The last weekend, on Monday the EBU will have the 43. Will the public? We’re not quite sure, but there’s still lots to catch up from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: #Authentique
Painful hashtags, a surprise appearance of the Melkweg, and Adobe Premier’s special Eurovision setting. Ewan Spence and ESC Insight introduce another week of Eurovision Song Contest news as the National Final season comes to an end; plus music from Luisa Sobral.
As the 2018 National Finals Season ends and thoughts turn to Lisbon, keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.
I’ve been in plenty of odd Eurovision related events in my time, but on Saturday morning I trekked across the igneous rock covered pavements of Reykjavík into an out-of-town shopping district. I was meeting the President of the Icelandic branch of OGAE, FÁSES, for a round of Zumba to warm up for the evening’s final.
Now I was expecting a small corner office room for such a particular combination of two niche interests, but the music was blaring well into the shopping centre for all to hear. Inside the sports hall was rammed from end to end with a mass of sweaty bodies busting their moves to ‘Kizunguzungu’.
A room full of sweaty men and women in mid-Zumba action (Photo: Ben Robertson, ESC Insight)
The President of FÁSES, Flosi Jón Ófeigsson, wasn’t just getting involved; he was leading the entire group. With being a hotel manager as his day job, Flosi has also been running the Eurovision Zumba sessions at EuroClub the last two years, but here in Iceland there was a whole magnitude more people than in Kyiv or Stockholm. That post-workout euphoria filled the room with collective glee as everybody demolished the fridge full of help-yourself skyr.
Only in Iceland could they love Eurovision so much.
This Is My Life
It is a well known fact in the Eurovision community that Iceland is officially the country that loves Eurovision the most. Statistically speaking no country comes anywhere close to Iceland’s TV audience share with 95.3 % of people watching television tuning into the Grand Final. That number is from 2016, a year when Iceland didn’t even qualify to the Saturday night show. The bonkers ratio can be partly explained by the lack of competition from other channels in the country of 350,000, and part to the dark Scandinavian winters, but these don’t account for the full nature of Iceland’s loyal viewers.
One unique factor of geography also works in Iceland’s favour is lying on the west of the European continent. That means Iceland is in a time zone one hour earlier than London in May, and two hours ahead of Paris or Berlin. Starting Eurovision at 19:00, with the sun only just setting as the credits roll, very much shifts Iceland to a prime time viewing audience. A family audience at that.
I spotted that later that afternoon in the basement of a different Reykjavík office block at the fan club pre party. Almost everybody in attendance was either a child or with a child. Fizzy pop was flowing, the cute party dresses getting plenty of twirls and some were putting finishing touches on their very handmade signs for the evening’s show. Most Eurovision fan club events across Europe are impossible for children to attend with all the late night dancing and alcohol consumption – but here I had stumbled into the most unique of family celebrations.
Interval acts Robin Bengtsson and Emmelie de Forest meet young fans at the pre party (Photo: Ben Robertson, ESC Insight)
This leads to a second quirk about Eurovision fans in Iceland. According to Flosi FÁSES is the only OGAE member club to have a majority female membership. Part of this may be attributed to the family viewership attracting mothers and daugthers to actively sign up, but also this reinforces what we know about Iceland’s love of Eurovision.
The Eurovision Song Contest is no fringe interest here in these northern reaches. Eurovision dominates the gossip columns, news clips and radio stations many days before and after. Everybody has an opinion.
And also, in a country this small, everybody seems to know somebody involved in some way with the show. That personal connection just amplifies everything above to crazy heights.
Hear Them Calling
Flosi is keen to showcase how much the fan club in Iceland is different for having such a good working relationship with so many influential people. Artists flock to them for interviews and promotion, rather than the other way around. Newspapers are bombarding their members for interviews and on the day of the Söngvakeppnin final a one page spread in the Icelandic paper Visir covers just what FÁSES are doing to celebrate.
However the real relationship Flosi was most proud to talk about was with Icelandic broadcaster RÚV.
“RÚV are realising that we are a great asset. We have now a much bigger arena and they realise we are the people who support all the acts and wave our flags. We love the balloons and spectacle of Melodifestivalen and they listen to our comments.”
