Entertainment

After Sam Ryder's Eurovision success, it's time to give an alt-pop girl a go

Sam Ryder set a standard for the UK in Eurovision, bringing us out of a musical recession and single-handedly reviving hope that we as a nation can do better.

After two tedious and frustrating decades of feeling like our entry was a mandatory obligation with little illusion we’d place anywhere else but on the right side of the table, the 33-year-old singer-songwriter reinstated the instinct to thrive in the competition.

We chose acts that felt like they were plucked from ‘A Dummy’s Guide to Eurovision’, mostly failing to impress on an international level. It felt like we were simply meeting the criteria.

But after Sam’s second place last year, we’ve finally awoken from our slumber – and I think the British alt-pop girls will be the ones to hand us the win this year.

In the past, our thinking seemed to go something like this: Eurovision is one of the biggest music events in the world, so we sent Bonnie Tyler. It’s one of the campest, so we sent Scooch. And in an attempt to shake things up, we sent a gritty pop star in 2021 who somehow managed to receive nil points after the European Broadcasting Union said it was virtually impossible under their revamped voting system. Brava!

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We became complacent and accepted national embarrassment was a part of the rollercoaster experience. Meanwhile, in other countries, the last decade has borne now-legendary artists, multiplying their success at the contest into global stardom – Loreen, Måneskin, Kalush Orchestra. Instead, we seemed to sit back and watch with no intentions of joining.

Liverpool is hosting the 2023 contest and this year feels different because we’ve gaslit ourselves into believing we are favourites to win. With this shift has come a slew of potential representatives from genres we’ve never considered.

None are more strong, in my opinion, than British alt-pop girls. Rina Sawayama, Birdy, and Mae Muller are the glossy must-haves and are rumoured to be front-runners to represent the UK.

I was lucky enough to see Rina on her Hold The Girl tour in Manchester and, setting aside my subjective feelings to gaze at her through an objective magnifying glass, she’s an absolute powerhouse of talent that could sweep the contest.

Live performance is 95% of the mark when it comes to Eurovision and she can’t be faulted when it comes to the stage.

There’s a powerful energy that fills the room that no one from the past few decades of the UK archives could replicate. With a high tempo track at ear-splitting volume, her performances feel like an electrically-charged moshpit, the exact energy needed to win over Eurovision fans – with Finland choosing literally just that this year in Käärijä’s ‘Cha Cha Cha’.

Mimi Webb recently shut down the speculation she was involved, which ushered in a wave of disappointment among fans. The 22-year-old pop star has a flawlessly executed, effortless style of performing that – backed by the contest’s production values – would be a feast for the eyes and soul. If we’re sending ballads or tear-jerkers, ‘Roles Reversed’ is all that and more.

Armenia’s entry last year, Rosa Linn, stormed Spotify and the charts with a stripped-down, mesmerising performance of ‘Snap’, a similar sound to what Mimi has built her entire career on.

‘I Just Came To Dance’ is hotly associated with Mae Muller’s entry and while it may not be as competitive as some would like, it has the potential to land on every summer playlist. The hooks and lyrics set it up for a few easy points but when we look at Eurovision’s impact as a whole, the journey doesn’t end at the scoreboard – we should be sending artists who can exist outside of the season.

Mae doesn’t need the competition to boost her career but British artists like her make us at least feel like we’re in good, capable hands.

Sam Ryder’s passionate, fully-fledged rockstar performance last year can be built on by the anthemic masterpiece that is Birdy’s ‘Raincatchers’, one of the most speculated tracks from this year. We’ve dabbled in orchestral backing but not to the extent it sends goosebumps running through your body with lone violins.

Birdy brings a haunting vitality that artists around the world would struggle to replicate which, to me at least, makes for a stand-out Eurovision entry no matter the year.

A large number of Eurovision fans are queer or female, which begs the question of why BBC Eurovision never tapped into this demographic. The alternative pop girls who made a name for themselves with little help from the bigger industry are dominating clubs and venues.

There’s an intoxicating energy that feels like an out-of-body experience when you hear the likes of Charli XCX’s ‘Vroom Vroom’ or Slayyyters’s ‘Troubled Paradise’ so why have we long overlooked undeniable bangers from underrepresented genres picking up traction all over the world?

Why are we so keen on searching every corner when the charts and overall social sphere of fans and music lovers are desperately asking to be fed with what the alt-pop girls are serving up on a platter? The speculated potentials this year can all be tossed into the same pool of tremendously underrated by everyone except their fans and could easily have stormed a number of the past contests.

Charli XCX admittedly feels like she’d only be an option if the BBC threw all caution to the wind and said, ‘F**k it’, with the contest housed in some sort of underground warehouse. I’m not so blindsided to see that there’s not a chance in hell the BBC would ever choose a wild child like her, but why isn’t she our limit instead of the likes of Steps?

How can we hope to compete with Käärijä, Serbia’s Luke Black and potentially the queen of Eurovision herself, Loreen, if we don’t match their energy with our own fired-up heavyweights? It feels like we’ve been bringing a knife to a gunfight when the option of a cannon was right there.

The alternative girls have carved a undefiable place in the industry in terms of looks, sound, and impact, so it feels a shame they’ve been underappreciated at Eurovision for so long. 

Sure, they can be downplayed as underground artists with cult followings (which would do nothing but discredit their talent just FYI!) but there’s a glaring reason they’re the people we’re looking to in hopes of building on our former Eurovision glory after Sam’s success.

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