Friday, 01 March 2024 13:15

Eurovision 2024: Will Olly Alexander’s Dizzy put the contest in a spin? Featured

For decades, Eurovision fans have wondered why the UK underplays its hand so badly.

We produce world-beating pop stars like Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa - but our Eurovision entrants have largely been untested amateurs, singing songs so underwhelming they might has well have walked on stage with a white flag.

The tide turned in 2022, when Sam Ryder brought the Bowie-inspired Space Man to Turin, blowing away cobwebs (and more than a few loudspeakers) with the Taurean force of his live vocals.

He duly claimed second place - the UK’s best result since 1998.

Buoyed by that success, the UK sent rising pop star Mae Muller to last year’s contest.

Her song, the archly titled I Wrote A Song, was a bubbly pop anthem that won approval from fans - but lacklustre staging and a problematic vocal performance torpedoed her chances.

The UK ended the night in 25th place, out of 26.

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  • Why did UK’s Mae Muller do so badly at Eurovision?

So what next? The BBC could have admitted defeat and returned to the ranks of reality show runners-up, or they could have doubled down.

They chose the latter.

Enter Olly Alexander - the former frontman of chart-topping pop group Years & Years, and a Bafta-nominated actor, who’s been obsessed with Eurovision his whole life.

"It goes right back to being a kid and watching the show with my family - ordering pizza and spending all night in front of the TV watching this insane, amazing show," he told BBC News last year.

"It’s a bit like a spiritual homecoming for me because I love Eurovision so much."

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The verdict

The first impressions are good. This is a sleek, streamlined slice of modern pop (imagine the Pet Shop Boys on a trip to the disco) anchored by a descending chord progression that’ll be instantly recognisable to anyone who’s heard Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive or Miley Cyrus’s Flowers.

Unlike those songs, which are all about emerging from a break-up, this is more about falling head-over-heels, whisk-me-off-my-feet-and-kiss-me-on-the-mouth in love.

"Won’t you take my hand and spin me / Round and round so the moment never ends."

The verses, meanwhile, are (intentionally?) written in the mangled English that characterises Eurovision’s best songs. "Beautiful garden / Eternal flowers," sings Alexander, apparently quoting directly from the Interflora website.

Olly Alexander and Elton John at the Brit Awards in 2021 IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,
Alexander duetted with Elton John at the 2021 Brit Awards

Crucially, however, the hook is instantly memorable - a huge advantage in a competition where you only have one chance to make an impression.

If there’s a criticism, it’s that the song could go harder. Instead of building to a climax, that final chorus is too polite. Without wanting to trivialise things, the song is desperately in need of a donk.

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Available now on BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer

But that can all be tweaked for the performance. There’s no rule that says the live version has to sound like the radio edit; and a few well-timed pyrotechnics could easily bring the house down (not literally, one hopes).

As always, the staging is crucial, and that’s one area where Alexander excels.

His 2021 Brits performance of It’s A Sin, striding across Sir Elton John’s piano, was one of the ceremony’s most memorable performances in years. A blissed-out, intricately-choreographed Glastonbury set the following year proved he has the ability to command a huge audience.

Eurovision chances

The other variable is his competition.

After Loreen’s victory for Sweden last year, several countries have entered up-tempo bops - from the techno bounce of Lithuania’s Silvester Belt to the percolating synthpop of Spain’s Nebulossa.

Others have drawn inspiration from 2023’s runner-up, Kaarija, with Ireland’s Bambi Thug and Croatia’s Baby Lasagna putting forward gloriously chaotic songs that test the very boundaries of pop music.

In other words, the UK needs to work hard to distinguish itself.

Personally, though, I can’t see Dizzy tripping up too badly. Alexander is a beloved performer with name recognition across Europe, and the song capitalises on his cheeky charisma.

It might not attract "douze points" across the board, but it would be hard to relegate to last place.

All eyes will be watching when Alexander twirls into Malmö this May.