The UK Selections: 6 Impossible Dreams

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1999 saw the same format but a return to the title “A Song For Europe”. By now the four song final had been shunted to a Sunday afternoon slot. What a sad demise. In the closest race for several years Precious R&B lite just edged out Alberta’s similar effort and Sister Sway’s more traditional Euro-pop. One of the semi-finalists “Fly” by Cheryl Beattie went on to become a club hit in remix form.
Speaking of clubs, dance favourite Nicki French of course won the 2000 SFE, one of those she beat being American singer Catherine Porter, who is now a member of the Brian May Band. Controversy surrounded the song that came second, “Only The Women Know” by SixChix. Show promoter Jonathan King was supposed to be impartial, yet managed to secure TV exposure for the track in the period before the contest without going to the same lengths for the competition. The song did become a minor top 75 hit.
The 2001 SFE was noteable for the presence in the final of a popular Swedish singer Nanne Gronvall with her song “Men”. Nanne was part of the group that came third in the contest for Sweden in 1996 and has been a regular in the Swedish selection, but against many expectations she came last of the four finalists, maybe because her nationality was heavily emphasized in the broadcast. The contest was won by Lindsay D, whose battle with the long high note at the end of “No Dream Impossible” is perhaps the enduring memory of SFE 2001.One of the eliminated semi-finalists, “To Die For” by Luke Galliana, entered the top 75.
2002 saw a quite remarkably starry final, at least by recent standards, and looking back it’s hard to see why, but it made for an enjoyable SFE. Pop Idol finalist Jessica Garlick won of course (and went on to bring the UK by far it’s best result of the decade), but her opposition included Heartbeat’s Tricia Penrose and a makeshift group Surf ‘N’ Turf which included television journalists Matt Allwright and Jonathan Maitland.
By contrast in 2003 we were back to list of unknowns contesting the event, yet it was still quite interesting. A song called “Wait For The Moment” by Esther Hart made it through the semi-final, but then Esther went and won the national final in her native Netherlands so pulled out of the SFE final. Her song was retitled and given to Simon Chapman, who came a resounding fourth of four in the final. “Cry Baby” came through the semi-final as performed by “Tricity” but then one singer quit and thus Tricity became the infamous Jemini. The songs were voted on by televoting but these were collated by region and converted into regional points. Jemini gained a narrow victory over Emily Reed’s “Help Me”, but as Reed got the top vote from the most highly populated regions of the UK there has long been speculation that she got more votes countrywide than Jemini, although this has never been confirmed.
After the debacle of Jemini’s “Nul Points”, by 2004 the BBC were again ready for a root and branch change to the selection process. Sunday afternoon “A Song For Europe” was dispensed with, to be replaced by a return to Saturday evening prime time, and a contest rebranded as “Making Your Mind Up”. The new format featured Terry Wogan and a female presenter, televotes rounded up regionally, and a baying audience of Eurofans. So really not too much different then… the contest certainly had higher production values than of late but the songs remained anonymous and lowkey. Pop Idol finalist James Fox carried the day but it was clear that the new format was not near unearthing a Eurovision winner.
The same format was kept for 2005 except with one song fewer. The regional televotes were supplemented by SMS and internet voting. The main focus was the bitter rival between winner Javine and a very pregnant Katie Price a.k.a. Jordan. 1996 winner Gina G returned, but with a far inferior song trailed in last.
2006 saw a return to six songs and a few more “famous” faces, as Kym Marsh (ex-Hear’say) and Antony Costa (ex-Blue) were highly touted. The latter scored well but not enough to top Daz Sampson’s classroom rap.
By 2007, it could be said that while the “Making Your Mind Up” format hadn’t reversed the UK’s fortune at the contest (quite the opposite), it was creating winners likely to crack the top ten of the singles chart. This years final saw more ex-band members, including Liz McClarnon of Atomic Kitten and Brian Harvey from East 17. They were joined by R&B band Big Brovaz and Justin Hawkins of the Darkness. Click here for a more detailed review of the event.
2008 saw a revamp in title to “Eurovision: Your Decision” and a series of head to heads decided by a small panel of so-called “experts”. Soap star turned singer Michelle Gayle and reality star Simona Armstrong were selected by the panel (the latter ahead of fellow casting show entrant Rob McVeigh) but the public overlooked them all in favour of panel reject Andy Abraham.
Andy’s last place prompted more navel-gazing and the procuring of Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber to compose the 2009 UK song, albeit from a field of inexperienced singers. The selection process took place over five BBC1 Saturday night shows, which brought great exposure for Eurovision. What wasn’t clear beforehand though, was that Sir Andrew was given carte-blanche to bring in a protege who bypassed the entire audition process, then stage-manage the entire series to ensure that his act won the competition!. A dark day in British Eurovision history and hopefully one not to be repeated.
Despite (or maybe because of) these shenanigans, Jade’s “My Time” achieved the best UK result in seven long years and in 2010 the BBC decided once more to procure the services of a famous songwriter, then stage a show to choose the singer. This time it was 80s pop God Pete Waterman. However the selection show itself was relegated from a Saturday prime-time series to a ninety minute show where three of the six budding artists were eliminated before the rest were put to the public vote after delivering Mike Stock and Waterman’s song .
Since 2011 both song and artist have been selected internally.