Eurovision 2013: Can the UK Believe in Bonnie Tyler’s chances?

When last year the UK internally selected Engelbert Humperdinck, I was prepared to be open-minded about it though I felt it would be difficult to overcome the large obstacle of being drawn first.

It turned out there was a far bigger obstacle to overcome, which was that Engelbert was not up to the job. I don’t have a problem with older, experienced singers taking up the mantle, but they still have to be able to produce the goods on the big night. Turned out Engelbert couldn’t – hence a finishing position second-from-last on the scoreboard.

So when the BBC announced it had internally selected 61-year-old Bonnie Tyler this time around, and we already had video footage of her live on stage hoarsely croaking out her song, ‘Believe In Me’, while a backing singer tries valiantly to carry her, I have to admit that my initial reaction was to roll my eyes.

Now that the dust has settled, I’m still not impressed.

That live video footage suggests the reason why in the studio version Bonnie’s vocals have been over-produced to the point that they sound shorn of all emotion. It doesn’t encourage you to think that Bonnie is still the vocal powerhouse who topped the charts 30 years ago with ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’.

And even if she were, ‘Believe In Me’ is not the song to bring it out.

This country-tinged number is not a bad song in its studio incarnation. But in a Eurovision context I think it commits the cardinal sin of blandness – it’s just not distinctive enough, especially in a year full of (largely female) slowies. I much preferred Engelbert’s song, ‘Only Love Can Set You Free’, which was going to suit him as much as anything would. It at least was atmospheric and had big moments. ‘Believe In Me’ falls short on both these counts.

Some of the noises coming out of the BBC suggest they have learned no lessons from last year: Bonnie is a well-known name, a proven performer with an established European fanbase. None of this helped Engelbert a jot.

Maybe they have learned one lesson, though – I’ve been encouraged by the recent news that Bonnie will be supported by at least four backing vocalists. Graham Norton has rhapsodised about the “harmonies” produced in preliminary rehersals. I won’t take that on trust, but if the harmonising on this track is effective then it might just enable ‘Believe In Me’ to score respectably with the juries, even if it’s still going to be the kind of number that passes televoters by.

Of course, at this stage last year I’d thought Engelbert could reasonably hope to score respectably with the juries, too, but his poor rendition of ‘Only Love Can Set You Free’ on the Friday night – the rehearsal on which national juries cast their votes – saw him finish bottom of the pile in this constituency.

At least we can be confident that Bonnie won’t be lumbered with opening the show, as Engelbert was. Now that producers decide the running order for themselves, rather than by means of a random draw as in previous years, it’s inconceivable that they would choose something as somnambulant as ‘Believe In Me’ to get the party started. In fact, the organisers have every reason to treat the UK kindly, it being a huge music and TV market for the event.

Last week’s revelation that there would still be a random draw to see if an entry is performed in the first or second half of the running order was therefore bad news for Bonnie. There’s now a 50% chance of her drawing a slot before the main commercial break, which would be hugely damaging for televote support. (Technically, given that host nation Sweden have already drawn berth 16, the chance is slightly higher at 52%).

Yet despite it having become substantially less likely that Bonnie will get a helpful late draw, the United Kingdom’s price has continued to shorten on Betfair in the last few days – you can currently back it at 18. This counter-intuitive move may reflect a largely British clientele on this British website encouraged by the British press and British bookmakers.

Which, naturally, can create opportunities in itself. It certainly did last year when on the morning of the final you could still get amazingly good value on a poor UK showing, such as 6/1 to be in the bottom six. Going against Engelbert in any match bets felt like free money. At this admittedly early stage of proceedings, I reckon that come May I’ll be looking for similar opportunities to oppose ‘Believe In Me’.

What do you think? Am I just being my usual curmudgeonly self or is Bonnie Tyler in trouble and holding out for a hero? Do let us know below.

15 comments to Eurovision 2013: Can the UK Believe in Bonnie Tyler’s chances?

  • Curtis

    Watching Bonnier perform this live has not been reassuring. And even if this was the Bonnie of 30 years ago entering this, I’m not sure she could make this song interesting enough to do well. I think, in a year of lots of bland songs, running order will be vital for Bonnie. However, a good running order will only make the difference between bad, and really bad in terms of voting performance. Unless the harmonising works (obviously don’t really know that yet) then it’s very possible that this scores really badly with juries as well.

  • John

    Man, that Stan James offer last year really was free money. I think an e/w on Russia this year is free money, but I digress…

    I think the UK’s gambit this year is remarkably similar to last year, but I’m going to wait til the rehearsal buzz. I still think Iceland in 2009 was an utter snooze-fest and was a song that similarly fails to catch fire, and it came second. Unlike The Hump, Bonnie is perhaps not so unfortunately advanced in years that she might not yet be able to really bring her star quality to bear on the night. The reasons for her to bad are compelling, but I think I should wait.

  • Stuart

    Johh, do you mean Russia being top four is guaranteed in your book?

    • John

      Almost guaranteed! Russia have placed top 4 about 40% of the time in about the last 12 years, and if sung well, which O think it looks like Garipova is up to, it will be a hit with the juries AND the Russian diaspora. It puts it in a very good position!

  • tpfkar

    The only thing going for the UK is that more people will have heard some of Bonnie Tyler’s back catalogue than Englebert’s. But thin pickings and it’s hard to see us troubling the top 10.

    I’d be more cautious about laying the UK every which way though; there is much more dross this year than last year and they can’t all come last. The UK may sneak a few places forward by default.

