Last week, the last remaining countries released their official songs for entry into the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. With the Eurovision Grand Final fast approaching on May 22nd, it is safe to say we have entered Eurovision season.
As such, this is the time where I start bombarding my parents with Eurovision content. This week, to better their understanding of what songs could be potential winners, I have decided to hold a mini-competition to rank our previous winners.
The rules are as follows:
Myself, my Mum, and my Dad each have a scorecard with the 11 winning entries from 2009-2019. We will watch each winners’ Grand Final live performance chronologically. Then we award: 12 points, 10 points, 8 points, 7, 6, 5… down to 0.
The points system I have set up follows the idiosyncrasies of Eurovision. However, as there are 11 acts each participant must also choose who gets ‘0’ points. It’s cold and I love it.
Some context for the three of us: my Dad is a Tory/Centrist, my Mum is Labour/Centrist, and I have Green party ideologies but ultimately vote Labour. If you think that politics has little to do with Eurovision then you are reading the wrong article.
After watching all the grand final performances, this is our familial ranking.
Last Place: Azerbaijan 2011 – ‘Running Scared‘ by Ell & Nikki
It’s no secret that this entry takes first place… for ‘most questionable win of the decade’. Even an exceptionally generous ‘6’ from me could not save the inevitability of it placing last overall. On first watch the song comes across as dated and the performance… stilted.
If, like me, you have watched it over 100 times, you will feel a certain attachment to the heartbreak hidden deep within one of Eurovision’s plainer entries. A song about desperately trying to keep a relationship alive just hits different after a few drinks. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that this entry holds the record for the lowest average score to actually win the contest.
10th Place: Sweden 2015 – ‘Heroes‘ by Måns Zelmerlöw
2015 was an incredibly strong year for Eurovision in my opinion. Which makes it so much more upsetting that this uninspired Avicii pastiche did so well. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, it just lacks a sense of uniqueness for me. Måns is charismatic and attractive but not impossibly attractive as to be completely unattainable, and the LED screen visuals set a very high bar for all future Eurovision entries.
He’s also… not a fantastic singer. For this performance they even pitched the song down so he could hit the notes better, and it still sounds strained. The real miracle is that after the entire performance, his grey shirt has no sweat marks at all. That’s some witchcraft.
9th Place: The Netherlands 2019 – ‘Arcade‘ by Duncan Lawrence
I was privileged enough to watch Eurovision 2019 in the company of about 15 homosexuals, and if i remember correctly this was nobodies favourite. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really great and catchy song performed very well. It just feels like this was a very safe winner.
That being said, since about 2013 the Netherlands have really stepped up their Eurovision presence with a very clear national brand, and it was about time that this approach to stripped back musical excellence was acknowledged with a win.
[TIE] 7th/8th Place: Ukraine 2016 – ‘1944‘ by Jamala
Another very controversial win, Eurovision fans still wonder if it was fair that this song was allowed to enter. The Eurovision rules specifically state that songs with political messages are not applicable. The song itself tells the story of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars at hands of Stalin; interesting considering that the main opposition for 2016’s Eurovision crown was Russia’s own Sergey Lazarev. So a two horse race ensued between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ with Australia popping in to say hello too.
Despite all the controversy, the song itself is one you either love or hate. It’s incredibly contemporary, showy but with all the talent to back it up, and reflects culture back at the viewer in a way that’s easy to digest despite the heavy subject matter. Personally, I find it absolutely breathtaking and it is one of my favourite winners, but in the interest of musical fairness I would have been as happy with Russia winning.
[TIE] 7th/8th Place: Portugal 2017 – ‘Amor Pelos Dois‘ by Salvador Sobral
The fact that this placed lower than ‘Toy‘ by Netta is a crime to me. Once again, we have a situation where you either love this or hate this. I can’t seem to remember very much from this year other than how stunning this win was, and when he brought his sister on stage to sing with him at the end it was time to open the floodgates.
My Mum saw this performance as a sob story, but personal taste aside it’s hard to deny that this is musically one of the greatest songs we’ve seen on Eurovision ever. What’s even more impressive is that Salvador ended his Eurovision career as quickly as he started it by saying in his victory speech: ‘Music is not fireworks, music is feeling’… sweetie you just won the wrong contest for that.
