United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 2011
|Eurovision Song Contest 2011|
|Selection process||Internal Selection|
|Selection date(s)||Artist: 29 January 2011
Song: 11 March 2011
|Selected song||"I Can"|
|Final result||11th, 100 points|
|United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest|
The United Kingdom participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 in Düsseldorf, Germany, sending their 54th entry to the contest. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the broadcaster responsible for the United Kingdom entry, internally selected successful boy band Blue to compete at Eurovision, where they performed the song "I Can". Their selection was reported on 29 January 2011, and their song was publicly performed for the first time on 11 March.
Being one of the favourites to win the contest, the United Kingdom finished in 5th place in the public vote of the final with 166 points and 11th in the 50/50 jury split, receiving a total of 100 points from 25 of 43 votes. Had only the jury decided the outcome, "I Can" would have finished in 22nd place. Shortly after the contest the entry was seen in the top ten iTunes download charts in several Eurovision countries.
The United Kingdom first entered the contest in 1957, the second contest held. The BBC had initially attempted to compete in the first contest the year before; however, the broadcaster missed the deadline for entries and were unable to participate. The United Kingdom's first entry, "All" by Patricia Bredin, was – and still remains – the shortest entry in the history of the contest, at 1:52 minutes. However, their first entry failed to impress the European juries, finishing in 7th place out of 10 songs, with only 6 votes. As a result of their poor placing, the BBC did not compete in the 1958 contest; however, after the success of the Italian entry of that year, "Nel blu dipinto di blu" performed by Domenico Modugno, more commonly known as "Volare", the United Kingdom decided to return, and began the longest uninterrupted run of entries in the contest to date.
Since that time, the United Kingdom has won the contest a total of five times: in 1967 with "Puppet on a String" by Sandie Shaw; one of four winners of the 1969 contest with "Boom Bang-a-Bang" by Lulu; in 1976 with the Brotherhood of Man song "Save Your Kisses for Me"; in 1981 with "Making Your Mind Up" by Bucks Fizz; and most recently in 1997 with "Love Shine a Light" by Katrina and the Waves". The United Kingdom also holds the record for the most second-place finishes, a total of 15.
Since the mass introduction of televoting in 1998 and the abolition of language restrictions in 1999, the United Kingdom's track record has worsened. Since 1999, the United Kingdom has placed only twice in the top 10 countries, in 2002 and 2009. At the same time, the United Kingdom has finished last in the contest three times, 2008, 2010, and in 2003 after finishing with the infamous Nul points. The country's status as a member of the "Big Four", one of the four biggest financial contributors to the contest, has ensured that the United Kingdom has had an entry in every Eurovision Song Contest, avoiding relegation from 2000 to 2003, and having to compete in the semi-finals from 2004.
After finishing last in the 2010 contest and achieving record low viewing figures for the contest it was reported that the BBC were looking at different options for the organisation of the 2011 UK entry. In July 2010, it was reported that the BBC were in negotiations with singer-songwriter Mika to pen the United Kingdom entry. The broadcaster reported: "It's always a difficult call trying to get a decent song together for Eurovision, as  proved. We had Pete Waterman overseeing it [...] but we still came last. Mika has all the right ingredients to make a successful song. We hope he says yes". Interest in competing in the contest was also expressed by 2004 Big Brother winner Nadia Almada and British actress Margi Clarke.
By January 2011, an announcement by the BBC on their plans for the Eurovision selection were imminent. Acts rumoured to have been internally selected by the BBC included Pixie Lott, Katherine Jenkins and Charlotte Church, reporting that the BBC would return to a format of internally selecting one artist to perform a number of songs in a national final, last used in 1994.
On 29 January, the BBC announced that established boy band Blue had been internally selected to compete at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011. Their song for the contest, "I Can", was also internally selected by the BBC, making 2011 the first time that the United Kingdom entry has had no input from the British public. Two members of Blue have had previous involvement in the British Eurovision selection: Antony Costa came 2nd in the 2006 national final Making Your Mind Up with the song "It's a Beautiful Thing", and Duncan James was a panellist during Your Country Needs You 2009 and announced the British votes at the 2009 Contest. James had also been rumoured to enter the 2010 contest as a solo artist with a song penned by Take That member Gary Barlow.
