Having been a viewer of The Eurovision Song Contest for 20 years, while I’ve always enjoyed the contest, my home country, the United Kingdom hasn’t exactly done well in it during the last couple of decades. The very first one I saw was when the UK won! A lot of our entries since then haven’t been great really, but I still think some are quite good, so here is my ranking of the UK’s Eurovision entries since 1997.
21) Josh Dubovie – ‘That Sounds Good To Me’, 25th place – last (2010), UK Chart Peak: 179
This hopelessly outdated track sounds like something Rick Astley would have rejected in the late ’80s, and it was indeed written by Pete Waterman and Mike Stock. It’s not really Josh Dubovie’s fault. Granted, he’s not the most charismatic lad who ever lived, but he has a decent voice. This song however has pretty much nothing to work with. It’s so boring and cheesy. There’s an argument that “bad” is defined as “an absence of good”, in which case this song could be the dictionary definition, despite what the title might be trying to subliminally convince us.
20) Daz Sampson – ‘Teenage Life’, 19th place, (2006), UK Chart Peak: 8 (yep, it made the top ten in our charts!)
Of course, there’s also an argument that “bad” is defined as being incredibly awful, in which case this song is more of a dictionary definition. Chavtacular rapping from a podgy bloke acting like a drunk in kebab shop. That’s not even getting to how creepy it is they had the dancers dressed as school girls. The whole thing just makes you cringe. Daz Sampson used to be part of dance act Uniting Nations, and I’ll admit I quite liked their cover of Hall & Oates ‘Out Of Touch’, but even so I can’t defend this Eurovision entry! One of the writers was Ricardo Autobahn, whose main claim to fame before was being responsible for ‘Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia’, that annoying “Hamster dance” novelty song which used a speeded up sample from Disney’s Robin Hood and also sampled a fake recording of that long debunked urban legend about a children’s radio presenter swearing on air.
19) Electro Velvet – ‘Still In Love With You’, 24th place (2015), UK Chart Peak: 114
This was another cringey, awful one. OK, I get that it was meant to be some kind retro-modern soundclash, even down to the band name. But when those two styles are corny big band and tacky nightclub electrodance, should you really combine them?! It just sounds like a racket. The staging was an eyesore as well. Flashing between gaudy yellow and migraine inducing neon purple and blue. Basically, this entry was a mess.
18) Jemini – ‘Cry Baby’, 26th place – last, 0 points (2003), UK Chart peak: 15
We don’t have much luck with male/female duos do we? Perhaps I’m being too generous putting it this high, but I’ve always felt a tiny bit sorry for Jemini. Let’s face it, doing badly in Eurovision representing the UK is hardly an exclusive club, but Jemini will always be the time we got “nul points”. Some blamed it on the Iraq war at the time, but I think that’s too easy an excuse. I don’t think the song’s THAT bad to be honest, as cheap pop and Eurovision songs go. But as an act Jemini were never promising. They were kind of a poor man’s H and Claire, who were a downsized Steps anyway, and Steps have never even bothered hiding their “a bit like ABBA” rubber stamp. But back to Jemini, the worst thing was the performance. Off-key, out of tune. She’s worse than him when it comes to vocals, but he’s probably more embarrassingly overeager. The overall effect is a bit like bad karaoke, except not as fun.
17) Nicki French – ‘Don’t Play That Song Again’, 16th place (2000), UK Chart Peak: 34
That song title is just too easy to make a joke out of, isn’t it? Not least with how many times Nicki French’s cover of ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ was released. But I doubt there are many people out there who have heard ‘Don’t Play That Song Again’ more than once It’s very boring and forgettable. The production is a bit tinny. It sounded really outdated at the time, and even more so now. The staging of this looks very like ’80s/’90s era Blind Date and Nicki French looks a bit like when sitcoms used to do a Blind Date parody and couldn’t get Cilla Black to play herself so they had to get an impersonator.
16) Engelbert Humperdinck – ‘Love Will Set You Free’, 25th place (2012), UK Chart Peak: 60
Middle-of-the-road 1960s crooner Engelbert Humperdinck was the UK’s entrant in 2012. Performing first probably didn’t help, but this song was dull. If you need a sleeping aid, give ‘Love Will Set You Free’ a listen. Honestly, we in the UK can’t really complain that this didn’t do well in the contest. The winner, Loreen with ‘Euphoria’, reached number 3 in the UK singles chart. ‘Love Will Set You Free’ reached number 60. So, even the UK song buying public preferred the winner of Eurovision to our own entry.
15) Joe And Jake – ‘You’re Not Alone’, 24th place (2016), UK Chart Peak: 81
I feel quite bad for not liking this song, as Joe And Jake seem like nice lads and all that, and the song I guess is well-intentioned enough, but the song, the act, the performance, it’s all so…. blandly positive. It feels very like an official charity song on the rare occasions they bother to write an original one. Apparently the track was a leftover from boyband The Wanted, which is some rejection given the songs they actually thought were good enough to be released as singles! On the whole, Joe And Jake – ‘You’re Not Alone’ is just a bit insipid.
