Top 10 Best Ever Eurovision National Final Losers

12 November 2017

National finals for the Eurovision Song Contest is often more about the losers than winners. Each year there will be somewhere throughout Europe, at least one song, that fans feel aggrieved, if not angry or furious, that should have been selected for Eurovision instead of the actual winning song. Sometimes there’s not even an injustice; only the misfortune of a great song being up against another great song. Unfortunately, a country can only send one song to Eurovision (damn it!), meaning the losing song (or songs) are resigned to our humble memories. Personally, there’s been plenty of such occasions, and here are those ten that I most fondly recall that missed out on the grand Eurovision stage.

Top 10 Best Ever National Final LosersBy all means this is not an exhaustive reach into all the national finals of all Eurovision countries over the years. In fact, it was only since the mid-2000s that I began to take notice of them, particularly Sweden’s Melodifestivalen. Not long later it would be Estonia’s Eesti Laul and sometimes Greece. They were the main three until a few years ago when I began to branch out. Even then, mostly it’s been restricted to Nordic countries like Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland. The past two years, if scheduling is convenient and I happen to be awake (5am on a Sunday for most shows does make it difficult!), I’ve watched the likes of Slovenia, Poland and Romania. Often I’ll check retrospectively on youtube songs of other country’s national finals, especially if I read about someone’s favourite that missed out.

Honourable Mentions

All songs in this Top 10 are those that lingered in my memory as being personal favourites at national finals! There just happened to be exactly 10 of them too. In reviewing them before beginning to post them, one didn’t quite resonate as much anymore, so over the weeks of posting the Top 10 in random order on Twitter, I reviewed other notable songs I remembered, and flicked through results of national finals I watched, to see if I had forgotten anything. While these 5 were all worthy candidates, none had that “robbed” factor to jump into the Top 10.

Estonia 2011 – Ithaka Maria – Hopa’pa rei! A rip-roaring track, it’s sort of rock meets Wild Dances, and is something I really would loved to have seen at Eurovision. Note that Ithaka’s dad co-wrote the song with her and you can see him on backing vocals towards the end. So cute!

Estonia 2016 – Gertu Pabbo – Miljon Korda A quite beautiful song that somehow finished last in the semi final.

Estonia 2012 – Birgit Õigemeel & Violina – You’re Not Alone My first dalliance with Birgit, while this is a basic, fluffy piece of pop, it’s oh so infectious. I’ve really grown to love Birgit since and her fourth album was so brilliant. Upon reading my review of Uus algus, Birgit publicly thanked me on her Facebook and Twitter page, which made that post the proudest thing I’ve ever written. It was actually so effortless to write, taking only 15 minutes for the main draft, and then an hour to furnish it. I really wanted to capture the thoughts exactly as they were circulating in my head when listening to the album, and the words just flowed. No doubt when reading it, Birgit sensed exactly this – that it came straight from the heart – and even captured many of the feelings she had when recording the album. In 2007, Birgit was the first ever winner of Eesti Otsib Superstaari (Estonia Idol), finished third at Eesti Laul 2008 with the lovely 365 Days, and ultimately reached Eurovision in 2013 with the even more lovely Et uus saaks alguse, finishing 20th in the final.

Sweden 2006 – Andreas Johnson – Sing For Me This was a super strong year – maybe the best ever Melodifestivalen – with both Carola and BWO having stellar tracks, and finishing first and second in front of Andreas. Famous for his “wet look”, Andreas tried a few more times to win Melfest, including once in a duet with Carola (dubbed “Androla”). None were as good as Sing For Me – an anthem to 60s “rock ‘n’ roll” – with its powerful melodies and harmonies, and superb arrangement.

Sweden 2007 – Verona – La Musica Italian at Melodifestivalen? Why not! Sadly the Swedes thought nothing of it, with Verona finishing eighth and last in her semi. A total injustice for this classic mix Euro-dance and 60s psychedelia. I thought she deserved at least sixth!

Top 10

10) Denmark 2015 – Anne Gadegaard – Suitcase

Song factor: 2
Fury factor: 4

This one was really infuriating, starting a pattern that was seeing Denmark dump solo women with great songs for generic boy band gibberish. It started in 2011 when Anne Noa lost to A Friend In London, and would continue to 2016 when Anja Nissen lost to Lighthouse X. In between, Anne Gadegaard lost to Anti-Social Media. While Denmark finished fifth in 2011, the other two years were both semi final losers. It also meant Anne couldn’t complete one of the great achievements in world music – compete at both Junior Eurovision with Eurovision! Anyway, as mentioned earlier, while Suitcase doesn’t resonate like it did in 2015, it’s still a really catchy and sweet piece of soft country-pop – especially when that chorus kicks in – and was a gross injustice to miss Eurovision. Go pack your bags!