6th Place: Israel 2018 – ‘Toy‘ by Netta
On that night in May 2018, I truly don’t remember the performance being this cringey. This year was Israel’s time to finally win, with one of the most iconic intros to a pop song ever. I remember cheering for this so hard, and all I can think of now is… why? It doesn’t even feel like it was trendy back then. The Spotify release of this song still goes so hard, but it’s absolutely no comparison to the second place Cypriot entry ‘Fuego’.
I am thankful to Netta though, without her we would not have had the iconic failures of ‘SEE YOU NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM’, or Madonna’s horrible 2019 performance (in Tel Aviv), or Hatari’s Palestinian flag reveal. My Mum dislikes any entry that feels ‘too political’, yet this favourite of hers ended up being one of the most political accidents.
5th Place: Germany 2010 – ‘Satellite‘ by Lena
She left on the porch light for you, she bought new underwear (they blue), she even painted her toenaytes for you! It’s Lena from Germany. This is a fantastic example to all political nay-sayers that if you send a great song and a charismatic singer you can win this contest. It won’t stop your Dad from giving it 0 points, but luckily the actual contest is decided by song popularity and not British books on war.
With a very strange cockney twang and a ‘Lily Allen’s younger sister’ vibe, Lena’s win allowed her to return in 2011 with an even better song. She managed to solidify her presence as a Eurovision darling, even when she incorrectly announces points to an audience of 200 million. She did it just the other dai!
4th Place: Denmark 2013 – ‘Only Teardrops‘ by Emmelie de Forest
If Radio 2 were a Eurovision entry… In this entry a pretty woodland nymph is seen crawling on the floor whilst handsome men play drums around her. Interestingly, after Emmelie won with this performance, the ritual was complete, and she was ceremoniously burned by the Danish people in a wood effigy resembling Toni Collette from Hereditary.
The song itself is extremely catchy yet pretty one dimensional. My parents unfortunately seem to think that memorable = good, which is true for Eurovision in a crowded field! But does that make it one of the best winners? I don’t think so.
[TIE] 2nd/3rd Place: Sweden 2012 – ‘Euphoria‘ by Loreen
I feel blessed to say we got our top 3 somewhat right, with ‘Euphoria‘ being a mainstay of European clubs since it’s release. This song feels inspired by a genre rather than a singular artist, and Loreen’s mysticism, strong vocals, and Sweden’s unique approach to staging came together to create one of the highest scoring Eurovision entries of the century.
A large proportion of the songs’ success can also attributed to the fact that it is easily mimic-able, and I can only imagine the amount of accidental violence that occurs due to this songs choreography. My first dance at my wedding will just be me doing this, with the fella arriving for the last chorus and the last chorus only. Cue the wind machine!
[TIE] 2nd/3rd Place: Austria 2014 – ‘Rise Like a Phoenix‘ by Conchita Wurst
Conchita Wurst is the textbook definition of a Eurovision gay icon. The way that she was initially dismissed as a joke act is a testament to the surprises that the contest can bring, and at the same time she opened up conversations about gender expression, trans issues and drag performance in a way that no artist has since Dana International. Her James Bond inspired ballad was note perfect and the energy that she extracts from the audience is unparalleled.
Despite my Mum being leaps and bounds more liberal than my Dad, she still gave this ‘boring ballad’ 3 points. I understand that people may prefer Eurovision when it’s zanier, but for me Conchita manages to bring art, beauty and wackiness together so flawlessly that I have no choice but to give 12 points.
1st Place: Norway 2009 – ‘Fairytale‘ by Alexander Rybak
Even if I had given this 0 points it still would have won. Perhaps the most apolitical winner in Eurovision history, it’s no wonder why this appeals so universally to my parents. There’s no distracting electronics, and it harkens back to the days where the contest was accompanied by a live orchestra. Both the song and the performance are phenomenal, I do feel bad for giving it only 4 points.
That being said, for me, the song doesn’t mean anything. I know i’m being harsh, but I feel it’s just excellent pop about being in love. Even Azerbaijan’s entry had more pain! My favourite part is the insane gymnastic choreography, and I guess I could say the way the fairytale world of the Grimm brothers is captured harmonically?
I don’t see how this has the same cultural resonance as say… Ukraine’s 2016 winner conveying generational pain through the Crimean language and traditional ‘mugham’ vocal style. Even Sweden’s entries are more relevant to pop culture. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. But it’s Eurovision, and I definitely should have seen this coming.
The fact that I got my parents to sit and listen to my ramblings for an hour is a victory in itself. If you enjoyed this article and want to discuss more about Eurovision, make sure to follow @DYCALmag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.