Response to the BBC's choice of Blue was less than impressed. The Sun labelled the band as "ageing", The Independent incorrectly referred to them as a "nineties boy band", while Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph attacked the BBC for taking an internal selection, calling it "boardroom meetings and internal discussions involving unspecified members of the BBC hierarchy, imposing both a band and a song on the British public", as well as "high handed Auntie-knows-best arrogance" from "out-of-touch bureaucrats".
Daniel Glatman, the band's former manager, was also critical of the band taking part in the contest. Glatman called the decision "reckless insanity", and that "They will have to win. Anything less and their reputation would be in tatters". He compared the group entering the contest to "Lewis Hamilton entering a go-kart race - he will be the strong favourite but there is also the possibility he could lose - so why risk it?".
However Blue have defended their Eurovision goals. Duncan James replied that: "There's been a lot of negativity but all we ask is, please hold off until you hear the song. We believe it's one of the best songs to enter Eurovision in a long time". Simon Webbe added: "We believe this is going to be the best springboard for us to come back on. Who are we to actually think we can just waltz back in with a song and expect everyone to like it? At least this way we can reach 125 million people across Europe and represent our country whilst doing so. There is no other platform like it".
TV presenter Phillip Schofield has also been extremely critical of Blue's entry for Eurovision, writing on Twitter after hearing the song: "Well that's Eurovision screwed for another year!!. Sorry guys, I love you together and individually... but that's a shocking song!". However actress and panellist on Loose Women, Denise Welch quickly came to Blue's defence saying: "I adore Phillip but I disagree that you should upset people. If they sang on [his] show, would he say after 'that was rubbish'?!!". The group also hit back at the comments, calling them "upsetting" and "hurtful", also accusing him of seeking publicity from being overshadowed by Jason Gardiner on Dancing on Ice. The group also reported: "He's British so we'd have thought he'd be a bit more supportive. He's clearly not patriotic – or he wouldn't have gone on Twitter and been so objectionable".
Manchester synthpop duo Hurts also attacked the BBC for choosing Blue, with the band writing on Twitter shortly after the announcement: "In light of the recent dark & depressing Eurovision news from the UK, we have decided to submit our song to the good, good people of Russia". Which seemed to confirm that the duo had been in negotiations with the BBC over an entry.
In late April group member Simon Webbe discussed how unhappy he was with the lack of support in the United Kingdom for their Eurovision entry, with few radio stations play-listing the song, including BBC radio stations. A spokesman said that the song "will be considered later, on merit".
Prior to the contest in Düsseldorf, Blue made a series of promotional appearances in the United Kingdom and around Europe to promote their entry for Eurovision "I Can". Several of these appearances were broadcast on UK television in a special documentary, Your Country Needs Blue, taking on the name of the previous national final Eurovision: Your Country Needs You, broadcast on 16 April on BBC One. Also featured on the documentary were the band's preparations on the song, as well as receiving advice from Robbie Williams, choreographer Arlene Phillips, JLS, John Barrowman, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, composer David Arnold and former United Kingdom entrants Cliff Richard and Lulu.
On 12 February Blue performed at the final of the Malta Eurovision Festival 2011 in Valletta, Malta. The band performed their UK number one hit "If You Come Back", due to the band wanting the first performance of "I Can" in the UK. After this Blue performed at the final of Destino Eurovisión 2011, the Spanish national final, in Barcelona. They again performed one of their existing hits, "Breathe Easy".
On 11 March, Blue revealed their song, "I Can" on The Graham Norton Show on BBC One. The song had been presented to the press the day before, and a 20-second snippet was also released on 10 March. During the press conference Blue rebuked claims by the media that the voting in Eurovision was political, and also discussed the other acts in the competition such as Jedward for Ireland and Amaury Vassili for France, as well as the return of 2010 winner Lena for Germany and 1998 winner Dana International for Israel respectively. The group also discussed their future promotional activities, mentioning Germany, France and Bosnia and Herzegovina as future locations. The day after the song's reveal the BBC released the first version of the song's music video, made to promote the Eurovision documentary. The official video was released by the BBC on 14 April.
