On Monday the UK revealed the end product of a radical new strategy for Eurovision. Following three years of disappointment with formerly-famous acts in the shape of Bonnie Tyler, Engelbert Humperdinck and Blue, this year the Beeb have gone for fresh, credible, unknown talent: Molly Smitten-Downes, with a song she had specially written for the contest, ‘Children of the Universe’. The live version can be viewed here, and the studio track can be found here.
As ever, the insightful community of Sofabet commenters got straight on the case to analyse the UK’s chances. The general consensus, represented by Panos, Annie and Curtis, was COTU is a respectable effort that will be rewarded by a respectable placing, with juries in particular likely to approve.
The two outliers are eurovicious, who thinks a win is possible, and AlexanderS, who is more dismissive. Interestingly, both these views were informed by a general sense that this is an effort that, almost rather cynically, ticks a lot of Eurovision boxes.
What do I think?
I’m broadly in agreement with that consensus view. “Solid jury fodder,” was my three-word text to friends after first listening. There were some ups and downs in that live performance. It didn’t start promisingly, as I struggled to get the hang of Molly’s diction, but as the strings came in, it built very promisingly towards the chorus.
The chorus itself didn’t quite have the oomph I was hoping for, and a strong middle eight only reiterated that. But after the opening, Molly delivered a confident live performance, and the overall impression was of a radio-friendly, middle-of-the-road package that juries have tended to favour of late. One only has to think of the love they gave to Denmark, Sweden and Austria last year.
I can see where eurovicious and AlexanderS were coming from in terms of finding COTU very Eurovision-y. There is of course its title and “Power to the People!” refrain. Were Molly not merely six at the time, I would suspect her of looking to our 1994 effort, ‘We Will Be Free‘, sung by Frances Ruffelle, for inspiration. It remains my favourite ever UK Eurovision entry, but it was 20 years ago.
Still, it’s been a case of the 90’s coming back in Eurovision terms over the last few years, with tousled-haired bohemian young women getting all cosmic on us, reflecting more general trends in the charts (funnily enough, one of the names mentioned in this regard by eurovicious, Eliza Doolittle, is Ruffelle’s daughter).
Talking of eurovicious, I can’t hope to match his description of the general type – with 2010 winner Lena as “the benchmark for privileged, entitled, oh-so-quirky manic pixie dream girls in Eurovision who think they’re the shit”. Molly does have, in particular, a touch of last year’s winner Emmelie de Forest about her.
What’s to stop COTU following in the footsteps of Emmelie’s winning entry last year, ‘Only Teardrops’? My initial hunch is that whilst the chorus of COTU is as insistent as that of last year’s Danish number, it isn’t as strong, and COTU isn’t as coherent a song as a whole.
With hindsight, the way ‘Only Teardrops’ was staged was also incredibly effective. Most obviously, it had the winner’s golden effects of ticker-tape cannons and curtains of fire. But it also involved plenty of movement, with pixie dream girl manically looking at tin-whistle boy, who ended up helping out drummer guy in their Les Miserables get-up, as if the teardrops were being spilled on the barricades.
Whilst Molly came across an enganging performer, the staging for COTU looks likely to lack that kind of drama and be far more static around her. It’s hard to know how to create a greater sense of interaction between the disparate elements on stage, but it would help considerably.
Some inspiration in this regard and a good draw could help COTU rise stealthily up the left-hand side of the scoreboard, which is where I imagine it will end up. I don’t feel confident about being more specific until the rest of the entries are known and rehearsals put everything in greater context.
How do you count yourself in relation to ‘Children of the Universe’? Let us know your thoughts below.