Eurovision Song Contest

2011

Host country: Germany
Won by: Azerbaijan - Running Scared by Ell and Nikki
UK entry: I Can by Blue
Full Results: eurovision.tv

Eurovision came to Germany in 2011 for only the second time, with the host city chosen as Dusseldorf, famous for giving the world Kraftwerk. However no mention of this was made during the show, which, as ever, might as well have been taking place on a different planet to the electro pioneers.

Until 2009, after so many years of watching Eurovision, I had never correctly predicted a winner. That all changed, with both 2009 and 2010 each containing a song that quite clearly stood out from the rest and unsurprisingly went on to be a clear-cut winner. 2011 saw a return to business as usual, and with no obvious stand-out song, the field was wide open, and few would have picked the fairly unremarkable entry from Azerbaijan, 'Running Scared' performed by Eldar and Nigar, aka Ell and Nikki. Indeed it managed to pick up a mere 43.8% of the total points available, easily the lowest percentage by any winner under the current scoring system in Eurovision history.

This was the year the Big Four became the Big Five. After shunning Eurovision for many years, Italy returned to the contest in 2011, and certainly made it worth their while, Raphael Gualazzi topping the jury vote, and finishing second overall. He was just four points ahead of Sweden's Eric Saade, who proved 'Popular' enough to make it into third place.

There was also a number of returning artists from previous years. For the first and only time in Eurovision history, last year's winner, Lena, came back to defend her title. However 'Taken by a Stranger' lacked the catchiness of last year's 'Satellite', and Lena only managed tenth place. Another former winner, Dana International, returned, singing a song with the rather cliched title of 'Ding Dong' - however this time she was unable to progress from the qualifying round, finishing fifteenth in the second semi-final. More successful were Moldova's Zdob si Zdub, last seen in 2005 with their grandma, and this time the band appeared on stage with a unicyclist, all wearing pointy hats. They were 'So Lucky' to make twelfth place in the final.

Well-known in the UK for their X Factor appearances, but representing Ireland at Eurovision, were the intensely annoying duo with even more annoying haircuts, Jedward. They sailed through the semi-finals and despite their shambolic attempts at choreography, finished in eighth position with their song 'Lipstick'.

The UK entry itself, for the first time ever, had not been through any kind of voting process. The boy band Blue, who had a number of chart hits in the early 2000s, reformed to represent the UK, and their song 'I Can' would prove to be our most successful entry of the 2010s so far, finishing in eleventh place overall.


2012

Host country: Azerbaijan
Won by: Sweden - Europhia by Loreen
UK entry: Love Will Set You Free by Engelbert Humperdinck
Full Results: eurovision.tv

In 2012 Eurovision went further east than ever before, with the first contest to be held in Azerbaijan, which as a result was mired in controversy and protests, partly due to the country's poor human rights record, and also down to local residents being forcefully evicted to allow for the redevelopment of the area that apparently included the Baku Crystal Hall that was built to host the contest. Meanwhile, Armenia, who have long been in conflict with Azerbaijan, opted to sit the contest out.

The contest itself passed off peacefully enough, however, and saw Loreen take victory to Sweden for the fifth time with an energetic dance track 'Europhia'. To some ears it was perhaps a little passé, something you might have heard in the charts in the mid-90s, but the song went down well with Brits, who not only awarded it 'douze points', but also took it to number three in the charts.

The winning song was a sharp contrast to the UK entry. In an unexpected move, the 76 year-old veteran crooner Engelbert Humperdinck was drafted in to represent us. Unfortunately, the UK found themselves drawn to perform first in the running order, and so the rather dated ballad 'Love Will Set You Free' made a somewhat downbeat start to the contest. The experiment failed to pay off, landing the UK in second bottom place with just 12 points.

Engelbert wasn't the only senior citizen to appear at Eurovision 2012. Much of the contest's publicity surrounded the Russian entrants, Buranovskiye Babushki. They were a group of elderly women, who found time during their song, 'Party for Everybody' to do some baking in an oven on stage. Though never in any real danger of challenging Sweden for the top spot, the Russian grannies still ridiculously finished in second place.

