He was part of ABBA, who among many accolades and honours, won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton in 1974.

Now Björn Ulvaeus has given his take on how the United Kingdom can turn its fortunes around at the contest after achieving another poor result in Tel Aviv.

Speaking to England’s Smooth Radio, the genius behind “The Winner Takes it All” said that, among other things, the UK is not “attracting the right songwriters.”

The music star started off by stating one very true truism: “I do believe that Eurovision is a bigger thing in Sweden than in the UK.”

No surprise, as Eurovision and its national selection, Melodifestivalen, usually rank at or near the top of the most-watched programs in Sweden each year, with an average viewing figure of around two million.

But Björn made clear that there are more reasons why the Swedes are more headstrong with the contest — in his mind, anyway.

“Because in Sweden, at that time, in 1974, you have to realise that nobody outside of Sweden listened to anything coming from Sweden. It was totally dead. We sent out tapes to various people around the world, and I swear to you, they threw it in the garbage bin directly without listening to it. That’s how bad it was.”

Therefore, they set their sights on the one surefire way for their material to reach an international platform. “And so for us, Benny and me, the only way to reach outside of Sweden was through Eurovision.”

Björn went on to explain how the show is now a different competition than what it was when ABBA won it all, but highlighted that it is still a huge platform to be seen around the world.

“Now it’s different. Now there’s Max Martin and everyone else, you know? But we opened the doors, I think. Overall, we took it really seriously. And I wonder, well, of course, some songwriters in the UK have taken it seriously as well, I suppose.”

While he claimed he could not give any concrete tips to get the Brits a victory in the contest, the Swedish musician did give out a detail he noticed. “I don’t think you’re attracting the right songwriters.”

As he gave out details on future works with ABBA at the moment, he revealed an interesting fact of the process behind their groundbreaking victory: It wasn’t always going to be “Waterloo”.

“We had two songs to choose from back then in 1974. We had one song called “Hasta Mañana” which would have been much more in the typical Eurovision-style at that time, and then “Waterloo” which was definitely not a Eurovision song in our minds.”

In the end, personal style won over Eurovision perceptions. “And we chose that one (Waterloo) – only because it was more fun to perform.”

 

What do you think the UK should do to succeed at Eurovision and turn their fortunes around? Let us know in the comments below!

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EZz
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EZz

If a member of one of the best groups of all time is saying we have rubbish song writers, then we have rubbish song writers period. I would hope next year we send a completely unique artist, with a unique song, because our problem isn’t the artist, its the poor song choices. Come on we’ve got this.

Tim Drake
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Tim Drake

I want UK to send something risky and different in 2020.

Yodenman
Guest
Yodenman

Nice to see that Michael Rice is keeping his family involved in Eurovision. Looks like his little brother is singing for Australia in Junior Eurovision.

Sam Paone
Guest
Sam Paone

I have watched Eurovision since
1986
The notable difference is that today’s
Eurovision isn’t about the song anymore
Its got more to do with the visuals then the song
There have been winners of the last say 10 years
That have left me baffled
And shocked
But visually they had it
Its always been political
But more than ever
Perfect example
United kingdom
I literary was telling anyone who would listen
That it doesn’t matter how fantastic the song was or visually
They are going to come last
Because of brexit
Message loud and clear

Frysk
Guest
Frysk

Do not agree. Sergey Lazarov has not won for the 2nd time because, allthough the songs were good, it was too much performance. Portugal and the Netherlands won because of the song. The performance came second!

dygh
Guest
dygh

Send Freya Ridings already. She can take the crown across the North Sea.

Yodenman
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Yodenman

Sorry but Belgium got there first. Freya is just a British Blanche.

L'oiseau
Guest
L'oiseau

Interesting article. I would highlight “And we chose that one (Waterloo) – only because it was more fun to perform.” That is the atitude that led to the ultimate victory. Unfortunately today only few can claim that.

