The Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval: Visionary Dream

Eurovision Lemurs Seal of ApprovalGeorgia has always been one of our favorite Eurovision participants, and our fascination with them started from day one.

They made an audacious debut at the Eurovision Song Contest with Sopho Khalvashi’s “Visionary Dream.” Their entry acted as a three-minute introduction, but in hindsight, it can also be seen as a kind of mission statement. Georgia always seems to do things a bit differently at Eurovision and they laid the marker down from the very start.

“Visionary Dream” kicks off with the sounds of acoustic instruments for some neo-traditional folk flair. When Sopho starts to sing, an undercurrent of strings adds a touch of the classical era. At the bridge, the soaring vocal and the cascading strings build up tension.

But the release of that tension comes from an unexpected place: rubbery synthesized notes that abruptly drag the song away from its folk styling and into modern electronic pop music.  The music bed under the chorus is crunchy and a bit dissonant, yet it accentuates the song’s central conceit: “Sailing through my story/Sharing my history.”

The rest of the song bounces around the traditional and the modern, a wild stew of musical notes that somehow still sound cohesive. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

Well, at least on the recorded track. Much to our dismay, but not our surprise, the live presentation ended up being a bit of an audible mess. While Sopho has the pipes to carry “Visionary Dream,” she ended up shouting more than singing. Maybe the adrenaline generated by both the song and the occasion took its toll on her performance.

Still, “Visionary Dream” did generate one of our favorite staging moments ever at Eurovision. When Sopho sings, “Clouds containing lakes/And in the haze of morning light/I feel embraced,” the camera pans back to reveal LED animation of faces blending together. It still gives us the chills over a decade later.

Visionary Dream at 2007 Final

This was Georgia introducing itself to Europe, and we think they did a great job doing so. As for Sopho, she went on to become deputy mayor of her hometown of Batumi. Keep sharing that history!

The Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval: Shady Lady

Eurovision Lemurs Seal of ApprovalFor some reason, Ukraine has been on our minds a lot lately. Not really sure why.

But that’s okay, because Ukraine has always been one of our favorite Eurovision forces. Their songs are usually good fun or at least interesting. Their performances tend to be overstaged in an entertaining way. And failing all that, they can be counted on to bring way too much drama to their national selection process. And sometimes to other countries’ national selection processes.

All of which brings us to Ani Lorak. She was widely expected to win Ukraine’s national final in 2005 with “A Little Shot of Love.” But after weeks of semifinals, broadcaster NTU threw four wild card songs into the final at the last minute. Among the new entries was GreenJolly’s “Razom nas bahato, nas ne podolaty,” which had served as the unofficial anthem of the Orange Revolution. GreenJolly won, leaving Ani second in the table.

It may have hurt at the time, but let’s be honest, we don’t want to live in an alternate history where “A Little Shot of Love” went to Eurovision and “Shady Lady” didn’t.

What is it about “Shady Lady” that still delights us over a decade later? Let’s start with the orchestration. “Shady Lady” is propelled by synthesized strings that build and release tension throughout the song. It evokes lush disco-era orchestrations without sounding dated or pastiche.

To be sure, the verse foregoes the orchestral filigree for a bass-heavy grinding rhythm punctuated by beeps that Lorak and her back-up dancers used to full effect at the Song Contest.

But it’s really all about the strings for us. Our favorite moment in “Shady Lady” comes when the beat drops after the bridge and Lorak sings “Shady. Lady. Are you. Ready.” Those strings zoom back in to kick the song back into full gear. That still makes us tingly.

Lorak fully embodies and inhabits the lyrics.  Even though she didn’t write them (Eurovision stalwart Karen Kavaleryan did), she makes them her own. “Baby, don’t call me baby” is one of our favorite Eurovision lyrics.

“Shady Lady” finished second at the 2008 Song Contest, behind Dima Bilan’s “Believe.” We have frequently said on this blog that it’s the best song that never won Eurovision. Even though we’ll posit from time to time that another song has replaced it, we always seem to come back to our original position.

(Though we are ready to say “Soldi” has claimed that title at last. Don’t tell Ani.)

The Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval: Soldi

Eurovision Lemurs Seal of ApprovalSo far in this series, we have celebrated an Italian song and a song with a great bassline. Today we celebrate an Italian song with a great bassline. What can we say: we have a type.

Actually, we’re generally not gushing fans of Italy’s Eurovision output. It just so happens that two of our absolute favorites are Italian. But enough with random defensiveness. Let’s blast this banger!

