Saturday 6 May 2023

Who the Hell is Sonia?

One of the hallmarks of Scousers (people from Liverpool, or Liverpudlians) is a sense of pride in ‘our’ own. Liverpool has been a part of some tragic moments in history (the Titanic, the Slave Trade, Jemini…), and it is likely that its musical heritage contributed to Liverpool being awarded the hosting gig.


According to completely unsubstantiated rumours, 1993 was 30 years ago. I was a young boy in the other room at my Nan’s house watching the penultimate one-artist UK National Final. Normally TV wasn’t allowed on a Sunday – not even for Songs of Praise – but Eurovision was an exception – especially when it was all about a local hero.


Back in those days, UK were pretty damn successful at Eurovision. The 30 years since – not so much. But who cares about them – today we have a simple question – Who the Hell is Sonia?


A very relevant question, because she will be popping up in the grand final next Saturday. Eurovision has come a long way since 1993, or even since 2013 – and there will be a lot of younger fans watching who have no idea of the answer.



Sonia Evans (which sounds more like an Eastenders character than a singer) was born in 1971. 


Famous UK songwriting and production trio Stock Aitken Waterman added her to their roster of acts they achieved success with (like Kylie, Dead or Alive, Rick Astley and more).

Her debut single "You'll Never Stop Me Loving You" reached No. 1 on the UK charts 


SAW’s also have some dubious links to Eurovision – one of their earliest credits being production on "Anna Maria Lena" in 1984, and they would later contribute “That Sounds Good to Me” to UK’s Eurovision dark days, but the less on that the better.


Sonia’s initial success and ‘winsome’ personality (as John Kennedy O’Connor would probably describe it) brought with it further success musically – becoming the first British woman to score 5 top 20 hits from the same album. 


She left SAW after her first album – possibly because she heard Anna Maria Lena – but her follow up album with producer Nigel Wright.


And I can tell you now that writing this article is probably more educational for me than the reader – as I just found out that Nigel Wright conducted the orchestra for the Iceland’s "Nei eða já" in 1992 – the year before our Sonia took him for her own entry – and also conducted the orchestra on ALW’s Eurovision: Your Country Needs You.



This brings us nicely to Sonia’s Eurovision attempt. The BBC asked her to prepare 8 different songs, which were then revealed over 4 shows. Every song was then performed in a final on April 9, 1993, and televoting chose the winner. The winning song, "Better The Devil You Know" got more than twice the number of televotes to the runner up.


The last place song, “It’s Just a Matter of Time” was co-written by Gary Benson, who has form at failing in UK pre-selections (last in 1974, 4th in 1975, 5th in 1977, 4th in 1981, last in preliminary heat in 1998).


The winning song charted only at #15 in the UK, and the album (featuring the top 4 ASFE entries) peaked at #32.



At Eurovision, Sonia had more luck. She received points from 22/24 competing nations – with only Greece and Malta not giving any points. Austria, Belgium, Iceland and Israel awarded the douze.


However it was Niamh Kavanagh who beat her by 17 points with “In Your Eyes”, giving Ireland their second victory in a row and moving them to joint-top of the winners’ leaderboard with France and Luxembourg.



Sonia never recaptured her fame, despite countless single releases, and reality TV shows like Reborn In The USA (also featuring a similarly ginger and Eurofamous Gina G and a still-to-be 2008 NF hopeful Michelle Gayle – remember her?) and Celebrity 5 Go Caravanning.


She married in 1998 and had a daughter Gracie in 2010, but really her main role has been popping up every few years to remind people that she lost Eurovision by 1 point (she didn’t).


As Liverpool prepare to host Eurovision 2023, you can spot Sonia in a lot of places. She’s in Hello Magazine,  Hollyoaks, delivering a cheese and wine package to a competition winner, and of course as part of the ‘Liverpool Songbook’ interval at Eurovision.

And on May 12th, you can find her around the city to win tickets to the Grand Final.