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Every UK Eurovision entry song of the 21st century, ranked

Ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023, in Liverpool from 9-13 May, Attitude takes a (sometimes painful) trip down memory lane...

By Jamie Tabberer

different Eurovision contenders of years past
23 songs - but only 22 acts... (Design: Jack Pengally

23 Daz Sampson – ‘Teenage Life’ (2006)

No. Life’s too short.

22 Josh Dubovie – ‘That Sounds Good to Me’ (2010)

Guess who penned this whole lot of nothing: Mike Stock and Pete Waterman, two-thirds of one of history’s most successful songwriting trios. Perhaps Matt Aitken’s absence explains its trashy 80s cringe. But then, without Kylie Minogue’s alchemistic zing, many SAW records are just cheap. There are exceptions, like Dead or Alive’s daring ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’. In contrast, the only striking feature of this hopelessly trivial blancmange is the diva-tastic backing singers, who distract from a soulless lead vocal. As for Josh’s dancing on the night – like a door-to-door salesman on his lunchbreak – you can’t unsee it.

21 Jade Ewan – ‘It’s My Time’ (2009)

Disney Princess cosplay abounds on this plodding, syrupy slowie from Jade, who would later undergo the tiniest of image changes to score two hits with Sugababes 5.0 before pop stardom ejected her and she landed in the West End. Her vocal’s actually pretty sophisticated, and the orchestral arrangement is sweeping. But we’re demoting it for the narcissistic lyrics alone – we don’t care if Andrew Lloyd Webber and Diane Warren wrote them. It’s your time?! What do you mean it’s your time?! (And what’s with that doorbell at the 1:15 mark?!)

20 Lindsay Dracass – ‘No Dream Impossible’ (2001)

Its paltry streaming number suggests relegation to the pop culture dustbin, and with a chorus this forgettable, we’re not surprised. The lyrics – about perseverance and victory at all costs – have all the intelligence and performative depth of a football chant. Shame: Lindsay sings her heart out, and the tense, orchestral-style synths in the first verse tease a more interesting song. Until a scary, bossy robot insists we go “on and on”, ruining the mood.

19 Blue – ‘I Can’ (2011)

Blue have more guilty pleasures than you think. (‘Best In Me’ is a delight!) But Lee Ryan’s bizarre behaviour in recent ye… well, always – makes enjoying them a weird experience. We certainly don’t miss this dull moan-athon about heartbreak, on which the guys, known for their deliciously smooth harmonies, seem to leave the heavy lifting to a choir. Still, it’s always a pleasure to hear Simon Webbe’s bassy voice, and to be reminded that Duncan James is hot.

18 Jemini – ‘Cry Baby’ (2003)

Weak aftershocks of the 1999 Latin pop explosion and the cataclysmic beats of millennium-era Britney pervade this thin but catchy duet about a break-up. At least it has attitude, and Chris Cromby and Gemma Abbey cookie cutter voices complement each other well enough. Albeit not on the night. The pair were roundly criticised at home for being “off-key,” received nul points and finished last, leading late Eurovision commentator Terry Wogan to opine the UK was suffering a “post-Iraq War” backlash. Blimey.

17 Nicki French – ‘Don’t Play That Song Again’ (2000)

Hilariously self-effacing name aside, Steps would’ve skinned SAW alive for this tinkly, ABBA-esque number in the year 2000. (The intro, in fact, is suspiciously ‘One for Sorrow’…) Nicki’s vocal soars – just don’t accidentally stream it before, or after, Aretha Franklin’s soul-exuding ‘Don’t Play That Song’. It rather puts ‘Don’t Play’s tinny production in the shade.

16 Bonnie Tyler – ‘Believe in Me’ (2013)

From her opening notes, queen Bonnie’s signature grit sets her apart from most vocalists here. Then, the choral production swallows her up and renders her unrecognisable. What happened?! This predictable soft rock power ballad about a woman with a god-complex could be a Celine Dion or Faith Evans B-side – no bad thing – but its underperformance on the night was an embarrassment. Is it bad to have longed for the camp of ‘Holding Out for a Hero’, or the melodrama of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’? One last thing: the lyrics “what ya gonna do when your ship is sinking? You’re crying out for help and just the seagulls listening” are bleak AF. 

