Eurovision Song Contest

This section contains reviews of the Eurovision Song Contest over the past six decades. On this page we look at 2002-2005; the other pages in this section cover 1956-1966, 1967-1975, 1976-1982, 1983-1989, 1990-1996, 1997-2001, 2006-2009, 2010-2013, 2014-2017 and 2018.


2002

Host country: Estonia
Won by: Latvia - I Wanna by Marie N
UK entry: Come Back by Jessica Garlick
Full Results: eurovision.tv

This year's contest proved that Eurovision is nothing if not unpredictable. No one could have guessed beforehand that the contest would turn into a two horse race between Malta and Latvia.

It cannot be ignored though, that both countries were near the end in running order; over the past few years most winners have tended to have been performed in the second half. There were attempts to counter this; one by the reintroduction of juries in several countries, and by showing the songs in reverse order when it came to the reprise - and it's possible that did benefit one country in particular...

After three years in the wilderness, the United Kingdom made something of a comeback this year. Despite performing second, Jessica Garlick's entry 'Come Back' made it into joint third position with Estonia, albeit a rather distant third. Being a ballad, I feared her song would get swamped by the predominance of up-tempo disco songs; however the 111 points she ended up with was more than our previous three years' scores put together!

Once the first country had voted, Greece was in the lead. But that's not very surprising since it was Cyprus doing the voting... Malta and Latvia ran neck and neck all the way through the rest of the scoring, with neither country receiving more than four 'douze points' each. There can be little doubt, however, that Latvia's surprise win, with only their third entry ever, was more down to the outfit than the song, which, as far as I was concerned was forgotten immediately. But Marie N's strip routine towards the end of the song made Buck's Fizz's skirts routine 21 years earlier seem rather lame.

Some of the more memorable performances included some cyber-borgs from Greece who looked like they had escaped from Blake's Seven. Slovenia decided to enter three men dressed as air hostesses. Russia entered their Prime Minister...disappointly this in fact turned out to be an ageing boy band. And there was Sweden's silver-clad girl group Afro-Dite described by Terry Wogan as three 'oven ready turkeys'.

Germany, who in recent years had tended to pursue the comedy vote, this year went for the sympathy vote, with singer Corinna May who had been blind from birth. They were one of the favourites to win - but came third bottom. On the other hand, Romania, favourite to come last with the most dreary song of the contest this year, finished in ninth position - the first time they hadn't found themselves in the relegation zone.

All going to prove that you can never predict the outcome of the Eurovision Song Contest. (Apart from the bit where Greece and Cyprus give each other twelve points, of course...)


2003

Host country: Latvia
Won by: Turkey - Every Way That I Can by Sertab Erener
UK entry: Cry Baby by Jemini
Full Results: eurovision.tv

Every single year I shake my head in bewilderment and disbelief following the result of the Eurovision Song Contest, and this year was no different. The event ended in a very close three horse race which left Turkey the winner, with a song which some felt bore more then a passing resemblance to Holly Valance's hit song, 'Kiss Kiss', although that itself was based on a Turkish song - with the same writer as the Euro entry. Admittedly, Sertab Erener's performance did possess one of the more memorable dance routines this year - presumably that's what swung it for them.

However, 2003 will be chiefly remembered for one thing - and that's not the presence of the notorious Russian girl duo tATu. Already famous across Europe, and with a UK number one under their belt, tATu were giving Eurovision organisers enough hot flushes to consider running a recording of the dress rehearsal if their performance turned too racy. Plus there were doubts whether one half of tATu, Yulia Volkova, who had reportedly been taken to hospital with damaged vocal chords, would make it on stage. In the event she did, and the performance passed without any controversy at all - although they did not prove too popular audience in the Skonto Hall. Their rendition of their song bordered on tuneless, and it's probable that it was only their fame that helped them secure third place - a mere three points behind Turkey.

But Eurovision fans in the UK will remember 2003 solely for the being the year that we notched up our first ever 'nul points'. War in Iraq, coupled with an appalling vocal performance from Liverpool duo Jemini, who were orginally known as Tricity until they presumably decided that having a pop group named after a fridge wasn't the best idea in the world, sent us right to the bottom of the table. As it was, I wasn't expecting great things with a particularly weak song chosen for us this year - but then Gemma Abbey and Chris Crombey managed to sing it completely out of tune. The UK has fared poorly four times in the last five years - the BBC needs to look very closely at the way our entry is chosen in future to avoid any more disasters like this.

