On the night of April 24, 1982, delegations from 18 countries descended on the Harrogate International Centre for the 27th Eurovision Song Contest. Which of that year’s entries would Team ESCUnited crown? To decide, we have gathered five of our best (?) and brightest (??) from around the globe to weigh in with their 1982 Top 10s. They are:

  • From Belgium … Boris
  • From USA … Connor
  • From USA, by way of The UK and South Africa … James
  • From The Netherlands … Roy
  • From USA … William

With all of their scores combined, we’ve come up with a collective Top 10 (and our consensus winner) of the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest. Here it is, in ascending order, along with some brief thoughts on the songs by each panelist whose points got them on the list:

10. Bill van Dijk- “Jij en ik” 🇳🇱

Bill van Dijk is a singer, actor, voice over artist, and musical theater performer. His career began in the early-’70s, when he was cast in leading roles in the Dutch productions of counterculture musicals ‘Hair’ and ‘Godspell’. Both he and “Jij en ik” were selected independently at ‘Nationaal Songfestival 1982’. 

Actual finish: 16th

Boris: “That feeling when you send a voice actor to the contest and press him to act up for the cameras, and he proceeds to over emote punch-drunk love to a borderline absurd degree. For three minutes, Bill prances about, aimlessly flails his limbs around, idly flirts with his cooing coterie of frivolous ladyfolk, and points at random audience members, all the while singing the most banal descriptions of his surroundings as metaphors for rekindled love. (Returning swallows? Blossoming pear trees? Houses decorated with crosses? Lol?). Is there anything more up my ironic love alley while also being violently anathema to the professional juries’ tastes? There probably may be in other contests, but not in this one.”

Connor: “Okay, but when I think of the ’80s era sound of Eurovision, ‘Ji ken ik’ is a perfect example. They truly don’t make music like this anymore … although, I will admit, it’s not the most memorable track of the night’s lineup – but what sells this performance is Bill’s voice, the feel-good vibe, and the interactions on stage.”

Roy: “How can this not put a smile on your face? Bill performs this song with so much joy that it is infectious. You start dancing and smiling immediately. Even if you don’t speak Dutch, this song is fun. Sure, he isn’t the best singer in the world, but sometimes you don’t HAVE to be. A very cool old-school Dutch song that I enjoy very much and think is rather underrated.”

9. Neco- “Hani?” 🇹🇷

In the late-’60s, Neco was a founding member of pioneering Turkish rock groups Silüetler, Moğollar, and İstanbul Gelişim. He went solo in the mid-’70s, releasing two albums and competing at various international music festivals. He represented Turkey after winning a six-song national final. (He was the singer on five of those songs.)

Actual finish: 15th

Boris: “A noisy mess, but a welcome one. 1982 has a bit too much nice-nice for my liking … a few songs like that, fine, but HALF the entries?! By contrast, Turkey offer a frantic mess in ‘Hani?”, a loud and bombastic song, riddled with excessive xylophone noises. Delightful chaos in a competition where too many chose to play it disappointingly safe.”

Connor: “I won’t lie … I kind of forgot this song existed until we did our reviews, but this song stands out. It’s a Turkish twist on 80’s popular music, instrumentation, and harmonies – especially when the bridge hits. Also, can we talk about those outfits? Stellar! If you’ve never heard of Hani, I encourage you to give it a listen, because it’s sure to be a repeat play on your playlist, as it now is on mine.”

James: “I’ve accused a couple of tracks of bringing the ‘70s one-quarter of the way into the  ‘80s, but none do so as cacophonously as Neco and his band of gold lamé-bedecked backing singers. They take a little breather at the bridge, but otherwise it’s go go go, arms and hips a-swingin’ everywhere. ‘Hani’, or ‘what about’, gets yelled about a hundred times, and I feel they missed a trick by not ending the song with a blast of a fog horn. Because why not? I might get a headache listening to this, but this ranks high because it’s the one I remember most from 1982. It’s got more hooks than when you open the puzzle box from Hellraiser, and, despite Neco unleashing his Eurovision entry on Harrogate like a pack of bloodthirsty cenobites, you can’t help but have a great time.”