15 James Newman – ‘Embers’ (2021)

Poor James. He’s clearly talented, from his rugged, booming, Lewis Capaldi-adjacent voice to his gasp-inducing song writing credits. (Little Mix? Jessie Ware Toni Braxton?!?!?!) But something about ‘Embers’ doesn’t click. It’s an overproduced dance stomper that simply doesn’t suit him, with bland lines that overcook metaphors about fire, heat and rising from the ashes; a cumbersome nod to life post Covid-19. It got ‘nul points’ and finished last.

14 Jessica Garlick – ‘Come Back’ (2002)

Star for a NightMy Kind of MusicPop Idol; Jessica Garlick knew her way around a TV talent show production line by the year 2002 and took this training and ran with it at that year’s Contest in Tallinn, Estonia. The English-Welsh powerhouse imbues this robust tune about lost love with earthy, full-throated soul. She finished third – good on her.

13 SuRie – ‘Storm’ (2018)

Shakira, ex-coach on The Voice, would surely spin for these weird vocal tricks – or is it Dido we’re getting? Indeed, on this militantly rhythmic, chanty anthem about perseverance, SuRie (we don’t have time to look up why she’s called that) has a refreshingly off-piste singing style – especially at that belter of a bridge.  

12 Lucie Jones – ‘Never Give up on You’ (2017)

Just one example of the many gorgeously voiced young stars chewed up and spat out by The X Factor, Lucie’s shot at Eurovision stardom arrived eight years after bowing out early on the show. She’s reliably note-perfect on this sleek declaration of unwavering loyalty to a loved one. But why the unnecessary sadness? It’s like she’s singing from the afterlife. On balance, maybe we can get into ghostly balladeering – but not at Eurovision. 

11 Engelbert Humperdinck – ‘Love Will Set You Free’ (2012)

A superstar in his day, veteran act Engelbert brought some throwback pomp and glamour to a classic number Elvis would’ve approved of. However, like Bonnie, his clout failed to engage Eurovision voters, and he placed 25th. With its mournful guitar, near-operatic warbling and grandiose ending, it’s a solid song – if amusingly antiquated. 

10 Michael Rice – ‘Bigger Than Us’ (2019)

Sorry, but we’ll defend this Leona Lewis-style stormer to the hills. Same goes for Michael’s mature-beyond-his-year voice. The gospel choir is beautiful, the production is spotless, and the message of togetherness the antithesis of Webber’s ode to individualism a decade before. But perhaps Michael’s boy-next-door humility spelled downfall: he lacked star power on the night.

9 Andy Abraham – ‘Even If’ (2008)

This funk, soul, and R&B-inflected gem could’ve been written by Stevie Wonder, and features velvety vocals dished out with effortless style by 2006 X Factor runner-up Andy. And yet, it came last. Why? The game show-like production and dad-dancing weren’t that bad. Surely this Eurovision placing was political…

8 Joe and Jake – ‘You’re Not Alone’ (2016)

Jedward meets High School Musical meets Coldplay (?) in this shiny, up-tempo toe-tapper with a pretty euphoric chorus and some grand “oh oh ohs” and the like. It’s oh so Eurovision. (To further explain the Coldplay reference, this is like if Chris Martin taught a songwriting class to tweens and indoctrinated them with Mylo Xyloto.)

7 Sam Ryder – ‘SPACE MAN’ (2022)

His high-pitched growl is Marmite, but if you can withstand it, there’s a lot to enjoy on Sam’s high-powered pop-rock anthem. Not least the cosmic theme; the sound of a rocket launching at the climax is a cute touch. This one also holds the rare distinction of being a Eurovision hit, reaching number two on the charts. A fitting precursor to the continued improvement in quality at this year’s Eurovision.

