For decades, Britain’s behavior towards Eurovision the song contest followed a reliably established pattern. First, it involved behaving as if the nation was somehow above it all, stepping dismissively into any old scum: TV show finalists, pop bands made years after their expiration date, songs so immemorial it seemed like a miracle the blinded souls tasked with singing them didn’t just forget what they were doing in the middle of the performance and wander absentmindedly offstage. Then, when other countries did not behave accordingly – giving us two points or ignore us altogether, as if they weren’t grateful for our tired magnanimity – we got angry about it: mumbling about conspiracies and bloc voting, digging up old enmities as proof that we weren’t treated fairly.
Then last year things escalated off-road: we got into a decent song. Whatever you do Space Man and his hot singer Sam Ryder, its vaguely glam-inspired, Elton/Bowie-esque ballad was clearly a big improvement on what we had previously inflicted on our European neighbors. You can tell by the fact that the British public came out and bought it. Based on buys rather than streams, it was the third biggest single of 2022 – as opposed, for example, to Joe and Jake’s 2016 entry You’re Not Alone, which charted 81st in the charts.
Which leaves Britain in a dilemma: do we bother trying to follow it with something capable of similar success, or do we revert to the tried-and-true approach of disdain followed by xenophobic rage?
I Wrote a Song by Mae Muller – formerly a singer of Better Days, a 2021 minor pop-dance hit by Swedish duo Neiked – suggests some betting hedging. Unlike Space Man, which stood out precisely because it sounded a little different from the rest of the UK chart, it quickly stuck to current pop trends. I Wrote a Song is a bit of Dua Lipa-esque electronic pop, backed by a rhythm track influenced by the sound of Robin S’ 90s house hit Show Me Love, another regular pop trope. The wordless chant in the chorus is a Eurovision staple designed to transcend any language barrier, and its upbeat waltz beat is also a Europop trope, reminiscent of Mediterranean holiday hits such as Mr Saxobeat.
Meanwhile, his revenge lyrics about an ex fit the fashion for songs in which female singers scorn a dead or errant boyfriend, a theme that represents the top 3 singles on this week’s charts: Miley Cyrus’s Flowers, PinkPantherBoy’s a Liar and SZA’s Kill Bill.
The song isn’t terrible, but we suspect it wouldn’t get the kind of attention it does either if it wasn’t our Eurovision entry. The corner of pop where he plants his flag is a ruthless business in which hits are usually made by paying colossal sums to big teams of hired songwriters, there to make sure nothing is left undone. chance. If I Wrote a Song had been meant for Dua Lipa, one of those teams would have done something about her slightly cheesy chorus long before it was pitched to her. It’s certainly better than most of our entries in recent years, but whether that makes it good enough is another matter altogether.