Eurovision Contest Winners part 2
Eurovision history expedition, day 2 (day 1 here): While Eurovision isn’t everyone’s cup of international tea, the contest’s history is peppered with acts notable enough to draw passing fancy. We continue exploring the nooks and crannies of this global music phenomenon.
Now the point of this is mainly to pick those contestants which stand out for playlist inclusion, or just interest music scholars, or sometimes are just weird on their own. If you already follow Eurovision, this list will be old hat. Eurovision winners are a mixed bag – sometimes you get a sole female singer who stays planted on her mark, and sometimes you get a sizzling supporting cast of leaping salsa dancers. Sometimes you get obscure folk music from a country you’d be hard-pressed to find on a map, and sometimes you get a familiar radio-friendly charting hit. It’s the Forest Gump of music contests!
Måneskin (Italy 2021)
We start with this rather jolting winner from 2021, Maneskin (pardon the umlaut omission) with their song “Zitti E Buoni” which I could swear is a pasta dish and might very well be for all the Italian I know. Maneskin brings a hard-edged, guitar-driven, thrashing note to the sleepy Eurovision stage. While the group identifies its genre simply as “rock,” this song at least sounds like it could qualify as Euro-punk.
Sandra Kim (Belgium 1986)
What could be more fitting to 1986 than the fresh sound of New Wave pop? Those square padded shoulders, that pink bow tie, the hairsprayed-in rolled-out-of-bed look. Sandra Kim took honors as the youngest contestant ever to win Eurovision, with her song “J'aime la vie.” Not only that, but she was 13 years old at the time, which was apparently controversial enough that there was a question of whether she’d be allowed to keep the honor. But Kim prevailed and went on to a successful stage career. Good for her!
Netta (Israel 2018)
What to make of this pudgy lass with the hyper facial expressions? This is Netta Barzilai with her song “Toy,” a europop dance number with a bit of punkish / riot-grrl energy. Very unconventional for Eurovision fare, but also so much like a billion other European dance artists that you wonder at how she stands out. I guess it’s the tweaked-out face spasms.
France Gall (Luxembourg 1965)
With this peppy go-go ballad that sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place in an exploitation flick, France Gall sings this French song “Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son.” It roughly translates to “wax doll, rag doll” and the lyrics, which we are assured has a great deal of clever puns and wordplay, are a reflection on being a pop idol. Which is just what France Gall was. This song has had an incredible number of covers in different languages as well as chart success over the years.
Eli & Nikki (Azerbaijan 2011)
It’s remarkable enough when the Eurovision winner goes to a country which, let’s face it, most of us couldn’t find on a map. Azerbaijan is one of the countries nestled between the Caspian and Black Sea, neighbored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Eli & Nikki bring this ethereal R&B love duet that could play on modern radio today without losing its shine.
Brotherhood of Man (UK 1976)
We close on another catchy UK pop song, Brotherhood of Man with “Save Your Kisses For Me.” Was there ever a more just-missed-the-love-generation band name? This song is a pop standard classic that was also featured on the UK show “Top of the Pops,” and has been covered numerous times. Margo Smith covered it and it stayed at #10 on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles, probably the only time a UK song ended up on country radio.
Yeah, I’m Kinda Done
There are of course many more music acts in Eurovision history deserving of mentioning, but these are just my potshot picks for the interesting wrinkles in the contest’s history. These days, of course, we have an absolute genre of music show contests all over satellite and streaming. But Eurovison had the idea first.