11 December 2016
If there’s one thing more controversial than Eurovision Song Contest winners, it’s Eurovision Song Contest Semi Final losers. Since the introduction of semi finals in 2004, there’s been plenty of people shocked and chagrined, mortified and stupified, at some of the results. This was particularly prominent until 2008 when there was only one big semi final, and where bloc voting was at its nastiest, and most consequential. For the final two years of the single semi final format, boos would resonate inside the arenas as predictable countries were read out at the expense of higher quality, and more diverse, entries from those countries with less friends. Fans would complain online for days about the terrible injustices, which can be relived by checking the comments section of the relevant youtube videos.
In tribute to all those injustices of the past, here’s my Top 10 Best Ever Eurovision Semi Final Losers Ever. This is more a personal list than something that captured public outrage of the time. In fact, for many songs that missed the finals, there was probably a good reason. Like my Top 10 Best Ever Eurovision Songs, I first developed a broad list, cut it to a shortlist, and then formed the top 10 with the help of a scoring system out of three for initial appeal of the song, Eurovision performance itself, and enduring appeal of the song. Ineligible are any songs in my overall Best Ever Eurovision songs. After all, if you’re on that list, you’re not really a loser, are you? Let’s go!
10) 2013 – Montenegro – Who See – Igranka (12th of 16)
In terms of appreciation before Eurovision to after Eurovision, this had the biggest improvement ever. To say I hated it initially wouldn’t be an exaggeration. I didn’t rate it at all and ranked it second worst of all the songs. That was until the rapping spacemen ignited the stage and Nina Zizic launched it into the space. I was blown away to the point I now ranked it one of the best of the semi final. While some of that appreciation was no doubt the fun, novelty aspect of it, mostly it was the fact I grew to really like the song. It had a great beat and groove. If I had of liked it more initially, it would be much higher on the list. Score: 1-3-2.
What could have helped? Rocket packs.
9) 2005 – Lithuania – Laura & The Lovers – Little by Little (25th of 25)
This was the first year I had exposure to Eurovision before seeing the actual broadcast, buying the CD in advance and listening constantly until the show. With Switzerland and Norway, Lithuania was an instant favourite among quite a strong year. Written by famed Swedish composer Bobby Ljunggren, it was a very catchy song, with pleasant vocals. To all accent snobs, I loved accents, and Laura’s thick Balatic one was cool. Go away! On the Eurovision stage, Laura’s voice wasn’t strong enough and it proved too nondescript to get attention. It finished a dismal last with 17 points. Thankfully I’m not easily offended. Score: 3-2-2.
What could have helped? Laura needed an explosion to go off on stage, not in her dress.
8) 2014 – San Marino – Valentina Monetta – Crisalide/Vola (11th of 17)
Valentina returned to Eurovision in 2013 after her memorable (for all the wrong reasons) “The Social Network Song (Oh Oh – Uh – Oh Oh)” (yes, that was the full title) failed in 2012. Not only was it a relief to see her bring the quite marvellous and mature Crisalide to the Eurovision stage, it would have been a relief for her hair follicles not to endure her hair constantly in a tight ponytail so she looked 16 years old. Her presentation was well choreographed and executed, vocals were good, and the song was great, so I struggle to understand how she missed the final again, especially being a sizeable 16 points adrift from 10th place and with tacky Georgia and Finland above her. Valentina returned in 2015 and thankfully it was third time lucky. Score: 3-2-2
What could have helped? When several friends watched the delayed broadcast of this semi final on Saturday night (Australian time), there was a chorus of shut the hell up! Maybe something grated about Crisalide that I didn’t recognise. Fill me in!
7) 2007 – Andorra – Anonymous- Salvem el mon (12th of 28)
Off my radar entering the Eurovision, the BBC commentators alerted the viewers to pay attention as there was a bit of a “whisper” about it. Sure enough, Anonymous didn’t disappoint with an energetic and memorable presentation. I was hooked by end and was rooting for them to qualify. The fact they didn’t saw me vent my outrage online for the very first time at an ESC result. At a music forum I frequented before the dark times, before Facebook, there was plenty of sympathy for these battlers too, with the only excuse anyone seriously could offer was the lead was off key occasionally. What? Come on! I never noticed it anyway. It’s tiny Andorra, give them a break. In hindsight, maybe the song wasn’t quite strong enough. One two, one two three four! Score: 2-3-2
What could have helped? Maybe viewers resented the lecture about global warming. “Save The World” is the English translation.
6) 2012 – Slovenia – Eva Boto – Verjamem (17th of 18)
Following from the stunning Maja Keuc in 2011, I had high hopes Slovenia would get a second finalist in as many years with this beautiful and dramatic song. While not as big a personal favourite as Maja’s No One, Verjamem was in my top echelon all along after Eva presented it so well and with great passion at her national final. Come Eurovision, it fell apart with crazy nerves. Vocals were off, her breathing was off, and her fingers twitched all over the microphone. She was only 16 at the time, so we’ll let her off with a warning. Worth a look on youtube also is a “Misheard Lyrics” version called “Bird, Yeah Man”. If you’ve ever sung strange English in your mind to foreign language songs, then you must see this translation. Score: 3-1-3.