Roy: “This song really thrives in the catchiness of the background choir. It makes the song very enjoyable and memorable. Neco himself isn’t, perhaps, the best singer (and neither are the background singers), but, for some reason, it works for me. Its repetitive nature prevents me from putting it higher in my ranking, but this deserved way better than 15th on the night!”

Will: “This is just a delicious slice of classic Eurovision cheese. Some of the composition and vocal choices in the song put it right on the border of annoying, but Neco’s joy and showmanship really carry this across the finish line. I’m not shocked at its relatively low placement. ‘Hani?’ is playing in relatively the same sandbox as Israel’s entry, and that’s not a comparison that does it any favors. Still, this is good fun.”

8. Stella- “Si tu aimes ma musique” 🇧🇪

Dutch-born singer Stella and her two sisters represented The Netherlands as Hearts of Stone at Eurovision 1970. The sisters relocated to Belgium and  formed the group Dream Express, representing their new nation at Eurovision 1977. After a three-heat national final, a jury selected Stella to represent Belgium again in 1982.

Actual finish: 4th

Boris: “Is this the first chronological instance of Wallonia’s signature ‘suspenseful verses, underwhelming chorus’ syndrome? Anyway, that problem specifically illustrates my gripes with this year. ‘Si tu aime ma musique’ builds up some great tension, and, for a moment, we are made believe that we’re in some dramatic, tense, dark ballad about a crazy stalker lady ensnaring an unassuming man under her siren song. Then the chorus steers it head-first into ‘Let’s Sing Kumbaya Together UwU’ territory and… ugh FOR WHY?! I mean, I know *why* but ew. If this went any other direction, Belgium could have provided Nicole with the foil we desperately needed, but Stella sadly succumbs to the, “Let’s be happy, and let’s be gay,” vibe accompanying this entire contest. Still marking her high for randomly sticking an entire mimosa tree in her hair though <3.”

Connor: “Belgium has always stood out to me in this year. The track and melody are iconic, and it pops up on ESC Radio often. I don’t really love the transition between verse and chorus, but, putting that aside, I enjoy the playfulness this song has compared with the other 17 entries. I also love that Stella learned French just for this song and that it made RTBG executives VERY mad to be represented by a Dutch-born singer who didn’t speak the native language of French. I’m petty that way.”

James: “Daft, fluffy, crap usage of the keyboard, uber-goofy lyrics, and a chorus that crashes in like a wrecking ball. That said, I still like it. It has a Junior Eurovision vibe, with Stella looking like she’d rather be skipping through a field of tulips than suffering terrible keyboard effects in a convention hall in the back arse of Yorkshire. There’s usually one technically inept, yet charming effort than comes in every year – Stella is to 1982 as Leonora is to 2019 – and this one ended up middle of the pack, as they always do. In response to Stella: I don’t quite like your song in the traditional sense, but I will definitely sing it with you.”

Will: “This one really keeps you guessing from the tinkling of a music box in moment one. Stella deftly balances the two pretty disparate moods of the song, and, vocally, she has the CHOPS. She does spend a majority of the performance kind of just … wandering the stage, but hey. It was a different era. Her face is plenty expressive all by itself.”

7. Brixx- “Video-video” 🇩🇰

Brixx was an electropop band that represented Denmark after winning the 1982 edition of ‘Dansk Melodi Gran Prix’. The group was named after its lead singer, Jens Brixtofte. One of its other members, John Hatting, wrote Denmark’s 1986 Eurovision entry for his then-wife, Lise Haavik.

Actual finish: 17th

Roy: “Danish is a very fascinating language, and the chorus of this song is very catchy. The performer is charismatic and has a nice and clear voice with a distant rasp to it. A visually very enjoyable, catchy song, with a sarcastic undertone and a decently fast pace. It all really works for me!”

