Words: Connor Bolton
We all despaired when it transpired we wouldn’t be getting our yearly Eurovision fix in 2020. For the first time in its 64-year history, the extravaganza of Slavic folk battling it out with slickly schlager wasn’t to be. Damn you, coronavirus.
A year on, and the world's most-watched music event is finally back, and to celebrate this week's competition in Rotterdam, I’ve set out to shine a light on some of the very best Eurovision bangers from the last 15 years.
Yeah, 15 years. I’m not old enough to go further back. And so this is a personal and so thereby doubtless controversial ‘best of’ list, I get that.
But go ahead, clutter the social airwaves with your alternative choices. For now, though, I have the talking stick, and so it’s my shout. These bops take any traditional musical sensibilities and launch them out of a confetti cannon in true Eurovision style. Enjoy!
20) 'Fairytale' - Alexander Rybak (Norway, 2009)
It’s been 12 years since Alexander Rybak won our hearts with Fairytale, with a rousing chorus that’s impossible not to sing along to after half a bottle. It’s aged like fine wine, too, just like Alexander Rybak himself, who’s still as fit as his fiddle.
19) 'Sound of Silence' - Dami Im (Australia, 2016)
When Australia was announced as a regular contestant after its one-off guest entry in 2015, the country knew it had to impress Karen, 47, from Weymouth, who explained to her 81 Facebook friends that Australia is, in fact, not in Europe. And so should not be competing.
Enter 'Sound of Silence' by Dami Im, who certainly silenced Karen and the naysayers. We now can’t imagine the contest without our friends from Down Under.
18) 'Same Heart' - Mei Finegold (Israel, 2014)
Since the introduction of the semi-finals, each year there’s always been one non-qualifier that deserves justice. You ask any good voice-activated assistant “what’s the definition of being robbed?” and it’ll respond “'Same Heart' by Mei Finegold not qualifying at the 2014 Eurovision song contest”.
An absolute triumph of a performance, seamlessly staged. It proudly lives on at Eurovision club nights at iconic London LGBTQ pub The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
17) 'Occidentali’s Karma' - Francesco Gabbani (Italy, 2017)
Occidentali’s Karma, lyrically, is a critique of our modern life's vapid systematic structures, with references from Hamlet and Heraclitus.
So, of course, it’s paired with Francesco Gabbani having the time of his life on stage, alongside a man in an ape costume dancing in sync. Eurovision formula down to a tee.
16) 'Say Yay!' - Barei (Spain, 2016)
The last time Spain topped the Eurovision scoreboard was before mankind landed on the moon. 51 years, the longest dry spell for any competing country. Sure, there’s been some dodgy entries and even a Spanish finance minister pleading with an entry not to win, but more often than not they’ve been criminally underrated.
Take their entry 'Say Yay!' by Barei, that was tipped to win by fans leading up to the contest, yet got shortchanged and had to settle for a paltry 22nd. Don’t cry Spain, we’ll always be right beside you, on the right-hand side of the scoreboard.
15) 'Molitva' - Marija Šerifović (Serbia, 2007)
Yes, yes, I know. Bangers not ballads, but hear me out. Serbia, a country that had existed for a mere 11 months, makes its Eurovision debut and only goes and wins it with Molitva.
Marija Šerifović sings it with such passion it’s hard not getting caught up with the drama of it all. Never have I belted out a song in a language I don't understand with one fist clenched so dramatically.
14) 'Alcohol Is Free' - Koza Mostra ft. Agathonas Iakovidis (Greece, 2013)
Nothing about this Greek Ska entry by Koza Mostra, featuring Agathonas Iakovidis, makes any sense whatsoever. Why are the men wearing kilts? Why is a man strumming his trumpet? Why is the alcohol free? Many of these questions we don’t have an answer for.
But if anyone asked you these questions out of context, you’d clearly tell them to shut up and enjoy it for what it is already. 'Alcohol Is Free' freaking rocks and Europe clearly agreed, giving Greece its best placing in 11 years.
13) Düm Tek Tek - Hadise (Turkey, 2009)
Turkey have been sorely missed from their contest since they sailed off into the sunset in 2012 on a boat made from men.
Düm Tek Tek from Hadise illuminated the 2009 stage, which is saying something given it was the size of San Marino. We stan a belly dancing queen.
