Mae Muller: I Wrote a Song review – UK Eurovision entry is far from douze points
With its revenge-on-an-ex lyrics and Europop backing, the UK offers a standardised, slightly naff song after the glam-rock belting of Sam Ryder last year
For decades, Britain’s behaviour towards the Eurovision song contest followed a reliably set pattern. First, it involved behaving as though the nation was somehow above the whole thing, disdainfully entering any old rubbish: TV talent show runners-up, manufactured pop bands years past their sell-by date, songs so unmemorable it seemed a miracle the benighted souls charged with singing them didn’t just forget what they were doing midway through the performance and distractedly wander offstage. Then, when the other countries failed to behave accordingly – awarding us deux points or ignoring us altogether, as if they somehow weren’t grateful for our weary magnanimity – we got angry about it: muttering about conspiracies and block voting, digging up ancient enmities as proof positive we weren’t being treated fairly.
Then last year, things went dramatically off-piste: we entered a decent song. Whatever you made of Space Man and its ebullient vocalist Sam Ryder, its vaguely glam-inspired, Elton/Bowie-invoking balladry was clearly a vast improvement on the stuff we’d previously inflicted on our European neighbours. You could tell by the fact that the British public actually went out and bought it. Based on purchases rather than streams, it was the third-biggest single of 2022 – as opposed to, say, Joe and Jake’s 2016 entry You’re Not Alone, which got to No 81 in the charts.
Which leaves Britain in a dilemma: do we bother trying to follow it up with something capable of similar success, or revert back to the tried-and-tested disdain-followed-by-xenophobic-rage approach?
I Wrote a Song by Mae Muller – previously the vocalist on Better Days, a minor 2021 pop-dance hit by Swedish duo Neiked – suggests a certain hedging of bets. Unlike Space Man, which stood out precisely because it sounded a little different from the rest of the British chart, it sticks fast to current pop trends. I Wrote a Song is a bit of Dua Lipa-esque electronic pop, underpinned by a rhythm track influenced by the sound of Robin S’s 90s house hit Show Me Love, another regular pop trope. The wordless chant in the chorus is a Eurovision staple designed to transcend any language barrier, and its uptempo waltzing rhythm is also a Europop trope, reminiscent of Mediterranean holiday hits such as Mr Saxobeat.
Meanwhile, its revenge-on-an-ex lyrics fit with the vogue for songs in which female vocalists heap scorn on a departed or errant boyfriend, a theme that accounts for the top 3 singles in this week’s chart: Miley Cyrus’s Flowers, PinkPantheress’s Boy’s a Liar and SZA’s Kill Bill.
The song isn’t terrible, but nor, one suspects, would it attract the kind of attention it’s getting were it not our Eurovision entry. The corner of pop in which it plants its flag is a cutthroat business in which hits are generally made by paying vast sums of money to large teams of songwriters-for-hire, there to ensure nothing is left to chance. If I Wrote a Song had been intended for Dua Lipa, one of said team would have done something about its faintly naff chorus long before it was presented for her consideration. It’s certainly better than most of our entries in recent years, but whether that makes it good enough is another matter entirely.
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