This section contains reviews of the Eurovision Song Contest over the past six decades. On this page we look at 2014-2017; the other pages in this section cover 1956-1966, 1967-1975, 1976-1982, 1983-1989, 1990-1996, 1997-2001, 2002-2005, 2006-2009, 2010-2013 and 2018.
2014, as far as Eurovision goes, will be remembered as the year of the 'bearded lady'. It's perhaps surprising that it had taken this long for this gimmick to make it to Eurovision. But to be fair, 'Rise Like a Phoenix' would likely have won even without Conchita Wurst's facial furniture, the decidedly Bond-esque power ballad putting everything else in the contest in the shade.
Although it was Conchita who dominated Eurovision headlines this year, as far as the British public were concerned, it was Poland who stole the show. Topping the UK televote were Donatan and Cleo singing 'My Slowianie - We are Slavic' - but it was surely not the barely listenable song that proved so popular, instead the rather buxom milkmaids who appeared on stage with the singer. However in contrast, the British jury were not at all impressed with these antics, and voted the Poles into last place. The effect of this was to produce a combined ranking of 11th place and thus a score of 0 points from the UK to Poland. This is a somewhat unfortunate effect of combining the rankings from two votes, leaving it impossible for the public to overturn the judges' rejection of the song (and vice versa).
Other gimmicks at Eurovision 2014 were provided by Greece's Freaky Fortune and RiskyKidd jumping about on trampolines, while Ukraine's Mariya Yaremchuk performed her song 'Tick-Tock' accompanied by a man running in a hamster wheel.
Having struggled to make a breakthrough in recent years, the BBC moved away from employing established singers, and this year went in completely the opposite direction. BBC Introducing is the corporation's platform to discover new and emerging artists, and in 2014 it was plundered by the BBC's Eurovision team to find an artist to represent the United Kingdom.
After two years of has-beens, it was a refreshing change when 26 year-old Molly Smitten-Downes was revealed as our entrant; however any hopes that the link to BBC Introducing might lead to something a little more 'indie' or 'alternative' were dashed, when 'Children of the Universe' proved to be a somewhat derivative, anthemic Eurovision composition. However many had high hopes for the UK this year, some predicting we might even end up on the left hand side of the scoreboard for once, but it was not to be, with Molly (seen here about to receive a cake from a strange Danish woman) eventually finishing in 17th place with 40 points.
In contrast to all of the high jinks from Austria and Poland, the song that came in second was something of a surprise. Usually these days, you have to go 'big' to make an impact at Eurovision, but 2014 showed that doesn't always have to be the case, when the Common Linnets, performing the understated, country-tinged 'Calm After the Storm', proved to be the Netherlands' most successful entry since their last victory in 1975.
And when it came to putting their money where their mouths are, the UK public favoured the Netherlands over everyone else, with the Common Linnets making number 9 in the UK charts, where it's almost unheard of for a non-British, non-winning Eurovision song to make the Top 10. The Dutch duo beat even Conchita, who had to be content with number 17. The crazy Poles, on the other hand, were nowhere to be seen in the Top 200.
Mindful of the huge popularity of Eurovision in Australia, but unable to participate in the contest for obvious reasons, Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy was invited to perform an 'Australian entry' as part of 2014's interval act. And of course, that would be the last we would ever see of Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest. Wouldn't it?
For years, the most common question asked of Eurovision fans by non-Eurovision fans was 'why are Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest?' Simple - Israel's broadcaster is a member of the European Broadcasting Union. In 2015 that was replaced with a far more vexing question - 'why are Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest?' Well, umm, ahh...
Seeing as the contest was being held in Austria, it could be suggested that Australia's appearance might have been nothing more than a clerical error. Seriously though, following their interval appearance last year, and as part of the celebrations marking the sixtieth contest, Australia were invited to participate properly in 2015's contest as a one-off 'guest nation'. As such they were were given a guaranteed slot in the Grand Final, normally only reserved for the Big Five countries and the previous year's winner. Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian was selected as their representative, and he finished in an impressive fifth place. It was stated that the Aussies would only appear again if they won - so this would definitely be, without a shadow of a doubt, the last we'd ever see of them, wouldn't it?!
For a while in the 2000s, it had seemed that Eurovision had gone east - but by the mid-2010s it had gone north, with Nordic countries winning four out of the seven contests between 2009 and 2015. Sweden, in particular, put at least twice as much effort into their selection process as anyone else (and about a hundred times as much effort as the BBC) with Melodifestivalen being the country's most popular programme, and it paid off once again, giving the Swedes their second victory in four years. Mans Zelmerlow's 'Heroes' was a powerful, up-tempo number that frankly knocked the socks off everything else entered that year. But it was as much the graphics as the song that proved memorable - he performed in front of a video wall onto which graphics were projected, allowing Mans to 'interact' with a stick boy.
