• Dale Roberts

Eurovision 2022: It's UK's time to rise like a phoenix



Opinion


Australia has a long and rich history with the United Kingdom in Eurovision. We've had many Aussies compete for the country, Terry Wogan provided commentary from our first broadcast year in 1983 (and for decades after) and we are pretty generous with points to each other.


And because of this relationship and close cultural ties, many Aussies have a vested interest in the UK and how they go at Eurovision.


I am one of them. I grew in to the Eurovision fan I am today during my seven years of living in the country.


I arrived in London a fortnight after their infamous "nul points" in 2003 and that result seemed to cast a shadow over the British Eurovision experience for much of that decade.


But it certainly didn't stop the passion of British fans with their hope and disappointment equally infectious.


Javine had a cracking song with 'Touch My Fire' in 2005 but finished in 22nd, I delusionally believed Scooch had an incredible entry in 2007 but also finished in 22nd, and Andy Abrahams gave the country another last place in just five years in 2008.



The country was at rock bottom and the public and myself fell into the trap of believing that "Europe hates us" (although I voted for Lorraine Kelly to read the votes from Old Compton Street and for Katie Price to represent UK, so what did I know?).


But in 2009, something happened. The UK tried. Like, really hard.


BBC ran the show 'Eurovision: Your Country Needs You' to find an artist to write a song written by music royalty Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Diane Warren.


Jade Ewen was selected with 'It's My Time' and she promoted the song all over Europe, performing at national finals in Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia and Ukraine. She performed in The Netherlands and on the Polish 'Strictly Come Dancing'.



And guess what? She did well! The UK finished in 5th place, which remains their only Top 10 in the last 20 years.


Since then hope has come through Blue in 2011, 'Children of the Universe' in 2013, Lucie Jones's staging of 2017 and even the new direction James Newman offered in 2020.


But like those 2000s years, that hope quickly turned into disappointment and I won't lie, I've been happy to focus towards the optimism and hope of Australia in the contest.


These disappointing UK results played out over a background of beige national finals, public disdain over the "political" contest and multiple appearances of Bucks Fizz to live out the British "glory years" (the Eurovision equivalent of reliving victory over the Germans in 1945).


Eurovision had become a toxic brand in the UK.


However, in 2022, something has happened.


It looks like UK is trying again.... like really, really trying.


A long haired shining knight from Essex, backed by an army of positive support from BBC's Radio 1 and the pedigree of TaP music, looks like he could turn the tide.


Sam Ryder made his name during the pandemic with TikTok videos covering Adele, Sia and more. He racked up millions of views and followers which saw him win UK TikTok artist of the year, allowed him to release music and put on a tour earlier this year.


Some European press and commentators have gone for the easy trope of "UK chooses TikTok star" to belittle the decision.


But Sam is so much more than that, at 32-years-old, he is an experienced artist of a decade with a stunning voice.


His entry, 'SPACE MAN', is a quality entry and cleverly, Scott Mills on BBC's Radio 1 made the track "song of the week" before he was announced as the Eurovision artist.


This allowed the dubious British public to make up their own mind on the song before being associated with "Eurovision".


The song certainly has something that could easily have both jury and public appeal. There is no doubting his talent and the song "sounds" British, it's what people expect to hear from the country.


Additionally, there is no doubt on his vocal which his live appearance on 'The One Show' proved. It was seriously impressive.



He has rocketed to 4th in the odds and 13th on the fan generated vote of 'My Eurovision Scoreboard'.


For the UK to be this high in recent years is unheard of.


But it's more about the attitude of both Sam and BBC's Radio 1 that has me genuinely excited for their chances, even more than the odds.


Before Sam Ryder was announced, Scott Mills from Radio 1 made this announcement on air about Eurovision,


"I really want to get behind us properly, and I want us all to spread the word, let me tell you, we are doing this, this year and I am now appointing myself Head of Marketing and I need everyone's help... let's be more positive about this.... we need to mean business!"

That attitude is far less "wet bank holiday weekend" and more "sunny Saturday with cider on the common".


Unheard of!


And Radio 1 has been moving in this direction for years. The documentaries in 2020 and 2021 featuring James Newman, and put together by Steve Holden of BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat, has shown love and respect towards the contest.


Most exciting is the artist himself. Sam's enthusiasm and joy of being involved in Eurovision is noble and something that can genuinely change hearts and minds.


When appearing on ITV's 'This Morning, host Phillip Schofield brought up his personal issues with the scoring, implying bloc voting and bias against UK. Sam batted if off in the best possible way saying,


"Believe me it's something I considered much before I said yes to this opportunity. For all of that, I love it so much, I've been watching it since I was a kid, and my enthusiasm is just so much greater than my fear, because I love singing, and singing is about connecting with people.... if I let fear of where I come on a scoreboard define what I want to do with it, in any aspect of my life... I don't want fear to define, I want to go there and sing my head off."


Other British artists have shared similar thoughts in the past, but there is something about the quiet belief and confidence he exudes that makes me believe Sam can.


That effort and belief as well as the quality of the song and his voice will be recognised.


Fans and juries have a funny way of identifying and calling out countries that should do better. If San Marino and UK send the same quality song, of course San Marino will get more votes - they are a micro-state and the UK has a world leading music industry.


Sam Ryder may not be a superstar of the UK music industry, but like in 2009, I truly believe his and the UK's efforts will be rewarded in Turin.


Yes, they have to get the staging right, yes the odds are a little deceiving and no they can't take out the actual title, but a Top 10 position is genuinely possible for the United Kingdom.


And if that happens, it'll be as good as a win for both the country and for the contest as a whole.


As long as they don't beat Australia.