One of the smallest countries in the contest, San Marino, entered Valentina Monetta for the first three consecutive annual appearances. Her song was originally titled 'Facebook Uh Oh Oh (A Satirical Song)', but Eurovision rules forbade the references to a commercial enterprise, forcing the lyrics to be altered and the song renamed 'The Social Network Song (Oh Oh Uh Oh Oh)'. But whatever the song was called, it was too naff to impress either the voters or judges, and failed to qualify from the semi-finals.

It was bad news for anyone who hated Jedward at last year's contest - they were back for a second go in 2012, with 'Waterline'. Despite finishing sixth in their semi-final, when it came to the final, the law of diminishing returns came into play, and the two nitwits plummeted to 19th place. However, in the last two years Jedward had been one of the few acts in recent years to actually take Ireland into the final at all, the country otherwise struggling to make it out of the qualifying rounds. Could this mean Jedward remain in Eurovision for good? Sounds like a truly terrifying prospect!


2013

Host country: Sweden
Won by: Denmark - Only Teardrops by Emmelie de Forest
UK entry: Believe in Me by Bonnie Tyler
Full Results: eurovision.tv

Following the roaring success of Engelbert Humperdinck the previous year, this year the BBC employed the services of another veteran artist. They were convinced that what Eurovision was really crying out for in 2013 was a Bonnie Tyler album track. In fact 'Believe in Me' was apparently chosen purely because of its title, rather than down to musical merit. The former UK chart topper only managed 19th place with 23 points.

Proving once again just how out of touch the UK entry was, and that Eurovision these days is really a young person's game, the contest was won by Denmark's Emmelie de Forest, at less than a third of the age of Ms Tyler. 'Only Teardrops' had all the impact, energy and memorability necessary to be the obvious and clear-cut winner.

Any fears that the dreaded Jedward would make their third consecutive appearance for Ireland were to be unfounded - this time they were generous enough to let someone else have a go. That someone turned out to be Ryan Dolan, who progressed from the semi-finals, but in the final managed to do even worse than Bonnie Tyler - in fact worse than all the other entrants, finishing in last place with just five points.

The reviews in this section often talk of how a winning song's style of music frequently influences many of the following year's entries. In 2013 there were allegations that the Germany entry Cascada's song 'Glorious' actually plagiarised 2012's winner 'Europhia', though an investigation found this not to be the case. Finland's entry also provoked controversy, particularly among more conservative nations, where the singer Krista Siegfrids was seen to kiss one of her backing singers at the end of her song 'Marry Me'.

However there were also more serious controversies, involving vote-rigging by Azerbaijan. The EBU later uncovered an unsuccessful attempt at cheating, and as a result, stricter rules would be introduced the following year whereby each broadcaster would be responsible for preventing fraud in their own country. Additionally, in order to increase transparency, each individual juror's scores would now be published online.

Rather than a random draw to decided the running order, for the first time ever the order of performance was decided by the show's producers, with each song being drawn only to perform either in the first or second half of the show. The intention was to make a more 'exciting' show, and to prevent similar types of song being performed together. To allay any fears of favouritism, the home entrant would be the only one still placed by a random draw.

For the first time in many years, the contest was presented by a single host, Petra Mede, who also took part in one of the interval performances. Sweden is a country where Eurovision has one of its most devoted followings, and the 2013 contest showed that maybe the UK weren't the only country who treated Eurovision with a less than reverential tone. One of the filmed sketches in particular proved to be too near the knuckle for the BBC, who consider Eurovision to be very much a family show, and they 'opted out' to instead show a bland film of Bonnie's week in the host city of Malmo.

As if the Eurovision Song Contest isn't long enough these days, for the first time the show began with a presumably Olympics-inspired 'Parade of Nations', in which each contestant walked across a bridge, which represented the Oresund Bridge which joins Malmo and Copenhagen, and gathered on stage together. This rather timewasting exercise would be repeated in subsequent years - come on, just get on with the show!


Next page: 2014-2016


Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © the respective broadcasters