Will: “This entry was such a pleasant surprise on my first watch of the 1982 contest. Dare I say this was … modern? At a contest still dominated by ’70s sounds and sensibilities, this blast of ’80s New Wave energy is a shock to the system. Am I crazy to say this was actually ahead of its time? Its low finish on the night is inexplicable. It’s too good to have finished five slots below Jahn Teigen and Anita Skorgan’s latest assault on songcraft.”

6. Anna Vissi- “Mono i agapi” 🇨🇾

Superstar Cypriot singer Anna Vissi won a local talent competition at age 12, and her family relocated to Athens to support her music career. She was already a platinum-selling artist in Greece by the time she represented that country at Eurovision in 1980. After being internally selected by Cyprus in 1982, she returned to represent Greece again in 2007.

Actual finish: 5th

James: “Anna Vissi is a Eurovision legend, and ‘Mono I agapi’ is, for a reason, her best ranked entry. Though early in her career, Vissi knew how to mesmerize a foreign audience not versed in Greek, how to translate through expressions and emotions that, though nothing is permanent, the love between her and her beau will be the only thing remaining constant. Singers these days tend to go overboard and almost mime-like with the expressions, but ‘Mono I agapi’ is a masterclass in grace and subtlety.”

Roy: “I have a bit of a weakness for some of the songs that Cyprus sent in the ’80s. Heck, I even have Cyprus as my personal winner in both ’86 and ’87. The biggest difference between those songs and this one is that this is more of a ‘traditional’ ballad. Still, Anna Vissi has a very charismatic voice and stage presence that carries this song. It misses a bit of power compared to Cyprus’ ’87 attempt, but, in the field of ’82, this song definitely stands out. The language definitely helps immensely.”

Will: “How is it possible that Anna looked younger when she represented Greece in 2006?! Hair styling in the ’80s was a war crime. Anyway … every time Anna took the Eurovision stage, she served up a masterclass on how to command the moment. She has such ease as a performer, and the moody, soaring melody really lets her demonstrate her vocal prowess.”

5. Doce- “Bem bom” 🇵🇹

Doce was a four-member girl group made up of Laura Diogo, Lena Coelho, Fátima Pandinha, and Teresa Miguel. The latter two women were former members of Gemini, Portugal’s 1978 Eurovision entrant. Doce represented Portugal after winning the 1982 edition of ‘Festival da Canção’.

Actual finish: 13th

Boris: “Just to put it into perspective. The gulf between my top two and the rest is massive. #1 and #2 are easy 8.5s out of 10. Doce barely scrape together a 7. Anyway, Portugal is usually a big ole pile of misery guts at Eurovision, but Doce’s offering makes for a nice change of pace. Four ladies in musketeer outfits (for which no explanation whatsoever is given <3), performing a patty-cake routine about the hours of the day. It’s *feather-light* and definitely guilty of following ’82s, ‘all style, no sustenance,’ policy, but I find it quite charming nonetheless.”

Connor: “Now we all know I am the resident Portugal stan, and Dulce is where my love started for the country. There’s something about this quirky little entry that is peppy, energetic, and flashy. Maybe it’s the Texan cowboy in me that can’t help but love this. That blonde wig was a mistake, though. The girls got lucky to open the show, because they really set a good tone for the following two hours.”

Roy: “An insanely catch tune from Portugal, for a change. Vocally sometimes a tad weak, but in its execution very good. The ‘heys’ in this song are insanely effective, and the outfits of the singers are really cool, as well. I enjoy this one immensely!”

Will: “What a way to open the show! This whole performance is really thoughtfully choreographed for maximum impact, and the styling is next level. Doce was there to put on A SHOW. Maybe the song is a bit repetitive, but it’s so catchy! Undoubtedly, the earworm of the 1982 contest.”

4. Bardo- “One Step Further” 🇬🇧

Musical theater performers (and real-life dating couple) Sally Ann Triplett and Stephen Fischer formed Bardo in 1982 to compete at that year’s UK national final, ‘A Song for Europe’. “One Step Further” was their debut single, though Sally Ann Triplett had previously represented The UK as a member of Prima Donna in 1980.