Further promotional appearances continued. During the BBC's Red Nose Day telethon held on 17 March, Blue took part by recording footage of ways in which to raise money for the appeal such as by dressing up, baking and selling cakes, and washing cars. On 26 March the group performed "I Can" on the Italian version of Top of the Pops, a country with a large Blue fanbase. 2011 marks the return of Italy to the Eurovision Song Contest after 14 years. The group have also made appearances in Azerbaijan.
Blue also appeared nude in British gay monthly magazine Attitude as part of their naked issue, taking the cover spot as well as a feature article in the magazine. On 22 April the group performed on The Late Late Show on RTÉ One in Dublin, Ireland, and on 24 April the group did several appearances in Ukraine, performing "I Can" and their hit "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" on the Ukrainian version of Dancing with the Stars (Танці з зірками; Tantsi z zirkamy) on commercial channel STB, as well as performing "I Can" at a large concert for the Ukrainian entrant Mika Newton in Independence Square in Kiev along with several other entries. Blue also performed at the Eurovision in Concert event in Amsterdam, Netherlands, alongside 20 other participating acts.
Days before the beginning of rehearsals in Düsseldorf the group continued promotional appearances in the United Kingdom. On 29 April, Blue performed on Paul O'Grady Live on ITV, and on 30 April performed during the results show of dance competition So You Think You Can Dance. The group also performed on ITV chat show Loose Women and on BBC children's show Blue Peter on 3 May.
As one of the five biggest financial contributors to the Eurovision Song Contest ("Big Five"), the United Kingdom gained the right to compete in the final on 14 May automatically, along with France, Italy, Germany and Spain. At the draw for the running order on 15 March the United Kingdom was placed to perform 14th, following the Swiss entry Anna Rossinelli and preceding the Moldovan entry Zdob şi Zdub. The United Kingdom also gained the right to vote during the first semi-final on 10 May.
The final was broadcast on BBC One and BBC One HD, commentated by Graham Norton. Ken Bruce also provided live coverage on BBC Radio 2. The two semi-finals were broadcast on BBC Three and BBC HD with commentary by Sara Cox and Scott Mills, replacing Paddy O'Connell and Sarah Cawood. Cox provided live coverage from Düsseldorf, as well as presenting live interviews and reports from the arena. Mills filmed behind the scenes in the lead-up to the contest as well as providing live commentary from London.
On the night of the contest the United Kingdom was seen as 4th favourite to win the contest according to bookmakers, placing behind France, Ireland and Azerbaijan. At the final on 14 May the group performed on stage with two backing singers, dressed in green suits. Four LED screens were featured on stage that showed pictures of the band members and the letters "I CAN" as well as other images such as rain and green "lightning". The stage LED screens were coloured in blue and green. At the close of the voting the United Kingdom finished in 11th place with 100 points. The group received the maximum 12 points from Bulgaria as well as 10 points from Italy. The United Kingdom gave their top marks to Ireland (12 points), Switzerland (10 points) and Moldova (8 points).
On 26 May the EBU revealed the split televoting and jury results of the contest. In the final it was revealed that the United Kingdom had placed 5th in the televoting, however placed 22nd with the juries, leading to a combined finish of 11th place.
Points Awarded by United Kingdom
|12 points||10 points||8 points||7 points||6 points|
|5 points||4 points||3 points||2 points||1 point|
Viewing figures reported for the final evening of the 2011 contest showed a marked increase in viewers watching the show on the BBC. An average of 9.54 million viewers watched the show, representing 40.4% of the audience share, with a high of 12.7 million viewers (62% market share) watching the voting sequence. The figures for the contest were more than double the viewers from the 2010 contest, and represented the highest figures in the country since 1999.
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