The below editorial features the opinions and views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of #escYOUnited as a whole, Eurovision or the EBU.
As far as Eurovision is concerned, the 2010s are done and dusted. ESC United is currently running a series ranking the entrants that each country sent during the 2010s, and as we recap what each contributing nation had to offer this decade, what about the artists who performed at the very last Eurovision of the 2000s?
Did the entrants of Eurovision 2009, held in Moscow, Russia, kick on and make a name for themselves? Did they sink into oblivion? Did they grace a Eurovision stage or a national final again? Join us as we find out what happened to the Eurovision Class of 2009.
In today’s installment, we look at the artists eliminated from Semi-Final 2. Last time, we looked at Semi-Final 1 and Georgia, who were forced to withdraw after their lyrics fell afoul to the political content rule. Thereafter we will look at the artists who placed in the the bottom half of the Grand Final, the top half of the Grand Final, and the Hosts, Big Four, and Interval Acts.
So let us walk you through one of the more controversial Eurovision contests ever, and what happened to the singers, band members, writers, and producers at the end of the 2000s decade as we wrap up the 2010s.
19th Place, Semi-Final 2: Latvia – Intars Busilis – “Пробка” (Probka)
“Probka” was an unusual entry in many ways. It is one that is more on the “artsy” side, with a lot going on from its unusual-for-Eurovision 7/4 time signature and constant changes in tempo in a three minute period resulting in a disorienting experience that was deliberate. That there was a lot of thought and effort put into it did not prevent its doom, coming in last in Semi-Final 2. As a commentary on the jerky pace of modern life this works wonderfully, but as a Eurovision entry… not so much.
A trombonist by education, the falsetto hitting Intars Busulis took his defeat here in stride and built on his career in his native Latvia. In 2013, he released the critically acclaimed “CitāC,” co-written with “Probka’s” composer Kārlis Lācis. “Гравитация” (“Gravity”) was released in 2015, but Busulis hit the jackpot with the award-winning 2017 album “Nākamā Pietura” (“Next Stop”). Again with Lācis and the Subscription Orchestra, this album was nominated at the 2017 Zelta Mikrofons (Latvian Music Records Award) for Best Pop Album of the Year and Record of the Year.
And on December 1, 2019, Busulis released “Purva bridējs” (“The marsh bog”), another single with Lācis and the Subscription Orchestra. This a smooth jazz composition, a relaxing counterpoint to “Probka” and well worth checking out.
“Probka’s” lyricist Sergejs Timofejevs was already a poet of note in Latvia and Russia, and shortly after “Probka,” continued contributing Russian lyrics to the Latvian rock band Prāta Vētra, who most Eurovision fans would know in English as Brainstorm, Latvia’s representative at Eurovision 2000 with their 3rd place song “My Star.” In 2011, Timofejevs was appointed Chairman of Latvia’s National Council for Culture. A prolific poet in Latvia and librettist in Russia, he also moved into visual arts with a poetry art installation called “Radiosiena” that was nominated for the 2013 Purvītis Prize, the premier Latvian award for excellence in the arts.
Lastly, “Probka’s” other lyricist, Jānis Elsbergs, was and remains a prominent poet in his native Latvia. He also is Lācis’s main librettist whenever he composes and performs an opera, with Elsbergs providing his services for “Blowing the Wind!,” “Jeanne d’Arc,” and “Evgeny Onegin.” Elsbergs also has a career as a translator, with the translation of Thomas Harris’s “Red Dragon” (the Hannibal Lecter series) being the biggest seller of his in Latvia.
18th Place, Semi-Final 2: Slovakia – Kamil Mikulčík and Nela Pocisková – “Let’ tmou”
A Slovak-language power ballad that failed to ignite at Eurovision 2009, it was slick and aimed squarely at the Slavic hosts who typically eat up songs like “Let’ tmou.” Contemporary reviews at the time criticized Kamil Mikulčík and Nela Pocisková for their clashing vocals in the final third, though others found that the vocals play off and build off of each other successfully as they power up the the final note. A divisive entry, it was a disappointing finish for Slovakia’s first Eurovision appearance since 1998.
Nela Pocisková powered on, winning Slovakia’s version of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2010. Pocisková had hits in 2012 with “So in love” and in 2013 with “Mysterious Boy” in her native Slovakia, coming in Number 1 and Number 5 on Slovakia’s singles charts, respectively.
And like many Eurovision alumni, she also got in on the “Your Face Sounds Familiar” train, here performing as Alice Cooper in an episode this year in Slovakia.
Kamil Mikulčík joined the acapella group Fragile, but has also done solo work over the years, including “Kombanjista” from 2017.