In conversation with Flosi before the final of Söngvakeppnin (Photo: Alison Wren, ESC Insight)
“They approached us after the semi final and told us how great an idea bringing the Icelandic flags were. Hopefully in the future we will be in a position where we (OGAE Iceland) can be a part of the decision making process of who to send to Eurovision as is already happening in Denmark and Slovenia.”
There are a few things to point out here. The much bigger arena gives Iceland the highest ratio of live audience members to population anywhere in Europe, with over 1 % of the country able to squeeze in Laugardalshöll, an arena most commonly used for handball. Secondly that Melodifestivalen comment is not just a throwaway response from a Eurovision fan, it is a direct part of Icelandic culture too. RÚV have a history of actually broadcasting the Swedish extravaganza, and the year both finals were on the same night Melodifestivalen was recorded to broadcast straight afterwards.
That explains the room full of Zumba dancers knowing the moves to ‘Håll Om Mig Hårt’.
Finally is it the exact nature of that co-operation that is helping give Iceland a Eurovision boost. FÁSES get not just reduced price tickets to the show but also ones in a prime location for all that jubilant flag waving to be centre stage. In recent years Iceland has dotted National Finals around various locations, with budget a decisive factor to move out of the sparkling new Harpa Concert Hall in downtown Reykjavík. This year though ticket sales for even the Semi Finals were sold out weeks in advance and Söngvakeppnin is back as Iceland’s premier TV event once more.
The same sadly can’t be said for Iceland’s Eurovision results.
All Out Of Luck
From 2008 to 2014 Iceland made every single Eurovision final, a stat punctuated by Johanna’s stunning performance of ‘Is It True?’ giving Iceland 2nd place in 2009.
Since then though Iceland have stuttered badly, missing the Grand Final by a distance the last three years. Greta Salóme was closest in 2016 with a disappointing 14th place.
The man in charge of trying to steer Iceland back is Felix Bergsson, Icelandic Head of Delegation. He’s been with RÚV since those good old days of 2011 as a press officer, commentator and assistant Head of Delegation before taking the full reigns in 2016.
Despite the viewing figures, Felix feels ‘a lot of pressure’ on his goal to qualify to the Grand Final.
“I thought we deserved to be in the final the past two years and sadly the tide turned. The party will be better and we want to do it for the artist.
“Our challenge is in getting noticed, we don’t have many friends and Scandinavia doesn’t vote for us automatically.”
Felix has been on numerous international juries this year, as the Melodifestivalen trend of being bringing in fellow Eurovision voices from overseas because increasingly popular. Countries like France and Germany alongside Sweden show the extra level of difficulty in trying to compete side-by-side. Not only do they have closer borders than the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to the nearest neighbouring country, but also the record labels and professional contacts that stream into their respective competitions. In Iceland foreign collaborations are often limited to those perennial songwriters who turn up in National Finals wherever they may be.
Felix reading out the Icelandic points in the French National Final this year
One possible attributing factor is the complicated language rule in Söngvakeppnin. For the Semi Finals all songs must be performed in Icelandic, with artists having a free choice of what language to sing in the Final. However that language choice in the final will be the language the song goes to Eurovision with.
“The reason is that we are making new Icelandic pop music,” Felix justifies. “We want Icelandic songwriters and RUV is the Icelandic broadcaster.”
“For children too, everything being in Icelandic makes it easy to understand.”
The extra barrier in preparing a song for both languages might be offputting for some songwriters or performers to take part. Furthermore this could arguably make the contest decidedly uncool to those who are looking for an international platform with an awkward backward step in the middle. Certainly a critical eye amongst the six competing songs in the Söngvakeppnin Final would struggle to classify any of the six as hip and trendy.
On the flip side though, the majority of acts who reached the final this year were young fresh talent which Iceland is constantly a good breeding ground for. For 16 to 20 year olds at college a competition called Söngvakeppnin Framhaldsskólanna – pitching schools against schools – has cultivated much Icelandic talent. It is no surprise the alumni roll call is basically a who’s who of anybody you’ll recognise from Icelandic Eurovision history. ‘Í Stormi’, eventually toppled in the Super Final after winning both jury and televote in round one, was created from a collaboration of two former winners of said competition.