“Soldi” grabbed a hold on our ears pretty much from the first time we heard it at Sanremo and it wouldn’t let go. It stood out to us because it just sounded different than a lot of the other songs vying for the crown.

To be sure, Mahmood’s vocal melody isn’t that unique compared to the other male vocals on offer at Sanremo. “Soldi” was one of many songs that featured variations the sing-songy, densely packed verses that we associate with Italian pop.

What set it apart was its immediacy. “Soldi” is driven by a recurring mandolin riff and by vocal punctuation that accents the main melody. It also derives its punch from Mahmood’s performance. He sings his autobiographical lyrics with both an air of defiance and a sigh of resignation that draws us in.

He then builds and builds the bridge both lyrically and orchestrally and we brace ourselves for some sort of big release of tension. But instead of resolving, “Soldi” just DROPS into the chorus. There is unresolved emotion in the lyrics and the chorus’ orchestration captures it. The simple, but rich bassline further emphasizes that feeling. This is how Mahmood tells his story to a general audience without speaking their respective languages.

Mahmood brought a smoldering intensity to his performance at Eurovision. Yet one of our favorite moments of the entire Song Contest in 2019 is the beaming smile he breaks into when he’s done. We felt the same way then and feel the same way now.

The Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval: If Love Was a Crime

Eurovision Lemurs Seal of ApprovalWhile it took us until 2017 to devise the Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval, we really came up with the spirit of idea in 2016. That was the year Bulgaria returned to the Eurovision Song Contest after a couple of years off with a new game plan: send awesome songs.

That may sound like an obvious plan, but it’s a unique formula that some former Song Contest forces struggle to adhere to these days.

“If Love Was a Crime” was a song that was immediately awesome. It hooked us right from the start with its brief introductory interlude that used a haunting electronically-generated voice to grab our attention. It then kicks off properly with a finger snap-laden beat that propels Poli’s vocal over the piano’s melody.

Then that bassline kicks in. Oh, yes, very nice! It’s rich and pulsating, and it is the roaring engine that drives “If Love Was a Crime” along. When we’ve got this cranked, the bassline still has the power to give us chills.

Although the bridge is not much to write home about, it is at least orchestrated in a way to build anticipation for the chorus. You can hear rising synthetic strings right before Poli sings, “They will never break us down,” and you are primed for that chorus to explode.

The switch to Bulgarian is seamless and the lyrics (translated as “oh, give me love”) serves to emphasize the message of the English lyrics. The ornate vocal tracks of the chorus give “If Love Was a Crime” its anthemic quality.

If we were to quibble, it would be in regards to how it was staged at the 2016 Song Contest. Poli’s costume was ridiculous and while the choreography was cute, the Bulgarian delegation could have her backing singers come out earlier to do it along with her. We felt like saving the singers for the last 30 seconds blunted the song’s impact.

Of course, we are talking about a song that finished fourth at the Grand Prix final, so are we to quibble?

The Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval: Occidentali’s Karma

Eurovision Lemurs Seal of ApprovalNot enough people celebrate the 13th anniversary of anything. It’s the lace anniversary, you know.

Tempted though we are to dress our site up in frilly lingerie, we are going to mark our website’s 13th anniversary with a series introducing you to the songs that we have awarded the Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval. It’s our chance to finally revamp our old Legitimately Good Songs page and to figure out what it is about our favorite Eurovision songs that tickle our aortas the way they do.

Our main criteria for stamping a song with our Seal of Approval is that it has to be one that the entire Lemurs household agrees is awesome. We realize that we’re giving veto power to an 11-year-old, but these are the hazards when you raise a kid on Eurovision.

First up, let’s talk about the song that sparked this whole idea in the first place: Francesco Gabbani’s “Occidentali’s Karma.”

We were three of the many Eurovision fans who latched onto “Occidentali’s Karma” after its first performance at Sanremo 2017. Initial attention was of course paid to the dancer in the gorilla suit. But underlying the silly stage picture and the accompanying goofy dance was a song satirizing both the need for humans to feel like we have a higher purpose and our tendency to appropriate other cultures to feel like we have achieved that purpose.

Despite the seemingly cynical subject matter, “Occidentali’s Karma” radiates joy. It may be poking fun at an annoying side of human nature, but it does so with a playful elbow to the ribs and a pat on the back. The staccato plunking at the start sets the tone for the subject matter, but the effervescent chorus gives “Occidentali’s Karma” a grand scope and a ridiculously catchy hook.

