Before the article, a disclaimer – the below editorial is tongue-in-cheek and written from the personal opinion of the author, and does not necessarily represent the views of ESC United as an outlet, its contributors or anyone associated with Eurovision.
As we wind down the calendar year and prepare for the release of ESC Radio’s ESC 250 list, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my personal 250 list would look like. Despite only being a fan for 5 years, I’ve listened to nearly all of the Eurovision entries at least once, currently work on a podcast where we review past contests and current happenings, and of course work for ESCUnited. All this to say, I’ve done a lot of my homework on the 1,500+ songs that make up the Eurovision playbook.
So enough talking, let’s dive back in shall we?
#20 – Secret Garden – Nocturne (Norway, 1995)
It should come as no surprise that this song would be in the top 20 of my list. This song was unlike anything we had ever seen before and the contest, and due to the 1999 live instrumental boot we will never see anything like it again. I’ve talked about a lot of magical entries in the contest’s history, but this truly is one of the most breathtaking entries ever. I especially love that this performance isn’t perfect. There is a strange crack that happens at 1:09 that catches Fionnuala’s attention for a split second, but like a professional she continues on as if nothing ever happened. The final thing I love is how it incorporates the penny whistle and Swedish nyckelharp. Did I mention it destroyed Ireland’s winning streak of 3 years in a row? Also a great reason to love this song.
#19 – Donny Montell – I’ve Been Waiting For This Night (Lithuania, 2016)
Eurovision songs always fit within one of a few boxes: theres songs that are kitschy, stage shows, vocal show-offs, and then radio-friendly packages. This song was a perfect song that just happened to be in Eurovision. like this song and staging is so amazing it easily could have been a performance at the VMAs. It’s gimmick free, it’s elegant, sleek, and most importantly Donny sounds vocally flawless. This was Lithuania’s best chance at winning the contest, and it only ended in 9th place. If Lithuania wants to keep this level of professionalism, they need to get Jonas Thander and Beatrice Robertsson to pen all of their Antraka entries.
#18 – Marija Šerifović – Molitva (Serbia, 2007)
In case you hadn’t heard this song before somehow, you have now. This was the first song native language song to win the contest since the 1998 rule was taken out, and the second song obviously came when Portugal won in 2017. This song an Marija’s performance are packed with passion, emotion, and most importantly was the first entry Serbia ever sent as an independent nation (Serbia and Montenegro split into two countries in 2006). This song is important and iconic for another reason, Marija is our only known lesbian winner of Eurovision (a fact she revealed in a documentary in 2013).
#17- Polina Gagarina – A Million Voices (Russia, 2015)
The best of Russia’s “Peace, Peace, Love, Love” entries, this song suffered from one unfortunate issue in Eurovision: it was from Russia. That fact aside, this song took a minimalist approach to the staging, placing Polina in a beautiful white dress that lit up and creating an elegant LED design around that. This was an anthem to all those who felt alone in the world, and was something that I really needed in 2015 (the year that I officially came out publicly). I listen to this on repeat often and remember being that person she’s singing about and who I am now. Anyways, enough sappy talk – send Polina some love.
#16 – Selma – All Out Of Luck (Iceland, 1999)
If I don’t listen to this once a day then there’s something extremely wrong with me. This is actually my work pep-up song that I listen to each morning, because it puts me in such a good mood as I dance at my desk. This song among others from 1999 were such a radical change from the power ballads of the 90’s, and helped push Eurovision into a new era of music. Add in that this song was the best placement for Iceland until it’s second runner-up fate in 2009, and you’ve got yourself a smash hit.
#15 – Sanja Vučić ZAA – Goodbye (Serbia, 2016)
If you haven’t figured it out yet, then this is the 15th(ish) entry from 2016 to end up on my list, and it won’t be the last one. This song was an anthem for those who have been affected by violence or abuse in a relationship, and the psychological warfare that happens when you feel you can’t or won’t leave the situation. Sanja became a warrior for domestic abuse for females, and the story telling they created with the male dancer really drove the message home. This song is a masterpiece, and was very under-appreciated overall. I surely expected it to be top 10, not 18th place.