Luke Mockridge
Guest
Luke Mockridge

Conchita, Jamala and Sobral did not dish according to the Eurovision cookbook neither

L'oiseau
Guest
L'oiseau

Well those are exactly the few I was referring to. The vast majority of countries choose songs that thing are Eurovision-type of song and find singers that may or may not enjoy the song.

Bart
Guest
Bart

Still the biggest success story of Eurovision, putting Dana, Conchita, Mans or Netta in a little insignificant corner.

debra
Guest
debra

I have no doubt you’re right – but come on – it’s unfair to compare every artist to ABBA – especially those who have a two-year career – next to one that has been nearly 50 years.

Bart
Guest
Bart

Your point is only valid for Netta. Dana won 20 years ago, Conchita 5 and Mans 4. In 1978, 4 years after ABBA won, were already megastars… Also, I am not comparing every artist to ABBA. I am just comparing some of the winners that are the god-like darlings for the ESC-fandom. Oh yes, I should also mention Loreen in that bunch.

debra
Guest
debra

gosh you really are a debbie downer on the winners aren’t you? What happened to make you so butt-hurt?

Catalino T. Salao
Guest

I think it’s in the hearts and minds of the songwriters that reflects todays reality.

John
Guest
John

* There is still too much snobbery in England about the competition. Too many people still see it as a joke. We have to start seeing it as other countries do – as a serious, career building opportunity. * Why are British songwriters charged to enter a song? I don’t know any other country that charges for song entries. The last time I entered, it was nearly £70 ! * We need the public involved from the beginning to choose the song. I have entered some excellent songs over the years, and I’ve heard brilliant songs by other writers who’ve… Read more »

debra
Guest
debra

I would argue it’s the same in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – you know the rest of the countries that make up the competing United Kingdom! Perhaps if your knowledge of the country you were submitting to was as good as you say your songs are – you might get on a little better.

Oh – and the public has been involved in selecting the songs over the last few years – and your “excellent songs” still didn’t make the cut.

But in answer to your question – yes you have misunderstood something.

Luke Mockridge
Guest
Luke Mockridge

So Björn states that Eurovision is a matter of relevance in the music industry for a Sweden.

But I have a very uncomfortable question to you: wanna know a secret?

UK is the most relevant country after all and Eurovision is not important. Bam!

debra
Guest
debra

oh dear

Luke Mockridge
Guest
Luke Mockridge

Oh deer,

Eurovision is a Marketing and Distribution Channel for swedish music. UK music sells well without it.

debra
Guest
debra

did you bother to read the article?
Did you see he mentions things have changed since they won
with the advent of the Maxo Martin chuggernaut etc?

Have you heard of Britney Spears? Of Katy Perry? Of N*Sync? Of Backstreet Boys et al? Mainly Swedish written/produced.

Eurovision is still relevant in the UK – otherwise the BBC wouldn’t bother with it. You’d point is somewhat idiotic and nonsensical

Pancake
Guest
Pancake

I hope UK would consider hiring Bekuh BOOM as the songwriter. Not did the songs she wrote ended up Top 10 in the charts (especially DDU DU DDU DU and Kill This Love), she has a lot of credentials writing for both Korean and Western artist.
If UK is serious about finding songwriters, Bekuh BOOM could be their answer.

debra
Guest
debra

why an American? There’s plenty of local talent to choose from already I think!

Lemanic
Guest
Lemanic

Keep searchin’! You won’t find anything if you don’t have the conviction to unite the country for a few weeks of fun. Just dig deeper into the less mainstream and connect them all. Grime, UK Garage, DnB, Heavy Metal, Indie, Northern Soul, Celtic Folk, Madchester, Britpop, Chap Hop, Ska, Hardcore, Donk, PC Music, Vaporwave…
Just connect them all!

Jo.
Guest
Jo.

Public interest remains high despite the poor results, so why invest in the contest anyway. So my answer is…capitalism.