Although it was the odds leader almost as soon as Francesco won Sanremo, it ultimately finished six at Eurovision. Why did it falter? Well, there is no better case for bringing back the live orchestra than “Occidentali’s Karma.” Compare the Eurovision performance with the Sanremo performance. They aren’t that different from each other. But having the Sanremo orchestra interact with the song brought an additional level of energy and playfulness for Francesco to feast upon. Even though the hot crowd in Kyiv gave him a big “alé” on cue, Francesco spent most of his time at the Song Contest trying to generate his own energy. This led to a more frenetic, less confident performance.

Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on the Grand Prix performance (or even the awkward edited version on the official Eurovision album) to achieve maximum enjoyment. We bought the single the second it became available, and we still listen to it on a regular basis.

Wild Dances, Wild Floor Routine

We’ve gotten a few hits lately from people searching for U.S. gymnast Jordyn Wieber’s floor routine music, which is 2004 Eurovision winner “Wild Dances” by Ruslana. We tweeted about this back in September:

We’re posting this here since we hadn’t mentioned it on the blog and wanted to make sure everyone got the information they’re looking for. (I’m a librarian. It’s my job.)

Also, you should totally follow us on Twitter.

Ones to Grow On

A lot of the previews we write for this site are based on our initial gut reactions to songs. We try to listen to songs a few times before writing them up, but we often can’t tell right off the bat what songs are going to really stick with us long after the winner is announced in May.

Granted, a lot of times our initial impressions are correct: “Shady Lady” and “Visionary Dream” were hits with us from the start. Kabát’s “Malá Dáma” was a sludgy mess from first spin to semifinal fizzle, although we couldn’t predict the success of the “HE’S POINTING” drinking game we invented during their live performance.

You! Over there! I’m POINTING!

But there always seems to be a song that either leaves no impression on us initially or that we hate from the start, but then grow to love. There are two songs in particular that I’d like to highlight, both from 2007.

Finland hosted Eurovision that year, coming off of Lordi’s epic win in 2006. The Finns selected Hanna Pakarinen to represent them next, and her song “Leave Me Alone” was a hard rock song that gave the impression Finland was going to go the Swedish route of never letting go of the sound that won them the competition.

Jen and I were both harsh on this one: I called it “Evanescence lite, and tedious to boot,” while Jen said, “On the opening riff you think the song is going to be cool. Then it isn’t.” Even during the live show that year, I called it “mediocre.”

Since then, we’ve watched the 2007 final more than a few times, and damn it all if “Leave Me Alone” doesn’t linger as a highlight every time. When you watch her performance now, you see that she really delivers:

Moreover, “Leave Me Alone” has a lot more going for it than labeling it “Evanescence lite” would show. That opening riff is monster, and the lyrics have a lot more depth than we credited them for at the time. (Although that “I gotta go crazy just to stay sane” line makes me cringe every time.)

The key is to separate “Leave Me Alone” from “Hard Rock Hallelujah.” Lordi loomed large over Eurovision 2007, nowhere more than over Finland’s own entry. We didn’t give Hanna her due at the time, but she came through under difficult circumstances.

The other song from 2007 that confounded us at the time is now one of the songs we listen to the most: “Dancing Lasha Tumbai.” Of course, we listen to it all the time because our son Kieran adores it. He even sings along. If you’ve ever heard a three-year-old say, “Okay, here’s the end — bink!” you can understand why we want to hear this one over and over again. (That’s not the actual lyric, but are you going to argue with a toddler?)

When we first heard this song, though… man. Jen said, “This song to me sounds subversive. It takes me to a very dark place.” I dismissed it as “a good old-fashioned Eurovision nonsense number.” During our recaps of the live show, I said it was “awful” and Jen said, “I don’t get it.”

However, something Jen also said during her recap became the key for us to finally get “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”: “But, hey, the performance has good energy, and is well sung even though there is a lot of movement.” The amount of work Verka Serduchka and his crew put into their stage show is staggering. If you haven’t watched this one in awhile, check it out, and pay close attention to those back-up dancers:

Obviously, it had immediate impact to viewers: Verka came second, just 33 points behind winner Marija Šerifović. For us, it took repeated viewings for “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” to catch on. Is it still a deeply bizarre song? Yes. Do we dance along every time we hear it? Hell yes.

And thanks to Verka, Kieran is picking up his German numbers.

10 Biggest Diva Performances of the Past 5 Years

True divas all. Enough said.