#14 – Salomé – Vivo Cantando (Spain, 1969)
Now to brighten up the room a bit more, it’s one of 1969’s four winners! This song was everything the contest needed, something with joy and happiness that actually makes you want to get up and dance along. And boy did they achieve that with “Viva Cantando”. Pairing this song with a teal fringe pantsuit upped the fun level even more, as we watched Salomé move every inch of that fringe at all times. What I love about this song is that it’s deceptive. It starts out like many songs would have in the 60’s, a slow ballad type song, that grows into a song with a faster beat and embellishments, and then after the chorus transforms into an uptempo song that continuously changes key.
#13 – Amina – C’est Le Dernier Qui A Parlé Qui A Raison (France, 1991)
If you want to find a song that breaks the standard Eurovision parameters, look no further than this song right here. What sets this song apart from other songs is two things. The first is Amina’s ability to flip into head voice for her “houahs” and “hiahs” scattered throughout the song, but also that this song did not have a heavy track or beat behind it for most of the song. It is also the only song to instigate the count-back rule, due to her and Carola scoring exactly 146 points and tying for first place. And finally, it is one of very few songs to have Arabic influences in the contest alongside Morocco’s 1980 song, Israel 2009, Bulgaria 2012, and of course Italy 2019.
#12 – Céline Dion – Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (Switzerland, 1988)
Céline Dion is hands down the most successful winner of Eurovision ever. Like it’s not even a contest for her. With 27 albums, 15 tours, 2 Vegas residencies, and 252 awards earned across the world, she has made a strong legacy for herself in pop culture. Eurovision was not the beginning of her musical career, as she released 8 of her French albums prior to 1987. What Eurovision did do was launch her international career, and for good reason. Elements of Céline’s music today are present in her 1988 winning song, from her impressive vibrato, the dramatic track, and her preference for slower high-impact ballads. The only things that have changed are her fashion choices and her hair color and that’s okay with me. This is easily the best song from the 80’s of Eurovision.
#11 – Sofia Vossou – Anixi (Greece, 1991)
Not even the terrible sax solo can destroy the beauty of this song. This was a beautiful song from Greece that really pushed them into the Greek pop sound of the 90’s. Add in her iconic dress and earrings, and you have the answer to why this song is on the list. It’s amazing and iconic, and deserving of a spot on the list. That’s all I’ve got to say.
#10 – Maya Sar – Korake Ti Znam (Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2012)
This song may surprise you, and it definitely surprised me when I decided to put it so high. Whenever I listen to this song, I hear a song that is ethereal. The delegation did a perfect job of creating a moment of art on stage, paired with an appropriate track of instrumentations to compliment Maya’s voice, and leaving her on stage alone. She didn’t need a flashy staging, all we needed was her voice. Did you know that she’s now an ambassador for AVON’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign?
#9 – Elisabeth Andreassen – I Evighet (Norway, 1996)
The song that almost pulled an Ireland or Israel to win the contest back to back, but in the end it didn’t happen. This song, much like the song before was majestic and ethereal live. It relates to the tone that “Nocturne” created in the year prior (though with much more words) and created a musical journey filled with emotion and melodic beauty. What a special moment this song was. I could do without the strange video overlays that the production team were very excited about for the contest.
#8 – Carola – Fångad av en stormvind (Sweden, 1991)
Carola, the queen on Swedish pop is my number 9 song, and for proper reason. This song was a refreshing winner to start off the decade on a proper foot, with excitement, excitement, and male dancers in full suits. In addition, Carola slays this song live, and nails the choreography, key change, and high notes with ease. This was hands down the proper winner for the year, even will the count-back being used. Did you know she is also the first Swedish artist to perform in China? They chose wisely!
#7 – Frida Boccara – Un Jour, Un Enfant (France, 1969)
This song is a special song, not just because it was part of the 4 song tie of 1969, but also because it is so raw and filled with beauty. When I hear this song every time I feel my eyes start to water because Frida’s performance of the song is just THAT good. Take note kids, this is how you incorporate dynamics into your performance. It’s also important to note that Frida is able to create this magical performance in just 2 minutes and 37 seconds, which makes it one of the shortest winning songs in Eurovision history (but not THE shortest winning song, I don’t have time to research that).
