As I noted the other day, although I only recently started watching ESC when it first became OFFICIALLY available in the US when Logo broadcast it in 2016 (I was hooked INSTANTLY!), I’ve been aware of it for a long time, thanks to my natural love of music.
After I FINALLY got into ESC when it began airing in the U.S., I started voraciously going back through the entire history of the contest, checking out songs here and there, and finding a lot of songs that were, well, in my opinion, good but not great. Not that they were bad – although some of them have been and we’ll talk about THOSE later in the week, heh heh. BUt I’ve also found quite a few that I rather like, quite a lot. Even five years later, I doubt I’ve heard more than 20% or so of all the entries. But for this list I went back and listened to even more songs, focusing on the first 15 years of the 21st century, 2001-2015, the years prior to my first viewing in 2016.
What I found is that there were an APPALLING number of utterly AWFUL songs that managed to go through into the upper reaches of the competition, and quite a few gems that fell through the cracks. Most of the winners were pretty good; only a small handful of them didn’t make this list. Also, coming from an American point of view on things, I don’t always agree with the ESC fans in Europe; although I like quite a few of them, the ones they are voraciously RABID about probably fall into the middle third most of the time. So this list is bound to bring some shocks, some disgust, some surprises, and a few agreements, most in that last grouping falling in my top four songs – and it was HEARTBREAKING to try and decide the order of that particular group, too, as I love ALL of them (and #5 as well). A couple of the songs are off kilter enough to likely to also make my “WTF” list later this week. And I have found that I really tend to like certain nations, who consistently enter really good songs – Russia and Azerbaijan both have multiple entries in this list, as do a couple of others.
Anyway it’s been fun, and I hope you enjoy looking through my list, even if you don’t always agree with me. I hope a couple of them don’t spawn haters to deluge me…heh heh…my qualifications are strictly based on personal enjoyment of the song itself and the live performance at ESC; and does not take fan support or positioning into account AT ALL. As always, Eurovision fans are very opinionated, and your mileage may vary!
So these are my top 30 songs of the contest from the first years of the 21st century – 2001 through 2015! Once again, all of the video links worked on PC this morning – on tablet, phone, dongle or other resource, your mileage may vary!
AND AWAYYYYYY WEEEEEE GOOOOOOO!
30. “Waterfall” – Nodi Tatishivili & Sophie Gelovani – Georgia 2013 – #15
This song deserved so much better than it got. A stellar love ballad duet worthy of worldwide radio airplay, and an utterly beautiful sentiment behind it. The live performance is full of passion and feeling, and it just leaves me totally breathless…
29. “Gravity” – Zlata Ognevich – Ukraine 2013 – #3
This song is just so utterly beautiful, from the vocal to the instrumentation to the presentation, although I’m not sure what that poor guy at the beginning is supposed to be, but he looked like he was going to fall on his face. Easy to see why this was a top three finisher this year.
28. “Come Back” – Jessica Garlic – United Kingdom 2002 – #3
This song reminds me of an old Motown ballad from the 1960s, and in the best possible way. I could have easily seen Smokey Robinson or Diana Ross on lead vocals here. As it is, Ms. Garlic was a terrific vocalist, and lent this love-gone-wrong top three finisher something special, aided by her top notch backup singers.
27. “Madness Of Love” – Raphael Gualazzi – Italy 2011 #2
Gualazzi got ROBBED this year – this Michael Feinstein/Michael Buble-style piano swing ballad number is simply exquisite from beginning to end. I wasn’t terribly fond of the 2011 champion, “Running Scared” by Eli & Nikki; although it wasn’t a bad little song, this one is leaps and bounds better, and should have taken the Grand Championship that year, IMHO. Love this all the way around…
26. “Nije Ljubav Stvar” – Zeljok Joksimovi – Serbia 2012 – #3
Serbia produces songs that I love from time to time, and this one is a HUUUUGE standout. I don’t speak a word of the language, but it’s utterly beautiful. The soft, confident vocals of Joksimovic are front and center, with the staging also helping it a great deal along. Had he not been stuck competing with the seemingly-impossible-to-beat “Euphoria” by Loreen, he may have taken the whole thing, just from his vibe – his performance gives me chills…
25. “In Love For A While” – Anna Rossinelli – Switzerland 2011 – #25
This little gem totally got the shaft from ESC, finishing in last place that year. But it WASN’T a “nul points” situation, either. And yes, I agree there’s too many “na na na”s in the center, like someone on the songwriting team got lazy. Still, though, the song reminds me a lot of a playful early 70s ditty, from the performance to the melody. I guess maybe that’s why I like it so much….
