It’s been a while since the United Kingdom won Eurovision, and quite frankly, it’s been a while since the United Kingdom have achieved respectable results at the contest. Riddled with last place finishes, and almost last place finishes, it was time for the UK to step up and deliver. Hoping to do that this year was James Newman, with his song My Last Breath, but would it have been enough?
Anita (Eurovision Union)
Song and Vocals
Thankfully, the UK decided to step away from that dreadful national final format they had landed on and instead went for an internal selection with record company BMG at the head of the decision making. They landed on James Newman, which felt like a step in the right direction, after previously focusing on former X Factor participants as their representatives. Credibility of Eurovision seems to be an issue in the UK, due to their questionable results, but they needed some bigger names to take the stage. While James isn’t the biggest name out there, he is certainly more established than what we have seen prior.
My Last Breath is a decent effort for the United Kingdom, and I would confidently say that it is a good stepping stone. I certainly don’t think that this is the best they could have put forward, but it’s a good starting point. The song is enjoyable to listen to, but it’s the type of song that I don’t find myself going back to by choice. There’s so much potential when you hear the opening beat, and even the first verse, but for me, the chorus feels a bit lacklustre. There’s no real peak in the song, and it just screams for something bigger at the end.
James has performed this live, in a video published by the BBC, and I have to admit, I wanted more. The first verse was dull, and that’s the time you really have to capture the audience. While it seemed that he got more comfortable as the song went along, the live version really highlighted how flat this song is – and that can’t be a good thing for Eurovision.
Performance and Act
It’s easy to see why bigger names in the UK steer clear of Eurovision, the perception of the contest isn’t great, and the results aren’t great, but a big name is exactly what they needed. Working with BMG was a good call from the UK team, and like I previously said, although James isn’t the biggest name in the UK music scene, it’s still great that someone established was willing to have a go. I hope that we continue to get bigger names enter Eurovision for the UK, because things will turn around for them.
As for the stage show, James revealed that he was set to stand on a big icy rock, with an ice cube underneath that was set to ‘melt’ and ‘flood’ the stage – I don’t know whether some of that was literal, or whether it would appear on screens, but either way, it was set up to draw similarities to the music video. Big props can be spectacular as much as they can be performance-ruining. It’s a fine line, but for the sake of the UK, let’s hope that it would have looked spectacular.
Next Up: 2021
It’s not yet confirmed whether James will return in 2021, but it seems that he would be willing, and I think it could be a wise move. If he does return, he needs a much stronger song that runs less of a risk of fading into the Eurovision abyss. He has written some killer songs in his career, so he is certainly capable. Perhaps working with a DJ could work for 2021? Whichever way they go, a stronger song is needed.
I see the potential in James, but I think this song would have fallen flat at Eurovision. I don’t think they would have broken free of the bottom 5, and not because the song is terrible, just more so that the other songs would have overshadowed it. Back to the drawing board, but let’s hope they come back stronger next year.
Song and Vocals
Middle-of-the-road can be a good thing. But for the UK, it usually means that its harmlessness makes their song a bad choice for a music competition. The song kicks in with an interesting beat. It’s promising. And James Newman is a good singer (usually there is nothing wrong with the vocal qualities of the UK singers). But once again, the BBC manages to select a song that passes by without keeping the attention of the listening audience. The task of giving a stunning visual performance becomes so high, that even if they do everything right, the end result will still be bottom 5.
Performance and Act
We don’t know what the performance would look like, but usually the visuals of the UK are interesting, However, they tend to have songs that cannot be saved. This was another example of that.
Next up: 2021
James Newman will most likely stay as the UK act for Eurovision. And please, please, please; give him a more interesting song. This middle-of-the-road song is so flat, with nothing happening after the promising first 15 seconds of the song. James Newman has written hits for Calvin Harris, Ed Sheeran and Little Mix. How did he come up with another cliché UK Eurovision anthem?
Let go of everything the BBC thinks a Eurovision song should be like. And just compose something they would compose for any modern artist. Contemporary, non-typical songs that could do well in the modern charts. It is possible. Just make sure that you are NOT writing for Eurovision, and Newman should be fine.
“Hey, do you know John Newman? Yes, what about him?! We have got his brother!” Expectations were high for the United Kingdom in the gossiping time of the season. Would the UK follow the steps of other nations that managed to make a revival at Eurovision and send an established big name? Their eventual choice and song was the same as in recent years. A weak, mellow pop song. When will the BBC learn…
Additional Scores from Eurovision Union and ESCDaily editors:
Average Score: 5.4/10
What do you think of My Last Breath? Follow our Eurovision 2020 reviews here.