#6 – Aminata – Love Injected (Latvia, 2015)
Talk about a spectacular song and stage show, look no further than Latvia’s Aminata. This woman took a great song to Stockholm and said let’s make it even more impressive by bringing the biggest dress to the contest and a highly-ethnic LED design. This performance and song are without flaws, and this song helped begin her career as an international artist and songwriter. The camera work on this entry, as jarring as it may be, was impeccable and really enhanced the story of the song. This is easily one of the best modern songs in the contest to date.
#5 – Gina G – Ooh…Aah…Just A Little Bit (United Kingdom, 1996)
The fact that this is the last Eurovision song to be nominated for a Grammy is enough reason for it to be this high up on my list. But this song is strangely my favorite dance track of the entire contest, despite it being extremely repetitive and basic. This track truly was ahead of its time though, because tracks like this really didn’t turn up in Eurovision until 1999 with Selma’s All Out Of Luck and the entire 2000 contest, and the audience just wasn’t prepared for it. Her 8th placement in the contest definitely set the UK up to win a year later, so I have no quarrels with her result but this track will live on forever.
#4 – Jamala – 1944 (Ukraine, 2016)
Power. History. Passion. Talent. Arresting. Stunning. Captivating. Genius. What do these words all have in common you ask? Well they are how I would describe “1944”. Sure, Jamala has landed in some hot water in 2019 following Maruv-gate, but that doesn’t discount the beauty that was her winning song in 2016. This was staged with perfection and really helped expand the impact of this song on the audience, televoters, and juries. Plus when she she goes into the bridge, I enter another realm.
#3 – Loreen – Euphoria (Sweden, 2012)
It should come as no surprise the “Euphoria” is on this list, but it may be surprising that it’s not #1. While I love this song and Loreen as an artist, I’ve become a bit Loreen’d out. There are also two other songs that I love slightly more than this eurodance track. Loreen did the contest a favor by entering Melodifestivalen again in 2012 and later winning, because she reignited Europe’s attention for the contest. WIthout her, the contest could look very different today in terms of participation and reception.
#2 – ABBA – Waterloo (Sweden, 1974)
From Sweden to Sweden, ABBA is the runner up on my 250 list. If you know me at all, if should come as no surprise that I love this song and ABBA themselves, and this song is my top played song from their discography. This song was not only one of the other non-native language winners of the 1973-1976 period, but was also a standout from the crowd of songs. The band would go on to celebrate international acclaim, and all because the entered an English pop song in Eurovision.
#1 – Gigliola Cinquetti – Non Ho L’Età (Italy, 1964)
At long last, we’ve reached the end and my top song of all 1500+ Eurovision songs. I thought long and hard about this decision, and I had to give the spot to Gigliola. This song is so pure and perfect, and her voice sounds so wonderful in this song. This song won out over ABBA and Loreen for two reasons: I have played it 30 more times in 2019, and it’s got 10 years on “Waterloo” and 58 on “Euphoria”. It’s a true shame that we’ve lost the footage of this entire contest due to a fire, but at least we have a live recording from the radio transmission. Love live this beautiful performance.
And that concludes this amazing 16 part series! Thank you to everyone who has been with me throughout this journey, and for not arguing with my selections! If you want to see more opinions rankings such as this let me know your ideas and I can make it happen. Until then happy new year and let’s ring in 2020 with the fan selections on ESC Radio!
- Songs 21-39
- Songs 40-54
- Songs 55-69
- Songs 70-84
- Songs 85-99
- Songs 100-114
- Songs 115-129
- Songs 130-144
- Songs 145-159
- Songs 160-174
- Songs 175-189
- Songs 190-204
- Songs 205-219
- Songs 220-234
- Songs 235-250
What do #YOU think of my picks? Is there something you disagree with? Let us know in the comments, social media, or our forum!