Nul façon. Our embarrassment at Eurovision – positions of 24th, 24th, 17th, 19th, 25th, 11th and bottom since 2010 have led us to the kind of pass where even Sid James, Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey wouldn’t carry on. Olly Murs ruling himself out of Eurovision before he’s been asked means something needs to change. Adele, Calvin Harris, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Brits conquering the global charts, wouldn’t touch it with Sandie Shaw’s bare feet right now. But in five or ten years time, other than an impending tax bill (and to be fair, there’s always Strictly or the jungle for that), what would make them? Here are ten suggestions.
The talent show idea has to go the way of Jemini, Electro Velvet and Bucks Fizz’s skirts
Every so often, some wag pipes up that we should put Simon Cowell in charge of our Eurovision entry. To all intents and purposes, Simon Cowell is in charge of our Eurovision entry. Every time they make a TV show to pick the winner, it ends up X Factor-lite, and those shows have never been about the strength of songs but the performers. We’ve had also rans (not even winners) from Pop Idol, Fame Academy, The X Factor and now The Voice. Stop, before the seventh-placed entry in the 2013 Britain’s Got Talent, finishes in next year’s relegation zone.
Scrap the BBC team picking the entry
In fairness to them, they tried. They persuaded Andrew Lloyd Webber and Diane Warren to write a song when you imagine they had better things to do. They lured Pete Waterman out of retirement (about 20 years too late and the result was Josh Dubovie) and it could have been an interesting way for Blue to relaunch their career if the song had been right. It wasn’t. The thought process behind Engelbert Humperdinck (he’s big in the Balkans, apparently) was admirably thorough. Joe and Jake, Scooch and Daz Sampson were the results of lame talent shows.
Letting the Great British Public, via a talent show, especially a BBC4 show, will lead to duffers. But letting the BBC decide leads to Electro Velvet and Molly.
Five years of cred
A committee of undeniably great figures from the world of British music (thinking Annie Nightingale, Trevor Horn, Jools Holland, Norman Jay, Brian Eno – pick your own) gathers over email, and draws up a shortlist of great British songwriters over the past 20 years and the head of the committee personally asks them. And if it’s rubbish, they get to veto it. Have the following been asked if they’d submit a song to be put in front of 200m people? The list could include Disclosure, Pet Shop Boys, Paul Weller (ideally with the help of Mick Talbot – it should sound like The Style Council and not Solo Weller), Paddy McAloon, Jarvis Cocker, Guy Garvey & Elbow, Difford and Tilbrook, Laura Marling, Lianne LaHavas, Laura Mvula, Naughty Boy, Amanda Ghost, Fatboy Slim, the Chemical Brothers and David Byrne (technically British, if Antony from Antony and the Johnsons was for the Mercury). What’s the worse that can happen? If Brian Eno was writing the letter, would they all say no? Keep that structure in place for five years, and then good people might want in.
The previously stated interest option
New Order and Morrissey have in the past suggested they’d like to represent Britain at Eurovision. Call their bluff. Rumour has it Morrissey cried off, understandably, when the BBC suggested it would involve the idiot ‘talent’ contest and competing against the likes of Katie Price and Nicki French in front of Natasha Kaplinsky or one of the two from Bake Off. You can see why he passed.
The Ivor Novello option
This award celebrates songwriting. Eurovision is meant to. Our last really good entry, Gina G’s Just a Little Bit, was down to Motiv8 being two of the most in-demand producers of the time, having just remixed Saint Etienne’s He’s On The Phone. Ivor Novellos are often won by the most interesting and in-demand (but not always the biggest selling) songwriters of the time – plus a couple of token legend awards. The Ivor Novello winners are all notified that after the awards in May, they can all pitch a song to compete at Eurovision which they can perform or choose a performer. The committee chooses the best one.
Ask the KLF
Avoid the temptation for campness
Look at the other entries in Eurovision. They’re bonkers, scary, sometimes unsettling or off the wall and, of course, a fair few dull X Factor-style ballads, but they aren’t, by and large, that camp. Finland won with Lordi and that was ten years ago. Scooch as air stewards or Jemini just made us look that we haven’t bothered to watch the competition in a couple of decades.
It shouldn’t be a hothouse for developing talent
When ABBA burst on to the scene, they didn’t have Soundcloud, MySpace, professional PRs, TV talent shows, YouTube, celebrity patronage (Ne-Yo signing Connor Maynard, Ronan with Westlife, or Lily Allen discovering Tom Odell). So picking an unknown singer or songwriter may be appealing but the suspicion will fester. If they were any good, how come they’re reduced to this?
…or for the SAGA option
If their career was any good, how come they’re reduced to this? Questions which may have been asked to Engelbert and Bonnie Tyler (and to some extent, Sonia and Michael Ball before them). It just led viewers to cry “oh, THAT’s where their career is at now. Next stop, Buttons at the Theatre Royal, Margate. Whoever’s representing the UK has to be either reasonably up and coming or someone with some stature. Before you say “impossible”, how about…..
Pitching it to the right star could be a wheeze
Robbie Williams has played Knebworth three times, challenged Liam Gallagher to a public fight, joined, left and rejoined Take That, duetted with Nicole Kidman, fronted a Spanish coffee commercial. Most things but he remains a massive star. If you pitched him the idea of releasing a single in March, touring Europe with it to launch his new album, and play to that enormous audience in May, with an album launch in June, he’d be hard pushed not to see the whole experience as a bit of a laugh. If he finished with nul points, is that the end of his career? Hardly. It’s another chapter in his next book with Chris Heath. He survived Radio 1 writing him off, dating Geri Halliwell, the cover version of Freedom, the Do What You Like video, he’d survive this. If not Robbie, there are other big stars who might consider it a birrova laugh. Lily Allen. The Pet Shop Boys were rumoured. George Michael. Sir Tom Jones. They just have to be big and therefore bullet-proof enough to avoid the blast that flopping in Eurovision would bring. In other words, bigger than Blue.