Eurovision Song Contest

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


2006

Host country: Greece
Won by: Finland - Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi
UK entry: Teenage Life by Daz Simpson
Full Results: eurovision.tv

Small children were sent scurrying behind the sofa one Saturday night in May 2006 - and it wasn't due to the latest episode of Doctor Who. No, it was Eurovision's first ever death metal entrants, Lordi, who performed their song wearing monstrous prosthetic masks.

Every year you think you've seen it all - and then comes along another Eurovision Song Contest. It's long been regarded as a joke in the UK, and in 2006, at long last, the rest of Europe finally saw the funny side as well and voted the Finnish metallers into a convincing first place. Just as bizarre, but in a completely different way, was Lithuania's LT United, a bunch of besuited men singing a song that was more like a football chant - 'We are the winners of Eurovision...vote, vote, vote for the winners', admist booing from the audience. They finished a ridiculous sixth.

And Iceland's Silvia Night, already a controversial figure in her homeland, sung 'Congratulations' (no relation to Cliff Richard's 1968 runner-up) in a squeaky voice, on a stage adorned with giant candy sticks, and made Aqua's 'Barbie Girl' seem quite highbrow in comparison. Silvia, in reality actress Agusta Eva Erlendsdotti, failed to endear herself to the audience by earlier derogatory comments regarding Greek organisation, and her appearance on stage, was also greeted by booing. Unlike the other two, she failed to make it to Saturday's Grand Final, for which we must be thankful.

In comparison, sandwiched between Finland's metal and Lithuania's suits, the shy and retiring Daz Sampson seemed somewhat tame. Backed by his trusty band of St Trinian's schoolgirls, he represented the UK with his novelty rap song 'Teenage Life'. Daz, for whom quite a considerable number of years had obviously passed since he experienced teenage life, only managed 19th place. Rap invariably flops at Eurovision, but nowadays it seems the UK flops regardless of what we enter.

What of the other members of the 'Big Four'? Low placings all round, once again. Germany decided to go all country 'n' western on us, while Spain, after a poor result last year with an imitation of Las Ketchup's 'Ketchup Song', this year drafted in the real thing. And France - well, they just don't really care, do they?

Meanwhile Latvia entered an acapella group who came with a little robot friend, while Portugal's Nonstop brought us our annual 'Waterloo' revival. But Eurovision 2006 wasn't all novelty songs and gimmicks, as other countries took a different tack in their bid for glory. After a run of poor results, Ireland employed the popular Belfast-born singer Brian Kennedy to boost their chances with a traditional Irish ballad. Things looked good as Brian progressed from the semi-final (where his performance was the 1000th at Eurovision) to the final, and he eventually finished tenth.

Sweden, meanwhile, brought back one-time winner Carola, who sung to victory in 1991, and came third in 1983. Not surprising then that following a successful progression from semi-final to final, Carola was installed as the favourite, but this year had to made do with fifth place.

Another Eurovision veteran sung for Greece - Anna Vissi, who first represented the country no fewer than 26 years earlier, then again for Cyprus in 1982. Unfortunately Greece's hopes for two wins on the trot were dealt a blow when this year's entry from Cyprus failed to make it to the final, and they only made ninth place.

The show hosts this year were former Greek entrant Sakis Rouvas, and American presenter Maria Menounos, who seemed to find everything 'amazing'. Worse, however, was the nitwit who came on to announce the Dutch votes, which had Wogan and most of the audience burying their heads in their hands. Talking of the voting, in order to hurry things along a bit, for the first time this year the spokespeople only announced 8, 10 and 12, with 1-7 points put onto the scoreboard while they went on about 'what a great show'.

And at the end of it all, 45 years after their debut entry, Finland won Eurovision for the first time. But it was sad to see how gimmickry triumphed over the music. I thought this was supposed to be a song contest...


2007

Host country: Finland
Won by: Serbia - Molitva by Marija Serifovic
UK entry: Flying the Flag (for You) by Scooch
Full Results: eurovision.tv

It has quickly become a rule at Eurovision that whatever type of music wins the contest one year becomes the dominant musical style the following year. So it was inevitable that following Lordi's win in 2006 for Finland with 'Hard Rock Hallelujah', the 2007 show would have its fair share of Def Leppard, McFly and T-Rex wannabes. And yet all of the rock-based entries that took part in Thursday's semi-final failed to make Saturday's Grand Final, while those that were straight through to the final failed to impress Europe's voting public either.

There were other musical styles that one would not normally associate with the contest, albeit appearing in diluted Eurovision form - Hungary collected plenty of votes for its 'Unsubstantial Blues'; not proving so popular were the Krazy Mess Groovers who brought us some Belgian jazz-funk, Roger Cicero's swing from Germany, and Dervish's traditional Celtic folk from Ireland, the latter which helped Eurovision's most successful ever country sink right to the bottom of the scoreboard for the first time.

