The Eurovision Song Contest in May might seem a long way away, but for all-year-round fans it is just around the corner. Even more pressing is the job of selecting the UK entry, which falls upon the British public in two weeks’ time. Earlier this week, the six competing entries were unveiled for the first time.
This year, the format is slightly different and only three songs will compete for the ticket. However, two artists will present contrasting versions of each song, and a panel of judges will decide which one ultimately faces the public vote. Here are the three songs and the six artists vying to be the next UK Eurovision contender.
‘Bigger Than Us’ – Michael Rice vs. Holly Tandy (Laurell Barker, Anna-Klara Folin, John Lundvik, Jonas Thander)
The first song is written by some alumni of Sweden’s mammoth Eurovision selection, Melodifestivalen, and eases us into the selection by covering familiar territory. Bigger Than Us is a song about love, unity and coming together, which is underlined by the X Factor winner’s song treatment it gets from Michael Rice, winner of the BBC’s All Together Now. It’s the kind of song where the first ten seconds will tell you exactly where it will end up in the end, and it certainly doesn’t let us down on that front, right down to the obligatory gospel choir and clumsy key change.
Meanwhile Holly Tandy, who readers might recognise from X Factor 2017, gives the song more a country-pop vibe. It’s a testament to the strength of the melody that it lends itself so well to both styles (much more so than the other two songs on offer), although for all its cute pop girl credentials, this version perhaps isn’t quite as instant. The judges will have the choice between something more performative in the form of Michael’s version or Holly’s less striking but more credible rendition.
‘Freaks’ – Jordan Clarke vs. MAID (Corey Sanders, Jon Maguire, Red Triangle)
Anybody who used to be a Glee fan will be very familiar with the lyrical content of ‘Freaks’, which is an outcasts’ anthem about celebrating individuality. The writers are the only all-British team in the mix and they have previously worked with Charlie Puth, 5 Seconds of Summer and The Vamps. Any of the aforementioned artists would feel at home singing Jordan Clarke’s teen pop version of the song. It perhaps would benefit from being given more of a pop-punk sheen, but what it lacks in power it does make up for with a catchy chorus.
However, MAID’s version is a different prospect entirely. MAID are a girl group made up of Miracle, Blythe and Kat who met at drama school, and their version of Freaks is probably the most left-field entry in the line-up (or in any UK national final for quite a while). The sparse, bassy arrangement emphasises the darker elements of the song, even putting a few extra minor chords in there, and it makes the most of the girls’ close harmonies. There is potential for an interesting performance here, but this version has certainly divided people. We’ll have to wait and see whether it turns out to be an ingenious gamble or a bad misfire.
‘Sweet Lies’ – Kerrie-Anne vs. Anisa (Lise Cabble, Esben Svane, Maria Broberg)
The final song has got Eurovision winner pedigree, with one of the writer’s behind Only Teardrops, Denmark’s most recent winning entry, having a hand in it. The first singer, Kerrie-Anne, is a former teacher and her reading of the song raises the tempo by a good few BPM. Depending on your frame of reference (and perhaps your age), her version may remind you of house anthems of the early 90s or perhaps of more recent hits by British super-producer Sigala. It’s without a doubt one of the favourites amongst the fans, but past UK finals have shown us that this doesn’t always align to the voting public.
Her rival Anisa is a singer-songwriter from Manchester and has chosen to perform the song as a ballad, bringing out some of the emotion in the lyrics. The production and layered backing vocals will put some in mind of R’n’B ballads from the late 90s and early 2000s and in keeping with this tradition, her vocals are front and centre of the arrangement. Once again, the BBC have stayed true to their promise and given us two completely contrasting versions of the same song, and personal choice could play a big part in this decision.
Eurovision: You Decide is on BBC2 at 7.30pm on Friday 8th February.