What could have helped? Superglue on the microphone for a start.
5) 2006 – Belgium – Kate Ryan – Je t’adore (12th of 23)
The first big public outrage I recall, Kate’s failure wasn’t that mystifying to me. Not familiar with Belgian pop music (who is?), nor that Kate had extended her popularity beyond her own country, all I saw was a rather generic presentation of a song complete with microphones on the end of light sabres. As a Star Wars fan, I was confused, if not offended. No doubt to much of Europe, especially from the east, she’d have appeared equally anonymous. Kate was no TATU (ESC 2003), for example. This was the second year I bought the CD prior so always liked the song, and definitely, in hindsight, she should have qualified. After Eurovision I even became a mad fan of Kate Ryan, buying her two albums, and then her next one. I wasn’t so impressed with the third one so didn’t keep up my visual scanning. I should put her on my radar again. Shut the door! Score: 2-2-3.
What could have helped? Kate, you’re gorgeous, your song was amazing, the presentation was good, and you were clearly one of the highlights of the semi final. Sometimes these things mean nothing at Eurovision.
4) 2016 – Norway – Agnete – Icebreaker (13th of 18)
One of the great mysteries that this didn’t qualify. I’ve long mellowed on perceived injustices at Eurovision, so never saw the need to vent online. Being in Stockholm anyway, I might have been insulated against any urge to react. Your main objective after the show is the scramble out the arena and onto a train – and then you eavesdrop on people talking about the injustices. It was only at this point that I realised Agnete missed out. Wow. Icebreaker was an immediate favourite of mine from Norway’s national final, both the song and the performance, and that was all brought to Stockholm and executed well. Looking at the scoreboard, it was a strong semi final and maybe it just didn’t stand out enough. It’s Norway, a beautiful blonde is on stage, there’s an icy blue ambiance, she’s singing about ice – yep, we’ve seen all that before. That’s my only theory. Score: 3-2-2.
What could have helped? The abrupt transition of styles into the chorus was a talking point from the start. Did viewers think Norway were cheating by trying to present two songs, therefore penalising Agnete? That’s my second only theory.
3) 2010 – Slovakia – Kristina – Horehronie (16th of 17)
A curious song in that until I saw someone’s preliminary top 10 on youtube during the national final season, first impressions were average. So I watched it again and, bam, I was hooked. While I loved the hypnotic tribal rhythm, the melody and Kristina Pelakova was so adorable herself, most entrancing was her pronunciation of the Slovak language. Generally speaking, my primary enjoyment from vocals is the expression of the sounds and vowels themselves – the pure aural aspect – not listening to actual words or lyrics. Horehronie might be the quintessential example of that. When the website esctoday interviewed her after a rehearsal and asked her to sing a bit as they always do, I’ll never forget the reaction from the interviewer as well. He paused in a moment of hypnosis. Despite her obvious nerves, Kristina reprised that aspect of the song on the Eurovision stage well. Unfortunately the rest was a bit of a mess: quite flat, and I suspect my initial indifference to the song was felt by most. Curiously, her preview video frequently appears in the official Eurovision “most watched in” monthly compilations on youtube, like at 2nd spot for October and November 2016, and fourth for September 2016. Her preview video is certainly a better representation of her song. In compiling this list I began to follow her on Instagram (oh the joy of social media) and pleased to see she sings occasionally and hasn’t lost those adorable, beautiful looks (the heart flutters). Score: 3-1-3.
What could have helped? Smoke! Or a stage-invader so Kristina got another go.
2) 2007 – Iceland – Eirikur Hauksson – Valentine Lost (13th of 28)
Thank Lordi’s win in 2006 for a surge in rock at subsequent Eurovisions, particularly for Eirikur to appear in 2007, and for him to then immediately swear off Eurovision ever again after being disappointed at his 13th place. In fairness, this was the biggest semi final ever at 28 songs, and he was only 14 points from 10th. As a fan of big sounding melodic rock songs, this was among my outright favourites of the year, with Belarus, Cyprus and Moldova also among them, and Andorra and Portugal joining that famed posse as a result of their performances. Coincidentally, Moldova, Portugal, Andorra and Iceland all finished in a block between 10th and 13th. To this day, nothing is lost with love Valentine Lost. I still rate it the best of 2007, and can’t think of anything Eirikur could have done for a better result. He blew the stage so much that the BBC commentators said it registered 11 out of 10. Eirikur represented Norway in 1991 as part of a cute foursome called Just 4 Fun. Score: 3-3-3.