However, Mikulčík is also a working actor, and those in tune with Slovakian soap operas showing right now will no doubt recognize him as Viktor in “Druhy Dych” (Second Breath). The most recent episode’s plot description is this!
“Let’ tmou” composer Rastislav Dubovsky also went into a route common for Eurovision 2009 writers: soundtrack work. His credits include “Tak fajn” from 2012 and “Zázracný nos” from 2016.
17th Place, Semi-Final 2: The Netherlands – The Toppers – “Shine”
Oh Lord, where do we start with this one? The Dutch “supergroup” rolled into Moscow with perhaps the oldest established fanbase Eurovision had ever seen, but whatever charm that got your Aunt Margreet to shell out money to attend their concerts and buy their DVDs was lost at Semi-Final 2. De Toppers came in 17th place with 11 points (Albania providing 10 of them, oddly enough).
Present in Moscow were Rene Froger, Gordon Heuckeroth and Jeroen van der Boom. Van der Boom replaced founding member Gerard Joling just before Eurovision 2009. Joling broke both of his arms in a freak skiing accident, though given his being a fixture at Pride parades in the Netherlands, it’s possible he may have wanted to stay home for another more obvious reason.
Dedre Twiss, the backing dancer and singer in the middle who was a fixture of Dutch entries from 2003 to 2009 (thanks ESC United editor Zack for the reminder), is still an active singer, performer and vocal coach with a very active schedule in the Netherlands. Follow her on active Facebook page to keep an eye on the many concerts and groups she is performing with to this day.
Now for the not so good news. Gordon Heuckeroth made a series of racist jokes on Holland’s Got Talent in 2013 about Chinese contestant Xiao Wang. Heuckeroth doubled down after being confronted about it, saying the jokes were acceptable and that the United States still accepts the Ku Klux Klan. Unless he’s the Man in the High Castle and got his realities mixed or his only American friend is Danny Frishmuth’s dad from Season 2 of 90 Day Fiance, this is not even remotely true, and a terrible defence regardless. Heuckeroth left De Toppers in 2012, so no need to worry about an awkward conversation with Aunt Margreet when she invariably asks you to attend a concert with her.
Television personality Jan Smit – who was last week confirmed as one of Eurovision 2020’s co-hosts – joined the group in 2017. De Toppers are still actively touring with the Froger, van der Boom, Smit, and Joling (who came back after Eurovision 2009) line-up. Below is an ABBA medley from this line-up in 2019, including “Waterloo.”
16th Place, Semi-Final 2: Slovenia – Quartissimo feat. Martina – “Love Symphony”
Classical music, violins, and the integration thereof with pop music was a big thing at Eurovision around this time. Sadly, “Love Symphony” was one of the less successful ones despite the pedigree of the musicians and singer involved. This still has a cult following to this day. The main riff is killer and the unusual ratio of vocals to instrumentation (low and late to the party) probably doomed this entry and the end felt abrupt, but this a quality entry from a top notch quartet of classically trained musicians who paired up with one of the Balkan region’s best hired gun vocalists.
First up, vocalist Martina Majerle was well known as a backing singer at Eurovision already, having performed for Croatia at Eurovision 2003, Slovenia in 2007, and Montenegro in 2008. She (literally) came from behind the curtain to the forefront for this effort as singer of the Slovenian string quarter Quartissimo. But Majerle did not stop as a backing vocalist. She came back with Slovenia in 2011, Slovenia in 2012, Montenegro in 2014, and Croatia in 2016. In sum total, she has sang on a Eurovision stage eight times. Majerle is currently employed by Croatia’s RTV and is involved in television projects and special events for the broadcaster.
The song’s writer and lyricist Andrej Babić was, like Majerle, a fixture behind the scenes writing several Eurovision and national selection entries prior to 2009. This continued after 2009, writing Filipa Sousa’s “Vida minha” for Portugal for Eurovision 2012. Babić wrote a song for Georgia’s national selection in 2010, where Sopho Nizharadze was selected internally but the song was up for selection, with his “For Eternity” losing out to eventual winner “Shine.” As great as “Shine” was, “For Eternity” was also a decent platform for a phenomenal vocalist who has since gone on to record duets with some of music’s all-time greats.
Andrej Babić also wrote Martina Majerle’s “Alive” for Slovenia’s 2015 national selection, Catarina Pereira’s “Mea Culpa” which came in an agonizing 2nd at Portugal’s Festival da Canção 2014, “The Best Thing” by Gunesh for Belarus’s national selection in 2012, and “L’égoïste” by Evelyne Filipe for Switzerland’s national selection in 2011.
