Sam Ryder got us second place in Eurovision – but it won’t ease the pain of Brexit

A combination of the worst aspects of David Bowie at his most pretentious and Ed Sheeran, Ryder is very much a product of our disjointed times

Sean O'Grady
Sunday 15 May 2022 18:48
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<p>A pan-European outbreak of Rydermania certainly feels unlikely</p>

A pan-European outbreak of Rydermania certainly feels unlikely

Well done then to Sam Ryder for coming a proud second to the unbeatable Ukraine in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Does it mean Europe now loves us? Let’s not get too carried away.

A pan-European outbreak of Rydermania certainly feels unlikely. It’s a bit “emperor’s new clothes”, this, but surely I can’t be alone in finding Ryder intensely irritating?

His high-pitched howling certainly shows he’s got the kind of blow-your-ears-off power that’s so fashionable these days, and which made him the first Eurovision nearly-winner to be launched via TikTok, but that doesn’t actually mean it’s pleasant to listen to. It’s like standing next to an ambulance on an emergency call, except the ambulance’s siren soon passes.

Ryder, I’m afraid, seems here to stay, in one form or another. A combination of the worst aspects of David Bowie at his most pretentious and Ed Sheeran, Ryder is very much a product of our disjointed times. The fact that he’s being hailed as some sort of antidote to the damage wreaked by Brexit rather confirms that the nation is in search of any kind of cultural analgesic that can relieve the tense nervous headaches caused by Brexit, Covid and Boris Johnson.

Even a song as superficially inspiring as “Space Man” is unlikely to alter the realpolitik of Brexit.

I’d be very surprised, for example, if Emmanuel Macron settled down on the sofa in the Elysee Palace with Brigitte, a big bag of Doritos and some nice wine, tuned into Eurovision and was mesmerised by “Space Man”. The de facto leader of the European Union probably didn’t put an emergency call through to Ursula von der Leyen and order her to cave in to Johnson’s list of illogical, impossibilist, cakeian demands, inspired by Ryder’s performance.

The French president isn’t finished with Brexit, either, and if the British want to start unravelling the trade deal, he’d be perfectly happy to retaliate, pending a renegotiation more to Macron’s tastes and in favour of French interests, not least those pesky fish that, contrary to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s famous remark, are not happy now that they are British once again. If Spaceman Johnson wants to float around in space, then that’s his affair.

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Actually, “Space Man” could be listened to as a poignant tribute to the tragedy of Boris Johnson. Just like Ryder’s wistful creation, the prime minister might well privately admit that “I’m only human, and I’m crashing down to earth mournful.”

His barren talks over the years in Brussels, Belfast, Paris and Washington seem to have inspired this passage in “Space Man”: “I’ve searched around the universe/ Been down some black holes/ There’s nothing but space, man/ And I wanna go home”.

Johnson’s alliterative bombast and boosterism may still inspire some, but in the cold climate of a cost of living crisis, it’s all feeling a bit tasteless. But no matter how badly he does in the polls, how many laws he breaks and how much his own colleagues hate him, Johnson just won’t go away: “Gravity keeps pulling me down/ As long as you’re on the ground, I’ll stick around/ Stick around/ I’ll stick around.”

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