Sam Ryder “totally fits the Eurovision message” and will showcase “authenticity” when he takes to the stage at Eurovision this weekend, according to the talent boss who helped lead the search for the UK entry.
The 32-year-old singer and TikTok star, from Essex, was selected to compete for the UK in a collaboration between the BBC and global music management company TaP Music, which has counted Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding among its clients.
TaP Music co-founder Ed Millett told the PA news agency he felt “confident” Ryder could succeed in Turin, Italy, where the grand final is due to take place on Saturday night.
Mr Millett said: “The thing that was always impressive about Sam was that not only was he an incredible singer and had a great song, but he had this magic balance of being very warm and approachable – someone who was a joy to work with, and somebody who likes spreading joy.
“As a personality, he fits totally the Eurovision message. I don’t know if you saw the other day, he did the press conference after the rehearsal. And he just, like, nailed it.
“Because he’s doing this for genuine reasons. It’s not a strategic career move that is full of cynicism. He genuinely loves it. He had been covering Eurovision songs before.
“So there’s an authenticity to where he’s coming from, how he feels about the competition, what his worldview is, and how he sees the competition within that.”
Alongside co-founder Ben Mawson and record label Parlophone, Mr Millett has revamped the UK’s strategy after years of dismal results.
The UK was bottom of the Eurovision leaderboard in the past two contests, coming last in 2019 with Michael Rice’s Bigger Than Us, and James Newman’s Embers scoring “nul points” in 2021.
The new strategy included ensuring Ryder’s single, Space Man, got played on BBC Radio 1 instead of Radio 2 and targeting smaller countries such as San Marino, Serbia, Croatia and Malta, which have the same voting powers as larger countries such as Germany.
Mr Millett said that historically part of the problem in the UK had been a “lack of investment”.
“This show is a big extravaganza and the production in the studio is phenomenal if you’ve got the resources to take advantage of that,” he added.
“That again was part of the conversation. If Sam is going to be the entrant, are you, as the label, going to invest properly in a showstopping TV performance? Because the staging is as much a part of it as the song.
“The BBC upped their budget and the label have really stepped up. And I think the budget this time is 10 times what it was last year. So fingers crossed.
“We brought in some really amazing people on the production side to help craft a great performance and that is all going to stand in good stead.
“So yes, I feel confident, I feel proud of all the work that Sam has done, and that everybody’s fully embraced it and is going for it.”
Mr Millett said that during the selection process his team looked at new and established artists, and even considered creating a supergroup of well-known British acts.
Explaining why TaP Music took on the project, he said: “Part of the thing was we wanted to represent the modern, pro-European, friendly, diverse country that the UK is. We felt strongly that that isn’t perhaps what had been happening.
“The UK globally punches well above its weight in terms of pop music and (if you) follow that path, why wouldn’t we be doing well in this competition?
“It’s a song competition and we have some of the best pop music in the world.”
The first semi-final on Tuesday saw favourites Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine voted through to the grand final.
The UK is among the Big Five countries – also including Spain, Germany, France and Italy – which do not have to qualify from the semi-final stage and gain automatic access to the final.
Ireland’s Brooke Scullion will be competing in the second semi-final, where the remaining 18 countries will take to the stage in the hope of being voted through to the final.
The second semi-final will be broadcast on BBC Three on Thursday from Turin in Italy, with commentary by TV star Rylan Clark and Radio 1 presenter Scott Mills.