The below editorial features the opinions and views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of #escYOUnited as a whole, Eurovision or the EBU.
“It’s been a long road, getting from there to here. It’s been a long time, but my time is finally near. And I will see my dream come alive at last, I will touch the sky.”
We’ve all heard the self-belief banger dozens of times at Eurovision, and the above lyrics would certainly fit in on the Eurovision stage. But they are not the opening lyrics for a Eurovision entry, but rather for the only theme song with lyrics for a cultural phenomenon whose fandom is as fanatical as Eurovision’s: Star Trek. Or, in the specific song’s case, “Faith of the Heart,” written by legendary American composer and lyricist Diane Warren and used to open Star Trek: Enterprise, the prequel series that ran for four seasons from 2001 to 2005.
Eurovision fans should be no stranger to Diana Warren. Indeed, here are the opening lyrics for the Eurovision song she penned with Andrew Lloyd-Webber:
“I’ve been down, down so long. But those days are gone now. I’ve got the will, I’ve earned the right to show you it’s my time tonight.”
That would be the self-belief ballad “It’s my Time,” performed by Jade Ewen, the representative for the United Kingdom at Eurovision 2009 in Moscow, Russia. Now the point of showing the lyrics is not to claim Warren is recycling her own work or she strictly sticks to power ballads, it’s that some fans of Star Trek and Eurovision whined about her work in almost identical ways. Instead of bowing and repeating “We’re not worthy!” over and over again, a select minority of each fanbase moaned that Warren, who has won more awards than most Eurovision fans have had hot dinners and more Number 1’s than Eurovision fans have done Number 2’s, was not fit enough to pen a track for their beloved franchise.
Born on September 7, 1956 in Van Nuys, California (San Fernando Valley represent!), self-belief is in no short supply with Diane Warren, and a constant theme in her work. She certainly needed it in the 1980s as she worked herself up from sound engineer – a position where she recently revealed in an interview she faced a large amount of sexual harassment – to a songwriter in her own right, breaking out with a Billboard Hot 100 charting hit with Laura Branigan’s “Solitaire” (who also worked with Eurovision 1979 “Heute en Jerusalem” composers Christina Simon and Peter Wolf, and whose work will be profiled in more detail when we touch on her most famous Eurovision connection soon).
The hits never stopped. She has won Grammys and Golden Globes, has been nominated for an Academy Award a staggering ten times, but as is the case with Academy Awards, you know the ones that beat her songs are absolute dog piles. Say what you will about Warren’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” as performed by Aerosmith, but was Stephen Schwartz’s “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt soundtrack really more deserving in 1999? It’s certainly been forgotten while Warren got to watch Tyson Fury, almost twenty years later, serenade his wife in the boxing ring with “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” after he defeated Wladimir Klitschko in a heavyweight title fight. Not sure that beats having an Oscar on the bookshelf, though she provided one of the best moments of Fury’s absolutely bonkers boxing career and helped resuscitate interest in heavyweight boxing.
I could talk about Warren’s expansive discography for days, but I do want to bring up a few highlights. Last week, I mentioned Christina Simon and Peter Wolf had composed two of Starship’s three Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles. Warren wrote the third with Albert Hammond, called “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” featured on the soundtrack for the 1987 film Mannequin, perhaps one of the most insane romantic comedies ever made. For me personally, “The Arms of the One Who Loves You” by Xscape is a highlight. Why? Xscape featured Kandi Burruss of Real Housewives of Atlanta and co-writer of TLC’s “No Scrubs” fame. Warren wrote Celine Dion’s smash hit “Because You Loved Me” and Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break my Heart.” With Aerosmith’s song from the Armageddon soundtrack, Warren had a lock on Number 1’s of the 1990s. She did just as well in the 1980s with DeBarge’s “Rhythm of Night” and the 2000s with Faith Hill’s “There You’ll Be.” We’ll overlook the raft of Michael Bolton singles she wrote.