    I’ve now listened to all the songs several times. I’ve flagged before that Austria caught my eye, but I have to add San Marino in now – impossible to believe it’s the same artist as that Facebook nonsense. San Marino can’t qualify….can it??

    • Daniel

      Hi tpfkar, I have to agree with your point about the lower general standard and that this should instil a certain degree of caution about laying the UK every which way. Those entries that just sneak through from the semis and the likes of Spain means there will be stiff competition for the bottom places.

      Talking of which, it’s interesting to consider how the new rules impact who comes last in the final and how to play this market. A terrible vocal performance in the jury rehearsal on Friday night would surely see an entry getting low rankings with juries and thus very few points at all.

  • funky

    the uk or more to the point the BBC quite simply do not want to win this thing, espeacially with the 2014 world cup next summer too.
    in fact the winning country’s tv broadcaster will have to find around 25m to host it and god knows how much to televise the world cup games…an awful lot on money most countries just don’t have.

  • I think that’s always such a bullocks argument. I truly believe the BBC thinks a ‘big name’ like Bonnie Tyler will attract big votes. I mean, for that reason Dutch broadcaster eventually asked Anouk too. There’s no real plan behind it if you ask me. The broadcaster simply says ‘okay’, puts down a bag of money and she (the artist) can shove the contest in her ass. That’s just faulty reasoning.

    The difference with the internal selection of Bonnie for the UK against Anouk for NL is the following: Anouk is both commercially, vocally, marketing-wise, creatively more gifted for today’s music standards than the writers behind Bonnie Tyler. But still, in both cases the artists, the team behind artists decide how the song will look like, not the national broadcaster.

    IMO……if the BBC asked Goldfrapp, or another bit more contemporary artist, it already looked much better. It’s just ‘bad luck’ I think…

  • Just watching this live performance of the French entry (3min:58sec): . I….I have underestimated this considerably. What a fantastic live performer. Yes, the song isn’t that good, but TOP 15 must be possible.

  • Chewy Wesker

    The problem with the uk entry, is that it’s been internally selected. I’ve heard that woman in the BBC had Bonnie Tyler’s new album playing in her car on the way to work, and decided there and then, that that was the song for eurovision. The song hasn’t been tested with juries and televoters, it’s the same old story, a big name in the music industry from years gone by gets picked, and has no real chance of winning. Now Bonnie will sing this on Graham Norton and i’m sure she go down a storm and come the final, the uk will be 5th/6th in the betting at around 16/1 in the outright market. I can put 16 songs that will beat “believe in me” hands down, and i think countries that haven’t scored well of late like finland switzerland and i could even make a case for belgium beating the uk. As for stv picking the running order of the show so as to have a mix of upbeat, ballad dance what have you! Having a random draw on who goes 1st half/2nd half makes this idea a little silly, but could work to swedens favour if some of the stronger songs like Denmark, Norway get drawn in the first half. The host could put a good distance between them and themselfs, may not look that controversial, hey what do I know? Anyway this year will be like last year with the uk. Lay all the way printing money or as i like to call it quantum easing.

  • funky

    I backed France’s Anggun last year…a better singer with a better song…it finished 21st I believe…this year’s entry will surely finish nearer last than first.

  • Tim B

    I may be barking up the wrong tree here, but can anyone tell me why San Marino is *so* fancied to qualify this year? Valentina Monetta is a great singer but the song is wrong imo. It’s not structured particularly well, lacks a strong chorus, hook or anything to sing along to. The ‘I Will Survive’ part does it no favours and reinforces how dated the song is. To put it frankly, it’s this year’s fanw*nk – loved by gay fans of the contest but mostly ignored by the casual viewer. You could argue that the song may score well with the juries, but I believe Norway, Georgia, Israel and Malta at *least* will beat San Marino here. You could also say that it could do well in the televote, having a touch of class and being up against several ‘no- hopers’. I have a list of seven no-hopers for this semi and San Marino is firmly one of them. In the televote last year Valentina scored a miserable 25 points, placing her in 13th place with a song in English. This year, the song’s in Italian and she has to overcome the first half of the draw AND potentially topple televote big hitters. Will San Marino be able to beat any of Azerbaijan, Malta, Albania, Armenia, Georgia, Greece, Norway and Romania here? I certainly wouldn’t bet on it, yet it seems people (might be the same person, I don’t know) fancy San Marino as a heavy odds-on shot to qualify. I’ve been laying as I consider the song much less likely than a 1.52 shot to qualify. Is there something I’m missing here? Will the Italian laguage make it a strong contender to pick up points from the likes of Romania, Albania, Greece and Malta? Will the new system favour it in any way?

  • Boki

    I see it as a borderline Q but I can imagine that people think it will get extra jury support (also because of small country that never qualifies etc.). So a decent 5-6 place on jury with 11-13 on televote could see it through. Both placements are big question marks of course and the odds look strange indeed.

  • Tim B

    Hmm yes, from my figures San Marino is 10th on the list of voting power from that semi. Although that may be a still be bit of a stretch for the reasons I’ve outlined above. And a score of 10th from this semi may not be particularly high with so many televote big hitters. Odds are still good lay value, but I will stop laying it for qualification right now. Might take your lead from Cyprus last year, Boki, and lay it top 3 semi and top 10 final 😉

    Another thought: if San Marino does manage to qualify then Italy might be a tempting top 10 lay.

  • Daniel

    Running order is coming very soon according to the official site. I will try to get a quick, preliminary report up that we can respond to on here. A deeper, in-depth analysis of each semi will be provided in the coming days.

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