Actual finish: 7th

Boris: “I won’t lie: the way Bardo enter the stage and start their act with some … memorable opening choreography, is one of the highlights from this year and a great deal of why I like this. Sadly, it goes downhill from there. ‘One Step Further’ falls apart with a live orchestra and their vocals … Actually, Stephen’s vocals are fine. But Sally-Ann, man, she botched it badly (remember that this woman came 3rd with the cloying and sinister ‘Love Enough For Two’ song at the 1980 contest), and her ineptitude has bled into my opinion of the song as well. A pity, because I feel like Bardo could have (and should have) been able to challenge Nicole, but a truly fair contest was never in the cards, I suppose.”

Connor: “The theatricality of this performance is what has always drawn me to ‘One Step Further’. As a studio track, it’s pretty good, but the live performance takes it from an 8 to a 9, easily. The choreography, improvisations and inflections, and the way they sell the story of the song – it’s perfection. Stephen and Sally-Ann were a perfect vocal pair for this song, and it continues to live on as one of the most memorable UK entries – but the running order really hurt them.”

James: “Let’s be honest: the live version at the Eurovision final sucks. The hosts tried for another cutesy couple act, but it ended up looking like a bored farmer and his beard skulking around Brighouse after an argument about The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It had the potential to be an all-time camp pop classic, but Bardo’s Top of the Pops-version shows us why they flopped: it looks like they struggled with doing the goofy, yet intricate choreography and singing at the same time. Perhaps one day Dr. Samuel Beckett of Quantun Leap will leap into Stephen and make right what went wrong that night in Harrogate, but, in hindsight, I’d fear for world peace if Bardo had won instead of Nicole.”

Roy: “I have not always the biggest fan of entries from the UK in the past, but this is definitely a good one. It is fun, exciting, and fast-paced. The latter is something I always gravitate towards in music. The choreography is really fun and well executed. The biggest reason why it didn’t do better is probably because the contest already had a lot of other fun, up-tempo songs.”

Will: “1981 to 1984 was The UK’s Eurovision golden age, as far as I’m concerned. All four years, The UK’s entries are like something out of demented ’70s children’s programs, and I love every minute. Stephen and Sally’s experience as musical theater performers is evident here, and the song is upbeat, fun, and anthemic. I probably prefer this to Bucks Fizz’s winning entry from 1981, but The UK really peaked with the (truly, beautifully deranged) 6th place finisher from Sweet Dreams at the 1983 contest.”

3. Nicole- “Ein bißchen Frieden” 🇩🇪

17-year-old singer Nicole Hohloch, stage name ‘Nicole’, was a relative newcomer when she competed at the 1982 contest. After signing with Ralph Siegel’s record label, she released her debut album in 1981. As discussed here, she represented Germany after a victory at that country’s national final, ‘Ein Lied für Harrogate’.

Actual finish: 1st

Boris: “Sure, I could have ranked Nicole 1st, but where’s the fun in that? A thing I wonder about is whether 1982 would have been better without her presence, and I’m tempted to say… Possibly, yes? It’s really clear that Nicole is a full class ahead of everyone else and that she’s going to obliterate everyone in the vote, and that’s precisely what happens. It’s soooooooooo f*cking underwhelming. I perhaps would have enjoyed this year more if it actually had stakes, but as it had nobody to challenge Nicole, every *non-Nicole* participant is immediately rendered an afterthought. Having said all of that, ‘Ein Bißchen Frienden’ is still really bleeping epic, for the reasons I am sure the other editors will have bothered to mention in their Nicole write-ups.”

Connor: “Listen, the call between Germany and the UK was a hard one for me, and I defaulted to my backup method: I looked at which one I played more over the last two weeks. Sadly, the UK won that battle by five plays, BUT let’s not allow that to rain on Nicole’s win. Taking her infamous quadrilingual reprisal out of the write-up, it is a winner sandwiched between two showy winners, and Germany took the simple and clean route. An enjoyable performance to this day, and shoutout to the fact that they brought a HARP player to Eurovision for this.”