As with last year, this year's contest seemed to prove that the ballad was an endangered species, with just a smattering of them between the up-tempo songs. But we did have all of the usual recurring Eurovision stereotypes. We had the nutty entry, usually Germany's responsibility, but this year brought to us by Austria's beret-clad Alf Poier - the 'eejit' - who sung one of the most bizarre, and rather mickey-taking, songs in recent Eurovision history, and came on stage with some stuffed animals. Inexplicably, he finished sixth.

One country always tries to go hip and happening on us every year in an attempt to drag Eurovision into the 20th century - and this year it was Romania's Nicola who attempted to mix us up some vaguely junglist flavas in a area. 2003's pointless gimmick was courtesy of the Ukraine who marked their debut into the contest by bringing a contortionist onto the stage! The gravel voice contribution this year was from bright red haired Michal Wisniewski from Polish group Ich Troje; and the stereotypical Eurovision song title was brought to us by Slovenia with 'Nanana'.

And the accordion/traditional instrument element was this year contributed by Belgium's Urban Trad, who also threw in some bagpipes for good measure. (They also took the 'free language' rule to a new level - by making up their own). Recognising that world music/folkish vibes have tended to do well in Eurovisions of recent years paid off, as they almost won; but they had to make do with second place, just two points behind Turkey.

The contest itself seemed to take an inordinately long time to get going. This year's hosts, Marija Naumova and Renars Kaupers, who were both former Latvian entrants, continued the trend of recent years of attempting to bring us some hilarious comedy moments. We were also treated to a tour of Latvia's capital Riga, a message from the space station - and then, if that wasn't bizarre enough, a message from Elton John!

One interesting point to note: last year's top three Latvia, Malta and the United Kingdom - were this year's bottom three...


2004

Host country: Turkey
Won by: Ukraine - Wild Dances by Ruslana
UK entry: Hold On To Our Love by James Fox
Full Results: eurovision.tv

If the last few Eurovision Song Contests have proved anything, it's that performance is everything if you want to make an impression on the viewing, and voting, public. So it wasn't too surprising when this year's victor ended up as Ruslana, the Xena Warrior Princess of the Ukraine, with her warrior posse, stomping about the stage with whips and leathers. The song itself seemed merely incidental.

Others that had clearly learnt the lesson included FYR Macedonia's Tose Proeski who, following Sertab's ribbon-resplendent performance in 2003 that had brought this year's contest to Turkey, decided to try a similiar trick, while Greece's Sakis Rouvas fell back on the now rather cliched strip routine. Then there were Russia's multi-coloured dancers, Bosnia's Deen who looked like he'd just been dragged from the nearest nightclub, and Athena from Turkey who had evidently just discovered ska music. Meanwhile France's Jonatan Cerrada won the gimmick of the year award with the appearance of a baldy woman on stilts for no apparant reason.

So many countries wanted to play Eurovision now that for the first time the contest was dragged out over two nights - a qualifying round on Wednesday, followed by the traditional final on Saturday. Even more fun for Eurovision fanatics - or over-egging the pudding? Terry Wogan clearly felt it was the latter, and so eschewed the semi-final in favour of handing over commentary duties to BBC3's Paddy O'Connell.

The semi-final was not without its difficulties - the show was dogged by sound problems throughout, and then when it came to voting, the scores for songs in positions 11-22 had to be adjusted the following morning when it transpired that Croatia had given four points to itself, while apparently no phone votes at all had been received in Monaco!

Monaco? Yes, they were back in the contest after making their last appearance in 1979. However they were to be disappointed, as were another tiny country who were making their debut this year, Andorra - both their scores were virtually on the floor. But not as low as Switzerland's, who inherited the 'nul points' mantle from Jemini, thanks to Piero and the Music Stars whose dance routine was frankly naff even by Eurovision standards; Piero even managed to hit himself with his microphone stand at one point. A manic drumstick-less drummer couldn't help the caterwauling thirty-something girl group Neiokoso from Estonia to the final. Also unsuccessful was Denmark's Tomas Thordarson and his backing singers who, being all dressed top to toe in red, looked as if they had escaped from a BBC1 ident.

But the UK were safely guaranteed a place in the Grand Final, despite Jemini's infamous performance in 2003 - however James Fox managed only 29 points better. Unfortunately he got lost in a preponderance of solo male singers with middle-of-the-road songs, most of which scored low, although for some reason, Serbia-Montenegro's solo male singer, Zeljko Joksimovic, with a middle-of-the-road song came second (and indeed, won the semi-final).