At Eurovision: Anti-Social Media with The Way You Are finished 13th in their semi final. Somewhat a surprise because I actually quite liked their song.

9) Sweden 2008 – Sanna Nielsen – Empty Room 

Song factor: 3
Fury factor: 4

The real “Hero” of 2008, coming second to Charlotte Pirrelli’s lame song, Hero. Despite the glorious record of Sweden at Eurovision, they often don’t get it right at Melodifestivalen, and this year was one of the most glaring cases. Sanna had another attempt at Melfest in 2011 with I’m In Love, finishing fourth, before finally winning in 2014 with the excellent Undo, and finishing third at Eurovision. That was actually her seventh attempt at Melfest glory, and even this last one was an unnecessarily close race, beating that trashy Ace Wilder by just 2 points. Seriously, Swedes are mad at times.

At Eurovision: Just as Pirrelli relied on the juries to win Melodifestivalen, she’d rely on the jury wildcard to reach the final of Eurovision 2008. There she finished 18th.

8) Denmark 2011 – Anne Noa – Sleepless

Song factor: 3
Fury factor: 4

This was a strong year for DMGP, and also a controversial one when a popular solo woman lost to a boy band. Does that sound familiar? As mentioned earlier, it would repeat in 2015 and 2016. A shame, because Sleepless was such a catchy, rockin’, humpin’ and thumpin’ song. Think Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer with a shot of meth.

At Eurovision: A Friend In London with New Tomorrow, which sounded like a rip-off of an Andreas Johnson song, finished fifth at Eurovision so, at least this time, the Danes made the right choice. Well, maybe Anne would have finished higher!

7) Lithuania 2017 – Greta Zazza – Like I Love You

Song factor: 4
Fury factor: 3

One from this year. Yay! Greta was a victim of Lithuania’s protracted selection process. She won her heat ahead of eventual Eurovision entry, Fusedmarc, in third. Then she slipped as the rounds progressed, only scraping through to the final in sixth and final position of the 8-song semi final, and then finishing sixth of seven in the final. It’s such a great song, with a touch of Shady Lady to it, and when I first heard it, the chorus was stuck in my head for days. It would have been so welcome in Kyiv, and her name alone no doubt would have won her a few accolades, like proportionally the most Zs in a name, more Zs than any other letter in a name, and the only name consisting of solely the first and last letter of the alphabet. She looks so much like Birgit Õigemeel too, which no doubt added to her appeal.

At Eurovision: Given the disastrous semi final second last place of (Con)Fusedmarc with Rain Of Revolution, anything would have been better. Given Kyiv 2017 severely lacked well choreographed high energy songs, I’m sure Greta was an easy finalist.

6) Greece 2017 – Demy – When The Morning Comes Around

Song factor: 4
Fury factor: 3

Demy was robbed! Not really. Demy recorded three songs for the Greek national final, so was always going to Kyiv. The winning song, This Is Love, won with a whopping 75.7% of the combined televote and jury, so was clearly the people’s choice too. When The Morning Comes Around was second on 15.9% with Angels on 8.4%. It’s the standard Dimitris Kontopoulos composition of infectious melodies, key changes and musical interludes, and if you sense a familiarity with this style it’s because his songs have graced the Eurovision stage several times already. Most notably he was second in 2008 and 2013 with Ukraine’s Shady Lady and Azerbaijan’s Hold Me, respectively, and third last year with Russia and You Are The Only One – arguably three of the greatest songs not to win Eurovision. Such a dramatic song. I was so impressed with Demy’s songs that I bought her album.

At Eurovision: Even though I loved This Is Love too, When The Morning Comes Around was always my favourite and arguably would have performed better in Kyiv than 19th in the final after scraping through thanks to Cyprus in your semi final.

