Blue became the latest act to challenge for Eurovision 2011 favouritism ahead of the official unveiling of their song ‘I Can’ on the BBC’s Graham Norton Show. At the time of writing they can be backed at odds of 8.2 on Betfair to win it for the UK.
The song leaked briefly on youtube today via Eurovision messageboards, so without having seen the live performance we can at least assess the studio version. Blue promised us a modern, “anthemic” ballad. Have they delivered something worthy of the hype?
‘I Can’ is a slick, shrewd song which I can see scoring well. It ticks plenty of Eurovision boxes: it’s a well-structured, immediate, contemporary, mid-tempo pop number.
The verses build nicely. There’s an excellent pre-chorus refrain that creates a good transition into the main part of the song. The chorus contains a strong, simple lyrical message about overcoming adversity that the whole of Europe can understand and that is appropriate for the band’s comeback effort.
The production is very modern – it sounds like something you’d find in the charts by any one of numerous R’n’B artists (Jason Derulo is just the first one that springs to mind). It has also been written to complement their different vocal styles and abilities. For example, Duncan starts us off with the least demanding opening section, and Lee will provide the higher-pitched oomph towards the end.
You can easily imagine listening to this on the radio. You can easily imagine it being in the UK Top Ten. Today. That’s something that cannot be said about virtually any other Eurovision 2011 entry unveiled so far.
When it was announced that Blue would be representing the UK, the arguments raged about whether they were best characterised as has-beens or pop royalty. A case can be made either way, but on this evidence they know their onions. The song does exactly what it needs to over three minutes without trying to do to much and running the risk of over-reaching.
National juries should, on what we know about their voting habits so far, be scoring this very highly. Televoters will be faced with the prospect of four good-looking lads who can sing well enough emoting into the camera.
Now for the “but”. I have four main qualifications.
First off, more than two people providing lead vocals and harmonising does not have a good record in recent Eurovisions. It’s been 30 years since ‘Making Your Mind Up’. Amazingly, no Blue-style boyband or their female equivalent has won the contest since the mid-80s.
My second qualification is that “ticking all the boxes” can be criticism as well as praise. This is a safe song, not necessarily a standout one with a touch of magic. I see it scoring well, but do I see televoters picking up their phones in droves as they did for say Alexander Rybak’s ‘Fairytale’? Maybe not.
Thirdly, as David pointed out in his comment earlier this week, Germany’s win last year has arguably led some punters to forget that countries like the UK don’t have many natural televoting allies across Europe. For that reason Blue needs all the other help it can get.
Which brings me to my final caveat. This is another song, like the French one, that would greatly benefit from a good draw. Just like I wrote about Amaury Vassili’s ‘Sognu’, if you put it near the end with a few forgettable upbeat numbers before it, then it will stand out for televoters. Near the beginning, and it will have less impact.
Just like France, of course, the UK is one of the Big 5, so their position in the final running order will be determined next Tuesday. If the same system is used as in previous years, one of the Big 5 will have a “wildcard” enabling them to choose a plum spot (as the Germans did for Lena last year, who performed 22nd of the 25 acts). I’ll have more to say about the chances of both Vassili and Blue here on Sofabet after the draw.
For now, though, I think that UK Eurovision fans – and the punters who have backed Blue down towards the head of the market – actually do have some cause for hope of a decent showing. It’s easy to dismiss Blue as a washed-up quartet who’ve been out of sight and out of mind since 2004, but let’s also not forget this is a band that has sold 13 million records across Europe and it’s up against a pretty poor selection of competing songs so far.
[Update: Here is that first live performance of ‘I can’.] What do you think – will Europe be feeling Blue, or will the UK be feeling blue?