What the UK needs to learn from Sam Ryder’s Eurovision success

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Britain’s second-place finish behind Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest was a reminder that the winning formula really isn’t that complex, writes superfan Heather Carrick

Any hope of Eurovision victory in the 21st century would have been laughed at 12 months ago, but Sam Ryder has given us reason to be hopeful again.

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How many times have we been told to stand behind our entry only to look on with a fake smile, knowing the best we could do was ‘pick a point or two from Malta’?

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But Sam’s intergalactic performance of “SPACE MAN” took us all to the moon. Everything came together for him that evening – the song, the voice, the guitar, the overalls. It was a perfect Eurovision storm.

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Sam Ryder blew the audience away with his performance of SPACE MAN. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The collective confusion and/or excitement was palpable on social media as the dots started rolling. Eight points here, ten points there. When the 12 points came in, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one excitedly yelling at the TV.

We even got 12 points from France and Germany, setting a new precedent for European relations (at least as far as Eurovision is concerned).

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At the end of the jury’s vote, the United Kingdom topped the rankings with 283 points, 283 points more than last year. The dramatic final vote ended with a whopping 466 points and a well deserved silver medal on the podium. Any other year Britain would now be making plans for hosting the next competition.

We were only – rightly – beaten by Ukraine. There is no doubt that Ukraine deserved the win. It was a symbol of solidarity in Europe that was needed this year. It also didn’t hurt that the Kalush Orchestra’s “Stefania” was a great song and performance, but there was also no doubt who would come out on top.

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Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 for Ukraine. (Image credit: Getty Images)

But for Britain, this sentiment, which we haven’t had for at least 24 years, was unusual and should be celebrated – and it needn’t be an isolated incident. Sam’s performance proves the doubters wrong. It’s not just about politics, Europe doesn’t hate us for Brexit and they don’t punish us with a song contest for it.

Who would have thought that putting a little effort into the competition would be worth it?

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After years of ailing ex-stars, mediocre pop songs and shoddy gimmicks, we’ve found the (almost) recipe for success. If we put in a good song with a great staging, we get the votes.

Sam himself appeared in a video gushing about how Britain has finally “destroyed the stigma”. He knows, along with the British public, that competition is finally turning our tide.

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Like a regretful ex asking to go back to his former partner, the UK is once again in love with Eurovision.

A peak UK viewership of 10.6million watched the 2022 competition on Saturday night. Unheard of outside of sporting events in the age of streaming, these figures only reaffirm Britain’s appetite for competition.

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But we must continue our efforts. One successful year is not enough to fan the flames. Case study Germany.

In 2010, the German singer Lena performed her song “Satellite” on the Eurovision stage in Oslo. It was an instant Eurovision classic – a bubbly pop song with a catchy hook and a great delivery. She was rewarded with 246 points and brought the trophy back to Germany for the first time since 1982.

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Lena proved popular the next year as well, taking 10th place at the 2011 competition. But what followed was a serious decade for the country. Aside from a very respectable fourth place finish in 2018, Germany seems to be following the British formula of presenting the most boring pop song you’ve ever heard with the most unforgettable staging of the night.

Lena won the 2010 competition for Germany – her first win since 1982. (Credit: Getty Images)

In the period between 2013 and 2022, Germany achieved a total of three last places and one zero point. Where did everything go wrong with the dizzying heights of Lena’s success?

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Great Britain and Germany have something else in common. They are both “Big Five” countries. This category brings together the largest contributors to the European Broadcasting Union – the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain. The “Big Five” automatically get a grand final spot and don’t have to compete in the semifinals, which perhaps explains the complacency. ‘Just send whatever, we’re in the final anyway.’

The Big Five generally do not have a great track record in competition, with only Germany and Italy claiming wins from 2010 to 2022. The group regularly accumulates finishes on the right side of the board, last place and even the dreaded ‘zero points’.

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Compare this to the usual winners Sweden; They took home the trophy twice in four years and rarely finish outside the top ten in modern times. The difference here lies in the immense effort that Sweden puts into the competition every year.

As a self-confessed Eurovision superfan, I beg the BBC’s Eurovision delegation to use this as a cautionary tale. Please don’t let Sam Ryder’s amazing achievements go to waste. Give us something to hope for again in a post-pandemic era while still having that captivated audience.

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