Could Bill Bailey, some drag queens, a rock band, a bhangra act or Ed Sheeran restore some pride?
Once again, the UK’s plucky loser lost, and in the process became the first act to get the dreaded “nul points” since the new Eurovision Song Contest voting system was introduced in 2016. So, once again, the UK must try to work out the answers to two big questions.
First, does everyone hate us, and if so, why?
“Yet again, politics is being blamed – but wrongly,” writes Spectator editor and Eurovision enthusiast Fraser Nelson. “The UK was simply outsung and outclassed by smaller countries who made more effort.”
Question answered. Tick.
Second – the more important and thorny conundrum – how can the UK be good at Eurovision again, and who is up to the challenge for 2022?
A number of performers, songwriters and producers have valiantly thrown their hats into the ring, willing to risk their careers in the hope that they can restore some national pride.
Newman “should hold his head up high and we should not come out of Eurovision in my opinion, because it’s the most joyous evening of the entire year musically”, said Cheryl Baker, who brought the Eurovision trophy home as part of Bucks Fizz in 1981.
“But we do need to take on board that they are powerful songs,” she told BBC Breakfast. “We need big production. That’s what they want in Europe. Big production, big songs, big voices, That’s what we need to do.”
Asked for his tips, Damiano David, the lead singer of Italy’s 2021 winning group Måneskin, suggested on BBC Breakfast: “Just try with a band!”
Writing in The Telegraph, critic Ed Power said the obvious lesson from Newman’s result was that “the worst sin a singer at the competition can commit is to be bland”, adding: “There is a Eurovision spirit and it is steeped in outrageousness, kitsch, flamboyance and choruses that go off like confetti bombs.”
Superfan Danny Lynch told BBC Radio 5 Live: “The problem with James’s song was it was nice but it was just playing safe. The UK are trying to play safe and I think we need to take risks.”
So who could be the hero to take that risk?
A campaign is gathering steam after the comedian, classically-trained musician and Strictly Come Dancing winner put himself forward to fly the flag at Italia 2022.
He has proven that he can upset the odds and triumph in a popular vote by winning Strictly in December – and we know he would be able to manage an impressive dance routine.
He is a consummate entertainer and musician. He has called Eurovision “Satan’s karaoke” and tried to enter in 2008, but said he was put off by the “hoops” he was asked to jump through.
“I wrote this eco-anthem about the world and saving the world and it was this bashing, crashing anthem,” he said afterwards. “I used a quote from Dad’s Army and the title was Put That Light Out Mr Hodges.
“It was all about being told to put the light because the power is going to ruin the world and we’ve lost the keys to Eden. It was great and I even did a recording, then they bleat on about jumping through hoops.”
Has his time finally come?
One option is to enlist a pop group with a pedigree of chart success. The last time the UK finished higher than 15th was in 2011, when Blue came 11th.
Could Steps, who have had hits around Europe and made their latest comeback last autumn, step into the breach next year? One of their members is up for it.
But he will have a job to persuade the others.
The band spoke to BBC News in December about the Eurovision question, and Faye Tozer summed up the reason most established artists are reluctant to enter.
“In an ideal world, everybody has this vision of Steps going to Eurovision and being the perfect act, with the perfect song, and we turn it around for the UK,” she said. “But I think in reality, it’s just never, ever going to happen, so it’s weighing up whether it’s worth that risk to us or not.”
Anything but bland, these drag supergroups are made up of contestants from Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, and would provide a blast of fresh air to the British entry.
The United Kingdolls reached number 27 in the UK chart last year with their single UK Hun. The Frock Destroyers released their debut album in December, and its main songwriter is pretty confident Eurovision will happen.
A petition to send them to Italy has 11,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, a collaboration is brewing between another Drag Race star, Tia Kofi, and electropop queen Little Boots.
When Måneskin won on Sunday, Damiano David used their acceptance speech to proclaim: “Rock and roll never dies!” And next year, as a result of their success, we’re likely to see more bands at Eurovision.
UK rock producer Romesh Dodangoda, who has worked with groups like Motorhead, Bring Me The Horizon and Funeral For a Friend, has already offered his services.
If we’re looking for something different (and we are), then a bit of bhangra – as suggested by author Tasha Suri and her family – could work brilliantly.
The UK has bigger and better pop stars than the rest of Europe put together, right? So why not just send one of them?
The Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick suggests that, if we want to prove whether Europe really hates us, Sir Paul McCartney should write a song for Adele to perform. (Although Adele can write quite decent songs of her own.)
There is another perennial piece of logic that says, lots of other European countries send their biggest pop stars, who have already proven their talent and appeal – which is true – so why can’t the UK?
The answer is, artists who might already be big in their home countries have more to gain and less to lose than Brits who are already global stars.
Despite how wounded British fans get when we finish last, the UK – unlike many other countries – has largely treated Eurovision as a bit of a joke for decades. Not many people want to be associated with Eurovision at all, let alone with the prospect of being humiliated at Eurovision.
If four fifths of Steps think Eurovision is too great a risk, what will Ed Sheeran think?
Yes, he might win – which his career does not need, and which would not win him many more fans than he already has. Or… he might have to put on a brave face while being upstaged by a group of Russian grannies.
IT IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.
For 2020’s UK entry – which became 2021’s when last year’s contest was cancelled – the BBC worked with music company BMG to find an entrant, after deciding that teaming up with a record label was the best way to improve results.
A good theory. James Newman was signed to BMG and had already co-written chart-topping hits for Rudimental and Calvin Harris.
It’s not known whether the BBC/BMG relationship will continue – and in 2020 BMG said they weren’t only looking at their own artists for possible entrants. But the list of BMG songwriters and acts could be a good place to start when guessing who might carry next year’s hopes.
The list includes the likes of George Ezra, Jess Glynne and Jamiroquai – but someone less well-known, as Newman was, is more likely to take the chance.