Iceland Needs That Je Ne Sais Quoi
There is an awkward paradox in Icelandic Eurovision. On one side it is promoting new Icelandic talent and growing the brand locally to never seen before heights anywhere in Europe. However the flip side has led to performances internationally faultering. Ari Ólafsson is the 19 year old artist heading to Lisbon this year after charming the camera lens with tear-jerking emotion from the Green Room, coming from behind to win a tight superfinal. His song, ‘Our Choice’, is a ballad belonging to a Eurovision era before his birth and is currently seen as a very unlikely qualifier where the chance to charm viewers back home will be limited.
However, as family friendly entertainment it is little surprise that those puppy dog eyes stole the crown in the last few minutes of voting on Saturday night. This is a country of family parties and barbeques on sunny May evenings. A country where the fan club pub quiz isn’t held in a pub at all but the conference room of the capital’s LGBT organisation just behind the main square – welcoming all. A country that last qualified with a bunch of multi-coloured pre-school teachers singing about how bad bullying was.
There is a word that defines what the Eurovision Song Contest is to Iceland. That word is cute. It is the kind of entertainment that everybody gets a warm glow inside from. Sadly cute alone might find it hard to qualify in a modern Eurovision of professional juries, PR machines and pop music increasingly defined by expensive production values.
However if they do qualify the celebrations in Iceland will be so joyous only their football team this summer in Russia could beat it.
And for that passion alone, I for one simply wish every country could be a little more Iceland.
The Press Centre for this year’s Eesti Laul is… intimate. There are few benches of workstations, a press conference corner, and a somewhat larger stand-up space. On one wall is a projection screen of the main feed from Saku Suurhall, though the audio is muted—otherwise the press conferences and stand-ups would be incomprehensible. But the walls between the press room and the arena aren’t especially thick…it is evident when someone’s vocal blows the roof off the arena. And when someone else is badly off-key.
In the press room a mix of English, Estonian and Russian being spoken—reflective of Tallinn’s unique linguistic hybridity. About one third of this year’s finalists are russophones. Around thirty per cent of Estonians have Russian as their first language, so this isn’t surprising. That all of these artists also speak Estonian isn’t either. For many of the younger generations here, language politics aren’t very interesting. All of the acts either speak English very well or are striving to do so.
Stig speaks! (We think he’s asking for an iron…)
Eesti Laul ten finalist for this year are mostly in English. There is one song in Estonian and another in Italian. Since this iteration of the Estonian national selection began a decade ago (people around town are wearing stylish kümme gear; ten in Estonian), six songs in English and three Estonian have been sent to the Eurovision. All the Estonian language entries have made the Grand Final, only two in English have done so. There does not seem to be much anguish over language: the focus is on picking a strong entry.
Disinclined to stalk artists, I instead positioned myself adjacent to the stand-up zone. After each brief press conference a queue forms with the mainstream media ahead of the fan media.
The calibre of the questions in English between the fan and mainstream media isn’t appreciatively different. Whilst having some consistency in terms of what one asks each artist makes some sense, hearing all then suffer through the same banal questions (‘What is your favourite Estonian poem?’, “Do you realise you look exactly like?’…) is painful. One regional media outlet insisted on interviewing each act in English…then Estonian…then Russian. But this is all something of a bootcamp for whichever act becomes the Estonian representative for Lisbon. Besides, compared to what this year’s Estonian act will face in the Eurovision bubble, it is a good, relatively tame, run-through.
The intense questioning of Evestus
Each of the finalists qualified out of a ten song semi-final. Four from each semi-final qualified based on combined public and jury support; the fifth was chosen through a second televote only round. That means Vajé’s ‘Laura’ and Eliis Pärna & Gerli Padar’s ‘Taevas’ (Sky, or Heaven depending on translation) are already outsiders for victory.
Whilst we have ten entries that each have some pedigree, the wild card in the process is the change of venue. For the semi-finals the performances were pre-recorded and a live broadcast from the ERR studio was built around each clip. How to take what worked in a pre-recorded studio environment and adapt it for an arena with a much larger stage and audience—while making sure the performance works, first and foremost, on the magic box—is not simple. For at least two of the entries, the time constraints of live television will present challenges—though one of them will be performed last.
