Eurovision Song Contest 2021: James Newman reselected as UK's entry

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Picture of James Newman

image copyrightVictor Frankowski

James Newman is getting another shot at Eurovision, after being reselected to represent the UK for the 2021 contest in the Netherlands.

The singer-songwriter was chosen last year but the pandemic forced the event to be cancelled for the first time.

His new song will be revealed at a later date but he’s promising something “positive and upbeat”.

“I need to finish what I started,” James tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“I was so gutted when it got cancelled last year, and I didn’t get the opportunity to go to Rotterdam and sing on stage. I instantly wanted to take part again.”

The contest is due to take place 18-22 May at Rotterdam’s Ahoy! venue.

James joins loads of other competitors from Eurovision’s class of 2020 who will be returning in 2021, including Iceland’s Daoi Freyr (you can see the full list below).

‘The fans brought me here’

Eurovision bosses have a series of scenarios in place to make sure the event goes ahead this year, no matter how severely the pandemic is affecting the participating countries.

It means James will definitely compete, even if any travel restrictions remain in place.

He’ll either perform in person in Rotterdam or remotely from the UK.

James loves a ballad but he says it “didn’t feel right” this year. The new song’s expected to be revealed in a few weeks.

“I feel like everyone wants a party and to have some fun so when I was writing, that’s what I had in my head. I wanted something people can dance to, even if it’s just in their kitchen”.

James is a successful pop songwriter and has written for acts including Ed Sheeran and Jess Glynne, and is the older brother of John Newman.

“The whole songwriting process has obviously been a little bit different. I’ve had to adapt to writing in a slightly different way because everything has been online.

“I took it slowly over the summer and then started writing in the autumn, thinking about what to do after the hard times.”

James says the best thing about his Eurovision experience last year was the “fan community” that surrounds the contest.

“Those fans brought me into the Eurovision world. Everyone is so welcoming. I knew the basics of Eurovision but didn’t realise how many people lived and breathed it.”

Following a last-place finish in 2019, the UK’s Eurovision team at the BBC embarked on a new strategy, partnering with record company BMG to help select the act and song.

The focus switched from a public vote to an internal selection. In 2020, James was the artist and My Last Breath was the song – but he never got to perform it.

How will Eurovision go ahead?

After ruling out a full scale show, Eurovision bosses have certain scenarios in place to ensure the contest goes ahead.

  • Scenario 1: A socially-distant contest with everyone 1.5m from each other. There would be a live audience, but numbers would be limited. Acts would still take part from Rotterdam.
  • Scenario 2: Same as above, but any countries unable to attend the show due to travel restrictions would be able to perform remotely in their host nation. The performance would then be fed into the show.
  • Scenario 3: If the Netherlands is back in a full lockdown, a live show will take place but with no audience in the arena. If there are travel bans or any countries are unable to attend in person, they would perform remotely.

Who’s coming back for Eurovision 2021?

Iceland's Eurovision 2020 representative Daði og Gagnamagnið

image copyrightMummi Lú

Iceland – Daði Freyr

Daði Freyr was the overwhelming favourite to win last year’s contest and is back to represent a country which has never won the contest.

His song, Think About Things, got spots on the Radio 1 and Radio 2 playlists and was used in Strictly Come Dancing’s promo campaign.

Daði has already asked for members of the public to join a virtual choir on his 2021 Eurovision track, meaning he has his eyes on a win in 2021.

With Iceland being the focus of Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga movie as well, there’s a lot of weight on his shoulders to bring home the title.

Bulgaria – Victoria

Bulgaria's Eurovision 2020 participant Victoria

image copyrightLora Musheva

Tears Getting Sober was another favourite to win in 2020. The low-key Billie Eilish-style ballad showcased Victoria’s soft and subtle vocals,

Her return to Eurovision was announced last March, and has continued to have success in her home country, scoring a number one with her track Ugly Cry.

Sweden – The Mamas?

The Mamas

image copyrightAlamy

The Mamas won last year’s Melodifestivalen (Melfest) – Sweden’s legendary Eurovision selection show – and have entered again this year.

The group, who started off as backing singers, won a close 2020 Melfest final. Their entry Move won by a single point.

To get their second chance at Eurovision (or third if you include their appearance as backing singers for John Lundvik), they will have to beat 31 other artists in the televised finals.

They’re competing against Dotter, who came second last year, as well as 1999 Eurovision winner Charlotte Perrelli.

Other acts returning in 2021

  • Australia – Montaigne
  • Austria – Vincent Bueno
  • Azerbaijan – Efendi
  • Belgium – Hooverphonic
  • Czech Republic – Benny Cristo
  • Georgia – Tornike Kipiani
  • Greece – Stefania
  • Ireland – Lesley Roy
  • Israel – Eden Alene
  • Latvia – Samantha Tina
  • Malta – Destiny
  • Moldova – Natalia Gordienko
  • Netherlands – Jeangu Macrooy
  • North Macedonia – Vasil
  • Romania – Roxen
  • San Marino – Senhit
  • Serbia – Hurricane
  • Slovenia – Ana Soklic
  • Spain – Blas Canto
  • Switzerland – Gjon’s Tears
  • Ukraine – Go_A

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