isn’t an honor. In fact, it leaves established artists open to public mockery because Eurovision, naysayers say, is the realm of second-rate talent and reality TV show winners, not serious musicians. If Blue fair poorly, they won’t hear the end of it.
By bypassing a national selection contest, the BBC has sent several messages. First, they don’t trust that the public can choose a winner who will deliver. Although Jade Ewen managed an impressive fifth place in Moscow, her bid was boosted by the appearance of Andrew Lloyd Webber on stage (and the whole deal about him writing her song). Josh was a complete disaster, showing what a train wreck a democracy can be! Second, the BBC has made it clear they want a winner. The group’s popularity on the continent—they’ve had massive success in France, Germany and Italy, and had 40 #1 singles worldwide—bodes well for Britain’s chances. But more importantly, it could reinvigorate Britain’s interest in Eurovision for years to come—and cast off its reputation as a backwater for amateurs that doesn’t deserve attention.
For group member Antony, this opportunity has been a long time coming. He placed second on Making Your Mind Up, the British national selection contest, in 2006. You can watch his performance below.
And here’s Blue performing their hit “One Love”: