Kiev 2017 will see me travel to my first ever live Eurovision final, excitement is building as it is now less than 4 weeks until this year’s competition. I had been thinking of watching some of my most favourite contests, and then thought ‘why don’t I share them with everyone else!’ Therefore, the following 10 contests are what I think Eurovision is all about and why I have loved the contest since I first tuned in, in 1998.
2016- Stockholm, Sweden
Well there is really no contest I can start with other than this one. Last year seen the biggest audience ever for Eurovision with over 210 Million viewers across the globe, and for the first time was broadcast in U.S.A. The song quality was exceptional and really showed how main-stream the contest has got. Jamala was a worthy winner, in my eyes at least and we got some Euro-classics from Dami Im, Poli Genova and Amir to name a few. This will be played the night before I fly to Kiev, if for nothing more, than the opening 15 minutes, Sweden knows how to produce a show, but also party and they showed that with the opening sequence. A great contest and one that will be remembered for many good reasons.
1968- London, United Kingdom
All the contests I have picked are first and foremost editions that have some of the best songs in my opinion. Also, they happen to be landmark contests. 1968 is one of those landmark ones. Cliff Richard, arguably the biggest star ever to take to a Eurovision stage at the time, came as the clear favourite, so the fact that he lost by one point to Spain’s Massiel is one of those head scratching moments. Apart from the controversy of the Spanish win, the contest is also known for being the first to be transmitted in colour, and I always think that this was the moment Europe opened the door and walked into OZ. Many radical changes have taken place over the years, but this will always be up there as one of the most famous contests.
1997- Dublin, Ireland
How RTE wasn’t bankrupt by the time they held their 7th contest, I will never know. But if they were stretched thin, it didn’t show. This contest was packed with fantastic production value, and most of the songs on show this year have become timeless, ‘Dinle’, ‘Fiumi di Parole’, ‘Sin Rencor’ etc. The first year that televoting was introduced clearly showed that Eurovision was heading into a new era and Ireland catapulted that. This was the last year the U.K won and they done it in spectacular fashion ranking up the highest vote tally in the history of the contest to date and receiving more than 40% of the 12 points on offer.
2005- Kiev, Ukraine
This had to be on the list, personally if I am going to Kiev, then I need to watch the last time the contest was held in that city. The Orange Revolution had just taken place and the country was finding its feet again. Like this year, there were delays until late in the day but the contest was a remarkable success and the winner became an instant fan favourite. They pulled off a sleek and well produced show and this year I think it will be very much the same, as the Ukrainians want to show they can do it, and can persevere through adversity.
1974- Brighton, United Kingdom
1974 seen the most successful winner take to the Eurovision stage, in terms of Album and Single sales after the contest. Yes, Celine went on from Eurovision to have a fantastic career, but no one could ever have predicted the overwhelming grip that ABBA would have on the world. 1974 is also a year for some amazing hits, and no less than 4 of the entries that year, roughly a quarter of all entries were UK chart hits. The top 4 songs that year Sweden, Italy, Netherlands and United Kingdom (joint with Monaco) all entered the charts and the top three even reaching the top 10. It was a quality year for songs and a landmark year for the contest, one that is referred to, to this day.
1981- Dublin, Ireland
Now what is Eurovision without a gimmick or novelty act? Well for me the original gimmick came in 1981. Tensions were high in Northern Ireland (my homeland) and the United Kingdom entry was under extreme security measures as Bucks Fizz made their way to Eurovision in Dublin. That didn’t faze the band at all and they whipped their skirts off with reckless abandon and to great applause from the international juries. What is now a seminal Eurovision moment, has paved the way for many gimmicks over the years, from other dress reveals (Israel 2003, Belarus 2005) to Singing Turkeys and Dancing Gorillas. The contest is a spectacle and a far cry from the early contests of yesteryear, but they can live hand in hand as a monument to how great this contest really is.
1998- Birmingham, United Kingdom
For me this is the year that the contest really did enter the 21st century. Europe was expanding and many more countries were wanting to enter the contest. In 1998, a record 25 countries competed in the contest held in Birmingham. What is remarkable this year, that some years isn’t, is the winner. Dana International was a massive star in her home country and had tried to represent Israel previously, but this year she was successful, and went on to win the overall contest. This really did show that Europe was an accepting society with open minds and while many governments of the time would have liked to play that down, the public had their say and voted for the first Trans-sexual perform to ever take part in the contest. This came to light again, 16 years later, when countries like Russia were cracking down on so called “gay propaganda”, Europe showed solidarity by crowning Conchita Wurst, an Austrian Drag queen the winner. What I always find so refreshing and reaffirming is that Russia even give Conchita 5 points in the final, which was helped mostly by the tele-vote, showing that no coutries performer/broadcaster/population should be judged by its government.
2011- Dusseldorf, Germany
This contest is here for one thing, the sheer scale of it all. This was the first German based contest in 28 years and boy, did they want to prove how they could stage a contest. The arena was one of the biggest ever used, the stage was huge and the whole contest was helped by songs of such high quality. It was an open field in 2011, no one knew who would win, and very few thought it would be Azerbaijan, yet it’s one of the rare times I have picked the winner. This was a fantastic feat for the German broadcaster, and visually one of my favourite contests.
1977-London, United Kingdom
If one year sums up vintage Eurovision for me, it is 1977. I love the contest, and on a recent night out to a friend’s Eurovision preview party, I requested that 1977 was played in its entirety, so I thank Robert immensely for agreeing, and I do think he enjoyed it as well. The contest that nearly didn’t happen, thanks to BBC strikes, just turned out to be a well-produced contest with so many classics. It was the disco era and there were some great disco songs from Germany (Silver Convention) and Belgium (Dream Express) the former having achieved enormous success in the mid 70’s with songs such as “Fly, Robin, Fly” and “Get Up and Boogie” both in Europe and USA. The edition also seen other big National and International stars take part in the contest, the U. K’s Lyndsey De Paul, France’s Marie Myriam (who went on to win) and Italy’s Mia Martini. For any fans that have not looked back at the early years of the contest, I would advise watching this one, it really is a great contest to lift your spirits.
1993- Millstreet, Ireland
Now, anyone who followed my articles on my “Top 100 Eurovision Songs” last summer, will know that I adore Niamh Kavanagh and that “In Your Eyes” is my ultimate Eurovision song. Therefore it is no surprise that this contest features on my list. The 1993 edition travelled to the smallest town it had been held in, Millstreet. Not that Harrogate 11 years previously was a bustling Metropolis, but this was something more remote. That still didn’t deter from what I believe is the perfect contest, even the bad songs are good and the hostess was fantastic. The 1993 was a purely Irish production and that can be seen everywhere, they even built a railway station for the contest, that is dedication. Honestly, just watch this contest if you watch none of the others, you won’t regret it.
I hope you enjoyed the 10 contests I will watch before travelling to Ukraine for the 2017 contest. Check out the contests I have mentioned and also let us know if there is a contest you have a soft spot for. 😀