Midlands Zone's Eurovision expert, Dean Asker, shares his thoughts on who's got what it takes to represent the United Kingdom at this year's annual gay Christmas, the Eurovision Song Contest.
When you think of winners of the Eurovision Song Contest, they don’t come any bigger than ABBA. But did you know they won in one of the gayest cities in the world - Brighton?
This year Eurovision returns (well, kind of…) to The Dome, the place where the super Swedes stormed to victory in 1974 with “Waterloo”. Their achievement is even celebrated with a blue plaque outside the building.
Of course, everyone knows that the actual big Eurovision shebang itself is going to be in Lisbon in May, following Salvador Sobral’s win for Portugal last year. Brighton is the location for “Eurovision You Decide”, the UK selection, and fans will be hoping some of ABBA’s magic may rub off on one of the six acts hoping to represent le Royaume Uni. As if things weren’t Swedish enough, Måns Zelmerlöw, who won the contest in 2015, will be co-hosting the event with Mel Giedroyc.
The UK songs and performers have been announced, and favourite to win with the bookies is 16 year old Asanda, whose biggest claim to fame so far is appearing in the final of Britain’s Got Talent in 2013. Her entry, 'Legends', has a Little Mix feel to it, and in Asanda’s own words it’s got an “energetic rhythm and tribal feel”. I wasn’t totally convinced when I first heard it, but some of my (younger) friends are going mad for it. It’s big and bold, and I’m hoping for an equally brash staging. Good luck to her!
Another Little Mix sounding song, 'I Feel The Love' comes from three-piece girl group, Goldstone. With a background in musical theatre, their vocals should be on point, and band member Rhiannon gets bonus marks for citing 2006 Finnish winners, Lordi (those rockers dressed up like monsters), as one of her favourite Eurovision acts. That said, in her little interview on the BBC website, she does refer to them as Nordi, but I’ll forgive her that. If she makes it to Portugal I’ll take her to one side and give her a Eurovision history lesson.
Someone who does, I am sure, know a lot about the Contest is SuRie, a graduate from the Royal Academy of Music, but, more importantly a backing singer for Loïc Nottet and Blanche, who represented Belgium in 2015 and 2017 respectively. SuRie’s song, “Storms”, which she describes as “a hopeful, joyful pop song”, is perhaps the most ‘Eurovisiony’ of the six on offer, although, that said, we’re a long way from the likes of “Making Your Mind Up”. In her BBC website interview SuRie comes across as friendly and politically switched on. Oh, and she also says that Eurovision is “Rainbows, dancing and unicorns”. I love her already.
Although the three other acts have no Eurovision experience themselves, the songwriters do. RAYA is a singer, DJ and dancer, and she has worked with Xenomania and the Ministry of Sound. Her entry, 'Crazy', is a slice of catchy pop with attitude, and one of the writers is Greta Salóme Stefánsdóttir, who has represented Iceland on two occasions.
Another songwriter who’s no stranger to Eurovision is Ashley Hicklin. He composed the brilliant 'Me and My Guitar' for Tom Dice in 2010, and this year he’s lending his talents to the two remaining UK songs, Jaz Ellington’s soulful ballad, 'You', and Liam Tamne’s mid tempo 'Astronaut' (which aims for an Ed Sheeran vibe). Jay took part in The Voice in 2012. His hobbies include woodwork, making beads, and he lists Whitney Houston and Doris Day amongst his singing idols. He sounds fabulous. Liam’s also been on The Voice, and he’s appeared in The Phantom of the Opera and Hairspray. And Liam is a local lad, originally coming from Coventry, so that makes him fabulous as well.
The general feeling amongst the fan community is that the songs are the strongest selection on offer since the BBC brought the national final back in 2015. Is there a Eurovision winner amongst them? The smart money is on Asanda’s 'Legends' but I have a sneaking regard for Jaz Ellington’s 'You', which is very different from the other entries. If he can smash the vocals, I can see Jaz singing his heart out in Portugal.
You can check out the songs on the BBC website: bbc.co.uk/eurovision
Eurovision: You Decide is on BBC2 on Wednesday 7 February at 7.30pm
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