James: “It’s a rare thing to see a plea for peace delivered earnestly and with very little grandstanding. Nicole saw a crack in the walls between the people of Europe and decided to shine a light through it … and did she ever nail the timing! With the host nation itself embroiled in conflict overseas and the continent suffering a hangover from the gloomy ‘70s, you can argue Nicole’s sweet and tender acoustic ballad was the spark that lit up the rest of the decade. This was the tonic Europe needed in 1982. I hope we get Nicole’s spiritual grandchild in 2023.”

Roy: “Yes, this is our winner, and I get why it won, but it is far from my favourite of the year. It’s just a bit too simple for my own taste. This simplicity is exactly the reason why it won, though. A simple sway-y guitar-ballad about peace sang by a sweet girl in German. Innocent and cute and fitting for the time. I would have preferred a different winner myself, but I totally get it, and it still ended up in my personal top 10. The song got immensely popular after the competition, too.”

Will: “Even to this day, this performance is a breath of fresh air. It’s quite remarkable how much command Nicole has over the stage and the camera. She’s a petite little thing, sat on a stool with a white guitar and giant mane of mousy, brown hair, and yet she is totally captivating. The message is clear. One need not understand German to hear her sweetness and yearning for a brighter tomorrow. ‘Ein Bißchen Frienden’ was the song Europe needed, and Nicole showed she was more than capable of seizing the moment.”

2. Lucía- “Él” 🇪🇸

Lucía began her career performing in Sevillian flamenco groups, before transitioning to a solo career in 1981. “Él” was internally selected by the Spanish broadcaster. Local critics objected to the song, claiming it attempted to normalize Spain’s newly-passed divorce laws. (Until 1981, divorce had been banned in the country for over 40 years.)

Actual finish: 10th

Boris: “Harrogate 1982 is basically cotton candy: sugary, whimsical and completely lacking in sustenance. So imagine my giddy excitement when this LOUD flamenco lady sauntered on the stage all, ‘ugh my boyfriend’s BORING, a propos: I’m free between 8 and 10, wanna hang/bang?’ and then proceeded to dance an unadulterated Tango (in a thinly-veiled metaphor for sex, yes). Like, um HELLO where were you all my life/this past hour?! Lucía’s dramatic panache provides some much needed substance and uproar in a contest consisting of mostly townspeople and Nicole Hohloch. LET IT BE KNOWN that, ‘Come, I’m free between 8 and 10, let’s have a beer,’ are some of the hottest no-nonsense lyrics to start a song with ever. Lucía INVENTED being gay, and that’s my truth.”

Connor: “I will admit, I don’t know if I’d ever heard ‘Él’ prior to this watch-through, or, if I had, I didn’t remember it. I appreciate how the song is written and composed and that it has an ultra-specific viewpoint of tango music driving the narrative … and, of course, the choreography! Spain also continues to kill the era of orchestration with amazing tracks. Clearly, Europe loves Spanish entries that aren’t bland ballads.”

James: “Looking back from 2022, ‘Él’ is a very goofy entry. It was probably goofy from a 1982 viewpoint, too. That’s probably the idea. With a great comic performance from her lead male dancer, Lucía is selling the cheeky lyrics, and the other dancers with more subdued dancing sell the ‘settled down’ couple who are the contrast to the flirtatious and non-serious couple Lucía and the main dancer purport to be. All set to a Spanish traditional acoustic dance track. This is a fun, quirky entry (well quirky if you’re non-Spanish and from the future, anyway), about being the side-piece, and it’s a delightful novelty for a future fan to discover or rediscover.”

Roy: “From moment one Lucia captures you with her stage presence. A very classy performance that fits the song. Distinctively Spanish-sounding, as well. Great choreography, a great performer … what’s not to love? Well, it isn’t my winner, and I think I miss a bit of power. The song stays a bit in the middle too much sometimes. Besides that, it had all the ingredients to be my favourite, but there is one song that tops it for me … by a landslide, to be fair.”

