Since my first Eurovision party in 2004, with its memorable Ukrainian winner, I’ve only watched the final every few years. There have been some good songs and performances along the way, but not many from the UK. So when I caught the tail-end of the first semifinal on Tuesday and the rest of it the next day, I was left wondering if this year’s entry was any good. When I heard it, I was stunned to realise that the UK actually had a shot at winning for the first time in twenty years.
Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” is an absolute earworm, and will be the Eurovision 2022 song that comes to mind for me years from now. It’s a clever melange of Queen, Elton John and Bowie, all of which will have endeared it to European juries and voters; Ryder’s Freddie Mercury-like flourishes were in evidence on the recorded version and again last night. The recorded version also has some subtle late-Beatles vibes going into the bridge, another canny bit of subliminal advertising. The live performance was outstanding; after seeing so many hopefuls sabotage their chances in the semifinals by singing flat when the nerves got to them, I kept holding my breath throughout, hoping Ryder would hit every note. He so did.
The BBC has a nice behind-the-scenes explanation of how it happened; there’s also a half-hour documentary on iPlayer about Sam Ryder’s road to Eurovision, which I challenge anyone to watch and not fall in love with the guy.
If Ireland can send Jedward to Eurovision twice in a row, why not send Ryder again in 2023? The man has been the UK’s best ambassador to and advocate for Eurovision in years. The only obstacle I can imagine is that by next year he’s become too big a star to take a few months out for the contest.
Even though I loved Ryder’s song and performance, nobody can begrudge Ukraine their third victory: Eurovision isn’t always just about the song.
Apart from Ryder, I also loved S10’s stirring “De Diepte” for the Netherlands (highlight of the first semifinal, but it was never going to win; her “Adem Je In” is another fine track); Armenia’s mellow “Snap”; the Czech Republic’s techno banger “Lights Off”; and France’s Marseillaise-meets-Midsommar “Fulenn”, which deserved so much more than one place above Germany’s wouldn’t-have-made-it-through-the-semifinals entry. There were a few good songs that didn’t get through the semifinals: Denmark’s “The Show” by Reddi was much catchier than Iceland’s country-tinged snooze; Georgia’s “Lock Me In” by Circus Mircus was too prog for 2022, but the first song I actually liked in the second semifinal; and Ireland’s “That’s Rich” by Brooke, a catchy Cher-Lloyd-like track in the recorded version, was let down by a lacklustre semifinal performance. Poland’s Ochman didn’t impress me on Thursday night with “The River”, but his singing in the final was a significant improvement. Romania, Moldova, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden and Spain were also lots of fun. All that, and silly banana-eating wolves. An excellent Eurovision year.