Next Friday — that’s January 27 — the United Kingdom will choose its act for the Eurovision Song Contest 2017.
As televoters aww and umm over who to vote for, they’ll be wise to pause, look up and listen to the sage advice of this year’s celebrity expert panel, which includes Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli, recording artist Sophie Ellis Bextor and vocal coach and talent scout CeCe Sammy — who served as the chairperson of the British jury for Eurovision 2016.
The BBC confirmed the panel on its Twitter account this morning. For those of you who don’t know who they are — or their potential relevance to Eurovision — here’s a breakdown.
He’s the flamboyant Italian choreographer and dancer who has won scores of fans as a judge on the UK’s Strictly Come Dancing and the American counterpart Dancing with the Stars. And now Bruno Tonioli will lend his strong opinions to the Eurovision fandom.
Bruno, who is still flaunting his body in a speedo at the age of 60, has also worked on films including What A Girl Wants, The Gathering Storm and Ella Enchanted. He’s also worked on TV programs including Absolutely Fabulous, Top of the Pops and the BRIT Awards.
Not everyone is feeling it though.
Sam, a Twitter user, points out that Bruno helped pick the UK’s disastrous 2010 act Josh Dubovie.
We should probably point out that the song “That Sounds Good To Me” was already pre-determined, and no artist could have saved that dismal tune!
— Sam Nicholson (@Shuckle4ever19) January 20, 2017
Sophie Ellis Bextor
Eurovision fans in the United Kingdom have long dreamed of her singing at Eurovision — or at least writing a song. So Sophie Ellis Bextor’s appearance on the panel will surely give them something to cheer about.
Her solo debut album Read My Lips dropped in September 2001 and reached number two on the UK Albums Chart. Two tracks from the album reached number two on the UK charts as well: her take on Cher’s “Take Me Home” and “Murder on the Dancefloor”, which remains her biggest single of all time. It stayed on the charts for 23 weeks. It was also the most-played song in Europe in 2002.
They're not wrong! #Repost @wiwibloggs ??? Our @williamleeadams has tried REPEATEDLY to get @sophieellisbextor to sing at #Eurovision…but so far no luck. Would you want her to make some murder on the dance floor at #eurovision2017? When you hear her new album you will! #sophieellisbextor #familia ?????
Last year, when the United Kingdom handed douze points to the Republic of Georgia, plenty of fans went, “WTF?!” And behind their confusion was CeCe Sammy, who served as the chairperson of the United Kingdom jury. She herself only ranked Georgia second, instead handing her top marks to Cyprus. Australia, Hungary and Israel rounded out her Top 5.
Curiously, she was also the head judge in the Georgian edition of Your Face Sounds Familiar, which may suggest an affinity for Georgian performers.
CeCe has worked in the industry for 21 years. She started as a backing vocalist for Diana Ross, Julio Iglesias and Sting. She has performed for the Queen and Royal Family before becoming a vocal coach, working with S Club 7 and Simon Fuller.
— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) January 20, 2017
The expert panel is distinct from the professional jury. The panel will only offer their advice — they will not actually cast votes.
Surely the presence of well-known figures is further evidence of the BBC’s ambitions to expand the popularity of Eurovision domestically. This year they have moved the show from BBC Four to BBC Two.
What do YOU think of the expert panel? Will their mix of talent and skills help viewers make the right choice? Let us know in the comments box below.