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UK Eurovision entrant Mae Muller: ‘In our hearts and minds it’s Ukraine’s year’ | Pop and rock

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In January, pop star Mae Muller wrote a song she thought would be perfect for Eurovision. A few days later one of her managers called asking for an urgent meeting over a cup of tea. “I was worried my career was over!” the 25-year-old north Londoner laughs. “Then he said ‘what do you think about doing Eurovision?’. He had a whole PowerPoint presentation with all the statistics, and I was like ‘hun, I’m all in’. The Eurovision gods must have been speaking to me because I already had the song.”

The song in question is Muller’s catchy, Dua Lipa-esque I Wrote a Song, a bolshy meta-hit about channelling anger at an ex into pop poetry. Muller’s gut instincts were right: it does indeed tick a lot of Eurovision boxes. “First and foremost it’s a bop, you can dance to it, it’s easy to sing along to,” lists Muller. “And no matter what language you speak, everyone can sing the ‘da da da da da’ bit,” she adds, referencing the song’s earworm post-chorus.

The Eurovision gods Muller was unwittingly praying to have been shining on the UK more kindly of late. Last year, radiantly coiffured TikTok sensation Sam Ryder and his windswept power ballad Space Man finished second behind Ukraine, while cool-adjacent recent Eurovision success stories such as Sweden’s Loreen (the favourite to win again this year) and Italian acts such as Mahmood and 2021 winners Måneskin (who recently scored a UK Top 5 album and headline London’s O2 Arena next week), have heralded a wave of Eurovision positivity on these shores. It all means expectations for Muller’s performance are sky high. Things have certainly started well: I Wrote a Song peaked inside the UK Top 40 in March, making it the first single by a UK Eurovision entrant to do so on release week since Blue’s I Can in 2011.

“We’re very different artists,” Muller says of the pressures of following in Ryder’s footsteps. “What’s similar is that we both have a positive message [in our songs], but we have different things to say and we’ve gone through different things. But him doing so well last year could only ever be a good thing.” The puppy-like Ryder has been in touch with advice: “He sent me a voice note encouraging me to try and take each day as it comes and enjoy the moment. I don’t want to look back and wish I’d enjoyed it a bit more.”

Muller – who has been releasing music since 2018, and was obsessed with Eurovision as a child, specifically 2007’s Steps-lite duds Scooch – will also have the extra pressure of performing on home turf, with next weekend’s Eurovision being held in Liverpool due to the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine. “Physically it’s in the UK but in all of our hearts and minds it’s Ukraine’s year,” she says. “But I do feel it further highlights that no matter what is going on in the world we can come together. Eurovision is just the biggest safe space on the planet,” she adds. “Everyone’s so happy to be there and be themselves. It brings you back to the fact we’re all just humans on a rock.”

Muller, who chooses her words carefully when talking about Eurovision, is very aware of the escapist competition’s apolitical reputation. “When you sign up you have to respect how it works,” she says. “But at the beginning of the Eurovision journey I was nervous; I didn’t know what to say. I’m a 25-year-old woman who sings about heartbreak and boys being annoying. I don’t think anyone is expecting any of us to know about everything that’s going on in the world, but you have to know enough.”

That’s not to say Muller hasn’t voiced her political opinions in the past. In early April the Telegraph dug up some of her tweets from 2020 in which she criticised the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson – “Taking up a bed in intensive care but you’re not on a ventilator and in ‘high spirits’? Nah mate,” one read – and ran a story with the headline “British Eurovision entrant is anti-Boris Johnson Left-wing activist”. GB News, meanwhile, saw it as a reason to question the BBC’s political impartiality, with Jacob Rees-Mogg claiming it made the broadcaster look “characteristically foolish”. Muller is adamant her tweets were taken out of context, but generally seems unbothered by the furore. “I feel really lucky that I live in a place where as a young woman I can say how I feel,” she says.

Meeting King Charles and Camilla in Liverpool in April. Photograph: Phil Noble/AP

The highlighting of another tweet upset her more, with articles written about the fact she had said she hated the UK while discussing the row over free school meals. “The fact that I felt so strongly is because I absolutely adore where I’m from,” she says, her usually bright demeanour momentarily darkening. “I love the people, I love its diversity, I love its inclusivity, but also nowhere’s perfect. We have work to do. The UK deserves the best and sometimes when I feel like that’s not happening I get passionate about it.”

