For six decades, the UK has put forward our finest pop ambassadors in the Eurovision Song Contest. But who was the best? Here, we look back at all 61 past entries, from the ridiculous to the sublime
61. Joe and Jake, 'You're Not Alone', 2016: It's impossible to feel anything about this song. Even trying to be snide takes a Herculean effort. Cloned in the same dark pop laboratory, Joe and Jake – with their eerily smooth, symmetrical cheeks – were pasteurised leftovers from The Voice, as thrilling as low-fat yoghurt. The spangly, goofy, sequined excess that makes Eurovision a pleasure to watch was wholly absent here. In its place, there came a joyless corporate greige.
60. Jemini, 'Cry Baby', 2003: Now notorious for its "nul points" last-place result, every part of this song is a mess. The Liverpool pop duo have since admitted that their performance was out of tune. They claimed they couldn't hear the backing track. Unfortunately, we could.
59. Ryder, 'Runner in the Night', 1986: Just listen to that horrible, squelching synth bass. Led by charisma-vacuum Maynard Williams, this manufactured sextet were an unprecedented flop in the pop charts. Unlike our previous Eurovision entries, Ryder's offering couldn't even crawl into the UK Top 75. No wonder: it sounds like a rejected Survivor B-side.
58. Daz Sampson, 'Teenage Life', 2006: This misguided hiphop effort paired aging rapper Daz Sampson with a group of girls in school uniforms. Their catchy "kiddie" chorus aims at the youthful rebellion Pink Floyd captured in Another Brick in the Wall (Part II), but combined with Sampson it sounds more like Tim Westwood freestyling over a primary-school assembly.
57. Blue, 'I Can', 2011: Until 2011, nobody thought they'd be looking back fondly at the "good" days of Blue. But this synthy sprawl was a new low for the once successful boy band. "I know I can... get back up again," they sang. They couldn't. The song came an undistinguished 10th. In the years that followed, every member of the band revealed themselves to be not only musically but also financially bankrupt.
56. Scooch, 'Flying the Flag (For You)', 2007: Everything that felt fresh about Gina G's 1996 disco hit was regurgitated here as stale electropop. Desperately angling for camp classic status, Scooch had one of the laziest gimmicks of any UK Eurovision entry: "Let's dress as airline stewards! Because we're singing a song about flying!" An eight-hour delay on Ryanair would be more fun than this.
55. Nicki French, 'Don't Play That Song Again', 2000: The title says it all.
54. Black Lace, 'Mary Ann', 1979: It may not be Black Lace's worst crime against humanity (that would be Agadoo) but this country-inflected rock flop was still tripe. A generous listener might call those growling vocals a nod to London's then-vital punk scene, but this wearisome, nudge-wink performance is closer to George Formby than Johnny Rotten.
53. Emma, 'Give a Little Love Back to the World', 1990: Almost as bad as Black Lace's humour was Emma's queasy earnestness. "We should be proud of all the great things we've achieved," this environmental mope begins, like a particularly woolly episode of Thought for the Day. Don't blame the 15-year-old singer, who gives a solid enough performance. Blame the song's writer, one-man Europop factory Paul Curtis, who – after penning The Shadows' excellent 1975 entry – has churned out more than 20 Eurovision contenders (mostly rejected in the A Song for Europe contest).
52. Samantha Janus, 'A Message to Your Heart', 1991: Song-smith Paul Curtis was back in Bob Geldof mode with this preachy power-ballad, reminding the audience that "through politics and ignorance / half the world's in need". Janus made more of in impression on TVviewers a few years later as Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders.
51. Josh Dubovie, 'That Sounds Good To Me', 2010: It might have sounded good to you, Josh, but it didn't to anyone else.
50. Lindsay D, 'No Dream Impossible', 2001: Actually, Lindsay, one dream is impossible: a UK Eurovision win this century. This would have been merely disappointing (rather than gnawingly awful) if it weren't for the bandana-wearing meathead who interrupted Ms D to offer motivational titbits such as "be strong" and "keep pushin' on and on", all while pretending he knew how to play the synth.
49. Rikki, ‘Only the Light’, 1987: This drab ballad – a flop in both the contest and the charts – was a grim foreshadowing of things to come. Listen past the Eighties synth, and in those overwrought vocals you'll find the germ of every cringeworthy, sub-X-Factor ballad we've put forward in recent years. Utterly hopeless.
48. Precious, 'Say it Again', 1999: Alright, I'll say it again: utterly hopeless. Unlike Rikki, however, Precious had a future – one member of the girl group, Jenny Frost, went on to release three number one singles with Atomic Kitten.
