There are two types of Eurovision misfires. Some entries showed great promise and simply failed to live up to the hype. They thought about it too much. Meanwhile, other entries cross the line into the realm of bad taste. Clearly they should have taken a step back or gotten a second opinion. Either way, these songs left me wondering, “How could you mess that up?”
“Vampires are Alive” by DJ Bobo
“Vampires are Alive” was a sure thing to qualify for the 2007 Finals. The song was the epitome of Eurovision kitsch, with a Eurotrash beat and lyrics about vampires so theatrical it would stage itself. Or so it seemed. Despite the upbeat tempo, the choreography seemed to have been slowed down so that DJ Bobo could keep up with it. Even then, he couldn’t. As if that all wasn’t enough, the stage was littered with mannequins, which made the performance look cheap. Switzerland failed to qualify for the Final.
“This is My Life” by Anna Bergendahl
In 2010, Sweden tried to break free from the usual Melodifestivalen schlager sound with an acoustic guitar-driven pop ballad. Unfortunately, Bergendahl seemed nervous on the Oslo stage, and her attempt to overcompensate led to a shaky vocal. Moreover, the flashy lighting and camerawork overshadowed the mood piece. For the first time ever, Sweden failed to qualify for the Final.
“Congratulations” by Silvia Night
In 2006, Iceland sent a comic actress to Greece with an entry that satirized the Song Contest. The staging sent up various Eurovision performance conventions, such as rapid costume changes and gyrating male dancers. However, Night acted like a diva during her time in Athens, calling the stage crew and the press in attendance “fucking amateurs” and having a member of an entourage carry off a journalist who annoyed her, calling him out with a slur that was reported as being “fucking Greeks” but was actually even cruder. The whole shtick was part of her act, as was her “accidentally” singing “I’ll fucking win” during rehearsals. To say that her humor didn’t translate was an understatement: her performance was booed by the crowd from start to finish. Controversy notwithstanding, the joke wasn’t funny. The Icelandic entry was upstaged by Lithuania’s entry, LT United’s “We are the Winners,” which told the same joke more succinctly and more effectively. Iceland failed to qualify for the Final.
“Drip Drop” by Safura
In 2010, Azerbaijan was the bookie’s choice to take the Eurovision trophy. No expense was spared, as the oil-rich country spent over a million dollars to stage and market their song: a slickly-produced recorded version was released as a free download, Beyonce’s choreographer was hired, and singer Safura was clad in a designer light-up dress. The result, however, was an over-staged mess. Safura was so uncomfortable walking down steep steps in 4-inch heels that she needed her “scumbag boyfriend” backup dancer to help her down the stairs. The choreographer sent her down the catwalk to reach the wind machine then, during the climactic point of the song, sent her running back to reach her next mark at center stage (dubbed by the press room as the “Safura sprint”). Graham Norton put it best: “Beyonce got [the choreographer’s] best work.” Though Azerbaijan sailed through the Semifinals, they disastrously drew the first slot in the Final and ultimately finished a disappointing 5th. Don’t feel too bad, because Azerbaijan won the next year with a less busy staging.
“That Sounds Good to Me” by Josh Dubovie
United Kingdom, 2010
After Jade Ewen’s 5th place finish in 2009 with the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Dianne Warren song “My Time,” the UK thought it had finally found a winning Eurovision formula: a time-tested successful songwriter picks a song and BBC hosts a reality show to pick a singer. What they failed to realize was that the talent made “My Time” work, not the formula. The hey day of songwriter Pete Waterman was the 1980s, and “That Sounds Good to Me” sounded like something that had been sitting in his file cabinet for 25 years. The staging was stiff and the backup singers were painfully out of tune. Though an amiable performer, Josh Dubovie was unable to overcome all those problems. The United Kingdom finished last.
“Divine” by Sébastien Tellier
In 2008, France took a leap of faith and selected established French recording artist Sébastien Tellier to represent it at Eurovision. To up the ante, for the first time it entered a song in English. Unfortunately, Tellier’s heavily-engineered sound did not play well live, and the performance came off like a joke that didn’t have a punchline. France finished 19th.
“Miss Kiss Kiss Bang” by Oscar Sings Alex Swings
In 2009, the German delegation selected a German piano player and paired him with an American vocalist who had taken a few tap lessons and wore silver lamé pants. Oscar and Alex performed their routine with two women in pseudo-traditional German garb. They then awkwardly shoehorned American burlesque star Dita Von Teese into the staging: Oscar “introduced” her to the audience even though she had been on stage the entire time. It was such a low point that Germany rebooted its selection process. The next year, they won the Eurovision Song Contest.
“Legenda” by Marcin Mrozinski
In 2010, Poland staged a baffling performance that featured a staged rape and murder of one of the backing singers. Viewers were not in love with this fairytale, and Poland failed to qualify for the Final.
“Woki Mit Deim Popo” by Trackshittaz
Hip hop has not traditionally done well at Eurovision, but Austria did itself no favors by holding onto the glow-in-the-dark bit that was so effective during the national final. When Trackshittaz found out they could never get the Crystal Hall dark enough to pull off the original routine, they should have re-staged it rather than go for the tacky sewn-on lights in the performance. The cheapness of it all destroyed the admittedly slim chance of a butt-shaking performance in the Grand Final. Not surprisingly, they had some fun making light of flopping at Eurovision.
“Shine” by De Toppers
The Netherlands, 2009
In the Netherlands, De Toppers are big business. While they can sell out Amsterdam Arena, their native appeal did not extend to the rest of the continent. The Guardian described them as “a boy band crossed with the cast of The Last of the Summer Wine.” Despite “Shine” having lyrics that put the pain in painfully earnest, the song was staged to amp up the camp level. They used tacky strap-on lights to replicate the underwhelming special effects of their video (their glorious, cheesy, delightful video). The whole thing came off as tired and tacky, and the Netherlands did not qualify.
“Walk Along” by Trijntje Oosterhuis
How can a song written by a successful former Eurovision entrant and performed by a preeminent Dutch singer go so awry? Perhaps Anouk’s song “Walk Along” wasn’t the best fit for Trijntje, but the trouble really started during rehearsals. The press room proclaimed after the very first rehearsal that Trijntje would win the Barbara Dex award for worst dressed performer. Even though she was trying out an array of outfits in rehearsals, she and the rest of the Netherlands delegation seemed to be rattled by the bad press. The staging made matters worse. The first image was an uncomfortably long close-up on Trijntje’s veiled eyes. Later there was a blacklight effect so subtle that if you blinked you would miss it. The package never came together for the Dutch in Vienna, and the team knew it. Trijntje gave a subdued, resigned performance of “Walk Along” and was eliminated at the end of the first Semi.
“Cry Baby” by Jemini
United Kingdom, 2003
Until 2003 the United Kingdom had never finished last and had always scored points in the Eurovision Song Contest. Then Jemini hit the stage and failed to hit any of their notes. Blame was placed on issues with the monitors and European opposition to the Iraq war. I don’t know how good Jemini’s public diplomacy skills are, but as professional singers they should have been able to overcome the technical problems. The tragedy is, “Cry Baby” is a fun archetypal Eurovision entry that deserved better than its fate. (Not too much better, though. I’m not crazy.)