We are the country of song – and yet we don’t have our own place at Eurovision | Carolyn Hitt – Carolyn Hitt

Praise the Lord, we are a musical nation! Except when it comes to Eurovision, of course. It’s one of the biggest cultural ironies that The Land of Song doesn’t have an entry for the world’s most famous song contest.

My Welsh independence fantasy always starts with Wales crushing it in this musical smorgasbord.

I don’t care how we would. From Bryn Terfel rapping a hip-hop era in the language of heaven to H from Steps emerging from the mouth of a giant dragon carried by Treorchy Male Voice Choir in sequin blazers. The more Cymru Kitsch, the better.

But there is no decentralization of Eurovision. And even though Can I Gymru has tripled its pyrotechnics budget, that can’t make up for the fact that Wales can’t go it alone in this sometimes surreal but always spectacular celebration of songwriting.

Read more: Eurovision Drinking Game 2022: 12 rules to make the song contest much livelier

The UK is unique in Eurovision setup – four countries must compete under one roster banner. Could we not group the nations of origin separately to demonstrate not only our musical diversity but also our linguistic diversity?

And after the debacle of the past few years, at least someone might love us for a change. Well the three of us at least.

Worth asking. After all, this is a contest where the rules can be bent like a boomerang. Down Under arrived in the north in 2015. A song for Europe? The clue is in the title, you might assume. But that didn’t stop Australia from securing a wildcard entry to mark the competition’s 60th anniversary.

The justification is that Eurovision has a special cult in Australia. Apart from Kylie, their main contribution to popular music is Bjorn Again – the tribute band who imitate the most successful Eurovision contestants, ABBA.

If the Australians found a way in via their obsession with Swedish pop, Wales made an impact via Team GB and less obvious routes.

Mary Hopkins

Knock Knock who’s there? Mary Hopkin, of course – our Pontardawe-born singer who propelled the UK to second place in 1970, narrowly edged out by Dana with All Kinds of Everything.

Then there was Jessica Garlick, who grew up in Burry Port and helped the UK achieve its best charting of the 2000s – third place with the song Come Back.

There was a more tenuous Welsh connection in 2010. It was the shameful year the UK came last in the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time in eight years. Performed by 19-year-old Josh Dubovie and written by stalwart synth pap Pete Waterman, the song, That Sounds Good to Me, didn’t sit well with anyone and scored just 10 points.

But a Welshman did a little better that year. Newport’s Jon Lilygreen, with a Rhondda-tinged backing band, was higher on the voting table. Too bad they were representing Cyprus.

Back in 2013, who can forget how Bonnie Tyler brought the guttural roar of the Mumbles to Song for Europe. “Believe in Me” was the pleading refrain Bonnie sang in Malmö, Sweden that night. And I believed in Bonnie.

Bonnie Tyler is one of many Welsh artists to have represented the UK
Bonnie Tyler is one of many Welsh artists to have represented the UK

When the chorus started, Believe In Me was truly a cracking motivational anthem. It had a good hook, as they say in songwriting circles. I know a little about these things after beating Gary Barlow in A Song For Christmas 1986. Unfortunately, our musical paths have since diverged somewhat. Apparently he did pretty well.

And Bonnie should have done the same. Great song. Good singer. What could go wrong? She came in 15th. Without wanting to sound more eurosceptic than Farage, having a good song and a good voice are never guarantees of success in this continental contest.

Three years later a duo called Jake and Joe represented the British hopefuls – Joe was from Ruthin. The couple did their best to sing a song called You’re Not Alone. Finishing in 24th place, they might as well have been.

But this year more than Tenuous Welsh Connection could still deliver the hit that has eluded Britain since Katrina and the Waves let the light of love travel 25 years ago.

The UK entry is co-written by Amy Wadge, the former Welsh Music Award winner who sent Ed Sheeran into the stratosphere by sharing writing duties for his worldwide hit Thinking Out Loud.