1. Marija Šerifović—Molitva (Serbia). The bookies liked her, although Verka Seduchka was the favorite going into the 2007 contest. Then rumblings came out of rehearsals that she wasn’t singing well, that her performance was lackluster. Here’s the thing: rehearsals are for blocking and a true Diva knows how to turn it on whenever she wants to. Ms. Šerifović knocked it out of the ballpark in the semis and again in the finals to bring Serbia its first win.

2. Verka Serduchka—Dancing Lasha Tumbai (Ukraine). Arguably the best Eurovision performance ever from a drag artist, inarguably the best Eurovision drag performance from the last 5 years. The 1940s-inspired costumes, the communist star headdress, the “69” on her back, and those sunglasses…outstanding. The energy level from Ms. Seduchka and company on this number is stunning. (Chris has this as his ringtone. Seriously.)

3. Chiara—What If We (Malta). 2009 was Chiara’s 3rd time representing Malta in the ESC, after finishing 3rd, then 2nd in previous years. The 3rd time wasn’t the charm. It didn’t help that her Celine Dion-style ballad was pitted against two other strong ballads. After finishing a disappointing 22nd, she went Diva on the press, admitting how angry she was with her low placement and criticizing countries for not voting for her. Nevertheless, Chiara says she is planning a 4th attempt at the contest.

4. Charlotte Perrelli—Hero (Sweden). Ms. Perrelli is a former Eurovision Song Contest winner; attention must be paid (whether it’s deserved or not). In 2008, Sweden’s entry made it out of the semi-final only by a jury vote that bypassed two entries that received more points but were shy of the points needed for automatic qualification. As for Ms. Perrelli, her Diva style is 1 part Diva attitude, 1 part Diva talent, 1 part eating disorder, and 2 parts bad plastic surgery. She was 33 at the time of this performance, but you’d never know it to look at her.

5. Patricia Kaas— Et s’il fallait le faire (France). A single woman onstage (no backup singers), a little black dress, austere lighting. An Edith Piaf-inspired tour de force. At the end she did little jig. And it totally worked.

6. Aloysha—Sweet People (Ukraine). Ukraine selected their artist late, after national outrage over the original choice. Ukraine selected their song late, without public input, and was fined for picking the song after entry deadline. The song they settled on, “Sweet People,” was tuneless and depressing. And none of it mattered, because Miss Thing commanded the stage. Thanks entirely to Aloysha’s mesmerizing solo performance, Ukraine eked out a Top 10 finish in a packed 2010 field.

7. Alenka Gotar—Cvet z juga (Slovenia). This song has set the standard for Pop-opera Eurovision entries and for gimmicks on performer’s hands. The Slovenian mezzo-soprano delivered an appropriately big performance. The light-up Swarovski crystals on her hand gave us something to laugh at during the moments when she wasn’t taking a bow.

8. Anastasiya Prikhodko—Mamo (Russia). Why Russia would choose to defend their title with a song sung in Ukrainian—with a Ukrainian singer—was a mystery to us (and indeed to many Russians). But this is Ms. Prikhodko’s world, and we are all here to watch her. The staging displayed her face on several huge screens, aging through the arc of the song. The camera was on her face the entire time. In fact, Ms. Prikhodko dialed down her performance for the finals, opting in the climax of the song only to scream at us and not to fall to her hands and knees and pound the stage with her fists (as she had done in the Russian national finals). We can’t wait to see if she tops herself when she tries out for Ukraine this year.

9. Magdi Ruzsa—Unsubstantial Blues (Hungary). Abandoned at an Arizona bus stop, Ms. Ruzsa growls about “…an evanescent, unsubstantial blues.” The lyrics are pretentious and unfortunate, but it was clear that girlfriend has been through some stuff. Her performance was gritty, soulful, and honest.

10. Vânia Fernandes—Sehnora do Mar (Negras Aguas) (Portugal). We have a soft spot in our hearts for fado. This is as authentic a fado song as you’ll find. It tells a story, it’s cathartic, and Ms. Fernandes can belt out a tune. Give the woman a black shawl and set her up in a café in the Alfama.

10 Campiest Eurovision Performances from the Last 5 Years

Now, camp is a hallmark of the Eurovision Song Contest. Most Eurovision song entries are campy. It takes a lot for a performance to be singled out as particularly campy from the dozens of entries each year. It has to be over the top, way way over the top. There must be a slight, or not-so-slight, whiff of failure about it. And it has to make us laugh. We can watch these performances a hundred times and still howl. Our focus is 2006 and later.

