Quick: hum two bars from Englebert’s song at Eurovision. Ok, one bar? One note? Englebert! The guy who performed first during the final. No. He didn’t sing “Forgettable.” He sang “Love Will Set You Free.”
Despite what plenty of Brits will tell you, the U.K. did not lose because of bloc voting. It did not lose because everyone hates Britons (they don’t). It did not lose because Engelbert went first (even if he had sung last the song would have been forgotten by the time voting opened). Britain lost because Engelbert’s song was uninspired and his staging mediocre. It was the perfect performance for a nightclub: pleasant enough, but not sufficiently interesting to grab your attention.
Britain, which finished 25th, ahead of only Norway, did as well as it did because Tooji’s entry was equally forgettable and Ireland threw the U.K. a bunch of points, either because of their cultural affinity, or because young viewers had fallen asleep and everyone over 70 voted for the one name they recognized.
But the blame does not rest with the Hump himself. He was set up to fail. The blame rests with the BBC, which fields Britain’s contestant every year. With the glaring exception of Jade Ewen, who viewers chose in a national selection and who went on to place fifth in 2009, the bigwigs in London seem determined to lose—and to lose spectacularly. It’s either has-beens or never-weres, with both of them singing generic, uninspired pop. (Hello, Josh Dubovie!) I doubt that even the Beatles in their prime could have won with the turkeys the U.K.’s performers have been saddled with.
Why lousy songs and sub-par performers? I think it’s because Britain is scared to truly compete. What if Britain gets serious about Eurovision, puts everything they have into finding the best act in the country, and they still finish in the cellar? Then no matter how much you can point to British dominance of commercial pop, the U.K. will be held up to be a loser musically. Better to put up acts you know will lose so you can use that as a defense.
Until Britain is willing to put their ass on the line and create a system like Sweden’s to produce an entry that is compelling, they will remain a joke. The question will remain one of whether they will be last or just a couple of spots above last. Meanwhile all the articles about “Eurovision is a joke, who cares”, followed by “how dare they not rank us first, don’t they know we dominate pop”, just make Britain look pathetic. The U.K. starts to look like America does when it loses something it expected to win – and that’s not a pretty sight.
Oh, and Simon Cowell is not your savior – he’ll deliver an act that can sell records, but not win Eurovision. Those are two very different things.