Will: “This performance is just so … Spanish, and Lucía makes no apologies! There’s a reason that so many of Spain’s entries from this era age like fine sangria. The choreography! The attitude! The horns! The hair! Bonus points for excellent deployment of the Castillian ceceo. What’s not to love?”

1. Avi Toledano- “Hora” 🇮🇱

Avi Toledano is a Moroccan-born singer who emigrated to Israel as a teenager. He began releasing music in the late-60s while serving in the IDF and won a number of domestic music competitions, including ‘Kdam Eurovision’ 1982, Israel’s national final. He co-wrote “Hora”, as well as Israel’s 1983 entry, “Hi”.

Actual finish: 2nd

Boris: “Oh look: it’s the Build Your Own Israeli ESC Entry starter kit. ‘Hora’ has all the ingredients for a typical entry by Israel (up-tempo rhythm, excessive fiddling, hyperactive dancing, conspicuous references to Jewish culture and/or the Talmud) and turns them into light entertainment. ‘Hora’ is good, of course, especially in a vacuum, but it also feels like a blueprint, which is not what we need in this year. In the context of Israel’s other great entries from this era (everything between the two Izhars), Avi presents a solid weak link for the same reason. I would appreciate this one more if it had been a bit more forward-thinking and a bit less going through the motions. That one girl knocking over a microphone stand though <3.”

Connor: “How can you NOT love ‘Hora’, truthfully? It’s a pop song with a memorable melody, the traditional Israeli sound, and excellent staging. Plus, Avi truly shone vocally live, which is why he ended up 2nd overall on the night. My only critique is that they might have gotten by without five dancers; it does create a bit of a claustrophobic staging. Also, trend alert for 1982 – kick off the bridge with intense drums and you’ll do well.”

James: “Though Avi still sounds like he’s channeling disco a quarter of the way into the 1980s, ‘Hora’ is a blast. It’s a disco song with traditional Israeli folk thrown in. It has an outro that ramps up in speed, pivots to a powerful blast of percussion, and is followed up by a quick key change that ends this whirlwind with a bang. Sure, it’s all very cruise ship entertainment, but you can see why a fun number like this stood out in 1982. Additionally, this is the template for the sort of localized entry foreigners tend to remember as the years go by. If you want a legacy at Eurovision, infuse your folk with the style of the day, and you’ll have fans cheering when your song comes on four decades later.”

Roy: “I get it: ‘Ein bißchen Frieden’ fit the moment better with the message and is more what people needed at the time. But, any other year, this would have been the winner! It is fun, energetic, catchy, and has awesome choreography. It’s the formula that really worked for Israel in this era. A singer with backing dancers/singers performing a fun up-tempo banger. From the contests in ’78 until ’83, Israel never leaves my Top 3 a single time. In my opinion, this is THE song that stands out the most and deserved the win in ’82, but I get why Germany took it instead …”

Will: “Like Spanish entries from this era, Israel’s Eurovision attempts of the late-’70s and early-’80s have aged spectacularly. The cultural and sonic specificity to them is evergreen. Sure, ‘Hora’ is a song filtered through the contemporary pop music scene, but there’s an underlying structure and tradition that works just as well now as it did in 1982. Everything about this just works. Any other year, any other contest … I have to imagine Avi would have been the runaway winner.”

Though Israel won with our jury, the result on the night was different. Nicole won the night in (close to) a landslide, bringing Germany its first victory since debuting at the inaugural edition of Eurovision in 1956. In fact, her margin of victory was a record that wouldn’t be broken until Alexander Ryback‘s definitive win in 2009. So who was this fresh-faced teenage songbird that blew the rest of her competition out of the water? Come back this weekend when we wrap up our 1982 retrospective with … The Life and Times of Nicole!

Our panelists’ individual scores.

Which 1982 entry would #YOU have voted for? Which song are #YOU disappointed didn’t make our Top 10? Were #YOU aware that Sally Ann Triplett originated the role of Sue in the infamous musical adaptation of ‘Carrie’? (That blew my mind.) Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.

Header photo pattern collection vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

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