47. Prima Donna, 'Love Enough for Two', 1980: Billed as "a group specially formed for the competition," Prima Donna was the Frankenstein's monster of Eurovision, bolted together from a former New Seeker, a future Bardo member and the brother of someone in Bucks Fizz. They were introduced on the night Noel Edmonds, and even he –a man who believes in melon-sized, invisible karmic orbs – seemed skeptical about their chances. The song may have been rubbish, but the early Eighties fashion (block colours and high-waisted trousers) was on point.
46. Electro Velvet, 'Still in Love with You', 2015: Electro-swing had a brief moment of popularity at the beginning of this decade; We No Speak Americano was a number one hit in 2010, and genre acts like The Correspondents were earning critical acclaim. But by 2015, that moment had passed. The same year that hipster bible Vice magazine labelled electro-swing "The Worst Genre Of Music In The World", we put forward an electro-swing duo as our Eurovision entry. Despite their razor-sharp dress-sense, Electro Velvet were like a pair of guests who turn up to a party after midnight, sober and uncomfortable, just as everyone else is leaving.
45. Co-Co, ‘The Bad Old Days’, 1978: "I was lost for learnin’ like a song without a key..." Indeed. That lyric was a little on-the-nose for this wobbly, unmemorable performance. It came in 11th place, at the time Britain's worst Eurovision result to date. Co-Co's Cheryl Baker would find a better vehicle for her talents three years later, in Bucks Fizz.
44. Sandie Shaw, ‘Puppet on a String’, 1967: All right, yes, this was our first Eurovision winner. But it shouldn't have been. Shaw looks dead behind the eyes throughout this wretched oompah nightmare. "I was instinctively repelled by its sexist drivel and cuckoo-clock tune," the barefoot pop star has since confessed. She's not the only one.
43. Lulu, ‘Boom Bang-a-Bang’, 1969: Our second winner was better, but not much better, sounding like the score to a Bavarian children's cartoon. After her excellent work on 'Shout' and the title tune to 1967 film To Sir, with Love, Lulu let herself down here. This is the way the Sixties end, not with a bang-a-bang but a whimper.
42. Live Report, 'Why Do I Always Get it Wrong?', 1989: Another weepy ballad, sung by a bald man barely clinging on to his ponytail. Despite the lacklustre performance and questionable fashion choices (shoestring tie, leather tuxedo jacket, beige trousers), the judges still found something to admire here: it came in second place, with the most perfect 12 scores of the evening.
41. Lucie Jones, 'Never Give Up On You', 2017: "Siri, sing me a Celine Dion B-side." Welsh model Jones tried in vain to inject any energy, humanity or warmth into this sluggish anthem-by-numbers. Its lyrics were roundly mocked on social media due to its unfortunate timing; this was our first Eurovision entry since the Brexit referendum, when Britain told Europe that we were, in fact, quite happy to give up on you.
40. Scott Fitzgerald, 'Go', 1988: Inhale deeply. Breathe in that cheese. Like a fine Camembert, this slice of overblown schmaltz has only ripened over time, and now has a perverse kitsch appeal. Written by Bruce Forsyth's daughter Julie, it unbelievably came within a whisker of winning, reaching an undeserved second-place. As his Gatsby-writing namesake once put it, "Nothing is as obnoxious as other people's luck".
39. Olivia Newton John, 'Long Live Love', 1974: As John Travolta would later sing, "Why, Sandy, why-yi-yi?" Before she found big-screen fame in Grease, the fabulous Olivia Newton John gritted her teeth through this choppy marching tune. Snapping out the words "HAP-PY PEO-PLE", she sounded like she was planning to bite open their jugulars. The song is ostensibly about the Salvation Army, and that military rhythm gives it a strangely oppressive feel. It's like something they might play over a tannoy at Disneyland North Korea.
38. Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson, ‘Sing, Little Birdie’, 1958: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a husband-and-wife double act. Carr and Johnson gawp inanely as the little birdie flies past their gaze (brought to life by the orchestra's piccolo). "Sing, little birdie up above / Sing a song of love!" Those with the highest tolerance for twee might enjoy it; for everyone else, it makes a strong case for the benefits of bird flu.
37. Ronnie Carroll, ‘Ring-A-Ding Girl', 1962: This starts off with such promise. With his dark good looks and strong, even tenor, Belfast-born Carroll seduces us through the opening bars – before launching into a chorus so irritating it has been proven to give listeners mumps. Ring-ding-a-do? Ring-ding-a-don't.