14) Andy Abraham – ‘Even If’, 25th place – last (2008), UK Chart Peak: 67
Ex-bin man turned ex-X Factor contestant Andy Abraham is along with Jemini and Josh Dubovie a member of the unfortunate trinity of UK Eurovision entrants that ended up finishing in last place. ‘Even If’ isn’t as dull as I remember. But then the staging is more colour vomit than I remember too. Actually that’s the thing, I have a good memory for useless pop culture trivia, and I completely forgot how this song goes. It’s even fading from my memory since I listened to it again to write this. Andy Abraham performed second in the final, which is an even more of a cursed position than performing first, but it likely wouldn’t have done much better if it was performed later. ‘Even If’ isn’t terrible, but yeah… forgettable.
13) James Fox – ‘Hold On To Our Love’, 16th place (2004), UK Chart Peak: 13
‘Hold On To Our Love’ is a lot better than I remember. James Fox was a lot prettier than I remember too. How come I didn’t really notice that at the time? Anyway, back to the song. The problem with ‘Hold On To Our Love’ it’s sort of a shrug of a song. So OK It’s Average.
12) Javine – ‘Touch My Fire’, 22nd place (2005), UK Chart Peak: 18
You can’t help but wonder if Katie Price – ‘Not Just Anybody’ would have done better in the contest. I mean, it sounded like a Geri Halliwell knock-off, and it was supertacky with all the pink and glitter and Katie Price’s general Barbie-fembot look. But it still might have done better in Eurovision! I maintain though, that Javine – ‘Touch My Fire’ was much better as a song.
Not that it’s perfect. It’s a bit Budget Beyonce. It was following that Eastern tinged pop-R&B trend that was in the charts at the time, and I think they were definitely trying to copy off the ethnopop that had been winning Eurovision. I’m still not sure what “touch my fire” means. Other counties can’t really be judged too harshly for broken English, what was our excuse?
11) Lucie Jones – ‘Never Give Up On You’, (2017), UK Chart Peak: 84 (to date)
This is the UK’s entry for this year’s Eurovision. It might be too easy to pre-emptively blame a poor result in the contest on Brexit, but I can’t see how Brexit is going to do our popularity in Europe any good whatsoever, and politics definitely come into voting in Eurovision. ‘Never Give Up On You’ was first heard earlier this year on Eurovision: You Decide and it sounded tedious beyond belief then, but it’s had a bit of extra work done, and now it’s not bad at all! Co-written by Emmelie de Forest who won for Denmark in 2013 with ‘Only Teardrops’. ‘Never Give Up On You’ has piano and some electro elements, and Lucie Jones’ vocals are quite beautiful. I still can’t see it doing well to be honest, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong. Lucie Jones follows Andy Abraham and also Jedward (who represented Ireland in 2012) and Ruth Lorenzo (who represented Spain in 2014) as former The X Factor UK contestants to compete in a Eurovision final.
10) Blue – ‘I Can’, 11th place (2011), UK Chart Peak: 16
This electro-pop track is neither Blue’s best song nor UK Eurovisions best, but it’s not bad, and had bigger production values than we’ve come to expect from UK Eurovision entries. If it was televotes alone the song would have come 5th. But apparently Lee Ryan messed up in the rehearsal which the juries votes on, so they ranked it 22nd overall. D’oh! You have to wonder why the lighting effects in this performance were green rather than blue. I know in a spectrum and in a rainbow blue and green eventually merge into one another, but still.
9) Molly Smitten-Downes – ‘Children Of The Universe’, 17th place (2014), UK Chart Peak: 23
This entry at least saw an attempt to put some effort in and try something a bit more artistic and contemporary. I should have loved this, I mean ‘Only Teardrops’ is my favourite winner of the last 20 years, and I love artists like Florence + The Machine. But this entry didn’t really do anything for me, I was indifferent to it. The fact that I’ve still put it this high says a lot about how lacklustre most of our recent entries have been I suppose. The thing I mostly remember about the UK in Eurovision 2014 was Molly’s “WTF?!?” face after one of the hosts give her a curlie-wurlie cake from her local bakery.
8) Lindsay Dracass – ‘No Dream Impossible’, 15th place (2001), UK Chart Peak: 32
I have a soft spot for this one. It’s kind of incongruous, nothing really fits together, but it’s another one where at least they were trying. There were cellos and a DJ, a rapper and Lindsay Dracass, 16 years old at the time she was one of the youngest contenders, hit a difficult last note at the end. She does look a bit like they plucked someone out of the audience at random though. The whole thing is very unpolished I suppose, which may be one thing that might have cost it.
7) Bonnie Tyler – ‘Believe In Me’, 19th place (2013), UK Chart Peak: 93
I really liked this! I think it should have done better. However, the lyrics tell a bit of a depressing story. Plenty of pop songs are about unrequited love, but in this one she’s desperately hoping a guy who sounds like the sort of massive pessimist who thinks the glass is always completely empty will notice she’s in love with him! That’s bleak. Well, I still liked it, and apparently it won Best Song and Bonnie Tyler won Best Singer at the Eurovision Song Contest Radio Awards in 2013. It is kind of ironic that Bonnie Tyler sort of followed in Nicki French’s footsteps by representing the UK at Eurovision, isn’t it?