Saku Suurhall is an excellent venue for a National Final. It’s large enough (around 5,000 seats) to create a positive vibe, the sort that can lift a performance over an intimate TV studio. But it’s also not massive or impersonal. It is clear which artists have a performance pedigree for this sort of venue (and opportunity). Some seem a bit over-awed managing multiple elements (cameras, stage, audience, actual singing); others seem exceedingly comfortable. Rehearsals are for ironing out any kinks: they do not often offer enough bandwidth for unseasoned performers to leverage the opportunity in front of them.
This year’s Eesti Laul features so many different ways of staging an entry. Very little seems cookie cutter. Almost every staging seems to have been designed to showcase each particular artists very well. Not every national final can boast that.
What Matters Most?
If the aspirations are to select something great to represent Estonia, there are multiple options on offer: there is only one act that has struggled in rehearsals. However if the aspiration is a possible second Eurovision crown, I see three grand narratives.
The Eesti Laul Reboot Catalyst Comeback
In 2008, after multiple years of failed semi-final qualifications, the Estonian public selected from the bottom of the metaphorical barrel for Belgrade. What followed was a national debate about participating in the Eurovision: from the nadir of ‘Leto Svet’, came a new approach to selecting an entry. This year that approach, Eesti Laul, celebrates its tenth year. Finishing second to Kreisiraadio in 2008 was a sixteen year old named Iiris Vesik.
Vesik will be on stage tonight, and if ‘Drop that Boogie’ represents Estonia in Lisbon, in symbolic terms it is very appealing. It is also a great tune.
The Kitchen Sink
Evestus’ ‘Welcome to My World’ is over the top—massively so. It took eight minutes for the crew to set it up last night during the first rehearsal. It is so out there—way waaay out there—that it could wrest a surprise victory thanks to a massive televote. Behind the fire and lights is a very catchy chorus. Totally out there. Totally well performed.
From Host To Representative
In 2017 one of the semi-final co-hosts was classically trained singer Elina Nechayeva. The idea of Nechayeva being inspired to enter this year after hosting is seductive…though, in fact, she had already competed in two other ERR music competition shows (‘Eesti otsib superstaari’ and ‘Klassikatähed’):
Whilst this might not be a contemporary song, per sé, it screams “vote for me”.
There’s a lot more on offer too, including a great Stig Rästa ballad and all sorts of world class contemporary pop music (Frankie Animal, Sibyl Vane, Nika). Any of these would be worthy winners, though the extent to which they might find success on the wider Eurovision stage remains to be seen.
What To Watch Out For
The second half of the draw is where the action is, though there are quality entries throughout. What advice might the juries been given, beyond the usual emphasis on quality? Will there be steers towards what will work at Eurovision? For example, will they know there are no LEDs as part of the stage kit in Lisbon?
There is a lot of hype around Elina and her entry. But ‘Drop that Boogie’ is already on the H&M European store playlist. Evestus needs a massive setup–of the sort that the Eurovision production team in recent years have said “no” to—so victory might be a pyrrhic one.
The edgy videos between the entries are a bit of a future trip: what people will look back on about 2018 in thirty years quizzically (the contents are embargoed). If the named interval guest is true, Eurovision fans will be gobsmacked.
Despite our kindly advice, the format tonight remains the same. The top three entries based on a combined jury and televote score will face off in a televote only superfinal. Were that to be Evestus, Elina and Iiris, the result would be remarkable—and unpredictable.
Regardless, tune in for a great show and an exciting result.
I’m full of excitement as I head to Oslo this weekend to attend my very first Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix. I’m doubly excited as I adore one of the entries, that I think could make a big splash at the Eurovision Song Contest is Lisbon. The only trouble is I don’t think it’s going to make it.
Ida Maria’s ‘Scandilove‘ piqued my interest on the very first hearing. It’s a superbly tongue-in-cheek, playful delight that I think would land well with an international audience, getting the humour and slight self-deprecation of Scandinavia taking the proverbial out of itself. But there are other factors in play which I think will scupper its chances of being seen on that international stage in May.