Towards the end of the 1990s, Paramount Pictures were in the market for a new Star Trek show. There were two shows in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager being produced at the time, and Star Trek: First Contact was a commercial and critically acclaimed smash hit, taking the Borg villains from the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise onto the big screen. Alice Krige’s performance as the Borg Queen was something to behold in 1996, arguably eclipsing Ricardo Montalban’s Khan as Star Trek’s most memorable and sinister villain. In short, people in the ‘90s could not get enough Star Trek, and Rick Berman and Brannon Braga developed a prequel Star Trek show set 70 years before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series. And according to Berman in an interview with Sci-fi Wire, he commissioned “a song that’s got a lot of hopefulness and uplifting qualities to it” to be in line with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision for the show. That sentiment certainly sounds similar to Marcel Bezençon’s reasoning for creating the Eurovision Song Contest after Europe was devastated by World War 2.
The show conceived by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga was initially titled Enterprise and would be about the precursor of the United Federation of Planets’ first tentative steps of exploration. The older version of the Enterprise would be captained by Jonathan Archer, played by Scott Bakula, who already had a legion of science-fiction fans from his “make right what once went wrong” time travel show Quantum Leap, and the show would feature a mostly human crew initiating first contact with friends and adversaries new (the Suleban and the Xindi) and old (the Klingon, the Romulans, the Ferengi, the Borg, etc.). The traditional Star Trek three senior staff triangle was completed by Jolene Blalock as Vulcan First Officer T’Pol and Connor Trinneer as Chief Engineer Trip Tucker. Additionally, Enterprise cast Dominic Keating, the Vidal Sassoon guy from the early ’90s, as Security officer Malcolm Reed, and character actor John Billingsley, who had a cameo as a teacher in Gilmore Girls, played as the alien doctor Phlox. Anthony Montgomery (Leprechaun in the Hood) and Linda Park (Bosch, Crash) rounded out the main cast, though character actor Jeffrey Combs should get special mention for his recurring role as an unhinged Andorian who occasionally bails Archer out of trouble.
Berman wanted to maintain some traditional elements of the Star Trek universe while wanting to give the show an identity of its own. In this, Berman contacted Warren and she managed to recruit Russell “People’s Tenor” Watson re-record “Faith of the Heart” for the very first Star Trek theme to contain lyrics. Wait, did I say “re-record”? Yes. That’s because Warren had already written “Faith of the Heart” for the Patch Adams soundtrack and it was released in 1998, performed by crooner and model train enthusiast Rod Stewart. Patch Adams is a not-too-fondly remembered comedy drama from 1998 starring Robin Williams as Hunter “Patch” Adams, a real life physician who often used humor such as wearing clown outfits when treating his patients. Stewart’s version barely charted (Number 60 in the United Kingdom) and is all but forgotten.
Upon release in the Fall of 2001, Enterprise was met with mixed reviews. But it was “Faith of the Heart” which earned ire from some Star Trek fans. Online petitions with over 4,000 signatures were circulated, and according to Berman, some fans even showed up outside Paramount’s offices to protest. A New Orleans retail manager named Gavin Richmond, who wrote a petition, told Entertainment Weekly that he was “taken aback when he first saw the title sequence of Enterprise, which plays “Faith of the Heart” over a historical montage of human attempts at flight. It’s some sort of ‘80s light-rock thing,” he says. “I think a techno/electronica opening would be [more] appropriate.” Fans like this are how Eurovision ends up with rubbish like Rodolfo Chikilcuatre’s “Baila el Chiki-chiki” in the finals.