Other than that, there were plenty of the usual up-tempo disco numbers making full use of the drum machine, and then of course those over-the-top song-and-dance shows - and it was inevitable that, just like last year, it was one of the latter that proved triumphant.

And yet when the scoreboard arrives the songs are all forgotten, and all the usual voting trends come to the fore - and it's getting worse, exacerbated this year by allowing all 36 countries to vote regardless of whether they were in the final or not. And so the Balkans all voted for each other, as did the Nordic countries, Greece and Cyprus, and no one voted for the UK. So let me correct the statement I made in the opening paragraph. If you want to make it in Eurovision, have a memorable performance - and represent a country with lots of friendly neighbours.


2005

Host country: Ukraine
Won by: Greece - My Number One by Helena Paparizou
UK entry: Touch My Fire by Javine
Full Results: eurovision.tv

It was perhaps no surprise that following the recent wins of Sertab and Ruslana, Eurovision 2005 would contain a proliferation of similar big performance/big drums/Eastern-flavoured songs. But anyone hoping for a change from this kind of thing was to be sorely disappointed with the result which saw Helena Paparizou take Greece to their first ever win, 31 years after their debut, with yet another Eastern-flavoured big performance.

That's not to say there wasn't a variety of musical styles in this year's contest. Rock made a comeback, most notably with Wig Wam, Norway's answer to The Darkness, who provided us with some unashamed Glam Rock. "He'll have to be buried in those trousers" quipped Wogan.

Rock also came from the likes of Russia's equivalent of Avril Lavigne, Natalia Podolskaya, Germany's Gracia and Switzerland's Vanilla Ninja. In a shrewd move, given the dominance of Eastern Europe in recent years, the Swiss took the option of importing their group from Estonia - and this gave them their best result in years. Estonia itself, meanwhile, was knocked out of the semi-final for the second year running.

Moldova, with their debut entry, brought us probably the most bizarre entry of the night, Zdob Si Zdub with their song 'Grandma Beats the Drum', in which the aforementioned Grandma sat in her rocking chair throughout the performance before rising up at the end to, um, beat a drum. They finished second in the semi, sixth in the final, and at one point early on seemed in danger of winning.

Some traditional Abbatastic Eurovision pop was provided by Bosnia-Herzegovin's Feminnem - it was as if the last twenty years had never happened. Hungary's NOX demonstrated that well known Hungarian riverdance, while Spain entered Son de Sol with a pale imitation of 'The Ketchup Song'.

One of the biggest shocks of this year was Ireland's failure to make it past the semi-final. Kings of Eurovision in the 1990s, Ireland tried a different tack this year by eschewing the usual male singer/ballad approach and instead tried something more upbeat with brother/sister duo Joseph and Donna McCall. But it still didn't bring them any luck. The Netherlands also failed to make it though to the final - the country is now said to be reconsidering its future in the contest.

Another notable absence in the final was the lack of an accordion - unfortunately this year's accordion entry by Austria, which went the whole hog and also threw in trumpets, trombones and even yodelling, was also knocked out. The highest scorer in the semi, incidentally, was Romania's Ruby Wax look-a-like Luminita Anghel who performed with some blokes with angle grinders and oil drum lids on their feet.

2005 turned out to be another dismal year for the UK. Not helped by choosing to go down the same big performance/Eastern-flavoured route as half the other countries, and by singing second, a position from which no one has ever won in fifty years of Eurovision, Javine could muster no better than third from bottom.

Away from the songs, no Eurovision is complete with an appearance from some of the host country's biggest stars, and so Ukraine 2005 featured some spontaneous and totally unrehearsed, honest, comedy moments brought to us by Ukraine's boxing duo, the Klitchsko brothers, and last year's victor, Ruslana. The presenters were styled 'Masha and Pasha', and Masha proved that she didn't need a microphone.

With 39 countries eligible to vote, the scoring seemed to go on for as long as the songs. The most notable aspect of the final result was that the bottom four was also the 'Big Four' - the UK, France, Germany and Spain, who are the biggest contributors to the EBU and are therefore guaranteed a place in the final. Was the result a sign of resentment from the other countries who see this as unfair? Or is it all down to Eastern block voting, which has produced a winner from the Eastern half of Europe for the fifth year in succession and seen many Western European countries sidelined? Or are we taking our privileged position for granted and just not trying any more?


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