36. Ronnie Carroll, 'Say Wonderful Things’, 1963: Back to make amends for 1962, Carroll returned to Sing Forgettable Things flanked by three identical chorus girls. It's an improvement on his previous effort (though both songs came in fourth place). A nice walking guitar-riff elevates this above mere slush.
35. Cliff Richard, ‘Congratulations', 1968: It may still be popular, but that insufferable earworm of a tune is really nothing to congratulate. Still, Sir Cliff's knee-popping dance moves deserve a smattering of applause. They certainly made an impression at the time: after one particularly impressive backward hop, his female fans could be heard shrieking with excitement.
34. Vikki, 'Love Is...', 1985: Vikki's underpowered power-ballad may not have been prize material, but her hair stylist certainly deserved a trophy. After Eurovision, the song sank without a trace. Vikki has since renamed herself Aeone, and relaunched her career with more success as an LA-based ambient folk singer.
33. Belle and the Devotions, 'Love Games', 1984: It may be mediocre, but Love Games didn't deserve the booing it received on the night. Really, it was the England football team that the Luxembourg audience were booing, after the fans' atrocious behaviour at a match in the Duchy the previous year. Not for the last time, an otherwise innocuous Eurovision entry was sunk by politics.
32. Clodagh Rodgers, ‘Jack In The Box’, 1971: A tune so relentlessly perky it needs medical sedation. Northern Irish singer Rodgers throws herself into it heartily, but neither her vocal talent nor her eyeball-itching pink outfit can make this novelty jingle a classic. Not great, but at least it's not Puppet on a String.
31. Jade Ewen, 'It's My Time', 2009: By the end of the Noughties, not even Andrew Lloyd Webber could lift the UK out of its decade-long Euromalaise. He not only wrote this disappointingly unhummable tune, but also played piano for Ewen at the contest. Despite the beige lyrics (courtesy of Diane Warren) and competent but unremarkable melody, Lloyd Webber's international cachet and some canny pre-competition promotion brought It's My Time up to a very respectable fifth place.
30. Jessica Garlick, 'Come Back', 2002: The exact mid-point of the Eurovision spectrum. A song neither brilliant nor awful, entirely without distinguishing features. Written by Martyn Baylay, an airline pilot from Birmingham, this ballad is a kind of pop yardstick: the relative success of any song on this list can be measured against it. In other words, from here on things can only get better.
29. Bryan Johnson: 'Looking High, High, High’, 1960: Ah, the tale of a charming baritone stalker, hunting high and low for his runaway woman. Barring an unsuccessfully whistled interlude, and its questionable sexual politics, this is actually rather fun. Out-of-work stage actor Johnson serves up ham with relish. When he sings "You sure could have knocked me down / With the proverbial feather," he looks like he means it.
28. Kenneth McKellar, ‘A Man Without Love’, 1966: "A man without love is only half a man..." Audiences were treated to a rare glimpse of the lowerhalf of a man, as McKellar – then king of the Scottish panto circuit – took the stage in a kilt. He gave an impassioned performance of this earnest tune, lent a little sauce by the occasional glimpse of a Caledonian kneecap.
27. Javine, 'Touch My Fire', 2005: Now, some cynics have claimed that Javine Hylton only won the televised pre-selection contest due to her unfortunate, Janet Jackson-style wardrobe malfunction. But that does her a disservice. Touch My Fire's saucy, bangra-infused R&B was miles better than the song tipped by bookies to represent the UK that year, Katie Price's Autotune trainwreck Not Just Anybody. Still, when it came to the actual Eurovision Song Contest it flopped badly, coming in 22nd out of 24.
26. The Allisons: 'Are You Sure?', 1961: It's the Sixties, baby! Pop had arrived, albeit in the meekest form imaginable. Erzatz brothers "John and Bob Allison" (Brian Alford and Colin Day) smile politely through this soapy clean, barbershop-flavoured duet. Lovely voices, though – so smooth they glide in one ear and straight out the other.
25. James Fox, 'Hold On To Our Love', 2004: A likeable, and refreshingly simple, mid-tempo acoustic guitar song (with Fox's brother Dean on drums). Disappointingly for the UK, it only came in 16th. His unexpectedly low ranking sparked accusations of voter bias from such expert pundits as Terry Wogan, Bucks Fizz singer Cheryl Baker and, erm, Fox's mum. In hindsight, though, the result was perhaps down to their unglitzy performance rather than any fiendish tactical voting.
