Europe’s annual kitsch offering that is the Eurovision Song Contest is just around the corner and already the politics of the contest are flaring, with Ukraine officially banning the Russian entrant from competing. What better way to prepare ourselves for the latest installment of this controversial extravaganza than to revisit some of the more memorable moments from the contest’s history?
I’ll be the first to admit that there is a contemptible pile of shit to wade through in the annals of the Contest. But beyond all the sequins, wind machines and pyrotechnics, lie some hidden gems deserving of our attention. Here are 10 songs that were too good for Eurovision.
10. Rambo Amadeus – ‘Euro Neuro’ – (Montenegro, 2012)
The biggest troll to ever participate in the competition, Rambo Amadeus – a self-proclaimed cult figure of the ex-Yugoslav music scene – decided to sing about the ongoing European Financial Crisis. The song is actually a very clever beat poem full of nonsensical rhymes about the E.U’s bureaucracy and bailouts. Europe didn’t respond in kind and Rambo failed to qualify for the final. But, as Rambo’s song states, he had ‘no ambition for high position in the competition’ anyway.
9. Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitas – ‘Midnight Gold’ – (Georgia, 2016)
When the Finnish heavy metal monster band Lordi won the song contest with their song ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ in 2006 it looked like it could be the start of a more diverse and interesting contest. Unfortunately it wasn’t, and the subsequent years saw a string of solo pop singers winning the contest (Dima Bilan, Alexander Rybak, Lena and Måns Zelmerlöw to name a few).
An indie rock song, channeling the sounds of 90’s shoegaze is about as far removed from your stereotypical Eurovision song as it’s possible to get – and it’s exactly what the contest needed to shake it up. Sadly the song was just a little too different for the majority of voters and only finished in 23rd place.
8. Zdob și Zdub – ‘Boonika Bate Toba’ – (Moldova, 2005)
Who would have thought that the unusual blend of punk, hip hop and traditional Moldovan folk could actually work? Zdob și Zdub certainly did, and their song is everything you could hope for in a Eurovision song. It is infectious and fun with high energy performances, silly costumes and a Moldovan granny playing a drum. It was well-received, finishing 6th that year, and the band would return again in 2011 with an even more over-the-top performance.
7. Sopho Khalvashi – ‘Visionary Dream’ – (Georgia, 2007)
An eclectic mix of techno, electronica and folk that sounds like it could belong on Bjork’s Debut, Georgia’s debut entry to the contest in 2007 finished in the middle of the pack (12th out of 24). It showed that Georgia would be an interesting contender in the years to come and they have continued to send unconventional songs to the contest ever since (including 2014’s biggest misfire ‘Three Minutes to Earth’ that finished last in the Semi Finals).
6. ByeAlex – ‘Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix)’ – (Hungary, 2013)
Eurovision’s biggest hipster, dressed in a Monty Python t-shirt, thick framed glasses and a superfluous beanie performed a very catchy, atypical love ballad. Despite being sung entirely in Hungarian it managed to finish in 10th place. If only more countries would take note of this instead of feeling obliged to perform in English.
5. Raphael Gualazzi – ‘Madness of Love’ – (Italy, 2011)
After an absence of fourteen years, Italy’s return was triumphant, finishing 2nd and reminding Europe what it had the contest had been missing. The song’s jazzy piano and trombone added a much needed touch of class to the contest. Italy have continued to send some strong songs to the contest in the years since and they are currently the favourites to win this year’s competition too.
4. Urban Symphony – ‘Rändajad’ – (Estonia, 2009)
This four-piece female outfit combine modern electronic sounds with classical cellos and violins. The music is like a spell, hypnotizing you with beautiful Estonian-language vocals. Finishing in 6th place the song is Eurovision at its finest.
3. Regina – ‘Bistra Voda’ – (Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2009)
A common trend on this list have been songs sung in their native language. Unfortunately, English songs tend me be much more successful so every year we see countries entering the same old pop song we’ve heard a hundred times before. In 2009 rock band Regina tried to buck that trend, offering a sweeping Bosnian ballad, with orchestral backings and rolling military drum beats. Finishing only 9th, this is a criminally underrated Eurovision song.
2. Domenico Modugno – ‘Nel blu dipinto di blue (Volare)’ – (Italy, 1958)
Perhaps best known for Dean Martin’s cover, this song has sold over 22 million copies worldwide, making it one of Eurovision’s most successful songs of all time. Despite this, the song only finished in third place. No one remembers the song that won that year and how this song didn’t win is beyond the comprehension of anyone who has ever heard it.
1. Sébastien Tellier – ‘Divine’ – (France, 2008)
If anyone could ever be said to have been too good for Eurovision, it is without-a-doubt the cult hipster hero that is Sébastien Tellier. Already a well-established electronic artist, he was an unusual choice for the contest. Entering the stage driving a golf buggy and inhaling helium mid-song, Tellier was clearly there on his own terms. Scoring very few points and finishing in 19th position shows Eurovision wasn’t ready for the artistic genius of this French electro-pop Jesus.