Eurovision and ‘Brexit’: Secret message in UK song?

Swedish pop group Abba, performs during the the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 on February 09, 1974 in Brighton with their song Waterloo. Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest in England with 'Waterloo', this was the beginning
What can Eurovision tell us about Brexit?
02:13 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

As the European Union fights to keep Britain from leaving, it’s perhaps fitting that the theme of this year’s Eurovision singing contest is “Come together.”

Could the UK’s song entry, “You’re Not Alone” by duo Joe and Jake, also be a thinly veiled message to the British public?

“We’re in this together” go the lyrics to the song, which bookmakers have given a 25-1 chance of winning the contest Saturday in Sweden.

Not great odds but also not terrible for a country that hasn’t won the contest in almost two decades.

The singing competition comes ahead of a June referendum that will see Britons voting on whether to stay or exit the EU – commonly known as “Brexit.”

And it’s not the only Brexit the country has been considering.

A recent YouGov poll found 60% of people would want Britain to leave Eurovision, a contest known for its camp, kitsch and zany style.

In many ways, Britain’s relationship with the EU has long mirrored that of Eurovision, said Alasdair Rendall, president of the UK’s Eurovision Fan Club.

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Swinging ’60s and ‘70s

“If you look at the UK’s attitudes toward the then-EEC in the 1960s and 1970s, we were really keen to join in the 1960s, and we finally joined in the 1970s,” Rendall said, referring to European Economic Community.

“And they were years when we were also doing really well in Eurovision.”

Those were indeed golden years for the UK at Eurovision. The country won three times – with Sandie Shaw in 1967, Lulu in 1969 and Brotherhood of Man in 1976.

The UK also had 10 songs finishing in the top three.

British singer Sandie Shaw wins Eurovision in 1967 with her song "Puppet on a String."

A dry spell

Fast-forward to the late 1990s, and the love affair with Europe had started to wane. Politically, the UK said no to the euro, opting instead to keep the pound.

It was also the end of the UK’s string of wins at Eurovision. The last time the country won the competition was in 1997 with the Katrina and the Waves song “Love Shine a Light.”

It gets worse. Since 2003, the UK has placed last three times.

“Over the last 15 years or so we’ve felt politically removed from the European Union,” Rendall said.

“And I do think that has some crossover to our attitudes toward Eurovision.”

The Wogan factor

There may also be a perception among the British public that Eurovision isn’t a serious singing competition, which Christer Bjorkman, the Swedish producer of this year’s contest, blames on the belittling tone of BBC broadcaster Terry Wogan.

Sweden's Abba won Eurovision 1974 with their worldwide hit "Waterloo."

Wogan, who died in January, fronted the competition’s coverage from 1971 to 2009. Bjorkman said the Wogan’s frivolous tone lowered the perception of the competition in the British public’s eyes.

“He did this for 28 years and his commentary always forced the mockery side and there is a grown-up generation in Britain that doesn’t know anything better,” Bjorkman told the Press Association.

“He raised a generation of viewers believing this was a fun, kitsch show that had no relevance whatsoever.”

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Sweden, meanwhile, has won the competition six times, perhaps most famously with the Abba song “Waterloo” in 1974.

The song has references to the 1815 Battle of Waterloo in which British troops defeated Napoleon.

But whether Britain will claim victory at Eurovision this year remains to be seen.