Saturday, March 3, 2012

UK Eurovision choice : a hump-dincker?

Four years ago, when Andy Abraham was picked to represent the UK at Eurovision, I checked through the records and discovered that, at the age of 43, he was by some distance the oldest ever person to sing for the UK (leaving aside backing vocalists).  That seemed fairly incredible given that many other countries have routinely spanned the age spectrum.  Well, Andy can stop feeling self-conscious now, because his record is about to be broken by the small matter of thirty-three years.  I don't think that's a bad thing at all - it's not hard to imagine someone like Tom Jones going down a storm at Eurovision.  But is Engelbert Humperdinck the right choice of older singer?  Ah hae ma doots.  He seems to have been picked mainly because, decades after his heyday, he still has a residual following in approximately six European countries.  Much the same can be said of Lutheranism.

This is the second year in a row that the BBC have dispensed with the previous tradition of giving the viewing public some say over the UK entry.  I've been trying to pin down what it is that bothers me about that.  It certainly isn't that it lessens the chance of a good result - the public repeatedly demonstrated themselves perfectly capable of making idiotic decisions in the national selection, most notably by picking Jemini rather than Emily Reed in 2003, and Scooch rather than Cyndi in 2007.  But I think what the old system did was give 'us' some kind of ownership over 'our' entry.  Obviously as a Scottish nationalist, it's a bit difficult to get enthused by anything with a UK label on it, but at least having watched and voted in the national selection I could nevertheless just about feel 'represented' by the UK entry.  Whatever song is dreamt up for Humperdinck (and given the nature of what he does, it can only have a niche appeal at best) is bound to feel like an alien body.  I'll have no more stake in it than the French or Icelandic entries (which are both crackers, incidentally) and I'm not even sure whether I'll be particularly cheering it on.

If there really must be an internal selection, the approach being taken is entirely the wrong way round.  The first step is to find an absolutely killer song, and then it doesn't matter whether the performer is well-known or not, as long as they can sing it well - the vast majority of Eurovision winners are unknowns.  Admittedly there's no harm in a singer whose name carries a bit of a 'wow' factor...but to look for that and come up with a man whose last Top 40 hit was in 1972?  It's hard to escape the conclusion that they were getting a bit desperate, rather like Jock Brown was when he said to himself "if I play my cards right here, I could bring Jozef Venglos to Celtic".

Lastly, I'll just make my customary point at this time of year - this is now the twenty-fourth year in succession that there has been no Scottish involvement in the UK Eurovision entry.  France and Cyprus have both been represented by Scots more recently than the UK has.

The union dividend in action.


  1. I was a bit shocked when I heard the choice; and that coming from someone whose favourite singer could be said to be from that vintage (Petula Clark), although she has a far more up to date international chart history.

    It seems to me that if we have a SONG contest, then surely the important thing is the SONG, and so you are right. The first thing is to get a good song.

    When it comes to popular song writing the UK has a not inconsiderable stash of talent at its disposal. From Paul McCartney and Elton John (the same era as Engelbert Humperdinck) to such up to date talent as Emeli Sandé (who would, at last, give our country some connection with the contest).

    Surely there must be someone then, who could write a really good song, then we could choose someone with the talent to sing it well, look appealing and sound good.

    People vote for a variety of reasons. Some, doubtless, in accordance with Terry Wogan's never ending whine, that 'they all vote in cliques, and no one likes Britain' (I wonder why); some because of the performance (costumes, routine, etc); maybe some because the singer is superb him/herself; some because they fancy the singer; some because of the band/orchestration, and some because they can't stop humming the memorable bits.

    Logic says we should take as many of these things into consideration as possible if we want to win, or at least not be routed.

    But there is no doubt that the singer fronting up the whole enterprise is important.

    I've no idea if the man can still sing; I expect that they have made sure of that. I don't know what he looks like, although he was no oil painting in his youth, so that bodes badly. I can only imagine that the genre to suit his voice and age will be a sing-along, country, which I suppose might just be unusual enough to make a mark. Better make sure we have a good arrangement, splash out some of the licence fee on buying him something decent to wear, and hope like mad that there are some elderly ladies watching (and voting) who still fancy him.

    It does seem to me that the BBC is clutching at straws here on the basis that the man has a following in Lithuania.

    It will be anther point of interest in a contest that you and Sophia Pangloss stirred my interest in a couple of years ago.

  2. 'Lastly, I'll just make my customary point at this time of year - this is now the twenty-fourth year in succession that there has been no Scottish involvement in the UK Eurovision entry'

    James, at last I know what the motivating force is behind your nationalism. If we bring back The Bay City rollers would you reconsider ?

    Anyway, you can still get odds of 100/1 for the French entry (various bookies) and 33/1 on Iceland (sportingbet) so I suggest you head towards the online bookies.

  3. Although I love the French entry, I don't think it's 'big' enough to win outright. Iceland might well be worth a bet, though.