6) Scooch – ‘Flying The Flag’, 22nd place (2007), UK Chart Peak: 5
The difference in its position in the contest and its UK singles chart peak says a lot. ‘Flying The Flag’ I think is the sort of thing that the UK thinks is popular in Eurovision, and also the sort of thing the UK likes more than it wants to admit. This was popular in the UK at the time, I heard it as a lot of people’s ringtones. I think it’s a bit too “We’re being IRONIC” that perhaps us Brits do a bit too much. They have the camp cabin crew thing going on, and lots of Carry On style innuendos; “salted nuts”, “blow into the mouthpiece”, “we wish you a pleasureable journey” “would you like something to suck on for landing, sir?”. That said, the complimentary drink being Bucks Fizz was a nice touch.
But, as someone at my uni said at the time, the UK in Eurovision 2007 were “totally outgayed by the Ukrianians!”, which was ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai’ by Verka Serduchka.
‘Flying The Flag’ is also memorable for Terry Wogan announcing the wrong winner on Making Your Mind Up, saying it was the runner-up Cyndi instead. It’s not quite La La Land being wrongly announced as the Best Picture winner instead of Moonlight in this year’s Oscars, but it was awkward and LOL-worthy enough.
Still, I can’t help but enjoy ‘Flying The Flag’, so I have to put it high.
5) Jade Ewen – ‘It’s My Time’, 5th place (2009), UK Chart Peak: 27
This was definitely the last decent entry we sent in. It was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Diane Warren. It’s quite classy with all the tuxedos and violins, and Andrew Lloyd Webber himself on the piano. Jade Ewen would later become just one regeneration too many in the Sugababes after replacing the last original member Keisha Buchanan. However, Jade was fantastic here. For one thing, credit to her for carrying on as if nothing had happened after a violinist accidentally knocked her arm which knocked the microphone back to her mouth! But more importantly, she gave a brilliant vocal performance. She sings the HELL out of this song.
4) Imaani – ‘Where Are You?’, 2nd place (1998), UK Chart Peak: 15
A UK garage track before UK garage had even hit its peak in the mainstream, ‘Where Are You?’ was quite sophisticated. It sounds very ’90s, not to say it’s aged badly, it still sounds good, but it’s not something that would be made today. The United Kingdom won the previous year, and this entry came 2nd, so we almost had back to back winners! It couldn’t beat Dana International, but there’s no shame coming 2nd to one of the best winners.
There’s a bit of a link with another UK Eurovision entrant. Imaani’s other UK chart appearance was singing on a cover of Adina Howard’s ‘Freak Like Me’. Imaani sang the vocals on the version by UK garage group Tru Faith & Dub Conspiracy, which reached number 12 in 2000. In 2002, the Sugababes version of ‘Freak Like Me’ reached number one. OK, I know Jade Ewen wasn’t actually part of that incarnation of the Sugababes, but I found it an interesting coincidence.
3) Katrina and the Waves – ‘Love Shine A Light’ , Winner (1997), UK Chart peak: 3
I’ve already talked about this in my Eurovision winners ranking. You can check that out if you want: 20 Years of Eurovision Winners – Ranking Post
Despite not being originally written for Eurovision, it fits in with its sentiment and has a nice tune. Terry Wogan even said “If you want a definition of a Eurovision song, this is it”. Maybe people are a bit more cynical nowadays, perhaps this sort of song is naively optimistic and it wouldn’t work. But it’s sweet and nice, and sometimes you need that.
2) Jessica Garlick – ‘Come Back’, 3rd place, (2002), UK Chart Peak: 13
‘Come Back’ was a lovely ballad and Jessica Garlick gave a great vocal performance. Our highest peak in the contest to date in the 21st century, and in the notoriously cursed position of performing second in the running order too. This started a trend of the UK being represented by former reality TV talent show contenders and singers with names beginning with J in the 2000s and the 2010s, but not sadly a trend of us finishing in the top 3. But it is still the best one we’ve sent in this century.
1) Precious – ‘Say It Again’, 12th place (1999), UK Chart Peak: 6
This is probably my most listened to UK Eurovision entry ever. Maybe I just have more nostalgia for late 90s early 2000s pop-R&B, but I genuinely really like this song. Admittedly, it’s probably not a good fit for Eurovision. It’s another one with a difference in its Eurovision placing and its UK chart peak. It’s definitely more of a pop chart hit than a Eurovision song.
Jenny Frost from the group would later find more fame after she joined Atomic Kitten, replacing Kerry Katona. But honestly, I always liked Precious more than Atomic Kitten.
While I guess it’s questionable to put a song that isn’t very Eurovision number one on a Eurovision ranking post, I do think that ‘Say It Again’ is the best song on this list, so it’s my favourite UK Eurovision entry of the last 20 years. I’ll probably play it again now!