An unknown act? To save the United Kingdom’s Eurovision hopes in 2016? There’s only one man who can put together a hit list of hit makers for ESC Insight. Unfortunately Tom Ravenscroft wasn’t available, so Roy Delaney will have to pick up the slack…
Two years ago, after an event known in these shires as the UBI – that Unfortunate Bonnie Tyler Incident – I offered up a list of potential artists who could have put the pride back into the UK’s Eurovision experience (here it is!). Acts that could have flown our flag with glory, that we could have watched not from behind the sofa, but from the edge of our seats. And although nobody in the corridors of power paid a blind bit of notice to my tatty old slate of suggestions, it did, for one brief golden moment, seem like we were back on the right track.
Although Molly Smitten-Downes wasn’t quite the finished article, the concept of dipping into the star-spotting ‘BBC Introducing…‘ strand was as innovative as it was exciting, and the thought of our entries coming from a vault of fresh and boundlessly creative artists for the next few years really got our hopes up for a bright new future. And then they went and spoiled it all by sending something that wouldn’t have gone amiss on Seaside Special from the Saturday nights of the late seventies.
But we can do better than that. Surely we can. The UK harbours some of the most exciting, boundary pushing and just plain enjoyable music in not only Europe, but the whole wide world, so why don’t we tap into some of the up-and-comers and existing big fishes to see if we can’t creep onto the left-hand side of the scoreboard for once. And we don’t mean Robbie Williams, Alexandra Burke or Geri Bloody Halliwell either.
So come with us on a musical flight of fancy featuring ten UK acts that I’m convinced would have done a far, far better job at Eurovision than that awkward mess we sent this year. Come on Auntie Beeb, be bold. Give a few of them a call – I’m sure they’d be well up for it…
Catfish and the Bottlemen
OK, so if Guy Freeman was serious about going down the BBC Introducing alley, he should have stuck to his guns and picked 2015’s big graduates. This hapless gaggle of indie rockers from Llandudno may have one of the worst names in all history, but their jangling pop bagged them a top gong at the inaugural BBC Music Awards, beating off some pretty big name acts in the process. So go on BBC Entertainment, hand the reins over to BBC Music and let them choose from this pool of decent and exciting emerging talent. It’s all just there at your fingertips – it would be a shame to waste it.
Another BBC Introducing old boy, Bugg’s simple stand up guitar shuffles are pumped full of energy, and would wipe the floor with the Tom Dices and Paradise Oscars of this parish. Imagine if the BBC had picked his breakout hit Lightning Bolt out of the blue a couple of years back. It would have been fresh, unexpected and a surefire vote sponge, while doing something that Britain has always been incredibly good at – edgy guitar-fuelled singalongs. And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s a sweet-faced lad too, so there would be something for everyone.
It’s often been said that we never send anything intrinsically, ethnically British when we select our Eurovision entries in the way that many of the Balkan and Southern nations do. Well how about picking The Unthanks, who are about as regional as you can get. Here two sisters and their mate blend Northumbrian folk music stylings with contemporary genres to create a beautifully fragile and constantly breathtaking sound – it would make Greater Europe stop in their tracks in surprise and wonder. And that’s where votes live, I do believe.
You may not have heard of them, but there is no one getting the British music press as hot under the collar as these Grantham lads at the moment. On paper they might not sound terribly promising – two blokes in their forties shuffling about on stage while one of them recites bitter poetry about lost hope – but in the flesh they’re both incredibly funny and heartbreakingly poignant, and there’s no one making music today who speak more accurately about what it’s like to live in the UK at the start of the 21st century than this lot. It would be a bit of a test picking out a suitably unsweary tune, mind – so be warned, this video includes utterances that even your most offensive grandparent would recoil at.
Public Service Broadcasting
Now what could be more quintessentially British than a couple of boffins in tweed glueing together ridiculously danceable jams out of old public information films in front of a bank of vintage electrical equipment? And they could go one of two routes – either try the stiff upper lip get down of a track like Spitfire, or play to the wider Eurovision audience with their most exceptionally funky, Eastern-themed song Gagarin. The main problem of course would be getting the EBU to agree to them using the voices on the old tapes – but I’m sure they could get the announcer geezer off The X Factor to fill in if needs be. Actually, that would work a treat.
A little over a day before the Potato Waffles advert was announced as the UK’s 2015 Eurovision entry, a massive rumour hit the musical underground that this mob of crunchy twee pop marauders from Northern Ireland had been selected to represent us at the big show. Nobody, least of all the band themselves, have the slightest idea where that idea came from, but what a fabulously bold and exciting move it would have been. They’re cool, cute and incredibly singalongable, and would have doubtless more than doubled the score we eventually got. Come on BBC, it’s not to late to ask them again…
The Sick Livers
The greatest rock ‘n’ roll act currently working in these septic isles are five overweight middle-aged boyos from deep in the Welsh Valleys. Singer Ginge is what Elvis would have become, had he grown up next to a chip shop in a depressed post-industry pit town, and their high octane riffs and infectious choruses would have the punters standing on their sofas doing air guitars and devil horns from Reykjavik to Vladivostok. A slight risk perhaps putting a little known rogue cannon onto the big Eurovision stage, but I guarantee, no one else would rock the house like they would – and what’s more, they really, really want to do it. What have we got to lose, eh?
If we’re looking for someone truly on the up, then look no further than the Twigs girl. Her breathy blend of beats and atmosphere clearly has a section all to itself on Aminata’s iPod, and she’s been raking so many awards nominations this year that she’s going to need a bigger bookshelf. Again, it would be a bold departure for the BBC, but what’s worse – getting single figure points by being innovative and adventurous, or by being knuckle-gnawingly embarrassing? I know which I’d be prouder of.
Manic Street Preachers
A strange choice, you might think, given that their hit making days are apparently long behind them. Well think again. Their recent diptych of albums – Rewind The Film and Futurology – treated us to some of their most touching and inventive work since The Holy Bible, and chief lyricist Nicky Wire has often stated his love for the contest… and even vaguely offered to write a song for it once. They’re always up for new and interesting experiences, too, so I’m sure we could coax them if we ask nicely enough.
Eurovision is a massive show, so who better to fill the huge hall with sound and fury than Britain’s biggest stadium drum & bassists? Even their dullest tunes invoke involuntary head-nodding and foot-tapping from all but the biggest curmudgeons, and they have an array of big name pals who’d be more than happy to put in a guest appearance on vocals, from Emeli Sandé to John Newman to Ed Sheeran, and loads more besides. They’d absolutely blow the roof off, so who cares if the juries hated them – it’s the one the punters would be talking about around the watercooler the following Monday morning, and for all the right reasons for a change.
To Dream… The Impossible Dream…
Of course, this is all pie in the sky and is never going to happen, but a boy can but dream, and if you;ve found a new favourite act in the ten above, my work here is done. That said, who do you think would do a good job for the UK next year and help retrieve our battered pride? And we don’t mean Robbie Williams, Alexandra Burke or Geri bloody Halliwell…