2012 Baku: Senior acts in top five

Unlike AMERICAN IDOL (which US news media insist on comparing Eurovision to) ESC showcases not only young talents trying to make it, but sometimes old veteran performers showing they still have IT. Along with the hotly tipped Burianovskiye Babushki from Russia, who range in age from 70 to 85, there is one more grizzled entertainment veteran (who is here for more than joke value). After the past few up and down years in the Contest, the United Kingdom this year has made the bold choice of signing 75-year old lounge and concert hall veteran Engelbert Humperdinck. Humperdinck, born Gerry Dorsey in 1936, has been setting the ladies’ hearts aflutter for almost half a century, so he has learned a thing or two about selling a song.

Humperdinck 1960s

Humperdinck almost half a century ago

And a fine song it is! “Love Will Set You Free” comes to Eurovision from an esteemed group of songwriters. Grammy winner Martin Terefe (previously worked with James Morrison and KT Tunstall) and Ivor Novello Award-winning Sacha Skarbek (who collaborated in the past with Adele and James Blunt) have crafted a slow waltz ballad that feels familiar and comfortable for the still vocally confident crooner. It has a pleasant easy-going quality that should go down well with older viewers, which is the main reason Eurovision betting parlors currently have the UK at around fifth or sixth in the finals.

That target audience is certainly the limiting factor as well. A cute joke entry like the babushka grannies can draw upon some of the young viewers who appreciate the zany silliness of watching ancient crones hopping around the stage to celebrate the joys of partying if you’re 19 or 99. But to put forth a nicely presented SERIOUS entry from an artist who looks every day of his 75 years is more of a challenge. The under-18 set who pick up the phone again and again to call or SMS in their televotes may not know what to make of a ballad of lost love among the pensioners. The final fate of the UK in Eurovision 2012 will be interesting to watch play out!…

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