24. Frances Ruffelle, ‘We Will Be Free (Lonely Symphony)’, 1994: The funky slap-bass and sultry vocals of the verse made this a decent, even enjoyable entry, while the note-bending chorus allowed Ruffelle to show off lung-capacity that would land her star roles in several West End musicals. And yet, the two halves never quite gel together, making this a near-miss rather than a hit.
23. Andy Abraham, 'Even If', 2008: The first X Factor reject to represent us, but by no means the last. A groovy, cheeky, upbeat soul number with a head-bobbing rhythm, Even If was our best Eurovision entry of the Noughties, and yet – undeservedly – came at the very bottom of the table. Perhaps there is something to those rumours of tactical voting, after all.
22. Sweet Dreams. ‘I'm Never Giving Up’, 1983: Dressed in primary-coloured sportswear and chunky headbands, teenage trio Sweet Dreams couldn't have looked more Eighties if they tried. With its anthemic opening chords and up-tempo chorus, it's aged far better than anyone would have expected at the time (the song placed sixth, and failed to make a splash in the charts).
21. Brotherhood of Man, 'Save Your Kisses for Me', 1976: This was, at the time, the biggest-selling Eurovision winner in history. From those syrupy I-love-you's to the unambitious dance routine (check out that synchronised hand-holding!) this is a relic from a simpler age. You'll find no better example of wide-eyed romantic love... until the punch-line comes: the beloved "baby" is actually a baby. A three-year-old. Surprise!
20. Bardo, ‘One Step Further’, 1982: Underrated at the time (it only reached seventh place), this punchy duet from Crackerjack presenter Sally Ann Triplett and her real-life lover Stephen Fischer benefited from the couple's palpable chemistry. It's upbeat pop with hooks aplenty, and would sit well on any Eurovision mix-tape.
19. SuRie, 'Storm', 2018: You won't find a better example of "keep calm and carry on" spirit than SuRie, who was interrupted in the final by a stage invader, who wrenched the microphone out of her hands. The classically trained singer carried on valiantly nonetheless, winning the goodwill of the crowd. The song itself was good – an optimistic, club-friendly anthem – but it's the performance on the night that earns this one a place in the top 20.
18. Imaani, 'Where Are You', 1998: Imaani Saleem's soulful vocals gave Where Are You a real emotional punch, but the backing track – and flat drum machine effects – have dated the song terribly. On the other hand, it has since taken on a symbolic importance as the last song that gave the UK a chance of winning: Imaani came in second place, a feat we haven't matched since.
17. Michael Ball, 'One Step Out of Time', 1992: Another guilty pleasure, made all the sweeter by Ball's shameless dad-dancing. Terry Wogan raved about it, your parents probably love it, and after a few drinks it'll have you pumping your fists at any Eurovision party.
16. Bonnie Tyler, 'Believe in Me', 2013: If it didn't quite reach the heights of Total Eclipse of the Heart, this was at least a Dark Afternoon of the Kidney. Tyler struggled audibly on the first line, but soon recovered for a powerful and impassioned performance, with a lifetime's worth of feeling: "You never see the rainbow, you just curse the rain". The critics certainly saw the rainbow, giving this two Eurovision Song Contest Radio Awards for best song and best singer, but the actual contest voters rained on her parade – Believe in Me placed a disappointing 19th.
15. Engelbert Humperdinck, 'Love Will Set You Free', 2012: Much like Bonnie Tyler, this was another attempt to win Eurovision with a fine-but-weathered singer dredged up from your mum's record collection. If poor old Engelbert had sung this for the UK back in the Sixties, he would have easily made it into the top five. Sadly, this beautiful Latin-tinged waltz number arrived several decades too late. Tastes had moved on, and the septuagenarian crooner was cruelly snubbed by voters, placing second-last.
14. Matt Monro: 'I Love The Little Things', 1964: Sadly, no video footage survives of this performance. But the audio proves Matt "The Man with the Golden Voice" Monro lived up to his moniker. Despite the uninspiring lyrics ("My love I'm so in love with you"), he sings this upbeat tune with the same warmth he brought to 1963's From Russia with Love. It came in a well-deserved second place.
13. Sonia, ‘Better the Devil You Know’, 1993: Proof that everything sounds better on a keytar. Liverpool's Sonia should have won with this irresistible, dancefloor-filling rock'n'roll froth, but came in second to Ireland's Niamh Kavanagh.
12. Gina G, ‘Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit’, 1996: This was perhaps the first time that our Eurovision entry was ahead of the pop curve. With its pumping disco beat, computerised backing track and hyper-athletic dance routine, it looks ahead to Noughties hits from (at best) Girls Aloud and (at worst) Scooter. A fun fact: that tiny dress Gina wore for the contest was originally designed for Cher.