12) 'Dancing Lasha Tumbai' - Verka Serduchka (Ukraine, 2007)
No self-confessed Eurofan could ever have a party without Verka Serduchka. Dancing Lasha Tumbai is three minutes of bewildering but splendid nonsense for which we are all richer for witnessing. He may not have the title of the 2007 Eurovision champion, but he’ll always hold a place in our gay hearts
11) 'If Love Was A Crime' - Poli Genova (Bulgaria, 2016)
A Balkan banger that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Galantis album. If Love Was a Crime by Poli Genova was something contemporary, fun and ultimately got them a shedload of points after Bulgaria’s consistent string of disappointing results. United Kingdom take note.
10) 'Heroes' - Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden, 2015)
This past decade really was one for the Swedes, with their second victory in the space of only three years. Heroes is an instant arena-anthem crowd pleaser, accompanied by a visual feast (no not Måns, but now, come to think of it...) in stage design.
9) 'Think About Things' - Daði og Gagnamagnið (Iceland, 2020)
The only Schrödinger Eurovision bop to grace this list. Think About Things was Iceland's surefire ticket to take the show to Reykjavik. A groovy synth-pop love song written by lead singer Daði Freyr to his baby daughter, we hope we haven’t seen the last of him and his eclectic style.
8) You Are The Only One - Sergey Lazarev (Russia, 2016)
After being pipped by Måns in the 2015 contest, Russia clearly smuggled the Swedish stage and light blueprints back to Moscow.
Only a year later we witnessed 'You Are The Only One', with Sergey Lazarev navigating around some truly insane and intricate projections.
No performance has come close to its visual mastery since. Sadly, it had to settle for third. But hey, God loves a trier.
7) 'My Number One' - Helena Paparazou (Greece, 2005)
My Number One with its blend of swirling traditional greek strings structured around a contemporary beat was always going to do well. This would be Helena Paparazou’s second Eurovision outing, and this time she came only to win.
Even bloc voting cynic Terry Wogan himself acknowledged the following year, remarking, “She's just showing she could win it again this year if she wanted to.”
6) 'Hard Rock Hallelujah' - Lordi (Finland, 2006)
It would be easy to dismiss Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi as just attempting a new angle of Eurovision kitsch, if it wasn’t so hell-raisingly brilliant. Scored the highest number of points ever recorded at the time, too.
With their gruesome vocals and vicious power cords, Lordi are just further proof that you’ve never seen it all until you’ve witnessed Eurovision.
5) 'Popular' - Eric Saade (Sweden, 2007)
You have to have a lot of bottle to swan on stage with 200 million people watching and rhyme “possible” with “possible” seven seconds into a performance, but that’s what Eric Saade did with 'Popular'.
He sure as hell looked great doing it, too. I hear trashy electropop, I see his bone structure. I forgive everything else.
4) 'Shady Lady' - Ani Lorak (Ukraine, 2008)
Who said schlager pop was only limited to the Scandinavian countries? Shady Lady sung by Ukraine’s Ani Lorak is an exhilarating three-minute romp – with possibly the most fabulously tight choreography ever to grace the stage.
Unlike Russia that year, they were in between Olympic champion figure skaters, and so had to settle for second place. The shade of it all.
3) 'Euphoria' - Loreen (Sweden, 2012)
The city of Baku, Azerbaijan, may as well saved itself the hassle of hosting the entire contest as 'Euphoria' had all but won the thing before it even began.
With unparalleled staging, Loreen sings with thrilling bravado that’s nothing short of pure pop perfection.
2) 'Fuego' - Eleni Fourera (Cyprus, 2018)
The intro to Fuego may as well be a battle cry played across the nation to rally the gays into action. The captivating hairography, the enrapturing siren at the bridge, Eleni Fourera owned every second on that stage and cemented herself as Eurovision royalty. "Yeah, yeah, fire!".
1) 'Spirit in the Sky' - KEiiNO (Norway, 2019)
It’s hard to think where else KEiiNO could feel more at home than on the Eurovision stage.
A palette of Sami folk, dance-pop and bubblegum vocals, 'Spirit in the Sky' is completely overdramatic, gelastic and, most of all, a shit-ton of fun. It’s everything we live for in this wondrous song contest.
The Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals air on Tuesday 18 May and Thursday 20 May on BBC Four at 8pm BST in the UK.
The Eurovision Grand Final airs this Saturday 22 May on BBC One at 8pm BST.