Engelbert Humperdinck has been handed a horribly difficult task in Eurovision 2012: the draw, announced this morning, reveals that the UK representative will open the show on 26 May.
In recent years, the winner of the contest has always sung in the second half of the draw.
Singing early in a phone-vote contest is proven to be disadvantageous: keen observers of, for instance, ITV1’s The X Factor noticed long ago that acts singing later are fresher in the minds of viewers when they come to vote, with the opening act often proving to be the one that is eliminated.
So it is with Eurovision. You have to go back to 2004 to find a winner who was even drawn in the first half of the running order.
Were Humperdinck’s performance to be a spectacular routine full of dancers and fireworks, it might be able to overcome the problem of fading from viewers’ memories on the night. But the British crooner – who will be 76 when he takes to the stage in Azerbaijan – in fact will sing Love Will Set You Free, a simple ballad that is positively subtle by Song Contest standards.
Spain, who won the draw of lots to decide which nation determines its own spot in the set list, chose to sing 19th of the 26 acts.
However, there are some omens in Humperdinck’s favour: the last time the UK entry was drawn first in the running order was 1976, when Brotherhood of Man brought home the trophy with Save Your Kisses for Me.
In addition, since 2010 Eurovision punters have been able to vote throughout the show, rather than having to wait until all the acts have performed – although this has not helped the opening acts so far.
Humperdinck’s song was unveiled yesterday. He is currently bookmakers’ sixth favourite to win the 2012 contest, at 18/1. Sweden are the 9/4 favourites.