Each participating country brings their own unique flavour to the competition. In our series 'How to Eurovision' we've been exploring how each participating country tends to compete in the Contest. In this episode we're highlighting all the special reasons why we love to watch... the United Kingdom!
The northwestern European island nation made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has had a long and pretty successful history throughout its time in the Contest. With a handful of wins, several near misses, and plenty of not-so-successful entries most recently, it's time to take a closer look at how the United Kingdom (UK) typically represents itself in the Eurovision Song Contest!
Close but yet so far
The UK have finished in second place an incredible 15 times since they entered the competition in 1957. In the earlier years of the Contest, the UK fared pretty well and racked up a mighty 5 second place finishes in it's first decade alone. By 1977 they collected another 5 and in 1998 they achieved their most recent second place with Imaani's Where Are You?
It goes to show that the UK knew what they were doing back in the day. They consistently brought in beautiful voices and catchy songs that represented the times. Even to this day, how fun is it to sing along to Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson's Sing Little Birdie from 1959?
Or to whistle to Bryan Johnson's Looking High, High, High (1960)? And how 60's (in the best way) was Kathy Kirby's I Belong? With amazing vocals and whimsical bells, it's little wonder she reached (almost) to the top in 1965.
Speaking of catchy, generational songs, we shouldn't forget about all the wins UK have picked up along the years. Their first back was back in 1967 when Sandie Shaw performed Puppet On A String, yet another easy-to-sing-along-to song that screamed 1960's:
It's also pretty hard not to sing 'Boom-Bang-a-bang' every time you hear Lulu's 1969 win for the UK which controversially tied in first place with the songs from Spain, the Netherlands and France. The same appeal can be said of the lyrics 'bye-bye baby, bye-bye' from The Brotherhood Of Man's 1976 hit Save Your Kisses For Me. Totally 70's. Totally captivating. Totally awesome.
Perhaps this theme of winning with a fun, catchy tune is best represented by their most recent wins. The 1981 group Bucks Fizz performed the fun bop Making Your Mind Up and Katrina and the Waves' sung the memorable Love Shine A Light in 1997 which was performed again by the participants from Eurovision 2020 in the online broadcast event Eurovision: Love Shine A Light.
What do you think of their earlier entries?
The UK aren't afraid to bring in the big guns. They've sent in some pretty well-known artists to the Contest over the years. Some even went on to win Eurovision while some others weren't so lucky, despite their level of success outside of the competition. Here's just a few examples:
Cliff Richard was a hot favourite to win the Contest in 1968, so much so that the British press were asking the question: "What will come second to Congratulations?" However, it was't to be for the rock star who ended up as one of the many second place finishers for the UK. However, Congratulations went on to become a huge hit throughout Europe and Cliff Richard is now Sir Cliff Richard OBE (Order of the British Empire) with a career spanning over 60 years and counting. He competed again in Eurovison 1973 with Power to All Our Friends but landed in third place. Despite never reaching the top spot in the competition, Cliff's longstanding career proves he's still a winner.
At just the age of 15, Lulu already achieved her first hit with 1964's Shout. In 1969 she reached the charts in America with the theme song from To Sir With Love in which she appeared. The Scottish born artist also hosted a variety of TV programmes including her own It's Happening For Lulu but now know she was victorious in Eurovision 1969.
Of course we all know and love 'ONJ' from her iconic performances in Grease and Xanadu, but she was already a successful recording artist before she competed in Eurovision with Long Live Love in 1974 . Olivia had already reached number 1 in Australia and number 6 in the UK with her version of Banks Of The Ohio in 1971. While she didn't go on to win the Contest she did still have some success and finished in fourth place overall.
Katrina and the Waves
The band was already famous for their 1985 worldwide hit song Walking On Sunshine but it would take 12 more years before they graced the Eurovision stage with their feel-good 80's pop song. As previously mentioned, the group was given the 'thumbs up' by Eurovision and they were triumphant (by a then-record margin) in 1997.
In the early 2000's the boy band had already achieved 3 consecutive number 1 albums in the UK and did pretty well in Australia and New Zealand too. As the group embarked on their career comeback trail, the UK decided to bring them along to Eurovision 2011. Despite the positive tone of their song, Blue proved unable to win Eurovision and wound up in eleventh place.
Bonnie Tyler had already taken the world by storm with her classics Total Eclipse Of The Heart and Holding Out For A Hero before she took the Eurovision stage in 2013 with Believe In Me. However, despite her successful career prior to her stint in Eurovision, she ended up at number 19 out of a total 26 entries.
What do you think of the UK taking big stars to Eurovision?
Pop, rock pop, ballads, pop ballads, and... rap?
For a kingdom that delivers a variety of dishes like 'bangers and mash', haggis and scones the UK have generally stuck to pop as their preferred flavour of music in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Like Gina G's 1996 banger Ooh Aah... Just A Little Bit (finished at number 8 in Grand Final):
Scooch's Flying The Flag (for You) in 2007 (finished at number 22 in Grand Final):
And more recently, Michael Rice's 2019 song Bigger Than Us (number 26 in Grand Final):
Unfortunately, unlike their earlier years in the competition, the 'safe' pop songs have been less successful and their last top 10 hit was in 2009 with Jade Ewen's fifth place song It's My Time.
However, it's not like pop is the only music the UK have entered into Eurovision. Surprisingly they've also dabbled a little bit in rap:
Love City Groove with Love City Groove in 1995 (number 10 in Grand Final)
And Daz Sampson with Teenage Life in 2006 (number 19 in Grand Final)
What do you think of UK's tendency to bring a pop song to the Contest?
With their memorable and catchy music, use of star power, and remarkable ability to take second place, the United Kingdom has been a welcomed and loyal participant in the Contest over the years.