24. “When The Music Dies” – Sabina Babayeva – Azerbaijan 2012 – #4
One of those songs from Azerbaijan I just can’t get enough of. I think this could have done even better had it not run into the “Euphoria” train. I love Babayeva‘s deep vocals at the beginning, which lead into an exquisite higher octave performance that just lights up the stage. I also love what they did with the colored lights during the performance. Great song all the way around again…
23. “We Could Be The Same” – maNga – Turkey 2010 – #2
I have to admit, out of all of the entries Turkey offered up during their time participating in ESC, this is the only one that I really loved – a fun, hard driving rocker that reminded me a lot of Journey with Turkish melodic sound and beats. The lead singer is fantastic, and the staging is utterly electric. This is another one of those songs that could have been a hit here in the States if it had managed to get any airplay…
22. “Sanomi” – Urban Trad – Belgium 2003 – #2
Only at Eurovision could this work – a song sung completely in a language that DOESN’T EVEN EXIST. Except for this song. And DAMMIT, it’s great! I love the Enigma-like beat behind it, the subtle dance sound, and the wonderful vocals. It works all the way around. And the damn thing almost took the Grand Championship – it missed it by TWO POINTS. As I am not fond AT ALL of 2003’s champion, Turkey’s “Everyway That I Can“, I would have much PREFERRED this bizarre but delightfully original number to have topped the contest this year…
21. “Love Is Blind” – Donny Montell – Lithuania 2012 – #14
Montell made my 2016-20 list as well, as I have become a big fan of his over my years as an ESC fan. In this case, the song is really good but the staging is FANTASTIC, with Montell performing the first verse of the song wearing a sequined blindfold to emphasize the title as a lush ballad, then ripping it off and doing a backflip or two as he starts disco dancing to the decidedly late 70s disco beat – just F’N BRILLIANT. It deserved a better finish position just for the staging…
20. “A Million Voices” – Polina Gagarina – Russia 2015 – #3
Rare is the year that Russia produces a song I don’t like, and 2015 was right up there with another gem – this lush unity song is stunningly good, it’s too bad Putin’s Russia doesn’t exactly align with the song’s sentiment. Gagarina delivers a stellar performance all the way around, and the elegant dress she wore is stunningly beautiful too. One of Eurovision’s best, bar none…
19. “Tonight Again” – Guy Sebastian – Australia 2015 – #5
After this performance during their first special “guest” appearance, is it any surprise Australia has become a regular ESC entrant? I love this funk driven party song, Sebastian is an utterly fantastic vocalist, and the song just kicks ass all the way round. My one complaint about the performance is that Sebastian should have chosen a different color for his slacks, because in some places, especially the long shots, he looks like he’s not wearing any pants…ROTFL! Australia has proven they BELONG in ESC over the years – especially with “The Sound Of Silence” by Dami Im the following year – and it all started with this fun number…
18. “Open Your Heart” – Birgitta Haukdal – Iceland 2003 – #8
Another song that deserved a bit better than it got, I love this little love song from Iceland. I’m not so sure about Ms. Haukdal‘s wardrobe, which doesn’t scream “Eurovision Performer” as much as it does “Soccer Mom”, but her performance is over the top fantastic. The song is reminiscent of the kind of sound that ABBA is known for producing over the years, and I’ve noticed it is still much beloved by many fans and deservedly so.
17. “My Number One” – Helena Paparizou – Greece 2005 – GRAND CHAMPION
The first of the Grand Champions on my list is the only other entry from Greece besides this year’s entry, “Supergirl” by Stefania, that I’ve really got behind 100%. This is deservedly a Eurovision classic, much beloved by the massive fandom out there. It managed to balance some great Greek beats with a decidedly Euro dance beat, and Paparizou‘s vocals just make the whole package gel perfectly. The staging for the performance could have been a little less boring, but in this case, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is just a DYNAMITE song…
16. “Satellite” – Lena – Germany 2010 – GRAND CHAMPION
OK, here’s my first shot at being roasted. I love this song – if I didn’t it wouldn’t have made my list, duh – but there are a couple things annoy me about it too. It’s definitely a bouncy and fun song, and Lena is fantastic (if a bit flat and/or sharp in places during the live performance) but the finals staging was too damn static for me. But the song itself is awesome. Even so there are songs I do like better…sorry everyone…
15. “Not Alone” – Aram MP3 – Armenia 2014 – #4
Wow, where to start with this one? This song is utterly fantastic from beginning to end, and Aram MP3 is one of the most dynamic performers I’ve ever seen in Eurovision. The song’s incredible build from beginning to end is paced perfectly. The staging is mesmerizing, especially when it explodes halfway through the song. And 2014 was a strange ESC year in my PERSONAL opinion – of the top ten songs, only HALF of them actually deserved to finish that high. There was no beating Conchita Wurst – I think most people knew that from the START, heh heh – but the songs that came in at #2 and #3 this year, The Netherlands’ “Calm After The Storm” by Common Linnets, and Sweden’s “Undo” by Sanna Nielsen, respectively, were just NOT VERY GOOD IMHO. Apologies to their fans and the acts therein, but those two songs probably should have both been eliminated in the semis. For this incredible song to have gotten stuck in fourth place behind those two was just another Eurovision crime…and Eurovision is famous for those…heh heh…