Amy Wadge has written for artists such as Niall Horan, James Blunt, Dua Lipa and LeAnn Rimes among others

Wadge, who is also known for her evocative soundtrack to BBC Wales drama Keeping Faith, created the song Space Man with Tik Tok sensation Sam Ryder. Ryder has 12 million followers on the social media platform – which bodes well for him, giving young voting audiences the contest they are drawn to. But he’s also a real talent with a distinctive falsetto voice that soars skyward like the eponymous hero he sings about.

Critics – and bookmakers – believe Ryder is capable of reaching for the stars tonight. In the words of The Guardian’s Angelica Frey: “His song, Space Man, has big astronaut boots to fill, capturing celestial vibes from Elton John’s Rocket Man, The Beatles’ Across the Universe and Man on the Moon. by REM – but its shrill chorus notes really hit between the eyes. Will having a social media-friendly entrance help break a long streak of failures? It’s hard to say how much sentiment anti-Brexit sabotaged the UK and how bad it is because of a series of terrible songs – but Space Man has been the best for many years.

It is indeed a banger, as young DJs say, and comes with a hint of Wadge’s Cymric class. (Yes, I know she was born in Bristol, but she’s definitely Welsh-qualified.)

But wouldn’t it be great to be there in your own right, tapping into the wealth of songwriting talent in the country of song. Yet in recent years they haven’t even let us wave a Welsh flag. Y Ddraig Goch was banned from the Swedish Eurovision moshpit in 2016.

Read more: Wales compete as an independent nation in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest

Frankly, with the miserably miserable amount of television Sweden sends us, allowing the cheerful color of one of the most beautiful flags in the world on their dark Scandi screens would have done them a favor.

But that year, our national pennant was blacklisted alongside groups like the Islamic State, because the pageant organizers decided on a “flag policy” which decreed that only the flags of members of the pageant and UN states could be displayed so that the event would not be considered “political”. .

Because the Eurovision Song Contest is never political, is it? No not at all. Well apart from the fact that the result was skewed for years by more Allied pacts than WWII.

This is the competition where Finland, Sweden and Denmark vote for each other; Greece and Cyprus trade twelve points and everyone ignores Brexit Britain except Ireland who will do anything not to win it after four triumphs in the 1990s nearly ruined their audiovisual industry . Irish anti-success strategies include being portrayed by a puppet – Dustin the Turkey – and inflicting Jedward on 120 million viewers. Twice.

Yet this year, it’s the best kind of politics. The usual petty partisan tactics will be subsumed by the larger gesture of the organizers – banning Russia. At first they said that Russia could compete since the contest was apolitical, but luckily they reversed their decision.

Naturally, Ukraine are favourites. “They have the sympathy vote and more people than usual can tune in just to support them,” a Eurovision official said this week. Even without the understandable backing, they have a song that can stand on its own. Stefania – performed by the Kalush Orchestra – combines Ukrainian folk and rap and manages to be both energizing and poignant.

Ukraine is the favorite to win Eurovision 2022
Ukraine is the favorite to win Eurovision 2022

The Kalush Orchestra is missing a member after he chooses to stay and fight for his homeland. His remaining bandmates have been given special permission to leave Ukraine for the contest and are due to return right after.

Singer and songwriter Oleh Psiuk helps Ukrainians left homeless by the Russian invasion find shelter and medicine. He created the song before the war but its lyrics took on a new resonance, including the line: “I will always find my way back, even if all the roads are destroyed”.

The Stefania in the title is her mother, but her motherly embrace has also been given new symbolism, as he explains: “After the war started, the song started to mean something to a lot of people because they interpreted as ‘Mother Ukraine’. That’s why the song is in the hearts of many Ukrainians and we hope Europeans will like it too.

Two hundred million Europeans will watch the competition tonight, broadcast live from Turin. And whether we’re in Eurovision or not, when it comes to supporting Ukraine, we all sing from the same score.

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