Muller’s fearlessness is refreshing and aligns her with outspoken 00s pop stars such as Lily Allen. “I’ve always said I don’t want to feel like this unobtainable, far away mystery,” she says. “I want people to feel like they know me. Like I’m a friend.” It was Allen’s conversational storytelling, and the more fantastical Florence Welch, who inspired Muller to start songwriting, with the resulting songs performed in front of her (often reticent) family: “I was like ‘everybody come here, I’ve written a song and I’m going to perform it now’,” she laughs. “I always loved to write.” In fact, part of the reason she wanted to make a song called I Wrote a Song was as a tongue-in-cheek reminder that she’s not just handed her songs by others: “[At the start of my career] I used to feel like I had to prove myself.”

It’s an added pressure felt by most of Muller’s female contemporaries, who all seem to have additional hoops to jump through compared with their male counterparts. While male pop stars such as Tom Grennan can release albums with regularity, Raye, L Devine and Gracey have all recently left their major label homes after struggling to get their debut albums released. Others including Becky Hill and Ella Henderson have had to release a seemingly endless stream of dance collaborations in order to be seen and heard. In fact, Muller’s biggest hit globally is 2021’s Better Days, a collaboration with Swedish producers Neiked reaching nearly 400m streams on Spotify alone.

Muller’s debut album, which she says has been ready for years, is now scheduled to arrive later this year. “I really wanted to just get the album out, and we had a date, then obviously Eurovision came along and every single date in the calendar got scrapped. Which is fine, because hopefully more people will get to listen to it now.” She says her label, EMI, never rushed her or said “you’re never releasing an album!” but she admits that her lengthy journey to this point “was not how I envisioned it at the start of my career – but that was six years ago and times changed,” she shrugs.

So thoughts of debut albums have to wait. For now, while she’s focused on taking it day by day, she can’t help but speculate about next weekend’s date with destiny in Liverpool, where she’ll be closing the show. “A Top 5 placing is the dream, but I’ll be happy with Top 10,” she says cheerily. “I really believe in the song, the staging is amazing, the choreo is great, so it’s just down to me. I can’t mess it up.” She shakes off the self-doubt. “I won’t mess it up. As long as I walk off that stage thinking ‘that’s the best I’ve ever done it and I had fun’ then I’ll be happy.”

The Eurovision Song Contest 2023 semi-finals are on 9 and 11 May, with the final on 13 May.


In January, pop star Mae Muller wrote a song she thought would be perfect for Eurovision. A few days later one of her managers called asking for an urgent meeting over a cup of tea. “I was worried my career was over!” the 25-year-old north Londoner laughs. “Then he said ‘what do you think about doing Eurovision?’. He had a whole PowerPoint presentation with all the statistics, and I was like ‘hun, I’m all in’. The Eurovision gods must have been speaking to me because I already had the song.”

The song in question is Muller’s catchy, Dua Lipa-esque I Wrote a Song, a bolshy meta-hit about channelling anger at an ex into pop poetry. Muller’s gut instincts were right: it does indeed tick a lot of Eurovision boxes. “First and foremost it’s a bop, you can dance to it, it’s easy to sing along to,” lists Muller. “And no matter what language you speak, everyone can sing the ‘da da da da da’ bit,” she adds, referencing the song’s earworm post-chorus.

The Eurovision gods Muller was unwittingly praying to have been shining on the UK more kindly of late. Last year, radiantly coiffured TikTok sensation Sam Ryder and his windswept power ballad Space Man finished second behind Ukraine, while cool-adjacent recent Eurovision success stories such as Sweden’s Loreen (the favourite to win again this year) and Italian acts such as Mahmood and 2021 winners Måneskin (who recently scored a UK Top 5 album and headline London’s O2 Arena next week), have heralded a wave of Eurovision positivity on these shores. It all means expectations for Muller’s performance are sky high. Things have certainly started well: I Wrote a Song peaked inside the UK Top 40 in March, making it the first single by a UK Eurovision entrant to do so on release week since Blue’s I Can in 2011.

“We’re very different artists,” Muller says of the pressures of following in Ryder’s footsteps. “What’s similar is that we both have a positive message [in our songs], but we have different things to say and we’ve gone through different things. But him doing so well last year could only ever be a good thing.” The puppy-like Ryder has been in touch with advice: “He sent me a voice note encouraging me to try and take each day as it comes and enjoy the moment. I don’t want to look back and wish I’d enjoyed it a bit more.”