14. “It’s My Life” – Cezar – Romania 2013 – #13
Another roasting is coming…I can feel it. Say what you want about this act, but Cezar and his amazing vocal range are WINNERS. Taking this song from the depths of his natural voice to a high operatic range in the space of just a few notes is NOT EASY, and it works so well here it’s scary. I do NOT care much for opera, but I love this number and always will. I still haven’t really figured out what they’re going for in the staging – Operatic vampire goth is probably the best way to describe it (and how would a vampire WEAR a cross?) – but it’s still fascinating to look at. And man, he makes it rock all the way around. i was surprised given the support this song seems to have out there that it finished so low, but either way, it’s always going to be a modern Eurovision classic…for whatever reason you choose to see it that way, heh heh…
13. “Birds” – Anouk – The Netherlands 2013 – #9
I’m not sure why but I love this song…there’s just something so calming in Anouk‘s amazing, beautiful lilting voice. Generally, I’ve not been a huge fan of songs entered by The Netherlands over the years, but this one is just so wonderfully different from most of their entries that it completely captivates me every time I hear it.
12. “Believe” – Dima Bilan – Russia 2009 – GRAND CHAMPION
Before there was Sergey Lazarev, there was Dima Bilan. He captured Russia’s first Grand Championship with this beautiful song about believing in yourself and in love. He’s electric on stage, and in many ways, his stage presence as well as his vocal style preceded that of Alexander Rybak, who exuded the same kind of presence and who would win the following year – grace, power, vunerability, and confidence, all rolled into one, although I don’t know if Rybak could hit that high note…and also like Lazarev, Bilan tends to wear white when he does Eurovision…not sure what that says beyond a fashion statement, heh heh…
11. “Drip Drop” – Safura – Azerbaijan 2010 – #5
This great little broken heart song is so utterly beautiful it breaks my heart too, and makes me tear up. Safura‘s pain-filled vocals sound like she is really experiencing the story line of the song, where someone is confronting a cheating partner. It’s another one of Azerbaijan’s masterpieces, and I think it should have done better than fifth place. But hey, we’ll take it, won’t we? Heh heh…
10. “Euphoria” – Loreen – Sweden 2012 – GRAND CHAMPION
I know people are going to be furious with me on this one, but I can’t help it. It’s a little TOO Eurobeat for me, and as much as like the song, the staging makes Loreen look a bit spazzy. Yes, I know it was so far ahead over everything that year, and it’s a great song too, and yes, I know it’s one of the most beloved ESC classics of the past few years. It deserves to be too. Like I said, it wouldn’t be this high on my list if I didn’t love it. It’s just another case of a song being rabidly overpraised by people (including, apparently, some of this year’s contestants); it’s a great song, but not the be-all-end-all of Eurovision classics. And yet, I know that the fact it’s lower than some of the songs coming up are going to get me into serious trouble, particularly the song immediately ahead of it….heh heh…
9. “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” – Verka Suduchka – Ukraine 2007 – #2
WHAT? WTF? ARE YOU SERIOUS? Yes I am. Without a doubt, I utterly LOVE this crazy utterly nonsensical number! It’s hilarious on stage and it’s fantastic to dance to, and Verka makes this work from beginning to end. The song finished in the RUNNER UP position, which means it’s utterly beloved by the fans out there. Yes, it will be on the WTF list later this week. But they are having so damn much fun on stage that it’s TOTALLY INFECTIOUS. Hey, it was good enough to be featured in an American film, so there’s something to the magic of this insane number. And who doesn’t love crazy Ukrainian drag acts dressed like giant JiffyPop containers? ROTFL!
8. “Never Let You Go” – Dima Bilan – Russia 2006 – #2
I like this song even better than Bilan‘s later winner “Believe“. This song has a kind of passion that shines through, and probably in any other year might have pulled off the Grand Championship. I love this simple love song, graphic in its lyrics in places, the simple staging, his simple tank-top (white again). It was this performance that really made him a Eurovision star, and gave him what it took to win in 2008 with “Believe” – he’s just awesome all the way around.
7. “Heroes” – Mans Zemerlow – Sweden 2015 – GRAND CHAMPION
My first exposure to this song came on the 2016 ESC broadcast, which Mans co-hosted and he performed the song on the finals as well, as the previous year’s winner. It absolutely deserved that win, as the fun lyrics and driving, throbbing dance beat embrace whomever hears it. He’s also a very dynamic performer, and he bested several performers who were his equal that year, and did it with style and class. It’s yet another song that became an instant Eurovision classic, and rightfully so. I never get tired of hearing it.