Norway has form here; in ESC Insight’s end of year review for 2016 I lamented the failure of The Hungry Hearts to get ‘Laika‘ to the Song Contest. It was precisely the kind of song that I felt would benefit from an international platform: a quirky subject that would find wider resonance (in ‘Laika’s’ case a gentle swipe at Russia’s treatment of LGBT people; in Ida Maria’s playing up to the supposed adventurousness and stamina of Scandinavian lovemaking) and songs with a unique selling point that would benefit from a window of focussed publicity.
‘Laika’s’ fate will now forever be academic (and we’ll know on Saturday evening whether Ida Maria’s will be the same) but it prompted me to reflect on the factors that impact the chances of a song like this domestically, meaning we never get to see how they would do at the main Contest. Of course, I have to caveat all these suggestions as conjecture, but some themes emerged as I thought this through.
Your Local Hero Will Defeat You
Let’s start with ‘Laika’, which in Norway never even came close.
Social media made the song a hit with some fan groups ahead of Norway’s National Final, but with a performance perhaps too leftfield for the housewives of Gjøvik, Vadsø, or Brønnøysund it was eliminated in the first round of voting. We might assume the attention given to eventual winner Agnete impacted too on all the other competitors. Agnete came to the competition with a Junior Eurovision credit under her belt, as well as a second place in the Adult version of MGP with her group The BlackSheeps. Add to that a recent runner-up slot, plus a win, in popular reality TV shows and you have an enviable advantage with the voting public.
And there we have it. Factor Number One in denying a better song a route to the Eurovision Song Contest – a local artist that’s bigger than their song.
Reality TV and talent shows have enjoyed enormous global success so it’s no surprise that many spawn, or even directly cast, a nation’s Eurovision representative. We can see how such exposure boosts an artist’s popularity when they subsequently enter a National Final.
Once an artist reaches the Song Contest all the benefit of local fame is lost as they’re subjected to judgement from every country except the one in which they are known.. and the one country that can’t vote for the. Germany’s Jamie-Lee in 2016 is a prime example; from winner of The Voice to last in Stockholm.
In the same year in Poland we see this premise in action as again, we saw the power of social media in spreading a song within the international Eurovision fan community. Margaret’s ‘Cool Me Down’ had all the ingredients of global success, even managing to eclipse the much-anticipated return of Poland’s debut performer, Edyta Gorniak. On the night, many international fans were both stunned and dismayed to see former X Factor runner-up Michal Szpak snatch victory denying Margaret her opportunity to shine – although her performance didn’t help make a strong case compared to ‘Color of Your Life‘
Unusual Grassroots Campaigns
You don’t need to be an established artist to swing a local vote, but some kind of momentum helps. Which brings me to Factor Number Two: local campaigns.
Exhibit A here is Spain’s Rodolfo Chikilicuatre, the comedy character championed all the way to the Eurovision Song Contest stage in 2008. Backed by a late-night chat show, supporters were able to maximise their opportunities through the Spanish broadcaster’s embrace of MySpace (kids, look it up on Wikipedia) as a pre-selection platform, mobilising voters to back the character in one of Eurovision’s first online votes for a long-list of entries.
Also hoping to represent Spain that year were La Casa Azul, with their delicious piece of electro pop ‘La Revolucion Sexual‘, the song that finished next highest in the online polling and a song which I still contend is Spain’s ‘lost’ Eurovision winner. To the embarrassment of many Spanish fans, Chikilicuatre’s momentum continued into the televised final and edged him to the Eurovision slot. How different could it have been with La Casa Azul? (And yes, I know there’s that thorny little question of them actually only placing third behind Coral Segovia, but who knows where the winner’s votes would have been otherwise distributed had he not been in the competition?)
Only When It’s Funny
For the more casual audience, factor three’s novelty value can be a major draw. It’s those jaw- dropping moments that make good copy for reviewers, cause a splash on social media, and are commemorated for years to come in lazy clip-reels. Here we see again how local notoriety can boost your chances of getting the ticket but scupper them once you get to your big gig.
Estonian comedy act Kreisiraadio had enjoyed local popularity since the 90s and found themselves on the Eurovision stage in 2008, singing a largely nonsense song. Though it’s difficult to see what obvious choice would have replaced them from their National Final, their massive voting lead in Estonia dwindled to just 8 points from across Europe and a second-to- last finish once it clicked that nobody voting had any idea who they were.