In contrast, the BBC struggled to find an entry this year, and following an open submission, were forced to pick Electro Velvet, with the swing-influenced 'Still in Love with You', allegedly in a last minute panic. Compared to the increasingly sophisticated staging of many of the entries, the UK's entry felt decidedly low rent, and costumes which lit up in time to the music were not enough to lift the duo to anything better than 24th place, with just 5 points.
Somewhat surprisingly, considering the obvious commercial appeal of Mans Zelmerlow's 'Heroes', it was not the most popular song in the televote, and only finished in third place. Italy's Il Volo singing 'Grande Amore', dismissed by some as 'popera', turned out to be the favourite of the voters at home.
Finishing second overall was Russia. Having made themselves extremely unpopular on the worldwide stage with their military intervention in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, Russia were desperate to win to Eurovision in order to help restore their reputation. Unfortunately the audience booed whenever Russia were awarded points (which had also happened in 2014) leaving their singer Polina Gagarina in tears, despite 'anti-booing' technology being put in place by the organisers to hide the noise. The tensions between Russia and Ukraine would prove to be something that would resurface in Eurovision contests to come.
This year saw the biggest change in the voting system in over forty years. It had not escaped the notice of Eurovision's organisers that with the increased numbers of countries taking part in the voting process, the identity of the winning country was increasingly becoming obvious even quite a long way from the end of scoring.
In order to inject some excitement back into the voting, a new system was introduced, whereby only the jury votes would be announced in the traditional manner. Then the total amount of points gained by televoting would be announced, country by country, in reverse order, and added to the scores already awarded by the juries - thus potentially overturning the result.
And so once the the jury votes had been completed, it was Australia that topped the scoreboard. Hold on a minute... Australia? Wasn't their appearance last year meant to be a one-off? Unsurprisingly, last year's so-called 'guest nation' were back again, presumably making them the kind of guest that you invite round your house and then can't get rid of. However this time, they had to slum it with almost everyone else, by going through the semi-finals first. That didn't prove a problem, as their entrant Dami Im, won the second semi-final with ease.
However, the Aussies proved not to be quite as popular with the viewers at home, who voted Dami into fourth place. They favoured the Russian entrant, Sergey Lazarev, singing 'You are the Only One'. Russia were once again clearly determined to win the contest, this year sparing no expense and throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their entry. They were convinced they had the winner in Sergey, whose performance was clearly inspired by Mans Zelmerlow's last year, and included a video projection wall which Sergey was apparently able to climb up.
His was far from being the only the performance embued with hi-tech graphics. A decade ago the song contest appeared be turning into more of a dance contest. Now, with ever more sophisticated technology coming into play, it seemed to be turning into the Eurovision Graphics Contest, with some performances starting to resemble music videos.
For the first time in six years, the United Kingdom entry was chosen by a public vote. But our representatives, Joe and Jake, were to be given false hope by the new voting system. Following the jury vote, the duo found themselves in 17th place, with 54 points - not great, by any means, but an improvement over recent years. But the televote proved to be major letdown, adding just eight more points, leaving the UK in 24th position, third from bottom. Only the Czech Republic, making their first ever Grand Final appearance, scored worse from the public - with no points at all from the televote - helping them to maintain their position of one of Eurovision's least successful countries ever.
With two different winners of the two votes - Australia winning the jury vote, and Russia topping the televote - the new voting system allowed the song that came second in both votes to actually win the contest once all the points were added together - in essence, a compromise winner. With 534 points, by far the highest score ever seen at Eurovision (though the new scoring system means that a fair comparison with earlier years cannot be made on figures alone), it would also prove to be probably the most controversial Eurovision winner ever.
It was the Ukrainian entry, '1944' sung by Jamala - the subject matter of which concerned the deportation of Tatars from Crimea by Joseph Stalin in World War II. Many thought this was inappropriate for Eurovision, and there were even suggestions it broke the rule that prohibits 'gestures of a political or similar nature'. Not surprisingly, considering the tensions between the two countries, Russia was furious at the result. '1944' was a most unexpected winner - and as a piece of music, it certainly wasn't the kind of song you could hum, or that you could even remember at all after you had heard it.
Back to lighter matters, and when Sweden hosts Eurovision, you always know you're in for a great show. To Eurovision fans' delight, Petra Mede was once again chosen to host, this time alongside the reigning victor Mans Zelmerlow. The Swedes put together two memorable interval acts, 'That's Eurovision' (aka 'Story of ESC') and 'Love Love Peace Peace', appearing in the second semi-final and Grand Final respectively, which gently poked fun at the contest, a great contrast from the many years where the Eurovision Song Contest treated itself with a good deal of reverence.
