For some, it may be the country has a short bench of good musical artists. For some, it may be that what is popular music in their home country doesn’t translate to us. For some, the entry decisionmakers have an outdated or misguided view of what they believe will appeal to Eurovision voters. For some, we wonder about their taste level. Whatever the reason, these countries serve up shitball entries year after year. They don’t seem to learn. When a song begins from one of these countries, we instinctively groan and in our finest Krusty the Clown say, “Oh, this is always death.” Exceptions do happen, seemingly by dumb luck, and they are duly noted.
1. United Kingdom. Britain’s tragedy is not its music scene; it’s the cynical, outdated view of what the Brits think gets ESC votes. The country that gave us Coldplay, Amy Winehouse, and Simon Cowell has no business finishing in the bottom three year after year. Yet the UK insists on sending miserable pop throwbacks like Josh Dubovie and Scooch that would have sounded stale 10 years ago. The exception: “My Time” by Jade Ewen. Armed with the power of songwriter Andrew Lloyd Webber, they selected a big ballad and marketed the hell out of it to the Eastern European countries. It was also a dated song, but it finished 5th. Their 2011 choice of artist appears to be more of the same; Blue is a boy band that achieved peak chart success in 2002. Blue may well have a good showing in 2011, but we note that the UK is still looking backward, not forward, for its artists.
2. Belarus. We like to think of Belarus’ Eurovision entries as a musical representation of the difficulties in living under a dictatorship. Additionally, Belarusian singers typically have some of the worst English in the contest. In 2007, Koldun put on a theatrical performance that brought in a Top 10 finish, but Belarus has been unable to build upon his success.
3. Slovenia. Slovenia is probably a case of a small country with a small creative bench. Slovenian entries range from the amateur to the ghastly. Alenka Gotar is a standout, but even her entry crossed the line into high camp.
4. Poland. With Poland, we regularly find ourselves questioning their entry’s taste level. In 2010 there was a staged rape and murder. In 2007 the singers’ heavy accents made “Time to Party” sound like “Time to Potty.” The staging, the costumes, the hair, the makeup, the pigeon English… you wonder if they are really thinking it through. The exception was Isis Gee in 2008, an American singer brought in to deliver a big melody. But even she spent a little too much time in the tanning booth.
5. Netherlands. The Netherlands simply hasn’t moved on from the types of entries that were popular in the early days of Eurovision. It regularly sends Schlager pop, the purest example of which is 2010’s “Sha La Lie,” and it simply doesn’t resonate anymore. Even modern versions of the formula, such as De Toppers, come off as dated and targeted toward an older audience. An audience that, in all likelihood, does not text in votes. This year is an exception: they’re sending 3JS, who may be a little old-fashioned, but at least don’t sound like they’ve got one foot in a musical grave.
6. Belgium. See Netherlands. The Elvis impersonator they sent for 2009’s “Copycat” was a low point. Tom Dice had success in 2010, but Belgium has not applied lessons learned to their 2011 entry.
7. Czech Republic. At least they realized their case is hopeless – they stopped entering after gypsy.cz, their 2009 entry, got nil points. In fact, they only entered three songs in their Eurovision history and scored a total of 10 points. And nine of those points were from one act.
8. Croatia. Evidently we don’t understand Croat sensibilities. Croatia manages to send the same song every year, a “heartfelt” ballad. And through the grace of neighborly voting and friendly juries, they often make the finals. Which usually means we have to endure their entries twice.
9. Portugal. Portugal has a proud music scene. But it doesn’t have a winner’s attitude. Portugal seems to view the Song Contest as a platform to showcase its homegrown talent rather than as an opportunity to compete—they want to express themselves, they don’t necessarily want to do what it takes to win. That’s a perfectly valid attitude, but it may explain why they are seen as the Chicago Cubs of the ESC.
10. FYR Macedonia. Oh Macedonia, what is wrong with your music scene? Macedonia has a knack for send tired hard rock acts with overweight, middle-aged male vocalists, completely ignoring the scantily clad women dancers doing slutty choreography. Other countries in your region—Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Albania, Cyprus… even Cyprus—get it. Why don’t you?