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

It’s bigger than us songwriters. (See what I did there?)
Anyhow, the BMG collaboration should be a move in the right direction. Best of luck to whoever is working on the UK entry.

Alternatively, the UK could hold a referendum on leaving Eurovision, becoming a qualifier or remaining in the Big 5. (I’m not entirely serious of course.)

Briekimchi
Guest
Briekimchi

I think the UK has proven that the only thing they’re worse at than Eurovision, is holding and actioning a referendum. 😉

debra
Guest
debra

you know a referendum isn’t binding right? It’s not a requirement to action anything with the result?

James
Guest
James

Unless legislators made it so.

debra
Guest
debra

which they haven’t (yet)

James
Guest
James

I find it funny that UK people (not you of course) often, if not always, confuse Eurovision with the European Union and severely believe that Brexiting from the EU would also mean exiting from the contest itself.

debra
Guest
debra

perhaps in your world – not in mine!
Be careful the company you keep!

Campbell Grace
Guest
Campbell Grace

He’s mostly correct. The singer is not the issue a majority of the time in recent years, they could all sing very well and were somewhat likeable albeit at times their confidence wasn’t amazing. The staging is a hit and miss, 2017 was brilliant, 2018 was okay but 2016 and 2019 were just too bland. The song is the downfall, very middle lane generic pop songs that just simply do not stand out.

Eurovision fan
Guest
Eurovision fan

I think they found their path. Cooperation with BMG turned out to be nice choice since a lot of songwriters already showed big interest. I really wanna see UK shining at ESC

Gorilla716
Guest
Gorilla716

I highly doubt that’ll change anything

Sun
Guest
Sun

It’s like Australia strategy before 2019. It can be really good or flop. But I think it’s the right direction since they can’t gain any good results through a national final.

1TruSeer
Guest
1TruSeer

Adele and Ed Sheeran could do a duet and UK would still end up in the bottom 5.
Meanwhile some no name from Belgium or Hungary races up the board to take the crown.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Evidence?

Bigger
Guest
Bigger

I always see people (mostly from the UK) say this. But how do we know? The UK has in recent years only sent a handful of worldwide famous artists like Blue, Bonnie Tyler and Engelbert Humperdinck, and that’s it. This is the only useful comparison material we have which can slightly be used for that argument. Blue did quite well, especially for the underwhelming act and vocals, where hardly anything exciting happened. Bonnie and Engelbert were famous back in the days, which the current younger audience cannot relate to. We just don’t know whether that argument is true. But people… Read more »

Roo
Guest
Roo

Blue came top 5 in the televoting despite a lacklustre vocal performance. Imagine if they sang well in the jury performance?

James
Guest
James

And also, a lot of countries have sent older artists, and they either do well (Russia 2012) or otherwise (North Macedonia 2013), so it’s kinda hard to maintain that kind of argument. Bonnie Tyler is as relevant then as it is now, and likewise for Engelbert and of course Julio Iglesias. Outside the bubble, Tom Jones is a prime example of one who have had hits in his day but continues to be a relevant presence today.

Denis
Guest
Denis

When has Bonnie Tyler and Engelbert stayed relevant? Trying to stay relevant doesn’t mean they are relevant. Bonnie Tyler is “relevant ” when she goes to cruises and sing along festivals where she sings her one famous 80s song.
Most young people have no idea who she is. BBC only chose her because they thought the nostalgic factor would work and people would vote for her
And not to mention Engelbert. Not sure what BBC aimed for with that..

James
Guest
James

Relevant in the sense that they are still remembered, they still continue to perform and release new music, and still get recognition overseas. with continued radio airplay and concerts in other countries In Bonnie’s case, performing on a cruise during an eclipse event. 🙂

cmh787
Guest
cmh787

you’re just salty cause UK is bad at eurovision

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

I’m disappointed there’ll be no new Abba songs this year. They were recorded in the summer of 2017, by the time they eventually come out they won’t even be “new”. Are they waiting for the hologram technology to be ready or what? I hope they’ve secretly been recording a full album.