1. Kejsi Tola—Carry Me in Your Dreams (Albania). Albania’s 2009 entry was a cute enough disco number. But the staging… a 16-year old lead singer in a pink tutu, b-boy mimes, discoball lights, the 1978 Price is Right set, and a sequined Gumby. Magic.

2. Malena Ernman—La Voix (Sweden). We must approach this entry delicately, because we suspect Ms. Ernman could knock us unconscious with one swipe from her chiseled arm. The costumes, lighting, and set positioned the operatic mezzo-soprano as the ice princess with that voice. But Sweden’s 2009 entry enters the camp pantheon thanks to Ms. Ernman’s facial expressions, as she attempts to meaningfully emote profound pop-opera lyrics she wrote like “can you keep a secret, can you keep a secret, I’m in love with you” to a lay audience and hit high C with no glottal stroke.

3. Svetlana Loboda—Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl) (Ukraine) “Thank you so much, [point to the crowd], you are the best.” No, Svetlana love, you are the best. In 2009, Ukraine topped itself for slutty performances with “Be My Valentine.” Svetlana had nearly-naked male dancers with Trojan helmets, women on stilts, and a set with giant metal cogs and moving pistons. She pole-danced, played the drums, and did cartwheels. The staging had everything but the kitchen sink only because she could find no obvious double entendre with a kitchen sink.

4. Elnur and Samir—Day After Day (Azerbaijan). Azerbaijan made its Eurovision debut in 2008 with a bat-shit insane entry that tells the epic story of good and evil in the traditional Azeri way: with operatic riffs, oversized angel wings and colored contact lenses. Unfortunately, Elnur’s “angelic” screeching is more demonic than Samir’s devilish posturing. Disturbingly, this finished 8th.

5. Sakis Rouvas—This Is Our Night (Greece). Because choreography is hard, Greece’s 2009 entry begins with Sakis and the back-up dancers tracing out various punctuation marks: !, ?, /. After that, Sakis displays his mad dance moves by imitating a defibrillator. The set piece is a moving walkway, has zero gravity properties, and transforms into a gigantic Greek stapler.

6. Sunstroke Project and Olia Tira—Run Away (Moldova). We must admit, we like this song. Moldova’s 2010 entry makes the cut because of epic sax guy. Fashion note: white sunglasses are totally rad.

7. Flor-de-Lis—Todas las ruas do amor (Portugal). The psychedelic imagery is part of the charm of Portugal’s 2009 entry, but it’s all for naught without that guy playing bongos.

8. Scooch—Flying the Flag (For You) (United Kingdom). Unlike the other entries in this list, UK’s 2007 entry was intentionally campy in the best Saved By the Bell tradition. To their credit, they took it to its logical conclusion—it couldn’t be more kitschy. To their detriment, it’s not that funny, and in 2007 Verka Seduchka out-performed them with a catchier song and a higher energy performance.

9. Kraljevi Ulice and 75 cents – Romanca (Croatia). Croatia specializes in earnest pop ballads with a hint of Balkan folk in them. 2008’s Romanca is a bit more conventional than their usual entries—think “Hernando’s Hideaway”—and would have been unremarkable if it weren’t for the late, great 75 cents, a then-75-year-old Jimmy Durante look-alike who yelled at the audience in Croatian. Why was he yelling at us? WHAT was he yelling at us? His scratching on a phonograph was amusing, but otherwise, this is a befuddling mess.

10. 3+2—Butterflies (Belarus). This song was terrible. The singing was terrible. Their English was terrible. And then… the payoff. The metamorphosis of the ladies in this number was so unforgettable, so perfectly timed, that it launched Belarus’ farce of a song into the 2010 finals (where it placed 2nd to last because it really was a piece of shit).

BONUS: Lordi—Hard Rock Hallelujah (Finland). The 2006 Eurovision Song Contest winner simultaneously mobilized the Eurovision “vote for the worst” vote as well as the “vote for the best.” Lordi set a standard for theatrics which, to date, remains unmatched. A heavy metal band with orc-weapons as guitars, elaborate latex makeup, skeleton costumes, 18-inch platform boots, demon wings, and fire, so much fire. Lyric highlights include “it’s the a-rock-alypse” and “it’s the day of rock-ening.” It gets the honorable mention because it doesn’t have the “whiff of failure” needed for true camp. It’s hilarious, but nothing about it failed.

10 Most Hopeless Countries of the Past 5 Years

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?