At the end of national selection season each spring, many fans write off certain acts as ‘dead on arrival’. But this year — as in years past — a number of these acts put their months of rehearsals ahead of Eurovision to good use, steering their sinking ships away from danger. Whether the changes come in the form of major revamps or minor fixes to styling and song, certain stars took many of us by surprise inside Kiev’s International Exhibition Centre.
Belgium’s Blanche overcame her nerves to deliver a performance tinged with vulnerability that propelled her to the top 4. After a lukewarm response to her song, Georgia’s Tamara Gachechiladze brought the fire (literally) to heat up her stage show and almost qualify for the final. And the Czech Republic’s Martina Bárta managed to lift “My Turn” from a dated snoozefest to an inspirational jazz ballad.
But one lady managed to maintain a constant upward trajectory from song release to grand final performance, and oversaw one of the most improved acts in recent memory. After receiving 5,532 votes, we are pleased to announce that the United Kingdom’s Lucie Jones has won the Vision Music Award 2017 for Most Improved.
Things didn’t look great after the finalists for Eurovision: You Decide were revealed in January. With the studio version often described as boring and monotonous, many fans looked towards Lucie’s competitors to predict who would be flying the Union Jack in Kiev. Reviewing at the time, wiwiblogger William wrote:
The song may have a songwriter with the last name “De Forest”, but that doesn’t make it a good song. Nor does it give it shape or swell or a memorable (or even identifiable) melody. I understand stripped back. But this lacks so much – texture, drive, direction — that Lucie is virtually naked. She may never give up on this song, but I already have.
However, over the coming months many of us began to slowly eat our words.
After an emotional national final performance, Lucie cruised to victory, proving that she had the pipes to transform the song into something memorable and impactful. She was a rare gem who sounded better live than in the studio.
A revamp added subtle electro elements, helping pull the song into 2017 while dusting off the excessive musical theatre feel. Lucie’s tweaked instrumentation created an atmosphere that many began to connect with, while still keeping Lucie’s flawless vocals at the centre of the song.
Then came Lucie’s first rehearsal inside the International Exhibition Centre. Singing in front of a set of mirrors that helped produce a stunning starscape across the whole stage, Lucie blew Eurofans away with the beauty of the staging. The UK began to climb the odds table, even reaching as high as 5th favourite to win three days before the grand final. Hype began to build that Lucie could provide the UK with its first top 10 finish since 2009, with many who had criticised the song earlier in the year now placing it among their favourites (or even their top pick).
Although the UK managed to come top 10 with the jury, Lucie ended up 15th overall. Many people now claim “Never Give Up On You” was one of the most wronged entries of the year; a remarkable feat considering how many people wrote the song off completely upon first listen.
Lucie joins a storied list of Eurovision acts whose fortunes vastly improved from the time they revealed their song to the time they performed it live at Eurovision. Previous winners include Belgium’s Laura Tesoro (2016), Georgia’s Nina Sublatti (2015), Ukraine’s Mariya Yaremchuk (2014) and San Marino’s Valentina Monetta (2013).
Most Improved 2017: Full Results
- United Kingdom’s Lucie Jones – 1,805 votes, 32.63%
- Moldova’s SunStroke Project – 1,167 votes, 21.1%
- Belgium’s Blanche – 1,076 votes, 19.45%
- Georgia’s Tamara Gachechiladze – 933 votes, 16.87%
- Czech Republic’s Martina Bárta – 551 votes, 9.96%
Vision Music Awards 2017: The Nominees
This award is just one of a dozen awards we have launched as part of the Vision Music Awards 2017 (VMAs).
Our 13 categories — from best dressed to most wronged at ESC — identify the contestants who left the biggest impression on Eurovision fans, regardless of whether they won the contest or not.
You can watch the nominations video below, or you can also read more about the awards here.
Photo: Andres Putting (EBU/Eurovision.tv)