World of Chig   

Eurovision - Your Decision: The Acts

The first striking thing about the acts in Eurovision – Your Decision is that five of the six acts have already failed to win in televised singing competitions, so it’s easy for people to scream ‘talent show losers’ but this is a pretty good selection, talent-wise. Michelle Gayle can definitely sing; I’ve heard her. She was a bona fide popstar before Autotune was invented and she has done stints in the West End as well. Everyone knows Andy Abraham can sing, and people forget that he very nearly won the X Factor, only losing the first final to Shayne Ward by one percent of a huge vote.

Rob McVeigh and Simona Armstrong were both good on the Joseph and Maria shows and both girls in LoveShy made the last ten in Popstars: The Rivals. They’ve been flogging the clubs and Pride circuit, with some overseas success too, for five years, so they’ve probably even improved in the vocal department.

The act which doesn’t have a TV pedigree is The Revelations, who look very interesting indeed, partly because one of them is Swedish, which always helps in Eurovision-related matters. They are also signed by Alan McGee, who propelled oasis to fame and fortune. Reading this brief interview with them inspires confidence, I must say. They sound like people who take singing seriously and their single from last year, If I Called You On The Telephone, is a corker (even if it had passed me by until yesterday). (See video below.)

The second big change is that there is no novelty song this year. Daz Sampson and Scooch undoubtedly had the most visual, if not gimmicky, songs of the last two years, whatever you think of their musical merits (and I was quite happy with both choices, more so with Daz, partly because I felt sorry for Cyndi last year).

There’s a clear statement here though from the BBC’s new production team. If you don’t let the public vote for a jokey song, they can’t choose one. For those who feel that we haven’t been taking Eurovision seriously enough recently (a view from which I distance myself slightly), step one of the resuscitation mission is achieved already. We can leave the joke entry to Ireland this year. And Estonia. (Ireland’s might be funny. Estonia’s is just awful.)

The new producer, Helen Tumbridge, is highly regarded by people who’ve been involved with previous BBC Eurovision coverage and those involved now, it seems. She was part of the team in the year (2002?) when there was lots of extra coverage on BBC Three (previews, discussions on Liquid Eurovision etc.), when it looked like the BBC was making an extra effort, then Christopher Price died in 2002 and it all fell away again.

Change number three is massive. In a complete turnaround from the current trend in TV to have viewers televoting on everything, in this show the public will have no choice at all who goes through in each of the three pairings. It’ll be down to the ‘celebrity panel’ of three, one of whom will be Wogan himself, in a dramatic change of role. If the other two judges disagree, Wogan will decide which act goes through to the public vote. One of the losers will be given a secons chance by the panel as well. Again, Wogan could have the casting vote on a split decision. In theory, he could decide which four songs go through to the public vote, in a set-up which pokes democracy firmly in the eye. But then, we’ll still have a choice of four, and still have two stages of televoting to get through, so does it really matter. Fans certainly don’t seem bothered, as there’s a general feeling in the air (on fansite fora) that the public can’t be trusted anyway!

So, the contenders. I am not going to go into great detail about each artist, because you can read their biogs on the official Eurovision – Your Decision website, which exists already and will be having a facelift on Friday.

Instead, I’ll just add a few thoughts and some details about the songwriters, courtesy of my friend Marcus, who has been doing some expert googling, so I though his efforts deserved a little more publicity. It's not every day we have a member of the royal family guesting on here, so thank you Marcus.

Michelle Gayle – Woo (You Make Me)

Apparently, there’s a ‘cool sixties vibe’ about this and we know Michelle can sing, but do you know what puts me off this song? It’s the bloomin’ title. I’m sorry, but I just can’t face us, as a country, turning up in Belgrade with a song called ‘Woo’. All attempts to be seen taking it more seriously this year will spiral down the plughole. So, sorry, but no.

Unfortunately, the BBC press release gets a little carried away with its bit on Michelle, describing her as a "chart-topping songstress". If you can tell us what charts she has topped, there may be a prize. It must have been in another country. They also say she has had "a string of Top 10 hits". Does TWO really count as a string? They mention a song called 'Things Are Looking Up' as being one of these top 10 hits. It was actually called 'Looking Up' and made the top ten position of....number 11. Oops! These mistakes have been slavishly repeated on ESC Today (whose ‘news’ story is just a reprint of the press release – so much for journalism). They are about to be removed from the official website…

Don't get me wrong about Michelle Gayle. She's fabulous and I know she can really sing. 'Sweetness' is a '90s pop classic, but her record speaks for itself; she doesn't need lies and exaggeration to back it up.

Morten Schjolin, the Dane who is one of Michelle’s co-writers on this, also wrote Brian Kennedy's Irish entry in 2006 which finished tenth in the Eurovision final. (We’ll gloss over the fact that he also co-wrote Scooch's song last year.)

Andy Abraham – Even If

This sounds upbeat and catchy. I’m not sure I want to see him dancing to it though. It’s been co-written by the people behind Absolute Productions, who worked with Edyta Gorniak (Polish Eurovision star), Geri Halliwell, the Spice Girls and Will Young amongst others. Marcus says they seem to have a Simon Fuller pedigree.