As for the members of Quartissimo themselves, all four are active in Europe’s classical music and opera scene. Matjaž Bogataj is a violinist for the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Germany, having being there since 2017. He also had spells performing with Radiotelevizija Slovenija’s (RTV Slovenia) house orchestra and the Frankfurt Opera.
Quartissimo founder Žiga Cerar, who was also began his career in Germany, is currently a member of the Slovenian Philharmonic String Chamber Orchestra. He is also the lead mentor of Little Philharmonic in Slovenia, a summer camp for kids looking to not just hone their skills as a soloist but also in performing violin as part of an orchestra.
On viola for Quartissimo was Luka Dukarić, a freelancer session musician in Slovenia who often shows up on concert tours supporting clarinetist Goran Bojčevski, he also appeared on Mascara Quartet’s August 2019 album “Canção do Mar.”
Cellist Samo Dervišić’s career path was a little different than the rest of Quartissimo, as he made appearances as a cellist on a few metal albums, including Aperion’s “Act of Hybris” from 2010, Avven’s “Kastalija” from 2011, and punk rocker Elvis Jackson’s “Act of Gravity” from 2009 and “Window” from 2014.
15th Place, Semi-Final 2: Hungary – Zoli Ádok – “Dance with me”
Eurovision 2009’s Barbara Dex Award winner for worst dressed Zoli Adok had a background in musical theater and dance, so after his second album in 2011, “Három álom,” Adok embarked on a career as a cruise ship singer. It’s a job he has held with various cruise ships over the years, to such success that he even has a unique, originally written musical act called “Born to Dance” that is performed exclusively for Princess Cruises. He worked as a lead singer on Celebrity Cruises from 2012 to 2015, but switched over to Princess Cruises in 2016.
Interestingly, one of his two male backing vocalists, Gábor “Biga” Heincz, got his own career off the ground thanks to his performance. He entered A Dal 2012 with “Learning to Let Go” and A Dal 2018 with “Good Vibez.” Heincz has one album to his name, “Gátlás sztriptíz”, released in 2017.
14th Place, Semi-Final 2: Cyprus – Christina Metaxa – “Firefly”
It was an odd period for Cyprus, opting in 2009 to go an adult contemporary route with Christina Metaxa and “Firefly.” After her 13th place finish in Semi-Final 2, the then 17-year-old went to the Ivy League – she attended Brown University in Rhode Island, graduating in Literary Arts and French Studies. Since then she has taught at Xenia Tsolaki Metaxa Private Institute in Limassol, Cyprus. Run by her mother, PhD in Education holding Xenia Metaxa, the secondary education institute which offers language programs as well as a 6th form program to prepare students for university just turned 30 years old.
“Firefly” was written by Christina’s older brother Nikolas Metaxa, who was born in New York City and is a singer and songwriter in his right. Nikolas had attempted to enter Eurovision 2008 himself, coming in 2nd at Cyprus’s national selection with “I Can’t Be.” You may recognize the young singer supporting Nikolas.
After two relative disappointments in 2008 and 2009, Nikolas continued his career as a singer – songwriter and has been quite prolific and successful. Nikolas narrowly came in second on the first season of Greece’s version of The X Factor, and released his first album “Square One” in 2011. Since then he has dropped several albums, and just last week a collaboration between him and American Indie-EDM artists Ghstwrld called “Take It Slow” was released, following on from their recent collaboration “Everything.”
One Metaxas song worth checking out is his beautiful 2017 single “Stays On.” You can make the argument that he may have entered Eurovision too early, and that it is only now that he has honed his composition skills and forged his own identity as an artist. And given Eurovision 2019’s winner, you can even make the argument that Metaxas was a decade ahead of his time, and that if he entered Eurovision now it’s not Metaxas following a trend, but Eurovision catching up to him.
12th Place, Semi-Final 2: Poland – Lidia Kopania – “I Don’t wanna leave”
Lidia Kopania had been a well-known singer in Europe since she became lead singer of German band Kind of Blue in 2003 and was a successful solo artist in her own right thereafter. She had also attempted to enter Eurovision 2007. At Eurovision 2009, she beat 13th placed Croatia by 10 points in Semi-Final 2, but it was Croatia that were the beneficiaries of the infamous “jury save” that sent them through to the final with the Top 9 of the overall combined jury and televote score.
Kopania continued recording, with hit singles in 2013 such as Hold my breath and wait,” and a full album in 2015 called “Pod słowami.”
Recently, Kopania attempted to enter Poland’s national selection for Eurovision with “Scars are beautiful” (written by prolific writers Linda Persson, Ylva Persson, Niklas Bergqvist, and Simon Johansson). It did not make the final ten for Krajowe Eliminacje 2018, won by Gromee.