TV critic Garry Bushell appeared to be representing Turkey (actually, it was Kenan Dogulu). Meanwhile Israel's Teapacks controversially brought the subject of nuclear war to Eurovision, but failed to make it past the semi-final. In contrast, Ireland tried returning to their Celtic roots with Dervish, but it didn't help their cause, finishing bottom of the pile. The UK also flopped badly, with Scooch's tacky pop finishing only one place higher, having only Ireland and Malta to thank for any votes.

At the other end of the scoreboard, however, it was all change from the last few years. For once 'song' triumphed over 'show', with Serbia's Marija Serifovic singing the first ballad to win the contest for many years; not only that, but also the first winning song not sung in English since the free language rule was introduced. Thankfully beaten into second place was the cross-dressing comedian Verka Serduchka, the Christopher Biggins of the Ukraine. (The other cross-dresser in the contest, Denmark's DQ, failed to even make the final).

Away from the serious business of the contest, and I don't know how it manages it, but Eurovision somehow manages to get more bizarre every year - this time none other than Santa Claus himself made a special guest appearance! This year's most cringeworthy moments, however, were brought to us by roving reporter and 'fan of Eurovision' Krisse Salminen, dressed in pink, who appeared in Helsinki's Senate Square with what appeared to be the entire population of Finland gathered behind her. She was also on hand in the green room to cheer up Scooch when they appeared to be heading for the UK's second 'nul points'.

The most commonly phrase about Eurovision these days is 'it's all political'. And it's difficult to argue with this when you look at the results of this year's contest. Eurovision 2007 was the most eastern-dominated yet, with only 8 out of the 24 competitors in the Grand Final hailing from the western side of Europe. There was booing from the audience in the Hartwall Areena at the close of Thursday's semi-final (which contained 28 entries - the greatest number yet seen at a Eurovision contest) as Denmark, Belgium, Iceland, Portugal, Austria, the Netherlands, Malta and Austria all found themselves knocked out in favour of the ever-increasing number of countries from the former Communist Bloc.

Then in the final, of the 'traditional' Eurovision countries, only Greece and Turkey could manage a placing in the top half of the table. We now faced the very real possibility that, other than the 'Big Four' of UK, France, Germany and Spain, the 2008 final could have been made up entirely of entries from the Eastern side of Europe. Eurovision had gone East - and it seemed the West were going to find it very difficult to get it back again.


2008

Host country: Serbia
Won by: Russia - Believe by Dima Bilan
UK entry: Even If by Andy Abraham
Full Results: eurovision.tv

Ireland is the most successful Eurovision country of all time, with seven wins overall from the likes of Dana, Johnny Logan and Linda Martin. So it is rather surprising that it was Ireland who submitted what was possibly the most controversial Eurovision entry yet - the first puppet ever to compete in the 53-year history of the show. Eschewing the usual ballad in favour of a singing turkey generated far more interest in the contest in Ireland than in previous years. But some felt that Dustin the Turkey's song, 'Irelande, Douze Points', broke Eurovision rules by 'bringing the contest into disrepute', indirectly poking fun at former contestants and directly at a certain UK commentator.

Despite most of the pre-contest publicity focusing on the turkey, in the end, all the fuss proved to be over nothing. Dustin impressed neither the audience in the Belgrade Arena, where he was greeted by booing, nor the voters at home, and it is with great relief that he failed to make it past the semi-finals. Imagine if he had won the whole thing - the 2009 contest may well have ended up resembling The Muppet Show! (Or perhaps it does already...)

Dustin's entry was not the only joke song in the contest, however. Most bizarre was the Bosnian-Herzegovinan entry which involved a lunatic, a washing line and four brides doing some knitting. Almost as incomphrensible was Rodolfo Chikilicuatre, this year's joke entry for Spain, which ridiculously came in 16th. Latvia, meanwhile, entered a bunch of pirates, and Croatia employed the services of a 75 year-old rapper and scratcher as their gimmick.

In spite of concerns that novelty acts such as these are helping to devalue the contest and making it harder to attract credible musicians, France also raised eyebrows by actually attracting a credible musician. The electro-pop producer Sebastien Tellier has worked with the likes of Air and Daft Punk, but perhaps is best known for his epic track 'La Ritournelle'. His Eurovision entry, 'Divine', was controversially the first ever French entry to be sung almost entirely in English. Despite actually trying for once, France will be disappointed to still only finish in joint 18th place. Whether Monsieur Tellier emerged from the contest with his credibility intact is unclear.

None of these came anywhere close to winning - victory instead went to Dima Bilan, who previously competed for Russia in 2006, and had plenty of support from the other former Soviet republics. Another former entrant Charlotte Perelli, who won for Sweden in 1999 under the name Charlotte Nilsson, agreed to spend the first thirty seconds or so in black-and-white.

Once the songs were over, viewers were treated to not the most spectacular interval act of all time - it's not every Saturday night that British television viewers get to endure, sorry, enjoy the music from a Serbian weddings and funerals band. Were there actually any viewers left when it was over? In fact, many British viewers only switch on to watch the voting anyway.

