What does that song mean?

Eurovision Contest Winners part 1

Posted May 21st 2023, 13:07 by Penguin Pete

The Eurovision song contest is sort of like the music Olympics; each country gets to submit a song and accompanying performance, and the judges pick the winners. Eurovision has been held every year since 1956, except for the year 2020, when it was canceled due to COVID.

Now that we have over half a century of winners, the list is a prime candidate for picking out notable moments in Eurovision, and the outstanding performers who have claimed the crown over the years. So we’re gonna do that…

ABBA (Sweden 1974)

ABBA’s hit “Waterloo” certainly took the world by storm in the 1970s. With its commanding piano and the band’s vocal harmonies, it’s a classic pop-rock song that’s instantly recognizable. I have asked before, “What happened to ABBA?” And answered: They’re still remembered everywhere else, but American music culture has moved on long ago.

Loreen (Sweden 2012 and 2023)

Swedish singer / songwriter Loreen has just won the Eurovision contest for the second time. Only one other artist has won Eurovision twice – Irish vocalist Johnny Logan in 1980 and 1987. Loreen is still the first woman to have won twice. Here she is in 2012 with her hit “Euphoria.” Loreen has her own site, where you can keep up on her career as she’s touring.

Lordi (Finland 2006)

Just when you think that Eurovision winners skew to the female-led pop music spectrum, along comes Lordi. Their song “Hard Rock Hallelujah” was certainly an outlier among Eurovision winners, and the band itself is in the hard rock genre, rather leaning towards bands like GWAR and Slipknot. Is there such a genre as “goblin rock” or did I just name it? The song is about how music is a force for unity, bringing people together and putting differences aside. Awww, the monsters just want us to love each other!

Sertab Erener (Turkey 2003)

With her song “Everyway That I can,” Sertab Erener led Turkey to its first Eurovision win in 2003. But what’s even more notable is the electrifying dance routine that accompanies the song, with the dancers retreating to a floor crawl at one point and gathering streamers off Sertab’s dress for a good old fashioned Maypole. The song itself has influence from both European disco trends and traditional Turkish music.

Riva (Yugoslavia 1989)

Riva is a poignant winner, since they are the only band from Yugoslavia to take Eurovision winning honors – and they likely will remain the only winning band from Yugoslavia forever, since Yugoslavia no longer exists. Here they are performing “Rock Me” in this neon-festooned set. Even at the time, the ongoing Yugoslav instability raised the question of whether Riva represented Yugoslavia or Croatia. Rive broke up just two years later, citing frustration with maintaining their national identity at a time when that identity was fracturing.

Ruslana (Ukraine 2004)

In contrast to the typical winning act, Ruslana went full out with this exotic assembly of pyrotechnics and leathery dance costumes that look like something out of Road Warrior. Their song “Wild Dance” is very aptly named. Blending traditional Ukrainian folk elements with very modern rock, Ruslana was awarded the highest record-breaking score for Eurovision at the time.

Lulu (UK 1969)

Lulu is a Scottish singer and TV personality, here with her hit “Boom Bang-A-Bang.” It’s notable mainly because it’s such a proto-example of Brit-pop goofiness. While the UK exports ground-breaking waves of music culture, this song is a reminder of UK culture in the late 1960s, full of giddy silliness and lightweight, airy pop. Lulu has kept up a career through the decades, still touring and performing to this day.

To be continued…

I just lie going over Eurovision history because it’s the closest thing we have to a worldwide music competition (so to speak). The history of Eurovision is a history of world music culture condensed down to the broad strokes.



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