Eurovision 2020: UK entry is ‘nothing special’, says Suffolk superfan, ‘and will get maximum of 24 points’
PUBLISHED: 18:00 26 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:38 27 February 2020
See the video here. And read James’s ideas to get better UK songs
There's surely no-one in Suffolk who knows Eurovision like James Sheen. In the mid-1990s he was hosting Eurovision parties at home - pens and scoresheets supplied. Later, he started going: Dusseldorf in 2011, Vienna (2015), Stockholm (2016) and Ukraine in 2017.
Kiev was an adrenalin-rush. He got a ticket for the "Golden Circle" at the front - plus "fan accreditation", which allowed him backstage.
Life couldn't get any better. Or could it? For 2018, in Lisbon, James secured "press accreditation", which meant he could interview contestants.
His interest has, admittedly, waned a little since, but he'll be watching the 2020 battle unfold on TV (in Rotterdam, May 12 to 16).
And he doesn't duck the issue of the UK's recent dismal record. After SuRie came 24th in 2018 we thought it couldn't get any worse. It did. Michael Rice's Bigger Than Us propped up the other 25 finalists in 2019.
So we've had another revamp in the way our contender is selected. After some years of the public voting for their favoured hopeful, the BBC has joined forces with music company BMG to decide 2020's ditty.
So what does James think of My Last Breath, by James Newman? Well...
"I like to think that a song takes you on a journey and this song does that, on a roundabout. It is nothing special, and if we had to compete to get into the final we would not get through.
"I predict in the final it will be lost amongst better songs and will get a maximum of 24 points in total.
"By the way, that roundabout is the M25, 'cos it feels like it goes on too long."
How would James change things, then?
For a start, it's unfair to silence the public. And we've been down this road before.
"Look at the songs when the BBC chose it. They had a lucky one with Blue and I Can (it came 11th) but Engelbert Humperdinck? Rubbish song. (Second from bottom.) Bonnie Tyler? Rubbish song. Molly? Rubbish song. Electro Velvet? Rubbish song. One, two, three, four in a row which were really, really poor.
"When they brought back the vote in 2016, and Joe and Jake won (the UK nomination, with You're Not Alone), it was a good song. It came 24th (in the final), so it didn't do that well, but it was a good song by UK standards."
James didn't like it when the public was invited to listen to songs and decide a UK winner on just a single night. "It's like 'Get used to it' - within an hour - 'and choose your song quickly'."
While we're about it, let's dispense with the suggestion that nations give us a kicking because we're not good Europhiles.
"Talk of people not giving us votes because it's political - Brexit - that's rubbish. It's because the songs are rubbish!"
So what to do?
The public deserves a proper voice, James argues.
"If we had a longer (UK selection) contest, over a number of weeks and with more songs, there's a chance things could get better. It would allow the public to 'get them in our heads' a bit" - and weed out the weakest.
Widening the reach, says James, comes down to BBC investment.
Imagine a half-hour show every week, for six weeks. Six performers per show. That's 36 songs to choose from. There must be some depth - some sparkle; some good 'uns - in that lot.
"It would get people more interested. More time for something to grow on you. And get the BBC stations to play those songs throughout the week. They've got the network to do it."
Five songs James loves
The New Seekers - Out On The Edge of Beyond: One sung in the UK heats but not chosen as our entry. "You have to think '1972', but that's a really nice song. Very catchy." And, happily, The New Seekers came second in the final with Beg, Steal or Borrow.
Rags - Promises, Promises: "That didn't get through - it was Lynsey de Paul that year (and Mike Moran, with Rock Bottom - which came second in the 1977 final) but it was particularly good."
Joe and Jake - You're Not Alone: "Came 24th; but there were a lot of good songs that year (2016). They were very proud to be representatives of the UK. They were chosen by the UK audience, and that was an endorsement for them. You get someone who hasn't been chosen by the UK audience... what credibility do they have?"
Imaani - Where Are You? "Very good. Came second in 1998."
Gina G - Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit: "One of those songs that people remember: a 'get up and go dancing' song, and a lot of fun." Came 8th in 1996 final.
Black Lace - Mary Ann: Came seventh in 1979 final but was "dreadful", reckons James.
Belle and the Devotions - Love Games: "They were booed, quite a bit, because there was something going on with their backing track - or something like that." There's also a story that folk in Luxembourg were still upset after English football fans rioted the previous year. Even so, Belle & co still came 7th in 1984.
Ryder - Runner in the Night: I don't remember the song that came 7th in the 1986 final. "You don't want to!"
Love City Groove - Love City Groove: "Well, that was original, wasn't it!" It came 10th in the 1995 final.
Molly - Children of the Universe: "I think one of my all-time worst. Awful. This was one of those chosen by the BBC. Get behind it...? Why? I didn't choose it!"
When we won
1967: Sandie Shaw - Puppet On A String
1969: Lulu - Boom Bang-a-bang
1976: Brotherhood of Man - Save Your Kisses For Me
1981: Bucks Fizz - Making Your Mind Up
1997: Katrina and The Waves - Love Shine A Light