If you asked me right here, right now, to name the Eurovision nation I support unconditionally…I’d say Sweden, duh. That has nothing to do with the subject of today’s post, of course – I was just hoping to throw you off track (and remind you that Sweden is the one, they’re my number one, the only treasure I’ll-STOP IT, JAZ!).
The UK, on the other hand, isn’t a participant I always wave a flag for, but they have had more than their fair share of successes in contests past. Every year for the first twenty years of their participation, they finished in the top 10, with eighteen of those finishes in the top five. Clearly, they knew what they were doing back in the day, and the people – be they people on juries or, later on in the 1990s, people at home on the couch – responded accordingly.
As I’m people too (believe it or not) I’m going to take this chance to vote for my faves from Royaume-Uni, if only in retrospect and with make-believe points. I’ve been on a trip through the ESC archives, and here are the ten songs from the land of Cliff Richard that I had to bring back with me as souvenirs.
1 point goes to Are You Sure? by The Allisons (1961)
I find voices that are in perfect harmony hugely satisfying. Are You Sure? plays up to that satisfaction by neatly weaving together the vocals of Allison 1 and Allison 2 (I am currently too lazy to Google-remind myself of their names) into a very cute little ditty about some she-devil who’s callously walking out on one (or possibly both) of these guys. It’s an entry that might prove too saccharine for some, but I find it refreshing to listen to in this day and age, when the pinnacle of pop music is Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. Okay, so that statement’s clearly untrue, but humour my desire to be dramatic, won’t you?
2 points go to Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit by Gina G (1996)
I think we can all agree – I think – that in spite of that cringeworthy ‘Hey girls!’, Gina G was robbed of a top 5 finish in Oslo. Getting through three minutes in that dress without something falling out was a prize-winning achievement in itself, but COME ON! This song is boss. It’s got an irresistible thumping beat, a disco/Eurodance flavour that Alcazar could only dream of recreating, and, when competing in the contest, managed to be both oh-so-90s and ahead of its time. I guess my fellow Aussie Gina found solace in the fact that Ooh Aah became an international hit, whilst Ireland’s winning song The Voice…well, didn’t. I guess that’s proof that the real Eurovision winner isn’t always the one on top of the scoreboard.
3 points go to Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (1981)
This has got to be one of the happiest songs of all time. It’s definitely the happiest song to incorporate skirt-ripping (and to be proudly sponsored by Velcro). It hasn’t dated particularly well, but stick this on at a Eurovision party, or a party being attended by anyone who was a sentient being in England in the 1980s, and the dance floor will be packed faster than you can say ‘don’t let your indecision take you from behind’ (tee hee!). Sometimes I feel like MYMU is one big, long chorus, with the levels of catchy so consistent throughout, and listening to it in 2015, it has a cheesiness that’s charming rather than revolting. At least as far as I’m concerned.
4 points go to Save All Your Kisses For Me by Brotherhood of Man (1976)
So it turns out the UK were big advocates of adorability back in the day, as their third winning entry is as cute as The Allisons’. Save Your Kisses For Me isn’t just SO PRECIOUS IT HURTS, however. It also has a very M. Night Shyamalan plot twist in which we discover that the aforementioned kisses that must be saved are not from an adult spouse, but rather *gasp* a three-year-old child (presumably one of their children…). But mainly, it’s just precious. Tip of the day: make this your first pick next karaoke night, and throw in some of the original choreography just because. If your friends laugh at you, make it known you won’t be saving any smooches for them anytime soon.
5 points go to Come Back by Jessica Garlick (2002)
Who doesn’t love a good ballad? Well, probably lots of people. But I’m not one of them, and if you’re not interested in hearing my opinion, I have no idea why you’re reading my personal blog. As a connoisseur of fine ballads, I can say with authority that Jessica Garlick’s is up there with the second-best of them (or should I say the third-best?). There have been plenty of better ballads in the ESC, before and after she took to the stage in her Pocahontas costume (#WANT) but I still really enjoy Come Back. It’s a simple, well-sung entry that builds nicely before calming the eff down and then soaring again on that final money note. No stripteases or glitter-blowing required.
