To say the UK media, including host broadcaster the BBC, does not have a very good relationship with Eurovision is putting it lightly.
Be it in Terry Wogan or Graham Norton’s sardonic Grand Final commentary, which one outlet says is akin to “laughing at foreigners“, claims in the mainstream press of so-called “political voting” and “anti-British bias”, or angered tweets from British viewers vowing that even platinum-selling songstress Adele would not garner so much as a point, there is hostility wherever you look.
More recently, the 2016 Brexit referendum is often pointed out as a reason for the UK’s poor performances, which assumes that a voter in Romania or Azerbaijan is concerned with fishing quotas when watching a live music show.
Perhaps one of the barmier theories came when 1971 singer Clodagh Rodgers suggested to the Daily Mirror in March that the UK would never do well again because of “the hoo-ha with the [AstraZeneca] vaccine”.
A few weeks ago, British news site MailOnline published a particularly ridiculous article in this vein, in which one industry boss had been quoted as saying: “We could have entered Paul McCartney backed by the Spice Girls and still ended up finishing in last place”, which attracted widespread criticism for the British fanbase, who correctly pointed out that neither has been musically-relevant for at least two decades.
The same publication has also labelled 2021 UK representative and Brit award-winning songwriter James Newman, who placed last at the Grand Final with Embers, not earning a single point from either the jury or the televote in the process, a “Eurovision flop” above all else.
This Sunday’s edition of the BBC Radio 5 Live 10am show, hosted by Love Island‘s Laura Whitmore, saw another addition to the blame party, as guest and stand-up comedian Athena Kugblenu voiced her opinion on the UK’s steps towards the next Contest.
It was announced last week that TaP Music, the record label behind the likes of Dua Lipa, Ellie Goulding and Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock, had signed a contract with the BBC to select the act and song for the UK at Eurovision 2022, which attracted support from such big UK pop acts as Mel C, Sir Elton John and Lipa herself.
However, her prominence in last week’s news must have led Kugblenu to assume the British-Kosovar voice behind such hits as New Rules, idgaf and One Kiss would be flying the Union Flag in Turin, as she went on to say:
“The spirit of Eurovision is that, it’s like, the country chooses a song, but now, we’re going: ‘Nah, we’re going to go in all guns blazing’, and we’ve got Dua Lipa’s team doing our song. And Dua Lipa basically cannot write a bad song. Her team have had hit after hit after hit after hit. I don’t know what artistry or magic potion […] they’re taking to create a Eurovision song that might not win Eurovision next year, but might win for the next 20 years. They might say: ‘Let’s cancel Eurovision, let’s stop. That was the greatest song ever. Let’s not do it again.’ So I’m worried now because, if Dua Lipa can’t win the UK Eurovision, we need to retire, right? That’s kind of it. That’s the last roll of the dice.”
(Athena Kugblenu on ‘Laura Whitmore’, BBC Radio 5 Live (broadcast 24th October 2021, 10:00-12:00))
Showcasing a brazen lack of knowledge of how the show works, she professes that anyone who writes a song for Eurovision must have taken some sort of “magic potion” because no-one sane (or, I guess, British) would ever do so, and also cooks up a hypothetical scenario in which a country would pull out if they won with the “greatest song ever” (if that was the case, Sweden wouldn’t have come back after 2012 even to host the Contest).
In another part of the interview, Kugblenu says it “breaks my heart” that the UK has done so badly of late, because “no-one likes us”, repeating the closely-held assumption in the British media that the UK is always doomed at the Contest because of a combination of Brexit fallout and neighbourly-voting.
A portion of this interview posted to Twitter has attracted considerable anger from British fans.
“If [Dua Lipa] did [represent the UK at Eurovision] I’m sure she’d do well, but it’s pretty arrogant to assume a famous pop star from the UK will automatically beat a famous pop star from Italy or Russia or Sweden.”
“It’s time that the BBC stopped giving a platform to commentators that have no knowledge or no interest of what the Eurovision Song Contest is. Dua Lipa is not confirmed as singing/writing the song & its wrong 2 [sic] imply the UK should pull out. STOP NOW with negativity BBC.”
“It’s been years since we sent anything worth voting for. Europe also knows we don’t take it seriously, and they ‘reward’ us accordingly.”
(Selection of comments under 5 Live’s Twitter status)
A pleasant reminder to Kugblenu (who we hate to have a go at because we really like her comedy) may be in order that the UK sent Bonnie Tyler in 2013, who had legions of fans across Europe, and she came 19th, while Jessica Garlick, who came 9th in Pop Idol (the UK’s precursor to The X Factor) a few months earlier, finished 3rd in 2002. It is, after all, the Eurovision Song Contest.
How do you think the deal with TaP will go for the UK at Eurovision 2022? Will they be Bigger Than Us, or just a bit of a Cry Baby? Let us know in the comments and on our various social media platforms.