Andy had a number two album with his first release but the second one, only seven months later, only made number 19. His one hit single made number 18 in December 2006, so it's hard to judge his current level of popularity, over two years down the line from all of the X Factor hype.

Rob McVeigh – I Owe It All To You

Rob The Builder was my second favourite of the Joseph contenders, after Daniel Boys. I have to admit to fancying him quite a lot for his cheeky chappy down-to-earthiness, so if this song is half decent, I could easily be swayed. However, since Scott Mills played about three seconds of the intro yesterday before saying no and moving on, I have no idea what it’s like until Friday. There was some speculation before the contest that the Good Lord would be writing a song for this selection, but this is not it, despite Rob and Simona being the obvious likely candidates for a Lloyd-Webber song. However, the writers are interesting and I can reveal a tenuous previous Eurovision link that one of them has. Marcus says that Paul Barry, one of the co-writers, had a hand in Cher’s ‘Believe’ and Enrique’s ‘Hero’ and has written hits for Bananarama and Lara Fabian. Mark Read, the other co-writer, was in boyband a1. (His former bandmate Christian Ingebrigtsen also had a song in a Eurovision national final this year, with the anthemic ‘Eastern Wind’ in his native Norway earlier this month.) Now the funny thing is, I was lucky enough to ‘hang out’ backstage at G-A-Y with a1 back in 2002. They were performing there the same night as Jessica Garlick (the reason I was there) for the club’s pre-Eurovision night and we were all backstage together. (I did post some backstage photos here, but they have disappeared.) Perhaps that night sowed the seed in Mark’s mind to write a song for Eurovision. Perhaps not. Who knows?

This seems to be the only ballad in the contest, which may increase its chances against the uptempo songs, as happened for Cyndi last year.

Simona Armstrong - Changes

Being Romanian is possibly what stopped Simona from getting further than she did in How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? From what I remember, her singing was superb, but she couldn’t shake off the accent and it sowed the seeds of doubt in the audience and panel as to weather she could pull off such a quintessentially English role.

Marcus says that ‘Changes’ co-written by Mari Loretzen (from Norway) and Eleanor Wilson, who are in a duo called Topaz. Another co-writer, Simon Ellis, is another Simon Fuller associate and wrote ‘Don't Stop Movin’’ for S Club 7.

So that’s Romania and Norway for points if we pick this? We might not have to rely on the Schlagerboys to schmooze Malta again.

The Revelations - It's You

They look fabulous, they sound brilliant and one of them is SWEDISH! What more could we want? They're on Alan McGee’s label and the song is written by a guy from another one of his prospects, Captain Soul. My expectations of this song are high and someone who has heard all the songs tells me it is immediately catchy, which is what it’s all about really. And one of them is SWEDISH! Did I mention that?

They seem like a proper group, with live experience (and good taste in clubs). Everything is pointing towards me being very happy if this lot win, but they are the only act with no previous TV exposure. However, see Cyndi last year. It doesn't always matter.

LoveShy - Mr Gorgeous

‘EA’, also known as Emma and Aimee, are the last two remaining members of CLEA, bidding to become the second and third people from the last ten girls in Pop Stars – The Rivals to represent us at Eurovision. Javine (Eurovision 2005) was also one of the five who didn’t get into Girls Aloud, but she was the one who didn’t get into CLEA, possibly because they couldn’t think of a good acronym which used a ‘J’. (JACLE? J-LACE? Not good.)

‘Mr. Gorgeous’ is the only song currently available to hear, as there’s one minute and seven seconds of it on their MySpace page. I think I like it. It’s very reminiscent of Jamelia’s ‘Beware Of The Dog’ which used a Depeche Mode sample, and in Eurovision terms it’s not a million miles from Serebro’s third placed ‘Song #1’ from Russia last year. All of this bodes well.

LoveShy currently have 1,197 MySpace friends, with, they say, a thousand added this week.

Oscar Gorres, who co-wrote this also has what Marcus describes as “a sacrificial song in the Dustin the Turkey pre-selection” in Ireland this Saturday. He is keyboardist with Stockholm based group, Venus. Another co-writer, Teresia Bjarneby, seems to be in a rock band herself although she may be the main focus of the band.

For what it’s worth – and without hearing the songs properly – here’s a wildly uneducated guess as to how it will go on the 1st of March:

Panel votes:

Michelle beats Andy
Rob beats Simona
LoveShy beat The Revelations

The Revelations are put back in as the wildcard.
Andy and Simona go to the bar.

LoveShy and Rob make the final, The Revelations and Michelle are third and fourth and out.

LoveShy beat Rob. LoveShy to Beograd!

I reserve the right to have a better guess when the songs are revealed on Friday. It will also make a huge difference who the other panellists are, to join Wogan, but we don't know that yet either.

Pop Unlimited: A great critique of the acts, with related videos.
Popjustice: Take Your Pick From A Selection Of Losers.

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