5) Sweden 2010 – Timoteij – Kom

Song factor: 4
Fury factor: 4

Sweden’s biggest mistake ever! That Sweden sent boring Anna Bergendahl was one thing; that Timoteij only managed fifth place at Melodifestivalen was an outrage! Sometimes Sweden overthink their national finals, becoming too wrapped in “the story” of the artist, rather than simply send the best, most contagious and appropriate song. While Bergendahl was failing to make the final in Oslo, Europe was missing out on one of Sweden’s greatest recent exports. At attempt with Stormande hav in 2012 could only see them reach the second chance round. Obviously Sweden doesn’t like four stereotypical Swedish blondes with great energetic music and even sing in Swedish. Sadly Timoteij recently disbanded, so we’re left with only Melfest memories and two fantastic records. That’ll do!

At Eurovision: Anna Bergendahl with her silly red shoes and her boring This Is My Life saw Sweden finish 11th in the semi final and miss the Eurovision final for the first time ever. No doubt Timoteij would have done far superior!

4) Sweden 2004 – Shirley Clamp – Min kärlek

Song factor: 5
Fury factor: 3

After being hooked on Min kärlek (why do subsequent words of non-English songs start with lowecase?), I became a massive fan of Clamp, and even anointed myself as a “Clamper”. Not sure if her fans had any official name… Anyway, Shirley emerged via the second chance round with this supremely catching song and her distinct voice, and ultimately finished second to Lena Philipsson and “Det gör ont” – later becoming “It Hurts” (see what I mean about subsequent words in song titles?) for Eurovision. I loved Lena’s song as well, also becoming a fan of her, and so started my affair with domestic Swedish music and Melodifestivalen – and building a collection of Shirley and Lena CDs! Although, Shirley will always have the main clamp on my heart. If I recall, the chorus translates to something like “my love burns bright like a star in the night”, which is much better than the English version of the song called My Lovelight.

At Eurovision: After several attempts and some classic songs, Lena Philipsson thoroughly deserved her spot in Eurovision, where she finished equal fifth.

3) Estonia 2012 – Lenna Kuurmaa – Mina jään

Song factor: 5
Fury factor: 4

Lenna’s best ever Eesti Laul song, it might have won most other years. In 2012 it faced Kuula by Ott Lepland, which was always destined to win. That Eesti Laul was my first ever national final that I watched live, and I vividly recall Lenna standing next to Ott during the results phase of the super final and seeing the forlorn expression on her face. So it proved, with another second place after finishing second with Rapunzel in 2010. To this day I still love Mina jään. It remains one of Lenna’s best songs and her live renditions are always so subtle and heartfelt.

At Eurovision: Despite Ott Lepland losing the plot and over-singing Kuula, Estonia finished a deserved sixth.

2) Greece 2011 – Nikki Ponte – I Don’t Wanna Dance Alone

Song factor: 5
Fury factor: 5

This one actually brought widespread fury to the internet, and I’m still upset Canada’s best ever Eurovision export of Greek ancestry missed out. Sadly the low quality video (and the presentation) doesn’t do the song justice. Best to check the version of Ponte in a Madonna t-shirt and using recorded vocals for that. Otherwise, it’s simply a brilliant example of Greek dance-pop, and given Greece’s traditionally superb presentations, it almost certainly would be among my top 10 best ever Eurovision songs of all time.

At Eurovision: The big controversy surrounding it was the Greek jury deliberately voting it low to allow the other main contender, Loukas Giorkas & Stereo Mike, to win. They finished seventh with an impressive presentation of Watch My Dance, so arguably it was the correct decision and Greek tempers would finally have settled down.

1) Iceland 2011 – Yohanna – Nótt

Song factor: 5
Fury factor: Off the scale!

Let’s just say that if Nótt reached Eurovision, it’s almost certainly in my top 3 best ever Eurovision songs and possibly even higher! It’s that good. Yohanna finished second at Eurovision in 2009 with Is It True, and Nótt (Night) blows it out of the water! It’s what I call a “journey song”, where it picks you up slowly at the start, takes you on an dramatic rollercoaster ride, and then gently drops you off at the end. Curiously, the English version is called Slow Down, which seems to belie the essence of the song. Anyhow, in Icelandic is perfectly fine, as Yohanna performs it so passionately and she sounds so good that you get the meaning. Sjonni’s Friends won the Icelandic final that year, and cynics suggest it was only because Sjonni had died a few weeks prior so his friends performed his song in tribute and got the sympathy vote. Being the cynical person that I am, naturally I agree.

At Eurovision: Sjonni’s Friends with Coming Home finished 20th in the final. I’d like to think Yohanna would easily have done better. Given it was such an even year with Azerbaijan’s Ell & Nikki winning, possibly Yohanna could even have delivered Iceland’s first ever win.

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