What could have helped? Maybe the weathered, angry viking look didn’t appeal, or the guitar playing, especially by the guy in the black tank top, was overtly too phallic for the typical sedate Eurovision audience. Soften up!
1) 2009 – Ireland – Sinead Mulvey and Black Daisy – Et Cetera (11th of 19)
Ireland have had a miserable time at Eurovision since semi finals were introduced, so can take some small comfort at being the Best Ever Eurovision Semi Final Loser! Et Cetera was always my favourite leading into the 2009 contest, and might only have been nudged into second spot in recent years by Azerbaijan and their slick presentation and far superior result. In terms of pure song appreciation, my heart remains a forest of Black Daisy. It’s probably the Eurovision song I’ve listened to most, thanks to a computer game called Audiosurf and spending hours and hours – possibly up to 100 hours – gaining the world record score. With the fact I still love listening to Et Cetera, that speaks volumes for its appeal. With 52 points, Ireland were 14 points off 9th (the cut-off at the time) and 8 points off 10th, so a respectable result. Score: 3-3-3.
What could have helped? Sinead must have been stuck in a time warp if she believed her song had a modern sound that kids would love. Maybe for the 80s. Or maybe the viewers didn’t want to vote for her twice after Sinead fronted Urban Symphony for Estonia earlier in the night?
The top final top 10 was easily settled after scoring everything on the shortlist. Even though Montenegro 2013 had only 6 points like the rest below, it was easy to promote them based primarily on their Eurovision performance. The only other consideration for the top 10 was Estonia 2006.
2006 – Iceland – Silvia Night – Congratulations – 1-3-2
2006 – Estonia – Sandra Oxenryd – Through My Window – 2-2-2
2008 – Slovenia – Rebeka Dremelj – Vrag naj vzame – 2-2-2
2009 – Andorra – Susanne Georgi – La teva decisio (Get a Life) – 3-1-2
2010 – Croatia Feminnem – Lako je sve – 3-1-2
2012 – Netherlands – Joan Franka – You and Me – 3-1-2
2014 – Estonia – Tanja – Amazing – 3-1-2
2014 – Ireland – Can-Linn ft Kasey Smith – Heartbeat – 2-2-2
2015 – Netherlands – Trijntje Oosterhuis – Walk Along – 3-1-2
2016 – Iceland – Greta Salome – Hear Them Calling – 2-2-2
2004 – Monaco – Maryon – Notre planete
2005 – Netherlands – Glennis Grace – My Impossible Dream
2005 – Estonia – Suntribe – Let’s Get Loud
2006 – Bulgaria – Mariana Popova – Let Me Cry
2006 – Monaco – Severine Ferrer- La Coco-Dance
2007 – Portugal Sabrina – Danca comigo
2007 – Cyprus – Evridiki – Comme ci, comme ca
2007 – Croatia Dragonfly ft Dado Topic – Vjerujem u ljubav
2007 – Netherlands – Edsilia Rombley – On Top of the World
2007 – Malta – Olivia Lewis – Vertigo
2008 – Andorra – Gisela – Casanova
2008 – Bulgaria Deep Zone and Balthazar – DJ, Take Me Away
2009 – Belarus Petr Elfimov – Eyes That Never Lie
2009 – Switzerland – Lovebugs – The Highest Heights
2009 – Poland – Lidia Kopania – I Don’t Wanna Leave
2009 – Slovenia Quartissimo ft Martina – Love Symphony
2010 – Latvia – Aisha – What For
2011 – Croatia – Daria – Celebrate
2011 – Poland – Magdalena Tul – Jestem
2011 – Slovakia – TWiiNS – I’m Still Alive
2011 – Belarus – Anastasia Vinnikova – I Love Belarus
2011 – Israel – Dana International – Ding Dong
2011 – Latvia – Musiqq – Angel in Disguise
2011 – Netherlands – 3JS – Never Alone
2012 – Switzerland – Sinplus – Unbreakable
2012 – Israel – Izabo – Time
2012 – Latvia – Anmary – Beautiful Song
2012 – Belgium – Iris – Would You?
2012 – Croatia – Nina Badric – Nebo
2012 – Portugal – Filipa Sousa – Vida minha
2013 – Serbia – Moje 3 – Ljubav je svuda
2013 – Croatia – Klapa s Mora – Mizerja
2013 – Austria – Natalia Kelly – Shine
2013 – Albania – Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko – Identitet
2014 – Portugal – Suzy – Quero ser tua
2014 – FYR Macedonia – Tijana – To the Sky
2014 – Israel – Mei Finegold – Same Heart
2015 – Malta – Amber – Warrior
2015 – Portugal – Leonor Andrade – Ha um mar que nos separa
2015 – Iceland – Maria Olafs – Unbroken
2016 – Moldova – Lidia Isac – Falling Stars
2016 – Belarus – Ivan – Help You Fly
2016 – Slovenia – ManuElla – Blue And Red*