Eurovision 2020 Review: United Kingdom – James Newman – My Last Breath

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UK hopes for change with James Newman’s ‘My Last Breath’
United Kingdom was the country that finished all the way at the bottom of the scoreboard during the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019. It was hardly a shock that ‘Bigger Than Us’ by Michael Rice ended up there. The national finals the BBC organized over the past few years had a 15th place in 2017 as a result and the country hasn’t made top 5 (or top 10 for that matter) since 2009. The BBC decided to change things up for this year’s Eurovision. There was no news from them for months while they internally selected an act and song. They selected James Newman and his song ‘My Last Breath’. Will he be able to change things around for the UK in Eurovision?

The 32-year-old singer and songwriter James Newman is not completely unknown in both the British and the international music industry. He is the older brother of UK singer John Newman and co-wrote some of his tunes, including the Calvin Harris collaboration ‘Blame’. James Newman also sang on ‘Therapy’ by Dutch dj Armin van Buuren and co-wrote hits for acts like Little Mix and Rudimental.

His ‘My Last Breath’ is a guitar-driven mid-tempo pop song with a straight forward drum rhythm and a light country vibe. The production is quite simple and centers around Newman’s slightly raspy vocals. The moment the chorus kicks in is elevating and the melody is there, but it is over before you can fully get into it. There is a little post-chorus in which a choir joins in for some more power behind the tune, which could help make it come alive on the Eurovision stage. Lyrically, ‘My Last Breath’ is a pure love song in which Newman sings he would give the love of his life his last breath if they got lost deep sea diving. Not a very romantic picture, but we get the sentiment!

With only 2 minutes and 35 seconds, ‘My Last Breath’ is about half a minute shorter than most of the other competitors at Eurovision. At least it doesn’t plod along this way, but it is also 30 seconds less time to convince the juries and televoters to vote for your song. ‘My Last Breath’ is definitely a step up from most of the UK’s Eurovision entries in the last year. At least it is more in tune with the current trends in the music industry and does not sound like it was written with the idea of a typical Eurovision song (whatever that may be) in mind. Unfortunately, the song does not leave a big impression on me which makes me fear it might await the same fate as loads of other UK entries: Nice enough songs, which are quite forgettable and convince hardly anyone to pick up the phone and vote and therefore end up at the bottom of the scoreboard.

Let us hope I am wrong and hope ‘My Last Breath’ will reach a mid-table result with a showstopping performance. It is at least a small step in the right direction for the UK…


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