1960s crooner Engelbert Humperdinck has spirited back into the music world with the announcement that he will be representing the UK in May’s Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision have today released the video for ‘Love Will Set You Free’, a slow and contemplative ballad penned for Humperdinck by Martin Terefe and Sacha Skarbek, who were behind James Blunt’s breakthrough hit ‘You’re Beautiful’, loved by the public and satirised by pretty much everyone else upon its release in 2005.
The UK does laughably badly every year at Eurovision. The apathy towards the contest in Britain has been reflected in a string of no-hopers since our last victory in 1997—I mean seriously, who has heard of Daz Sampson, Josh Dubovie and Jessica Garlick? We are equally hampered by the fact that we seem to hate every country remotely near us, not to mention Europe as a whole—while Scandinavian and former Eastern bloc countries retain a sense of solidarity directly quantifiable in Eurovision voting points. Terry Wogan, the face of Eurovision coverage since 1980, melodramatically walked away after the 2008 contest in frustration at increasingly politicised voting.
Pensioned-off boy band Blue submitted a highly anticipated offering last year, the first time in recent memory that an “actual” band has decided to get in on the action. Though their song flopped too, this trend of established names representing us seems to be continuing with Humperdinck, whom everyone is familiar with if only because of his preposterous name, taken from a nineteenth-century opera composer.
The other music issue Humperdinck’s entry throws up is to do with old people. Amid a growing unease among rock bands about the ‘death’ of guitar music in this country, and the corresponding rise of the dance and R&B genres, ‘old masters’ who gained fame in decades past are beginning to return to prominence, fuelled perhaps by the aging and conservatism of their vast original fan base, most of whom were born during the baby boom in the 1940s. These days, there seems to be a greater acceptance in lyric music of the experience of the older person, formerly written off as a hopelessly uncool topic compared to youthful, revolutionary idealism.
It seems therefore that big changes are afoot in the music industry, which has been in turmoil for the past decade as file-sharing and free-to-download releases became the norm. Music fans in Western Europe have long worshipped vintage British music themselves, and Humperdinck at the Eurovision Song Contest may have tapped into a Zeitgeist of a market. Could this be the year that we actually do OK?