Joe
Guest
Joe

FINALLY! All this British soul-searching about why they’re doing so badly, and only now did somebody finally tell them, “Supposing it’s because you keep sending boring, cookie-cutter songs by bored Nordic songwriters biding their time until they send the good stuff to their own national selections?” I mean, just look at the songwriters from this year’s You Decide: Lise Cabbe co-wrote “Sweet Lies,” which didn’t make it. She also wrote “Love is Forever,” which wound up representing Denmark. Laurell Barker and John Lundvik helped write the actual British entry. Lundvik’s own “Too Late for Love” finished fifth for Sweden and… Read more »

Joe
Guest
Joe

And moreover, the UK is one of the countries that could reasonably happen for. The very structure of national finals in places like Lithuania, Belarus, or Moldova benefits the hired-hand “we-just-want-to-get-a-song-into-Eurovision” types the best. The Nordics and other places like the Czech Republic think a lot harder about the quality of songs they’re working with.

Gorilla716
Guest
Gorilla716

Czech Republic? Their last two national finals each had only one decent song amidst a bunch of mediocre ones.

Jack Pricefield
Guest
Jack Pricefield

Bjorn is on the cards here, finding the right songwriters and matching the correct singers has been one of the biggest issues for UK at ESC in recent years(well, 2017 maybe an exception) thank god BBC have ditched their anti-climatic pick n mix national final to get major record company BMG in charge of a new internal selection process, regardless if the chosen British entrant for Rotterdam is well-known/established or independent/upcoming I just hope they’ve written the song. United Kingdom deserves their Anouk moment in 2020!

Matt
Guest
Matt

I really love and commend his attitude, normally stars from Eurovision past are dismissive of modern Eurovision as either being worse, or too political, or rigged. He comes across really well there, and not giving concrete tips (which when most people give them they’re shallow and meaningless even if they are well-intentioned) helps him come across as very thoughtful, very refreshing take on UK’s current Eurovision luck and the modern competition in general!

Richard
Guest
Richard

There’s no mystery. Choose a song that doesn’t repeat the word bigger 48 times. Even Storm had a a chorus that was repeated too many times. Send something quirky and interesting for a change, Blighty’s been too bland for too long.

James
Guest
James

Spain 1968 had a lot of words repeated multiple times as well and it won.

Springer
Guest
Springer

That was in 1968…

James
Guest
James

It was.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Even taking it seriously as a songwriter doesn’t help when you have no talent. It’s not a mystery.

kuno
Guest
kuno

Bigger, Bigger, Bigger
yeah right,
UK is the biggest troll, with the worst music.
Is just bad, not traditional, not out of the box, just same old bad music.

Erasmus
Guest
Erasmus

I’m really looking forward to the UK’s act this year! I think it will be one of the favourites!

Erasmus
Guest
Erasmus

+ looking forward to ABBA songs, I’ve always loved them + their personality is so great, love how fame didn’t affect them

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

he isn’t lying. outfashioned songwriters + pub singers won’t bring the uk anywhere.

James
Guest
James

Who are the “pub singers”?

Tajikistan
Guest
Tajikistan

Michael Rice, SuRie, Joe & Jake, Electro Velvet

James
Guest
James

I think Surie’s more of a club and lounge type, unless bars and pubs are considered posh in the UK like how they’re shown in British movies.

pepe
Guest
pepe

Don’t know about the rest, but SuRie is definitely not a pub singer.

Loin dici
Guest
Loin dici

One way to degrade a Royal Academy of Music alumna, congrats.

James
Guest
James

Songwriting and finding the right songwriters to pen songs have always been a consistent problem with the UK. There’s really nothing new about that.

Of course, there have been exceptions, and some of its best results since 2009 (a.k.a. entries placing above 20th place) have been reflective of that.