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Rotterdam 2021 United Kingdom 🇬🇧

Out Of The Embers: What’s Next For The UK in Eurovision?

*The opinions made in this article only reflect those of the writer; it is not representative of the views of the entire EuroBuzz team, the EBU, Eurovision or the BBC*

The words ‘0 points’ are something no country wants to hear when it comes to Eurovision. Despite being a memorable result, it’s not one any artist or delegation sets out to achieve. Since the start of the 2000s, only 4 countries have received 0 overall in the Grand Final. All of these have been members of the Big 5, and only one country has received it more than once.

That country is the United Kingdom.

The UK were a Eurovision powerhouse before 2000, 5x winner and 15x runner-up, only finishing outside of the top 10 three times. Fast forward to 2003 and ‘Cry Baby’ – a song that has become widely regarded as the ‘turning point’’ for the UK in Eurovision. It was the first time the UK came last, and the only song to receive 0 in the Grand Final between 2000-2014. Despite credible results in 2009 with ‘It’s My Time’ (5th place), and in 2011 with ‘I Can’ (11th place), the UK haven’t reached the left-hand side of the scoreboard in 10 years.

In 2021, the BBC selected ‘Embers’ by James Newman (who was due to represent the country in 2020 with ‘My Last Breath’). The song received mixed reviews. Some were disappointed and didn’t think it was competitive. Others thought it was reflective of current chart music, and was one of the most credible, radio friendly UK entries in years.

By the end of the voting, the UK received 0 points from both the jury and televote – the first instance of this happening since the induction of the new voting system in 2016, the second time the UK received 0 points, and the first time the UK has come last consecutively, following their 26th place with ‘Bigger Than Us’ in 2019.

The Results

Despite coming 26th, the UK did not have the most last places with the juries. Out of the 39 voting countries, the UK only finished bottom with 3 of them. ‘Embers’ finished 11th with the Polish jury – one place away from scoring a point. Germany came last with 6 juries and Spain with 4. Along with The Netherlands, all 4 countries received 0 points from the televote. The UK came last in 14 televotes, Spain in 6 and The Netherlands in 8. Germany didn’t come last in any televote. It’s important to remember that receiving 0 from the televote doesn’t necessarily mean no one voted, but the volume of votes just wasn’t enough to place you in any top 10.

The Aftermath: How Have the Results Impacted the UK’S View on Eurovision?

After the results, there was a sense of disappointment from fans and the general public alike. When the votes came in, BBC commentator Graham Norton expressed that he didn’t know what to say. Whilst the UK wasn’t going to be one of the main challengers for the win, there seemed to be a sense of hope ‘Embers’ would give the UK their best result in years.

After Eurovision, many people blamed the result on Brexit, some used the vaccine rollout as a reason, and others used a classic point that has been prevalent in the UK for years – that ‘Europe hates the UK’, or are voting against them. This line of thinking can be traced back to 1988, where a viewer alleged during an interview on ‘Open Air’ that the juries changed their points during the results so that the UK couldn’t win with ‘Go’.

The average Eurovision viewer is not sat at home writing a comprehensive list of reasons to not vote for the UK. It’s clear their recent efforts haven’t invoked that ‘wow moment’ – a necessary reaction to actually encourage someone to want to pick up their phone to vote for your song. If your song is just ‘fine’, it most likely won’t do well enough to break through to the left hand side of the scoreboard.

A sentiment shared by many fans is that the United Kingdom took one step forward, whilst almost every other country took two. James did an amazing job and was a great ambassador, but the song just wasn’t strong enough in this year to do well. Songs like ‘El Diablo’ and ‘Adrenalina’ were both favourites, yet ended up 16th and 22nd respectively. Those who came within the top 5 were all favourites to win. Arguably, you could make the case that mostly all of the songs within the top 10 were favourites somewhat. Modern Eurovision requires the entire package – a good song, solid staging, and a charismatic performer. A clear example of this is Ukraine. ‘Shum’ – whilst always tipped to do well – really came together live in Rotterdam. It was elevated by the staging, and the powerful and engaging performance by Go_A.

What is next for the UK?

For the majority of viewers, 2022 is a fresh start, the songs sent in previous years don’t necessarily matter. The Netherlands is widely used as an example of how you can turn the fortunes of a country around. From consecutively not qualifying for 8 years, to coming 9th in 2013 and winning only 6 years later, it should be proof to any country who isn’t doing well at this moment in time that anything is possible if you have the overall package.

One of the ideas presented is that the UK should withdraw for a year in order to review what’s going wrong. Withdrawing isn’t necessarily a bad idea, and can help the BBC return with a fresh and positive outlook. Speaking to other delegations could benefit the BBC, as they’d be able to understand how they’ve managed to build up good results in Eurovision. The idea of a Melodifestivalen style national final is also regularly discussed, however until Eurovision gains a more positive reputation in the UK its unlikely we’ll see this happening, or if we do, it won’t be to the scale other national finals are at this current time.

Not so favourable placings recently have encouraged the teams in Germany and Spain to decide they need to reevaluate their approach. There is hope Italy’s win and France’s 2nd place finish in 2021 will help motivate the rest of the Big 5 to step up their game – after Germany’s victory in 2010, all Big 5 countries gave respectable and credible songs in 2011. The idea being an automatic qualifier is a disadvantage is something regularly debated; however, this year more than ever is proof that it doesn’t matter if your song was performed in the semi final or only in the final – if its good enough, it’ll break through the mould.

The fate of the UK ultimately rests in the hands of the BBC, and the decisions they choose to make going forward. It’s hoped by both fans and casual viewers alike that we will see the United Kingdom back on form again soon.

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