6. “Cliche Love Song” – Basim – Denmark 2014 – #9
I DO NOT KNOW what happened with this utterly awesome song to make it finish so damn low when it deserved a top three finish. This Bruno Mars-meets-Jason Mraz ditty is just funky all the way around, and Basim is thoroughly fun and enjoyable in this number; I wish they had done better staging, as it might have helped push it a bit higher on the finalists list, because it really deserved way better than it got – it’s just the kind of number that gets under your skin and doesn’t let go. In a good way, of course…
5. “Me And My Guitar” – Tom Dice – Belgium 2010 – #6
This wonderful, heartbreaking acoustic number obviously had it’s fans or it wouldn’t have finished this high in the contest but i still think it deserved better. This song is so pretty, and the staging is wonderfully simple and elegant. Belgium is another one of those countries that has almost automatic support at ESC, but usually leaves me flat with most of their entries. Not this time. Had I been watching in 2010, I would have been ALL OVER this tune – it’s that perfect. Period.
4. “Only Teardrops” – Emmelie De Forest – Denmark 2013 – GRAND CHAMPION
OMG 2013 was a DIFFICULT Eurovision year – there were so many terrific entries from a vast variety of countries, and it was hard to choose between everything. But choose they did, and this wonderful song from De Forest ended up the Grand Champion, and absolutely was totally worthy of it. The song was a fan favorite from the very beginning, and eventually beat the runner-up, Azerbaijan’s “Hold Me” by Farid Mammadov (which was, sad to say, NOT one of my favorites by the country), by almost fifty points. This is quite simply one of the best breakup songs ever, and De Forest’s vocals are perfect from beginning to end.
3. “Hard Rock Hallelujah!” – Lordi – Finland 2006 – GRAND CHAMPION
It wasn’t totally an unexpected win but still – mashing Christian value lyrics with screamcore rock and incredibly demonic costumes was definitely an original for the Eurovision stage, and it taking the Grand Championship in 2006 was almost a foregone conclusion to its legion of fans. And me? I LOVE THIS! The staging is great, the song is great, it had some minor US chart action (Billboard‘s Rock Tracks chart), and it’s just so NOT Eurovision-by-the-books that you can’t help but love it. It’s just so totally original that it deserved to win.
2. “Rise Like A Phoenix” – Conchita Wurst – Austria 2014 – GRAND CHAMPION
This was one of those rare songs that was positively DESTINED for Eurovision greatness from day one. Austria had to know that it was going to be a monster when it was original selected; it became the country’s first Grand Champion in early FIFTY years. Utterly SWAMPING it’s nearest competitor by almost SEVENTY points, Conchita became the first drag act to top the contest (Verka Serducha came close in 2007, landing in the runner up position) and with her vocal power, she completely BLEW AWAY the competition. Combine that with the incredible staging put together for the song, which speaks of rising like a phoenix after a bad, and possibly abusive, relationship, and you have all the earmarks of a winning song, an all time CLASSIC, and one that will stand the test of time throughout Eurovision history. It’s just beautiful and FUCKIN’ BRILLIANT no matter what way you look at it.
1. “Fairytale” – Alexander Rybak – Norway 2009 – GRAND CHAMPION
There is a certain magic to the songs that become Grand Champions. They have that something just ‘extra special’ enough to land the top spot. But “Fairytale” has it ALL – the fantastic, utterly brilliant staging that just blows ones’ mind, the wonderfully original folk beat, which is based on Norwegian folk songs, and the love song lyrics that have twinge of irony in them. Oh, yeah, and one more thing – The Man, The Myth, The LEGEND, Alexander Rybak. His charm, his voice, his amazing work on the violin, his dancing, his personality, his songwriting – it was all made to combine in one amazingly good looking, musically gifted young man, one who I am convinced was utterly DESTINED to become one of the biggest Eurovision superstars – and BEYOND – of all time. From the second I first heard “Fairytale” within days of viewing my first ESC in 2016, I was HOOKED. I have every single recording Rybak has done since “Fairytale” (with the exception of the one song I utterly loathe by him, his 2018 Eurovision entry “That’s How You Write A Song” – he is BETTER than that song will EVER be, sorry). This guy can make almost anything sound great, and he can do all styles and make it work. It was that reason that he earned the highest score in EUROVISION HISTORY under the old points system with “Fairytale“. It will always be a classic. And it deserves to be, too. It it just, without a doubt – one of the greatest songs – Eurovision or OTHERWISE – EVER. PERIOD.
And as Porky Pig used to say….”T-t-thats All, folks!
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