6 James Newman – ‘My Last Breath’ (2020)

Far superior to ‘Embers’, James was meant to perform ‘My Last Breath’ in Rotterdam but was thwarted by the pandemic. It’s a crying shame. This warm, guitar-driven anthem about unwavering loyalty is quite literally a breath of fresh air. Full marks for the surprisingly dark lyrics and passionate singing. Again, poor James.

5 Mae Muller – ‘I Wrote a Song’ (2023)

Amid a sea of bland self-empowerment anthems, sang by painfully lame personalities, the UK has missed a trick for decades in not entering genuinely edgy artists at Eurovision. Cue this year’s hellcat-cool Mae Muller: a woman scorned on the trendily self-referential dance stomper ‘I Wrote a Song’. The lyrics are hardly Shakespeare – “I could’ve cried at home and spent the night alone; instead, I wrote a song,” and “da-da-da-da-da-I (woo-woo)” – but they’re direct, and Mae co-wrote it. (Thank God!) To quote Louis Walsh, she “looks like a pop star, sounds like a pop star…” She’s a pop star. And our best shot at the crown in years. Go Mae!

4 Scooch – ‘Flying the Flag (For You)’ (2007)

Following their inexplicable and gloriously-sang moment of pop perfection in the year 2000 with ‘More Than I Needed to Know’ (hats off to cowriters Stock and Aitken), Scooch swapped the cut-off vests and low-rise jeans for absolutely hideous flight attendant garb to become the thirsty, full-blown novelty act they were meant to be. It’s no ‘Come Fly with Me’ – rest easy, Frank Sinatra – but Scooch’s aviation anthem is good, clean fun and has ‘Baby Shark’-level hooks aplenty. In fact, the kids TV jingle vibes grate hilariously with the safety announcement-turned-soft porn phoneline moments. (“Pull firmly on the red cord and blow.”) (“Would you like something to suck on for landing, sir?”) Even more fascinating is the song’s controversial history, from a botched winners’ announcement on Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up to plagiarism accusations and a war of words with Charlotte Church. Look it up!

3 Javine Hylton – ‘Touch My Fire’ (2005)

There’s a distinct lack of sex appeal on this list, but Javine turned up the heat in ’05 with this hypnotic hymn for horniness. It’s annoyingly absent from Spotify, but we’re happy revisiting the finest moment from the Girls Aloud almost-was via YouTube. From her mesmerising dancing in Kyiv (total Beyonce vibes) to her breath-taking beauty shots in the official video: we’re living for it 18 years later. And she sounds amazing: raspy and beyond seductive as she asks: “Are you the kinda guy who’s got that flare?” The track moves at breakneck speed and radiates vitality across a moody, heady Middle East-inspired soundscape. Flawless.

2 Molly – Children of the Universe (2014)

Here’s one for the astrological gays. Molly was in her early 20s when ‘Children of the Universe’ came out, but this force of nature sounds full of wisdom and experience and like she’s been there on this rocky war cry about looking adversity dead in the face. Her lyrics describe personal struggles with arresting honesty, before tackling lofty themes of purpose and the infinite nature of energy… OK, our brains just clapped out on us. But a maverick move, given Eurovision’s prerequisite for dumbed-down fakery. We also enjoy the gorgeous strings and the cryptic, otherworldly production that recalls Enya, and the Ryan Tedder-ish beat. It should’ve done better.

1 Still in Love with You – Electro Velvet (2015)

After nodding off to some of the most wildly unadventurous drivel in British music history for this article, this peppy, swing-tastic ditty from Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas woke Attitude right up. It’s impossible not to move your body to this one. Ironic, then, the pair undersold it on the night with a lacklustre and weirdly rhythm-free performance. (Not having a live band was a wasted opportunity, as well.) But the song itself is perfection, and we recommend listening on Spotify over watching on YouTube. The computerised sci-fi intro is thrilling – it had us checking we had the right song – before big band bliss beckons. The lyrics, both faintly ridiculous and amusingly adorable, concern a back-and-forth between a couple fretting about time apart. “While I’m on vacation/you be a good patient/take your medication/I worry so each time I go!” It’s charming, silly, Eurovision awesomeness. 

The Eurovision Song Contest 2023 takes place in Liverpool from 9-13 May.