A faded pop star and a cheesy power ballad is no way to end our run of 16 years without a Eurovision win
When Bonnie Tyler croaked her way to 19th place at the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, she officially sealed the UK's longest ever drought in the competition – 16 years without a win. With the 2014 contest looming, desperate measures are clearly required. Enter Geri Halliwell.
If current speculation proves to be true, the artist formerly known as Ginger Spice is the BBC's top choice to pick up the mantle from such luminaries as Scooch, Andy Abraham and Josh Dubovie, in hopes of restoring Eurovision glory to the UK for the first time since Katrina and the Waves triumphed in 1997.
In some ways, Halliwell could be considered a perfect fit for Eurovision. She certainly knows how to make an impression – as proved when she upstaged her former bandmates at the 2000 Brit awards by emerging from between a giant pair of women's legs and dancing on a stripper pole with a troupe of greased up male dancers. A performance on that level of insanity might even have overshadowed the demonic Romanian countertenor from last year's Eurovision.
On the other hand, Eurovision is all about live vocals, and with the best will in the world, this is not an area where Geri shines. A mortifying performance of her recent single Half of Me on Australian television saw the track stalling at number 283 in the charts. Bonnie may at times have sounded like a slowly deflating set of bagpipes being worried by a terrier, but for the most part she was at least in the vicinity of tunefulness.
At her peak, Geri's questionable vocal skills didn't really matter. She had other qualities that made her a great pop star. But if the BBC wants to break our run of Eurovision flops – and they should, as historically the contest always scores much higher ratings when confidence in our act is strong – sending a woman likely to make the girl from Jemini sound like Kiri Te Kanawa isn't going to cut it.
For despite the received wisdom that the contest is little more than an irrelevant freak show, in recent years Eurovision has been revitalised by ambitious young singers who recognise it as a valuable platform for global exposure. In 2012, Sweden's Loreen topped the chart in 14 countries – and hit the top three in the UK – with Euphoria, a soaring dance track with pitch-perfect vocals. Last year's winner, Emmelie De Forest from Denmark, had more in common with acts such as Paloma Faith and Marina & the Diamonds than Lordi and Dana International.
To become truly competitive again, we need to put the focus back on quality songs and talented performers. It's true that for stars such as Adele and Leona Lewis there's little incentive to risk the embarrassment of a poor result, but there is a wealth of talented performers operating at a level between the A-list and the Celebrity Big Brother reserve list who might be convinced to participate if they had a song they believed in.
For example, has anyone asked the Feeling – experienced writers of immaculately crafted pop music whose 2013 album Boy Cried Wolf was widely praised but largely overlooked by the public? How about soul singer Beverley Knight, a knockout live vocalist that the country could really be proud to get behind? Or singer-songwriter Nerina Pallot, whose just-released Hold Tight EP is brimming with pop hooks?
There's no guarantee that any of these artists would agree to do it, of course – but have they been asked? Pinning our hopes on faded pop stars and dated power ballads is making us look woefully out of touch. If we want to avoid another year languishing at the bottom of the leaderboard, it's time to cast a wider net – and leave Geri's union jack dress on the shelf.
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