Additionally, Justin Timberframe was also invited to perform during the interval, a clear nod to the increasing global popularity of the contest. Indeed, Eurovision was broadcast in America for the first time ever, albeit on an obscure, little-watched channel. But mighty oaks from little acorns grow - seeing as there is now apparently no restriction on who is allowed to play Eurovision these days, how long before we'll be watching the USA entry to the Eurovision Song Contest?
In 2017 Eurovision went east for the second time this decade, and just as in 2012 when it was held in Azerbaijan, the run-up to the contest was mired in controversy. Following the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine in recent years, it seemed inevitable that the contest, to be held in the latter country, would be the cause of further ructions between the two.
The issue concerned the Russian entrant Yulia Samoylov, who had been banned from entering Ukraine due to previously being in contravention of Ukrainian law by travelling directly from Russia to perform in Crimea, which had been annexed by Moscow in 2014. The EBU, whose offer to allow Yulia to perform from Russia via satellite was turned down, called Ukraine's behaviour 'unacceptable', and there was even talk of the country's broadcaster being permanently banned from future contests. In the end, Russia withdrew and did not participate in or even broadcast the 2017 contest.
So perhaps it was appropriate that the winner should be one of the quietest and peaceful songs ever to win the contest. The piano and strings composition 'Amar Pelos Dois', sung by Salvador Sobral, brought victory to Portugal for the first time in 49 attempts (and it was their first appearance in the Grand Final since 2010). It struck a chord with both the juries and the public, easily winning both votes. The song was written by his sister Luisa, who had also stood in for Salvador during some rehearsals due to his health condition, and who joined him on stage to co-perform the reprise. However Eurovision was perhaps not really the place to rail against what he termed 'disposable music' and 'fireworks', as he did in his victory speech.
Much of the pre-contest news coverage in the UK surrounded the fact that this was the first contest since Britain voted to leave the EU - would we be 'punished' for this by voters across Europe and damage our chances? Many pointed out that actually we couldn't do much worse than we had done in recent years anyway. Brexit proved to be a red herring - the juries when making their deliberations, and the viewers at home picking up their telephones, do not generally have EU politics on their minds at the time. So-called 'political voting' is actually more to do with shared musical tastes between neighbouring countries, and diaspora voting for their home country.
The UK's results in recent years have a lot more to do with poor song choice than politics, and so in this, the first year since the Brexit vote, the reasonably well-regarded 'Never Give Up on You', co-written by 2013 winner Emmelie de Forest and performed by Lucie Jones, brought the UK our best result since 2011 ('best' being a relative term). As with last year, the voting system gave false hope to the UK, which saw us in tenth place with 99 points after the juries had voted, but then the public vote added only 12 more points, leaving us in 15th position by the end.
Two 17 year-olds appeared in the top five. Belgium's Ellie Delvaux, who went under the stage name Blanche, appeared somewhat nervous on stage, but the understated 'City Lights' was perhaps the sleeper hit of the contest, and she finished in fourth place. In contrast, Bulgaria's Kristian Kostov, the first ever Eurovision contestant to be born in the 2000s, gave a very confident performance and was rewarded with second place.
No Eurovision Song Contest is complete without gimmicks and novelties. Italy's Francesco Gabbani, who went into the contest as the bookies' favourite, performed on stage with a dancing gorilla, but had to be content with sixth place. Croatia's Jacques Houdek brought us Eurovision's first ever duet sung by one person, ironically titled 'My Friend'. Romania's Ilinca and Alex Florea catered for all those who enjoy both rap and yodelling, while Azerbaijan's Dihaj baffled many with their blackboard and a man up a ladder wearing a horse's head. And once again, almost every entry was accompanied by an array of sophisticated graphics - on the video wall, on the stage itself and in a few cases even appearing not in the arena at all but directly on the viewer's screen at home, such as with Norway's JOWST.
Israel performed first and finished third from bottom, but would 2017 be their final appearance? During the voting sequence, their jury spokesman dropped a bombshell, announcing the imminent closure of the Israeli broadcaster the IBA and thus implying the future withdrawal of Israel from the contest. Would they return? Whatever happened, there would still undoubtably been at least one non-European country participating in Eurovision, with Australia seemingly becoming regulars in the contest (the Australian broadcaster SBS's plans for a Eurovision Asia Song Contest have yet to bear fruit). Their third appearance was their least successful so far, with another 17 year-old, Isaiah Firebrace, finishing in ninth place. However the Aussie jury did award the UK entry 12 points - so maybe we can let them stay in after all...
Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © the respective broadcasters