Eurovision 2008 saw yet another change in format - almost all entrants now had to go through one of two semi-finals, with only the host country and the Big Four guaranteed a place in the Grand Final on Saturday night. This change was partly due to the ever-increasing of countries taking part - now up to 43, with San Marino and Azerbaijan making their debuts - but also to avoid a repeat of the controversy that surrounded the outcome of the 2007 contest where no Western European country managed to progress from the qualifying round.

For 2008 then, entries were divided between the two semi-finals on the basis of both geographical position and past voting patterns. The nine entries with the highest number of phone votes from each semi made it to the final, with the tenth entrant being the one with the highest jury vote of all the countries not already qualified - just to complicate things a little further.

This was all intended to help ensure a fairer mix of countries in the final - so did it work? Scandinavia did very well out of the new format, with Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden all progressing to the final (the latter 'saved' by the jury vote), as did Portugal, who hadn't been seen on a Saturday night since 2003; however, other stalwarts such as Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands once again failed to make it past the semi-finals.

But when it came to the scoring, it made little difference. With all 43 countries once again eligible to vote, it was no surprise that all the usual bloc voting patterns were very much in evidence. Russia won comfortably, while the UK's entry, by no means a bad song by former dustman Andy Abraham, finished joint bottom (with Germany and Poland). Just how can a competent, if not outstanding, performance from Andy be beaten fairly and squarely into last place by tosh from the likes of Latvia, Azerbaijan and Bosnia-Herzegovina?

"This is no longer a music contest" was Terry Wogan's answer, ending his commentary on a distinctly downbeat note. Doubtless Eurovision fans across Western and Central Europe are feeling similarly disillusioned, as their countries repeatedly score badly or fail to qualify at all. How long before the traditional Eurovision countries lose interest completely and start pulling out for good? Would 2008 be seen as the turning point - the beginning of the end for the Eurovision Song Contest?


2009

Host country: Russia
Won by: Norway - Fairytale by Alexander Rybak
UK entry: My Time by Jade Ewen
Full Results: eurovision.tv

"Music is back at the forefront of the Eurovision Song Contest" declared the BBC's new commentator Graham Norton at the end of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, as Norway cruised to victory and the United Kingdom finished in the top five for the first time since 2002.

The results of the Eurovision Song Contest over the past few years have come into much criticism for bloc voting, which had reached such a level that a number of participating broadcasters complained to the EBU that there was little point taking part when certain countries had an unfair advantage, making it apparently impossible to ever win again. Terry Wogan, for one, had tired of predictable voting patterns so much that he stood down after commentating for BBC television and radio for over 35 years.

And so to counter the effects of neighbourly and diaspora voting, the EBU took the radical step of reintroducing national juries, with each country’s scores to be split 50/50 between the jury vote and televoting. Each jury had to be made up of five music industry professionals, with no connection to their home entry, with the aim that they would be able to offer a more balanced, objective view, and help to offset the more biased televoting.

In the main, it worked. Although most of the usual voting patterns were still in evidence, the edge had been taken off them, to the effect that four out of the top five scorers were western, or 'traditional' Eurovision countries. This is no doubt in part due to the jury effect, but also due to the fact that several countries had decided to start taking their Eurovision selection process more seriously this year.

The UK, for example, radically overhauled its selection process in an attempt to bring to an end a six year run of poor results. The BBC drafted in Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber to write the UK's entry, with lyrics by US songwriter Diane Warren, with Jade Ewen picked to represent the UK in the series Your Country Needs You. To add gravitas, Lord Lloyd Webber appeared on stage playing piano, and it seems the gamble paid off, with the UK scoring 173 points in the end - although had the results been up to the juries only, it would have moved up to 223 points and third place, proving the view that this type of song is favoured more by juries than the viewers.

At the other end of the scale, it seems that comedy songs had largely gone out of favour this year. The only two entries that could probably be described as joke entries both failed to make it past the semi-finals - Serbia who entered a man with an afro singing a song about a shoe, while the Czech Republic continued their run of bad luck with Gypsy.cz, featuring a small man with a moustache dressed in a superhero outfit, who became only the second entry ever to score 'nul points' in the semi-final. The Czech Republic have so far had the least successful debut in the history of the contest, notching up just ten points over their first three years of participation.

Unfortunately a number of other countries continued to make it through the semi-finals which, unlike the final, continued with 100% televoting (albeit with the 'wildcard', i.e. the entry that receives the highest jury vote of those entries not qualified by televoting, also qualifies). In particular, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium were finding themselves repeatedly failing to qualify for the final, while Andorra had, in six years of participating in the semi-finals, still yet to appear in the final even once.

However there is no doubt that the same song would have won the contest regardless of the voting system used. Norway were the pre-contest favourites, represented by 23 year-old Alexander Rybak with his self-penned song 'Fairytale', a catchy, some would say annoying, ditty which easily stood out from the other 41 entries. Its final tally of 387 points was by far the highest score ever seen at Eurovision, but it still wasn't the most successful song in the history of the contest - that honour remains with Brotherhood of Man, which scored 80.3% of the available votes in 1976.


Next page: 2010-2013
Previous page: 2002-2005


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