“I don’t wanna leave” was co-written by Moscow born composer Alex Geringas and Kopania’s bandmate in Kind of Blue guitarist Bernd Kimpel. Geringas’s career in particular went into overdrive as he got work doing soundtracks in Los Angeles. Geringas co-wrote Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side,” a massive hit in the United States that garnered significant attention for its anti-bullying and anti-harassment message. Geringas, who by this time had also earned a reputation as a soundtrack composer for children’s movies and TV shows, also received an Emmy nomination for his work on “Who’s da King?” for the King Julien movie. He also wrote the score for the hit movie Pitch Perfect 3.
11th Place, Semi-Final 2: Ireland – Sinéad Mulvey and Black Daisy – “Et cetera”
Let’s get Jonas Gladnikoff out the way first – this was one of the Swedish Eurovision mercenary’s earliest entries as a writer. He just recently co-wrote Anna Kearney’s “Banshee,” which came in 12th at Junior Eurovision 2019. These days you can also find him selling his songs out of a suitcase for national selections in the back arse of Moldova and Romania. Some work, some don’t.
As for Sinead Mulvey, she entered Eurovision 2009 as a flight attendant for Aer Lingus, and based on web searches, Eurovision 2009 is her last result as a performing artist. In fact, most web search results about Ireland at Eurovision 2009 appear to be about the unusual judge they had on The Late Late Show, which acted as Ireland’s national final in 2009: Jerry Springer. In case you’re wondering, it is indeed the Jerry Springer famous for being referee for a bunch of angry rednecks and other assorted lowlives on America’s most sordid daytime television show.
That is correct, the world’s most infamous daytime TV show host had a hand in picking in Ireland’s entry for Eurovision 2009. And to be fair, Ireland could have done worse than “Et Cetera,” and Latvia’s Eurovision 2003 singer for F.L.Y. (who wrote the Eurosong 2009 2nd place “I wish I could pretend” by Kristina Zaharova) looks like a dork trying to school Springer at Eurosong 2009 on the relative position of Latvia in Europe when Springer is a man who didn’t care if a city’s cheques could be made out to prostitutes or not while he was mayor of Cincinatti, Ohio. Ireland came close to to the Finals in 2009 with Jerry Springer and Linda Martin and Marty Wheeler as judges. In 2020, considering how awful Ireland’s results have been this past decade, maybe they could swap Springer out for his UK counterpart Jeremy Kyle and see how the dice roll?
“Et cetera” is actually fairly good in that Avril Lavigne pop punk kind of way. Not being condescending, there were several more in this Semi-Final that qualified that were worse. It has an organic pep that has been missing from Ireland’s entries this past decade and for all the crap I give Gladnikoff and the Irish selection process, “Et cetera” is a blast and should have moved on.
Oh yes, back to Sinead Mulvey – she was a flight attendant for Aer Lingus and does not seem to have done much since “Et Cetera.” A few people on Twitter insist that she is now back on Aer Lingus continental routes, but if anyone knows what she and the rest of Black Daisy, who apart from a few appearances here and there with other bands, have suffered a similar fate on the Internet in not being high profile are up to, please do let us know.
10th Place, Semi-Final 2: Serbia – Marko Kon and Milaan – “Ципела” (Cipela)
Next up we have a song called “Shoe.” This is the most Balkan song you could ever hear at Eurovision, but it is only because of the dumb jury save rule that 10th place Marko Kon and Milaan did not make it a final when in any year from 2010 onwards they would have.
With that deep husky voice, it is no surprise that vocalist Marko Kon has achieved fame as a voice actor in Serbia. If you are watching a Serbian version of a Dreamworks or Pixar movie in Serbia from this past decade, guaranteed that the deepest voiced character you’re hearing is done by Kon, most notably the character from 2013’s “Frozen.”
A multi-instrumentalist, Kon has released music over the years both a solo artist and in collaboration with others. If you’ve ever wanted to be shouted at by a Eurovision artist sitting on a toilet on a dance song with rock and dubstep flourishes, then this effort from 2016 is just for you.
Accordionist Milan Nikolic has over the years assembled his own jazz band, and over the past year has put out some fun tracks in that Balkan jazz meets zydeco kind of way. His YouTube channel, accessible from the link below, has several worthy songs to check out.
Next time, we have a look at countries that finished in the bottom half of Semi-Final 2 (excluding the Big Four and hosts). And there’s a few good ‘uns to look forward to. Highlights include: 1.) “HOW DARE YOU!”, 2.) Mandinga’s original singer goes solo, 3.) Malta’s greatest returns again.
Which one of these Semi-Final 2 contestants did #YOU think deserved to go through to the Grand Final at Eurovision 2009? Whose career have #YOU been following one decade on? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum.