Four months ago the BBC launched its Eurovision 2017 selection process, which saw it open a public submission process while simultaneously reaching out to professional songwriters.
And on January 23 the Beeb finally revealed the six shortlisted acts and songs who survived its cuts and culls to compete in Eurovision: You Decide 2017.
The six songs were played during the Ken Bruce Radio Show on BBC Radio 2 — albeit with plenty of filler in between. Ken’s taste in music has not changed over the past 15 to 20 years. Did that reflect the quality of songs in this year’s selection? Let’s find out…
“Eurovision: You Decide” — The six finalists
“Freedom Hearts” — Olivia Garcia
Songwriters: Gabriel Alares, Sebastian Lestapier, Linnea Nelson, Laurell Barker
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Garcia hails from Wigan. She cut her teeth competing on X Factor 2016, making it all the way to the six-chair challenge.
Her song “Freedom Hearts” was written by a team of Swedes, which may be apparent from the questionable title.
Among her songwriters is Gabriel Alares, who has written Eurovision songs including “Icebreaker” (Norway 2016), “Falling Stars” (Moldova 2016) and “A Million Voices” (Russia 2015).
The lyrics seem to explore a relationship gone wrong and the hope and dismay involved in making it work or letting it collapse. In the aftermath of Brexit you could read a subtle political message, but only if you really want to: “Someone said ‘yes we can’ but we’re still torn apart.” Aww.
Lyrics: “Failing from the start, made us fall apart, look here we are. Slowly fading out, should we run and shout, stay in the dark?”
“I Wish I Loved You More” — Holly Brewer
Songwriters: Kevin Fisher, Courtney Harrell, Laurell Barker, Mattias Frändå, Johan Åsgärde, Oliver Lundström
Twenty-one-year old Holly Brewer is used to rubbing shoulders with celebrities. The Milton Keynes native supported Jess Glynne at her December concert in London, and she previously sang at the wedding of TOWIE star Mark Wright and Michelle Keegan. Get it, girl.
According to her web site, “she aspires to female artists like Alicia Keys, Emeli Sande and Beyonce, and is a very modern vocalist and pianist, so when she performs her repertoire includes hits such as ‘Thinking Out Loud’, ‘Love Yourself’, ‘All Of Me’, ‘How Long Will I Love You’, ‘Make You Feel My Love’, and other favourites which she puts her own soulful spin on.”
Perhaps best described as “a shouty lady song,” her number “I Wish I Loved You More” is a mid-tempo pop number with shades of Jessie J. We also can’t help thinking it sounds like an American Idol winner’s single, which isn’t surprising since the songwriting team includes two Americans (and some Canadians and Swedes).
Lyrics: “You’re the sign and wonder, I couldn’t live without, ooh, amen.”
“Never Give Up On You” — Lucie Jones
Songwriters: The Treatment, Emmelie de Forest, Lawrie Martin
In 2009 she made the live shows of X Factor, ultimately losing to Jedward in a deadlock vote. But now Welsh starlet Lucie Jones is ready to follow in the footsteps of the Irish twins and compete at Eurovision.
Trained by Louise Ryan, the same vocal coach who steered Charlotte Church, she has subsequently starred in the West End production of Les Misérables and appeared as Victoria in the musical American Psycho at London’s Almeida Theatre. But she’s not just a pretty voice: Lucie signed with Select Model Management in 2010.
Depending on your tastes her song is either dreamy and atmospheric or blander than soggy white rice. It comes from Copenhagen-based songwriting team The Treatment, Lawrie Martin and Eurovision 2013 winner Emmelie de Forest, who has been teasing her potential participation in the contest since October.
That month the Danish artist revealed on social media that she had been attending a songwriting camp focused on writing for the British national selection. The caption on the photos described Emmelie as being at the “Writing Camp for Eurovision songs for the UK Eurovision #medleystudio #copenhagen”.
We’re not gonna lie: We’re slightly underwhelmed.
— William Lee Adams (@willyleeadams) January 23, 2017
The lyrics smack of self-belief and perseverance, and the fact we all need someone to lean on. As she says: “Tell me your secrets, I’ll keep them safe, no sign of weakness, it’s a sign of faith, We’ll stand tall, so you don’t fall.”
“Light Up The World” — Danyl Johnson
Songwriters: Dan McAlister, Rick Blaskey, Greg Walker, Chris Sutherland, Ameerah Roelants
Following Danyl Johnson’s 2009 X Factor audition, Simon Cowell said “that was the best first audition I have ever heard.” And, in a seemingly prescient nod to Conchita Wurst, Louis Walsh said, “You’re unstoppable!”
As of August 2016 Danyl was working as an ambassador for the People’s Postcode Lottery.
His inspirational number “Light Up The World” has a musical theatre bent to it and preaches empowerment, aided by the inclusion of a backing choir. Amen, y’all! It also sees Danyl doing a few vocal runs, which he handles with ease.
Some listeners have commented that the song sounds a tad dated, with one Twitter user asking, “Have I woken up in 1993?” We’re going to be generous and say 2002.
Lyrics: “Stepping on your feet, couldn’t see the way, then I heard you say, just stay focused, Dancing to the beat, yeah, your rhtyhm guies the way…
“I Don’t Wanna Fight” — Salena Mastroianni
Songwriters: The Treatment, Nicole Blair, Marli Harwood
From the Copenhagen-based songwriting team that brought you Lucie Jones’ track “Never Give Up On You” comes , comes “I Don’t Wanna Fight” — a contemporary peace anthem. But unlike Polina Gagarina and Dina Garipova, Salena doesn’t turn to balladry but rather a bit of electro production and a mid-tempo dance beat.
In one of the more bizarre hooks we’ve ever heard, Salena entreats us to “put down our weapons, put down our weapons.” Thankfully the X Factor star — who you may remember from 2012 — hasn’t put down her vocal weapons, which work well with the modern track.
Lyrics: “I don’t wanna fight, I don’t wanna fight, We can make it right, Only love survives, We can make it right, We can make it right, If we put our weapons down, We should put down our weapons, put down our weapons, put down our weapons.”
Read the “I Don’t Wanna Fight” lyrics
“What Are We Made Of?” — Nate Simpson
Songwriters: Jon Hällgren, Eric Lumiere, DWB
He made it all the way to judge’s houses on X Factor 2016, but his rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Summertime” wasn’t enough to convince Nicole Sherzinger that he deserved a spot on the live shows.
But music teacher Nate hasn’t given up on his music career and is back with gospel-tinged ballad about human progress and hope for a better future. Some have said it has shades of Israel’s “Made of Stars”, but this feels much more musical theatre.
Lyrics: “We build these walls, we watch them fall, we’re drowning in our secrets, the lies we keep between us…”
About the show
The 2016 show was broadcast on BBC Four, a channel known for highbrow arts programming. But in 2017 it moves to BBC Two, a more popular channel with mainstream music coverage. Eurovision: You Decide will be broadcast from 7.30pm to 9:00pm on Friday.
Ticket prices for the 2017 show are also down from 2016. Tickets for standing areas are £34.25, while seated areas are £37.00. Last year, tickets set back fans £45.00.
Also returning for 2017 is the show’s host, former Great British Bake Off presenter and Eurovision semi-final commentator Mel Giedroyc. She’ll be joined by an expert panel consisting of 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.
Joe & Jake at Eurovision 2016
Last year’s winners Joe & Jake were generally considered credible. While they didn’t set the hearts of all British fans racing, they did sing a contemporary song and oozed chemistry — marking a huge step in the right direction following the incredibly divisive 2015 entry from Electro Velvet.
At Eurovision itself they brought modern staging that had thought behind it — again, a huge development over the year before. In the eyes of many their 24th place finish didn’t reflect the quality of their song and performance.