6 points go to Better The Devil You Know by Sonia (1993)
The UK went retro with Sonia, and her amazing purple catsuit. It didn’t totally work for them (if looks could kill, Sonia’s laser-beam death stare would have incinerated Niamh Kavanagh on the spot) but it was a top-notch effort nonetheless. Sonia’s one of those artists who almost sounds better live than in studio, and she sang and generally performed le crap out of Better The Devil You Know, which more than made up for the weaknesses in the lyrics. As a standalone song, the main drawcard here is how instant and infectious it is, and though I think Ireland’s winner was a very good one, I think I would’ve been happy if the UK had added another trophy to their collection at this point.
7 points go to Say It Again by Precious (1999)
Hi, my name is Jaz, I’m twenty-three, and I’m still the same girl-band and boy-band freak I was fifteen years ago. I was raised on the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, so any act that vaguely resembles either of them AND entered Eurovision – i.e. Eden, Prime Minister or XXL – is bound to rate highly with me. Precious = a British girl band including a woman who’d go on to join Atomic Kitten = musical royalty in my eyes. In terms of my ears, Say It Again is always well received. R & B doesn’t usually go down well in the contest, and this was no exception by UK standards – at the time, 12th was one of their worst-ever results – but I’m a fan, and that fact that this song finished lower than the likes of Love City Groove is inexplicable to me.
8 points go to Where Are You? by Imaani (1998)
There’s not a whole lot you can say about this entry, though I could go on for hours about the painful yet wonderful 90s-ness of Imaani’s hair and outfit. My short and sweet description of the song would go something like this: three minutes of simple but very effective pop. There was a lot of that in the field in Birmingham, with the majority of it scoring well. I wouldn’t dare complain about the UK coming second to Israel, partly because it would be a cardinal Eurofan sin to diss Dana International, and partly because Dana did have a little extra something (and no, I don’t mean…THAT) which helped her forge ahead. But give me the option to listen to either Diva or Where Are You?…and I’ll be all like, ‘Who do you think you are? Don’t tell me what to do! Back off!’. Then I’d probably pick the latter.
10 points go to I Can by Blue (2011)
As if you didn’t know this was coming, especially after my earlier boy band/girl band speech. I still believe this song had ‘WINNER!’ written all over it, and if it wasn’t for a performance that wasn’t so much a complete disaster as it was just wrong all over (Lee Ryan’s vocal fail not included as that was definitely a disaster) it might’ve at least had ‘respectable top five finish’ written all over it. After the Josh Dubovie Incident of the previous year, and the many fails the UK had experienced leading up to the Düsseldorf show, the anthemic I Can gave us a glimmer of hope that Jade Ewen’s success hadn’t been a fluke. And I suppose Blue’s almost-top-10 result – an excellent one in comparison to the likes of 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010 – proved that it wasn’t. Kind of.
Douze points go to Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (1989)
Oh, but you don’t, Live Report. You actually got it super right on this occasion, apart from the whole ‘losing to a song that most of us think is one of the weakest winners, like, EVER’ thing. Now, to clarify, I actually like Rock Me as a song. It’s fun, it’s catchy, and lead singer Emilija had one of the best quiffs in Eurovision history until Jedward came along. But as a winner, it does suffer from a bit of Running Scared syndrome, otherwise known as ‘how the hell did that happen?’. So as much as I don’t like to say that certain songs ‘should’ have won, I’m going to imply it here. Why Do I Always Get It Wrong is the height of UK Eurovision excellence for me because I love 80s music, and I love ballads, and the combination of those two loves here does things to me. Report’s front man Ray helps that along with his effortless vocals in and out of the recording studio. Fashion aside, there’s nothing about this entry that doesn’t work for me.
EBJ extras: Puppet On A String by Sandie Shaw (1967); Let Me Be The One by The Shadows (1975); Rock Bottom by Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran (1977); Love Shine A Light by Katrina & the Waves (1997); Even If by Andy Abraham (2008).
Aaaaaaand cue the complaints! JK. I meant cue the commenting of your personal favourites from the United Kingdom over the last fifty-nine years, interwoven with gushing praise on how amazing you think I am. That’s not asking too much, is it?
Fine then! That’s all for today, but stay tuned to EBJ this week for some Georgia talk. Plus, sticking with the UK and continuing my ‘Vienna Wishlist’ series, I’ll be revealing who I’d draft in to represent them in 2015 if I had the power. To anyone at the BBC reading this: I really, really, really would like that power. In the immortal words of Cyprus 2002, GIMME.