Perhaps almost anything else that year would have been more lucky.
Local cultural factors can blur the definition of ‘novelty’. In 2012 Austria’s Trackshittaz denied Conchita her first attempt to reach the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Woki Mit Deim Popo‘, a track widely regarded as novelty, but as an act with greater cultural relevance in their home country. They ended with the same points as Kreisiraadio, but with a position even lower, whereas many felt Conchita would have caused a greater splash for Austria in Azerbaijahn.
Of course, two years later she was to achieve her, ahem, retribution.
Many fans feel a similar fate befell Dušan Svilar’s ‘Spas’ in Serbia in 2013, also a victim of not one but three artists with greater current profile and a visual gimmick. Moje3 was a scratch grouping of the first, second, and third placed singers of a Voice-style talent show, given a novelty presentation playing a woman flanked by the competing angel and devil of her conscience. These factors combined to bring them a win, but they were unable to repeat such success at Eurovision, where – bizarrely – they then dropped the novelty presentation, rendering the song with no stand-out impact. They failed to qualify for the final, but many believe ‘Spas’ could have built on the successful tradition of Balkan folk-ballads.
Counting Very Carefully
Factor Number Four is the voting system and it has a lot to answer for. With the EBU exerting no direct control over National Selections, broadcasters are free to use many routes. In attempts to keep this fresh we see a parade of innovation, from Spain’s historical use of MySpace to the convoluted, confusing, and movable feast of 2018 in San Marino (the less said, the better).
But even here the old-fashioned involvement of a jury can also toss aside a potential Eurovision hit amid claims of a fix. Slovenia’s Saša Lendero enjoyed huge public success in 2006 with her entry ‘Mandoline‘, topping both the public televote and SMS vote. The jury, however, gave her nothing, backing the eventual winner, Anžej Dežan, whom the public had ranked only fourth.
This vote came on the back of a similar outcome in Slovenia’s 2004 selection, where the public’s overwhelming favourite, Natalia Verboten, had been nixed by the jury failing to give her any points, and sending Platin instead. Again, the chances of ‘Mandoline’ will never be truly known, but when Anžej Dežan failed to qualify many fans were left feeling that ‘Mandoline’ was another to add to the pile of songs that would have fared much better had they got through their National Finals as the public had desired.
Trusting The Televoters
Televoters don’t always get it right, though, which is Factor Five. There’s a risk those engaging in a vote may bring their own bias, perhaps bringing outdated assumptions of what a Eurovision entry ‘should be’ (a claim often levied at the UK’s 2007 entry by Scooch, although personally I loved its silliness) or overlooking an entry that might enjoy the boost of ‘exotic’ appeal to an international ear whilst being more commonplace at home. Here we might look at Yola Denis’s ‘Outra Vez Primavera’ in 2015, which surely would have found more support than the somewhat dreary, non-qualifying song the Portuguese sent.
There’s an argument in that National Final against the voting system too, as the jury included the competing songwriters, who managed to vote out the strongest competition before the vote reverted solely to the public, who to be fair could only then back what was left. Although the arguments can cut both ways; staying with Portugal, Salvador Sobral won consistent jury support, with the public only backing him into third place (in the Semi Final) and second (in the National Final) respectively. How close he came to being another addition to this list…
Little Tiny Groups Of Problems
Several other Factors for why this happens grouped themselves during my research, which for brevity I’ll summarise:
Factor Six: a ‘challenging’ style that would (probably) have found a wider audience internationally. Here I offer Loreen’s 2017 ‘Statements’ as illustration, a dark departure from her 2012 winner ‘Euphoria’, with niche appeal, but sufficient to make it the one for which its admirers think “that’s the one I’m ringing in for!”.
Factor Seven: disqualification, cf. Corinna May’s 1999 ‘Hör Den Kindern Einfach Zu’, a powerful anthem delivered with all the confidence and conviction lacking in her eventual 2002 Eurovision participation, but which – inconveniently – had already been released before.
And Factor Eight: intervention by the artist themselves, where we’re back once more to Germany with Andreas Kümmert’s renouncing the victory which many thought would give his country a great result, and dooming Ann-Sophie to nul points and yet another last place.
