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Ask the average person what kind of music they hear at Eurovision and they would probably all give you the same answer. “Cheesy pop”, “schlager” or, depending on their opinion of the contest, “bad songs”. It’s a stigma that us Eurovision fans often have to deal with when trying to defend our beloved contest and I’m sure many of you reading this have tried and failed before to convince people otherwise.
Well, it’s true. Most of the songs in the contest are safe entries that aren’t too likely to offend most people, as every country wants to do well. But sometimes, broadcasters try something a little different. Something more daring and unique that hasn’t been seen in the Eurovision Song Contest. In the last couple of years these entries have become more commonplace and it seems fair to suggest there is much more variety in Eurovision entries today than there was in, say, the early 00s. But which entries really tried to break the mould and be daring?
Lordi – Hard Rock Hallelujah
In a contest dominated by middle of the road entries and inoffensive pop, Finnish broadcaster YLE took the bold step of inviting heavy metal monsters Lordi to their national final for Eurovision 2006. They won the final rather convincingly and were set to be the most controversial entry in the contest’s history at that point. The Greeks and the Finns both tried to stop Lordi from coming to Eurovision – claiming Satanic values were held by the band – but nothing could stop the monsters arriving in Athens and really shaking up the contest in style by romping to victory with 292 points.
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Sébastien Tellier – Divine
Already a star in 2008, France Télévisions invited Tellier to the contest in Belgrade and begun their run of risk-taking entries in fashion. With intentionally terrible camera angles, inhaling helium halfway through the performance and backing dancers to make Conchita Wurst look unoriginal, France in 2008 really took any risk they could think of, and it paid off. In this writer’s opinion, Divine is one of the greatest compositions to ever be sent to the contest and it gained France a higher position than they were becoming accustomed to.
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Malcolm Lincoln – Siren
I really could’ve put any of the indie rock entries here, but Siren in 2010 stuck out from the rest of the (in my opinion terrible) field. Cementing Eesti Laul’s new role as the alternative take on a national final, this entry had everything to suggest it was not meant for a Eurovision stage, but in its own way was modern and different. Despite not qualifying for the final Estonia begun to establish their new identity in the Eurovision family with this entry and their national finals since have seen more and more daring entries. (Honourable mention goes to Winny Puhh in 2013)
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Lena – Taken by a Stranger
You would think host entries would take more risks considering the nation’s prequalification into the final, but over the years this hasn’t been the case. The same can’t be said for 2011. Germany’s Lena won the contest in 2010 and returned to aim for a double win with this moody number. Considerably darker and more minimalistic than Satellite, Taken by a Stranger was a bold step for Germany on home soil which paid off – 10th place in the final and one of the strongest receptions in the hall for any entry.
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Rona Nishliu – Suus
Most of the entries I’ve described so far are simply my ideas as an indie music fan, but nobody can deny that Albania’s entry in 2012 really was something completely different. With one of the most impressive vocal performances to date that would leave anybody watching breathless, Rona Nishliu’s intense ballad brought her country their best placing ever. Suus showed that, no matter where you are in the draw order or how hyped or otherwise the entry is, sometimes special songs will get noticed by the audience.
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Who See – Igranka
Two under-represented genres in Eurovision – rap and dubstep – came together in impressive fashion in 2013 and the return of Montenegro in the previous year suggested they were willing to risk everything. It almost paid off – Montenegro was hugely popular with the voting public but couldn’t quite qualify because of the juries. In my personal opinion, this entry was one of the most underrated in terms of results and really should’ve taken its rightful place in the 2013 final.
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ByeAlex – Kedvesem
But it was Hungary in this year that really exceeded all expectations. The simplest of ballads was sung by ByeAlex in 2013, and few expected the song to do well before the contest. But, lo and behold, Hungary captured the imagination of the viewing public and achieved one of Hungary’s best results in the contest thus far. Since their return, A Dal has been making a name for itself as a different kind of national final, much like Eesti Laul. Who knows what 2015 will bring?
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The entries mentioned are the ones that stick out in my mind, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Conchita Wurst and The Common Linnets in 2014 were by no means your typical Eurovision entries but both became immensely popular with the viewing public. Some songs have also been wrongly labelled as ‘joke entries’ by some fans, including Pokusaj in 2008 and Eastern European Funk in 2010. And of course it’s not all just about genre – even some pop entries have given us something different to love. 2013 and 2014 were great starts for the alternative revolution in Eurovision… here’s hoping for a more diverse contest in 2015!
Who did we miss? Are there any other trendsetters in your opinion? Let us know below!