In the past decade the United Kingdom has only reached the left hand side of the leader board twice and it has finished in the Bottom 5 six times. Searching for explanations for that abysmal record, critics have repeatedly lambasted the BBC for its closed-door selection method, which, since 2011, has given the British public no say whatsoever in the artist or song. However, back in September we learned that the UK would return to a national selection for 2016, giving us a glimmer of hope for Stockholm.
A panel of musical experts and a small number of fans are already evaluating songs. In the spirit of this more open selection, we thought we’d suggest a few artists we’re hoping are in the running. Last year we dreamed up a wishlist featuring some of UK’s biggest artists. This year we’ve decided to be a tad more realistic, focusing more on relatively unknown acts (with just a few established acts thrown in). We’ll leave the likes of Ed Sheeran, Adele and Sam Smith to wallow in their own sorrow…
1. King Charles
No, Queen Elizabeth has not passed away. King Charles (known as Charles Costa when he vacates his throne) is a singer-songwriter from London’s West End. He was signed in 2009 after winning the International Songwriting Competition in Nashville, and has continued to make music ever since. It’s difficult to pin this man to a specific genre, as he weaves between indie, pop and even calypso. What’s certain is that he’s got artistry down to a T: from his perfectly combed moustache to his upper-class poetic lyrics. That’s L‘essenziale for Eurovision.
Next are three girls that would give Donatan & Cleo a run for their money. StooShe burst onto the scene in 2012 with their debut single “Love Me” – a song ridden with more innuendos than you even knew existed (and this is a toned down version of the original, “F*** Me”!). These girls have spunk, and they ain’t afraid to show it. The band’s colourful imagery, 1950s beats and soulful voices blend into a recipe for Eurovision greatness. And don’t worry – they can restrain themselves for a family show, as they did in their second single, “Black Heart.”
When Eastern countries ruled Eurovision with their baglamas and duduks, the UK never thought to send their own folk-pop — Celtic music. Take Skippinish, for example, a band from Scotland’s highlands. The group, formed back in 1999, mix their rustic highland accent with accordions and bagpipes to make almost anything sound distinctly Scottish (check out their cover of the One Direction classic, “That’s What Makes Your Bagpipe Full”). The UK haven’t sent a Scottish artist to Eurovision since 1988. After denying the Scots their own participation as an independent country, it’s the least a unified UK could do.
Dropping a few degrees south, we find the synthpop band Chvrches. Formed in Glasgow in 2011, the band consists of singer Lauren and producers Ian and Martin. Their sound is über-modern and über-Scandinavian – and with five of the past ten Eurovision winners hailing from Scandinavia, this is not something to shrug your shoulders at! They have a growing (and global) following. Could Eurovision take them even higher?
Next we have 24-year old singer-songwriter Archeo, whose sound mixes Belgium’s 2009 and 2015 entries. With the slick appearance of Elvis and the compelling vocals of Loïc Nottet, this dude is smoother than homemade pistachio ice cream. His specialty is uplifting, funky, radio-friendly pop — and that always reels in the points at Eurovision. Sadly the 24-year-old appears to have disappeared off the face of the Earth since 2012. Fingers crossed that he returns moonwalking into Stockolm’s Globe Arena.
6. Neon Hitch
Neon Hitch (yes, that’s her real name) was born in Birmingham, but grew up in a caravan in the countryside after her house burnt down. She spent her younger years touring Europe as a circus entertainer – referring to herself as a “Gypsy Star.” She’s essentially a British Ke$ha (with whom she wrote the international smash, “Blah Blah Blah”) – although she often brings her Romani roots into her punchy pop music. If this isn’t Eurovision winning material then I seriously don’t know what is.
7. Luke Friend
At the tender age of 17, Devonshire bohemian Luke Friend auditioned for the X Factor, where he wowed audiences with his powerful lungs and raspy timbre. He ended up strumming his way to the final, where he finished in third place. In February this year he released his debut single, sticking very much to what he does best: good ol’ guitar-pop anthems. He’s planning to release his first album later this year. He’s got the image. He’s got the voice. And now he’s got the invitation.
8. £1 Fish Man
One of the most interesting elements to the UK is its vast cultural diversity. The obvious way for Eurovision to celebrate this would be to select the king of Afrobeat, Fuse ODG — although with Panetoz and SaRaha competing in this year’s Melodifestivalen, we’d better give Africa a miss. Instead, why not try Muhammad Shahid Nazir – now better known as £1 fish man. The Pakistani-born fish salesman became an internet sensation after his sale-song was uploaded to Youtube, and later professionally recorded with all kinds of South Asian delights. With another big production, the UK may have its hands on the next Gangnam Style.
9. The 1975
Anyone who says “they just don’t make music like they used to” needs to take a lookie here. Manchester-based group The 1975 create indie-rock that takes you straight back to the golden era, but without sounding dated. The boyband knows how to give an epic live performance and have a neverending supply of crazy fangirls around the country to faint at their concerts. But they still haven’t cracked Europe. At Eurovision they’d already have a guaranteed 12 points from Estonia: viewers will no doubt mistake the lead singer for Stig Rästa!
10. Bronwen Lewis
Prepare to witness one of the most heinous crimes you will ever witness in your life. Back in 2013, Bronwen Lewis, from a small village in South Wales, auditioned for The Voice UK. Performing a bilingual version of “Fields of Gold,” she froze time for two minutes with her crystal clear, haunting voice. The outcome? None of the judges turned around. The UK is one of the very few countries which have only ever sung in one language. Bronwen continues to release stunning music – in English and in Welsh — and continues to be criminally ignored. We could forget all the glitz and glamour of the previous nine candidates: simply this woman and her piano would bring Eurovision back to the island quicker than you can say Maria Elena Kyriakou.
Who would you like to see any of these acts represent the UK at Eurovision 2016? Cast your votes below! You can vote for as many acts as you’d like, but you can only vote one time.