Why Would Someone Do Any Better?
Whist I accept my suggestions can never be proven, I can’t examine the factors that make me feel an opportunity was lost without looking at why I think the missed-chancers would have done better. Here we do find some factors to help. Some losing entries go on to bigger commercial success. At Eurovision we don’t have to wait long into its history to see this for a competing song with 1958’s ‘Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu’, and for National Finals songs we have the Netherlands 1982 also-ran ‘Fantasy Island’, a hit as a cover version for UK band Tight Fit or Spain 2000’s Raul with ‘Sueño Su Boca’.
Another measure is longevity, as a song or an artist. Sweden’s Melodifestivalen is littered with so many ‘failures’ that are now ‘evergreens’ that they’ve been given their own compilation CDs, replete with liner notes proclaiming whether or not the right song had won. An artist example is Finnish metal band Nightwish, themselves a victim of a voting system in 2000 which saw them win with the public but lose in a combined vote with the jury to a song neither had placed first. (In fact, as Ida Maria takes to the stage in Norway on March 10th, this band will be two nights in to a nine-month world tour – the artist they lost to finished 18th at Eurovision.)
The popularity of ‘Second Chance’ competitions might also offer us some insight into what might have been. Arguably their results might only ever offer a view of what is popular among small demographics of fandom. This view is perhaps bolstered by a glance at the dominance of ‘fan-favourites’ Sweden in the international fan club OGAE’s long-running second chance vote, with 14 victories.
Second Cherry, a fan event I’ve organised with friends in London, has given consolation prizes to some songs I’ve mentioned above like ‘Mandoline’ and ‘La Revolucion Sexual’, but also brought ‘victories’ for Joanna’s ‘Nott’ for Iceland, Hera Bjork’s ‘Someday’ for Denmark, and Elina Sinyavskaya’s ‘Via Lattea’ for Belarus (and only seen one Swedish win in 10 years of results).
We may have missed out on so many never-to-be moments at Eurovision, but for some artists the news is not all bad. Exposure or a narrow miss at home can help plant you in the public’s psyche and boost your chances should you come back; in recent years Loreen, Conchita, and Russia’s Buranovskiye Babushki have all benefitted from broader support second time round.
So, I end back where I began, heading to Norway with high hopes, but a sense of realism for Ida Maria. I’m prepared to have to add her to my lists, but oh, how I hope she’s Europe’s gain come May. Come on, Norway! I’m relying on you.
In preparing this article I asked Facebook friends for their own examples, with their reasons for why they felt their choices didn’t qualify domestically but would have shone on the Eurovision stage. I received over 200 replies! I’d like to thank them for their suggestions, which helped enormously, and also illustrated the breadth of opinion. But don’t just take my word for it, let us know in the comments below. And if you’re stuck for inspiration this You Tube playlist compiled by UK fan Daniel Tew offers over 50 suggestions as a starting place.
Here we go, now the clock really is running. Once more Juke Box Jury is starting just in time for all eight episodes to finish airing before the ESC Insight team lands in Lisbon to start our coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018. Before then we’ve the small matter of listening to every song that will be at the Song Contest, and answering a simple question. Hit, miss, or maybe?
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #1 with Ross Middleton and Boog Biagi
Moldova: My Lucky Day, by DoReDos.
Switzerland: Stones, by Zibbz.
Iceland: Our Choice, by Ari Ólafsson.
Ukraine: Under The Ladder, by Mélovin.
Italy: Non Me Avete Fatto Niente, by Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro.
Don’t miss an episode of the Eurovision Insight podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed dedicated to the podcasts. iTunes users can find us in the iTunes Store and get the show automatically downloaded to your computer.
Two weekends of National Finals to go, internal selections waiting for the right time to release a song, and the 2018 Song Contest is slowly coming into focus. It’s an exciting time to be a Eurovision fan.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: A Song For Sheeran
Culling the Despacito clones, paying tribute to Lars Ulrich, and Waylon might have a new album out. Ewan Spence and ESC insight and another week of Eurovision Song Contest news; plus music from One More Time.
As the 2018 National Finals Season enters the final straight, keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.