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TikTok star Sam Ryder to represent the UK at Eurovision

By | Published on Thursday 10 March 2022

Sam Ryder

Right, so this year’s UK Eurovision entry has been announced. And my natural instinct is to be sarcastic about it. But I just listened to Scott Mills on Radio 1 desperately pleading with the nation to get behind our 2022 entry and stop being so negative about Britain’s Eurovision dabblings. So now I don’t know what to do. I guess I should just tell you that this year the UK will be represented in Eurovision by Sam Ryder with his song ‘Space Man’.

Now, for anyone who is or has recently been anywhere near a committed Eurovision fan – online or off – this will be no surprise at all. Thanks to not entirely subtle hints dropped by Scott Mills on Radio 1 and Ken Bruce on Radio 2, it was already widely expected that ‘Space Man’ would be announced as our entry.

“Having been a fan of Eurovision since I was a kid, I am so honoured to have been presented with the opportunity to sing at an event alongside some of Europe’s most talented creatives, performers and songwriters”, says Ryder. “I hope to sing my head off in a way the UK can be proud of, and to showcase a song I wrote with my friends last summer makes the whole experience even more special. See you in Turin, legends!”

TikTok star Ryder is, of course, best known for his cover versions of popular songs on the social media platform. Rest assured though, this is not a new version of the Babylon Zoo song. It’s a Sam Ryder original, which was actually released last month. The covert plan seemingly to get people to like the song before they had a chance to complain that it was our Eurovision entry and therefore shit.

Because, you see, that’s an attitude that results in Eurovision failure. When officially announcing the song this morning, Mills said that the negativity of the British public is partly to blame for why we have done so badly in the competition in recent years. Sure, our songs have been disappointing and the performances of them worse, but the real problem – at the risk of sounding like a Brexiteer – is people talking the country down.

“This year is different, it has to be”, said Mills. “Across Europe, for Eurovision, countries get behind their act. Italy got behind Måneskin last year. Since then, they’ve had hit singles, they’re touring all over the world, they’ve got two BRIT nominations, they’re on every US talk show you can think of. The Dutch got behind Duncan Laurence a couple of years ago [and] now ‘Arcade’ is a TikTok phenomenon. Eurovision does now make global superstars. Europe just doesn’t see it in the way we see it, and that’s got to change”.

“Yes, we haven’t done well recently”, he went on. “But that’s partly because here in the UK, we don’t get behind our act. And we need to, because everyone else does. The rest of Europe looks at us and thinks, ‘Why aren’t they getting behind their act?’ We need to be more positive … Can we at least forget what has gone before? Let’s see this as a clean slate. The negativity is part of the problem of why we haven’t done well”.

And he’s probably right. Most European countries see Eurovision as an opportunity to get one of their artists in front of a huge worldwide audience. Whereas in the UK, we generally see it as a bit of silly fun. Part of our arrogance probably comes from the fact that we produce a lot of globally successful artists already, but even the Ed Sheerans of the world aren’t used to performing to a TV audience of 200 million people.

Not that Ed Sheeran is representing us at Eurovision – not yet, anyway. But Sam Ryder is, and while he may not be a household name exactly, he does have a considerable following. With twelve million followers on TikTok, he is the UK’s biggest music act on the platform. Something that will help to get his song heard ahead of the event.

Because that’s another thing. While you might think that the Eurovision final is the first time any of these songs have been heard by the public, many entries are already hits in Europe before that big performance.

This year’s UK selection process was handed over to artist management company TaP Music, which promised to turn things around for the UK this time. Although press statements in the run up to the big reveal were generally just opportunities for the big name artists that the firm represents to state categorically that they would definitely not be doing it.

Speaking about the search for this year’s entry, TaP Music co-founder Ben Mawson says: “The search has taken many months and has presented us with lots of dilemmas and difficult decision making as to which direction to go in for our act”.

“We had incredible interest from across the music industry, from unsigned talent through to established artists with number one albums”, he goes on, “however we settled on Sam because of his combination of extraordinary vocals and a wonderful song that references so many classic British musical influences”.

The company’s other co-founder, Ed Millett, adds: “The Eurovision Song Contest is truly a cultural phenomenon and an amazing opportunity – with 200 million viewers – for the right performer. As well as Sam having an amazing voice, ‘Space Man’ is an instant song that we’re confident will really connect. Not to mention he’s also an extremely likeable and engaging character – as evidenced by his TikTok following”.

Will any of this confidence help when it really counts though? Well, when it comes to it, it’ll be Ryder’s performance on the big night that matters the most. As well as a memorable song, you need a memorable performance.

Staging is an area where the UK has really lagged behind in modern Eurovision. While other countries put on impressive dance routines or otherwise inventive performances, last year the UK had a man in a big coat standing between two massive trumpets. And I don’t think we can underestimate how much that contributed to James Newman receiving zero points.

‘Space Man’ certainly sounds like a song that would lend itself to something visually impressive. And this morning on Radio 1 Mills promised “staging like you’ve never seen from the UK”. We can only hope. But maybe the story of Måneskin has finally made the UK realise the potential of Eurovision. And maybe we can reverse the bad results of recent years. We’ll find out in a couple of months.

Now, here it is, ‘Space Man’ by Sam Ryder: