I risk getting myself exiled for this but in my opinion we were quite overrated. The whole song still has that BBC Eurovision waft to it, which is why I never rated its chances, always thinking 11th to 15th was more likely for this entry but I was proved wrong. I guess the thing here that really shone through was the fact that for once we were sending a highly competent and charismatic (even if he's too hammy for my personal taste) singer. The song itself wasn't bad either. It has a good build up to it and explodes just when it needs to.
The best thing about this all (as others have already mentioned) is that now with confidence we can shoot down with evidence any of the "but Europe hates us" rubbish that gets spewed. After years of sending either bad songs or alright-ish songs performed by artists with next to no stage presence, all it took was a half decent song performed by an impressive vocalist who looked like he actually wanted to be there on that stage, and who gave it 110%. It was that simple, and there's plenty more like Sam we can easily find and send.
It will be very interesting to see what happens next for us. I personally hope we avoid immediately going down another cheesy route, even if it did us extremely well this year. I'd love to see us send a current R&B/soul artist, genres I think our country excels at. Someone like Jorja Smith, Nao, Yola, Joy Crookes.. or if we wanted to take a cool risk, an artist along the lines of FKA Twigs would be hot.
I'm not sure what we should send next. I think Sam has proved that a lot of the result comes down to the artist as much as the song.
The song we sent was recognisably British to a European audience (inspirations from David Bowie/Elton John/Queen/The Beatles/Oasis and 90s Britpop) but without sounding completely like a naff pastiche written just for Eurovision. Maybe it wasn't everyone's favourite song in the competition but it was good enough that a singer like Sam could take it to the next level.
Elements which helped us I think were:
- Strong and distinct vocal (super important for the jury results)
- Strong song with a memorable hook and big chorus + build to the finale
- Striking staging/lighting + the revamped guitar bridge/guitar solo which elevated the overall performance without seeming too much like a gimmick
- A charismastic singer with lots of stage and TV presence and confidence to consistently deliver in every rehearsal and show
- Hard work from Sam and his team promoting the song, touring Europe and doing all the interviews giving all the right answers with lots of positivity and smiles and causing no silly controversies
- Sound artistic decisions for the overall package. Even things like his costume and the outfits that he wore to all the press envents and interviews I think show that he 'got' Eurovision without appearing to take the piss out of Europeans. It was sparkly and distinctive (at least compared to our previous 'non-descript British man wearing black leather jacket' efforts) but still had Sam's personality all over it
I do think we need to send a singer with lots of live singing experience. It doesn't necessarily need to be someone who is signed to a label already, even Ed Sheeran learnt his craft couchsurfing and doing gigs at tiny clubs every night until he got picked up. Sam clearly learnt a lot from all the hard knocks of playing with his previous cover bands and singing at weddings etc. and then building up his Tik Tok following. We usually see each year some of the previously unknown performers who have got to Eurovision by national finals/selection processes struggle with nerves come the big night. We had none of that from Sam.
It is a hard line to know what to send though and judging the mood of Europe for the following year. France sent something different this year which had a big Eurovision fan following but it flopped with both the juries and televote. Maybe it was just too out there or a bit dated like Eurovision circa 2010? But then Serbia sent something completely avant-garde which the juries were not so keen on but the public absolutely adored (might again be the personality rather than the song?).
Moldova can send a folk-punk song which the juries hated inexplicably but the public thought was a riot (probably appealed to the dad voters). However if the UK were to try something similar like sending rapping morris dancers or sending Electro Velvet again we know it would be a complete flop. Norway was hyped by the fans, still did badly with the juries and was not as big a success with the public (perhaps it was seen as trying too hard).
The big ballads of Poland, Switzerland and Australia all did fairly well with the juries but all almost the points from the public went to Poland. On the other hand the juries didn't rate Lithuania's song but it clearly touched the public's mood.
Spain and Sweden were predictably slick and did well with both and without Ukraine would have beaten us. Having said that, neither song was anything revolutionary, we have heard similar songs before but the artists both elevated the songs like Sam did. As long as we don't do a Germany and send something completely annoying and forgettable. Or think that sending another generic pop song like Belgium is the answer.
It's a confusing game to play basically. All I hope is that we are able to build on this momentum and not revert to our old ways again next year.