Muller – who has been releasing music since 2018, and was obsessed with Eurovision as a child, specifically 2007’s Steps-lite duds Scooch – will also have the extra pressure of performing on home turf, with next weekend’s Eurovision being held in Liverpool due to the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine. “Physically it’s in the UK but in all of our hearts and minds it’s Ukraine’s year,” she says. “But I do feel it further highlights that no matter what is going on in the world we can come together. Eurovision is just the biggest safe space on the planet,” she adds. “Everyone’s so happy to be there and be themselves. It brings you back to the fact we’re all just humans on a rock.”

Muller, who chooses her words carefully when talking about Eurovision, is very aware of the escapist competition’s apolitical reputation. “When you sign up you have to respect how it works,” she says. “But at the beginning of the Eurovision journey I was nervous; I didn’t know what to say. I’m a 25-year-old woman who sings about heartbreak and boys being annoying. I don’t think anyone is expecting any of us to know about everything that’s going on in the world, but you have to know enough.”

That’s not to say Muller hasn’t voiced her political opinions in the past. In early April the Telegraph dug up some of her tweets from 2020 in which she criticised the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson – “Taking up a bed in intensive care but you’re not on a ventilator and in ‘high spirits’? Nah mate,” one read – and ran a story with the headline “British Eurovision entrant is anti-Boris Johnson Left-wing activist”. GB News, meanwhile, saw it as a reason to question the BBC’s political impartiality, with Jacob Rees-Mogg claiming it made the broadcaster look “characteristically foolish”. Muller is adamant her tweets were taken out of context, but generally seems unbothered by the furore. “I feel really lucky that I live in a place where as a young woman I can say how I feel,” she says.

Meeting King Charles and Camilla in Liverpool in April.
Meeting King Charles and Camilla in Liverpool in April. Photograph: Phil Noble/AP

The highlighting of another tweet upset her more, with articles written about the fact she had said she hated the UK while discussing the row over free school meals. “The fact that I felt so strongly is because I absolutely adore where I’m from,” she says, her usually bright demeanour momentarily darkening. “I love the people, I love its diversity, I love its inclusivity, but also nowhere’s perfect. We have work to do. The UK deserves the best and sometimes when I feel like that’s not happening I get passionate about it.”

Muller’s fearlessness is refreshing and aligns her with outspoken 00s pop stars such as Lily Allen. “I’ve always said I don’t want to feel like this unobtainable, far away mystery,” she says. “I want people to feel like they know me. Like I’m a friend.” It was Allen’s conversational storytelling, and the more fantastical Florence Welch, who inspired Muller to start songwriting, with the resulting songs performed in front of her (often reticent) family: “I was like ‘everybody come here, I’ve written a song and I’m going to perform it now’,” she laughs. “I always loved to write.” In fact, part of the reason she wanted to make a song called I Wrote a Song was as a tongue-in-cheek reminder that she’s not just handed her songs by others: “[At the start of my career] I used to feel like I had to prove myself.”

It’s an added pressure felt by most of Muller’s female contemporaries, who all seem to have additional hoops to jump through compared with their male counterparts. While male pop stars such as Tom Grennan can release albums with regularity, Raye, L Devine and Gracey have all recently left their major label homes after struggling to get their debut albums released. Others including Becky Hill and Ella Henderson have had to release a seemingly endless stream of dance collaborations in order to be seen and heard. In fact, Muller’s biggest hit globally is 2021’s Better Days, a collaboration with Swedish producers Neiked reaching nearly 400m streams on Spotify alone.

Muller’s debut album, which she says has been ready for years, is now scheduled to arrive later this year. “I really wanted to just get the album out, and we had a date, then obviously Eurovision came along and every single date in the calendar got scrapped. Which is fine, because hopefully more people will get to listen to it now.” She says her label, EMI, never rushed her or said “you’re never releasing an album!” but she admits that her lengthy journey to this point “was not how I envisioned it at the start of my career – but that was six years ago and times changed,” she shrugs.

So thoughts of debut albums have to wait. For now, while she’s focused on taking it day by day, she can’t help but speculate about next weekend’s date with destiny in Liverpool, where she’ll be closing the show. “A Top 5 placing is the dream, but I’ll be happy with Top 10,” she says cheerily. “I really believe in the song, the staging is amazing, the choreo is great, so it’s just down to me. I can’t mess it up.” She shakes off the self-doubt. “I won’t mess it up. As long as I walk off that stage thinking ‘that’s the best I’ve ever done it and I had fun’ then I’ll be happy.”

The Eurovision Song Contest 2023 semi-finals are on 9 and 11 May, with the final on 13 May.

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