Ultimately fans got used to “Faith of the Heart,” and some even complained when they rerecorded new instrumentals for “Faith of the Heart” in Enterprise Season 3, which was by that point renamed Star Trek: Enterprise. However, by the end of Season 2 the ratings had started to wobble. The producers changed tack, and Season 3 featured an action-packed season long arc that was a thinly-veiled commentary on 9/11, and Season 4 featured many two or three season episode arcs that touched back to the Original Series, from the mirror universe to the eugenics war (featuring a guest role for Brent Spiner). Despite this, and also perhaps due to the commercial and critical failure of 2004’s Next Generation movie Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek: Enterprise was shuttered due to flagging ratings and all-round Star Trek fatigue, and it would be another 12 years until a new Star Trek show was released with three rebooted movies from the Original Series between 2009 and 2015. Star Trek: Enterprise does retain a cult following to this day, but lags behind the other franchise series in prestige.
But it wouldn’t be long until Warren ran headlong into another franchise with a rabid fan base that has a loud minority that says stupid things on occasion. After years of sending absolute dreck to Eurovision, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) finally remembered in 2009 that if you hire good writers for your entry you may actually do well. So the BBC commissioned none other than Andrew Lloyd-Webber, winner of Academy Awards and every other award out there for ubiquitous musicals such as Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Lloyd-Webber originally sought out collaborator Tim Rice as a lyricist, but after reviewing past Eurovision entries, Rice declined, telling Lloyd-Wright that he didn’t have the ear for such a project.
So Lloyd-Wright went bold, asking Warren if she would be interested in collaborating. Much to his surprise, she accepted the challenge. Shortly after the announcement of music’s dream team of Lloyd-Wright and Warren, the whingers came out in droves. Instead of being amazed that the BBC had effectively hired the ‘80s and ‘90s most dominant and successfully composers, some fans whined when they found out Warren had never seen Eurovision before and they burped out the tired cliché that you must “know” Eurovision to win it. Warren also had the temerity to be an American, because the Brits’ love of moaning about Europeans is surpassed only by their love of moaning about Americans.
Because the BBC hired two titans of contemporary music, they decided to do the national selection a little differently that year. Your Country Needs You was a show which featured six performers singing cover versions of famous songs, with Lloyd-Webber being the ultimate judge on the show, with input by Lulu and Arlene Phillips. After three heats and a final where three finalists performed Lloyd-Webber and Warren’s collaboration, “It’s My Time,” Jade Ewen was selected. Ewen beat Mark Evans and the duo of Francine and Nicola Gleadall to earn the right to sing “It’s My Time” at Eurovision 2009 in Moscow, Russia.
And the idea worked, as Ewen earned the United Kingdom its second-best placing at Eurovision in the 21st Century by coming in fifth. It was a self-belief power ballad performed perfectly by Ewen on May 16, 2009. As the commentary in that video states, she did the United Kingdom proud. As Lloyd-Webber said before the event, “It is an uphill struggle because Russia and a lot of the European countries resent the fact that we have really taken the piss out of the whole thing. But as least by my doing this, they think we’re taking the contest seriously this year.” Europe recognized the seriousness, and Ewen had received points from all but nine other countries in the final. Ultimately it was not enough to beat Alexander Rybak’s inexplicable winner “Fairytale.”
Ewen’s career continued in a hit-or-miss fashion afterwards, with her replacing Keisha Buchanan in Sugababes a definite plus, and her being the main co-star and femme fatale in the 2016 straight-to-streaming Steven Seagal film End of a Gun making us feel sad about what happens to our Eurovision stars when we discard them after the lights at the tournament have turned off.
The BBC tried again for 2010 with hiring industry big names, and thought they had a winning combination in a way past their prime Pete Waterman, Mike Stock, and Steve Crosby. The song they wrote for Josh Dubovie, “That Sounds Good to Me,” did not sound good to the rest of Europe and came in dead last at Eurovision 2010. As much as the United Kingdom appreciated Jade Ewen’s bucking their awful Eurovision form, the form quickly came back. As fans of perennially struggling soccer teams tell you, “it’s the hope that kills you.” And a nation that lacked self-belief has not bothered the upper half of the Eurovision table again.
How high is your esteem of Jade Ewen’s “It’s my Time?” Did she deserve better? Comment below, in our forum, or on social media.