11. The New Seekers, 'Beg, Steal or Borrow', 1972: From billowing sleeves to velvet tuxedos, The New Seekers had their Eurovision look nailed to perfection. Their song wasn't half bad, either, with its neat harmonies and catchy singalong chorus. Another second-place result for Britain, and a far-better-than-second-rate entry.
10. Molly, 'Children of the Universe', 2014: People love to gripe about the UK's diminished status at Eurovision, but the last few years (Joe and Jake excepted) have been a vast improvement on the Noughties. Young Molly Smitten-Downes wrote this rabble-rousing anthem herself – the first UK act to do so since Katrina and the Waves – and the results were surprisingly very good. That "power to the people" refrain packs a wallop, even if the political statement underpinning it remains vague.
9. Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran, 'Rock Bottom', 1977: Not just a fun, honky-tonk tune, but also a rather memorable performance. Moran and de Paul were dressed in fetching Edwardian morning-suits, sat back-to-back playing a pair of duelling grand pianos. Not everything has to be a life-or-death love ballad: Rock Bottom proves a little light amusement can go a long way. The duo deserve bonus-points for somehow making the whole thing look understated.
8. Love City Groove, ‘Love City Groove’, 1995: Our first foray into Eurovision hiphop was widely mocked at the time. And yet, two decades on, it's hard to resist that funky chorus. It may not be typically Eurovision fare, but who can argue with Q-Tee's logic when she raps, "You know I'm the one to rock your world, because... honey, yeah." Love City Groove is in fact an unappreciated Eurogem – because honey, yeah?
7. Cliff Richard, 'Power to All Our Friends', 1973: By 1973, the hippie movement was dead – except at Eurovision. Sir Cliff's backing band included a guitarist in round John Lennon glasses and an oversized bongo. Extolling the virtues of the simple life ("ploughing in the valley"), Richard segues confidently between soft, earnest verse and brassy, rocking chorus. "Power to the bees!" Who can argue with that?
6. Patricia Bredin: 'All', 1957: A nostalgic delight. The lyrics promise "all the joy of living" and "all the golden dreams of yesterday"; half a century on, this Vera Lynn-esque number serves them up on a silver plate. An amateur opera singer from Hull, our first ever entry was clearly pleased as punch to be there. Bredin's vowels may be cold as glass, but she performs with a smile and a glint in her eye.
5. Mary Hopkin, 'Knock Knock Who's There', 1970: There's an oddly poignant edge to this sweet, upbeat number from Welsh siren Hopkin. Paul McCartney was a big fan, and it's easy to see why. Her shimmering vocals took her to second place, pipped to the post by Irish singer Dana.
4. Bucks Fizz, 'Making Your Mind Up', 1981: Colourful, cheeky and exactly the right kind of naff – there's a reason our winning 1981 team are still so popular among Eurovisionistas: it's everything we want from the competition. That skirt-ripping dance routine (the big reveal timed to match the lyric "if you want to see some more"), deserves a place on any list of the contest's most memorable moments. Let's look over the fact that (whisper it) Fizz's actual singing was more flat than sparkling.
3. The Shadows, 'Let Me Be the One', 1975: Cliff Richard's one-time backing band were better off without him. They were the first proper rock group to represent the UK, and couldn't have looked more laid back about the whole thing. When singer Bruce Welch briefly flubbed his words onstage, he might have got away with it unnoticed – but he chose not to, leaning into the microphone to joke with the crowd "I knew it". Not only does this loose-limbed, Beatles-y number succeed as a song in its own right, but it also has that most elusive quality: authenticity.
2. Kathy Kirby: ‘I Belong’, 1965: Blonde bombshell Kirby's wide-eyed zeal on this self-empowerment anthem brought her cult fame as an enduring gay icon. Bold and fiery, it was our first Sixties entry that actually sounded like the music the kids were listening to, and would have been a worthy winner – if it weren't nudged down into second place by Luxembourg's equally radical entry, the Serge Gainsbourg-penned 'Poupée de cire, poupée de son'.
1. Katrina and the Waves, 'Love Shine a Light', 1997: Sometimes, the simple ones are the best. In 1997, Katrina and the Waves' peak (with Eighties hits like Walking on Sunshine) was long behind them. They had nothing to lose, and threw themselves into this optimistic anthem with utter conviction. In other hands it might have been pure cheese, but Katrina Leskanich's breathy, all-or-nothing performance gives it an unexpected power.