It's been twenty years since the UK last won the Eurovision – nearly a third of the competition's history. Will this year change our chances? We're a little more optimistic than most, but we certainly aren't going to humiliate ourselves as badly as we did the year of that fucking Bird's Eye Potato Waffle song...
Artist: Lucie Jones
Song: Never Give Up On You
Language: English (Good)
Key: D minor (Great)
Key Change? No (Good)
Tempo: 64bpm (Dicey)
Sounds Like: A Portishead remix of Roxette
Looks Like: Kristen Stewart
Reality TV: Yes – came eighth in Series 6 of The X Factor
As this is our entry, let’s break it down in it’s entirety.
First, the key. For ages – FUCKING AGES – the UK has been sending songs in a major key, labouring under the misapprehension that Eurovision songs need to be cheery, camp, uplifting or positive. Which is why we’ve been sending a series of catastrophic major key entries from Joe And Jake, Electro Velvet, Bonnie Tyler, Josh Dubovie, Scooch and others while the rest of Europe has figured out that you need to send moody, swirling minor key songs.
This year, however, we have rectified this. Our song is in D minor – and D minor is one of the most successful keys in modern Eurovision history, winning three times since the turn of the century2. We have finally done it. We have finally figured it out.
Second, no key change. This is great news – especially as it seems to be the fashion this year to change key twice in one song. It would have been all too easy to ramp this song up for a last chorus, really let Lucie’s voice ring out, but it pays to play it classy when it comes to key changes. We did well not to succumb to temptation.
Third, the tempo. This is where things get a little sketchy, but we have at least diverted from massive calamity. Last year, our entry was paced at 128 beats per minute – the absolute worst tempo available3. So you can imagine our horror when Never Give Up On You first debuted on Ken Bruce’s show and we discovered that the piano part was very clearly pushing the ballad along to a count of… 128bpm.
However in the time since the song was picked by the public, the arrangement has undergone a couple of revisions. Significantly (and luckily) the piano line that was driving that 128bpm count has been replaced by slower, much more drawn-out orchestral arrangements, making the song a lot less urgent sounding. Instead of counting at a speed of 128bpm then, the tempo sounds as if it has been halved, working much more comfortably at a count of 64bpm. Though this may seem like a mathematical triviality, it does actually change the nature of the song quite dramatically – which may be enough to save it from walking headlong into the tempo trap.
(The stroke of genius here is that 64bpm also leaves open the possibility for a very easy club mix, if the UK delegation want to get a juiced up version of it played at the Euroclub too. Just play a 128bpm house beat underneath it and buddy, you’ve got yourself a remix right there.)
Then we have the lyrics. Lucie mentions storms a lot in the course of the song, which have statistically been very popular in recent years. Rain, lightning, thunder and storms themselves resonate pretty well with viewers (more so than sunshine and blue skies, which tend to appear in losing entries).
So, on paper at least, it looks like we’re starting to come round to the idea of entering songs that at least bear some resemblance to winning entries. Whether Lucie’s performance is enough to convince Europe of giving her their vote is another matter – but we are (whisper it) seemingly in good stead…
1 One of them being Emmelie De Forest who was 2013’s winner with Only Teardrops
2 Molitva, Fairytale and Rise Like A Phoenix were all in D minor
3 Songs in 127 or 128bpm have come dead last six times since 2000 – and given that there are well over a hundred different feasible tempos to pace a pop song at, this is a damning indictment