Welcome to the Eurovision Lemur Seal of Approval, a guide to the cream of the Eurovision crop, the top songs out of the top songs, the best music on tap at Eurovision.
According to me.
You see, taste is a subjective thing and while a lot of songs listed here may also be fan favorites, no Eurovision song can cater to every single Eurovision fan. Except for “Waterloo,” which is perfect in every way.
So when I give a song the Eurovision Lemur Seal of Approval, I’m providing you with some insight into why I respond to songs the way I do. My favorites may not be your favorites, but I hope I can explain what it is about each of these songs that moves me.
“Zitti e buoni” by Måneskin
Måneskin wears their ‘70s glam influences on their sleeves, but re-contextualizes those influences in a way that makes them sound fresh. “Zitti e buoni” starts off with Thomas Raggi’s crunchy guitar riff and some subtle percussion from Ethan Torchio. Gradually Victoria De Angelis’s bass line and added percussion fill out the arrangement out before the song’s potential energy is unleashed in the chorus. Damiano David spits out rapid fire lyrics in the second verse, propelling the song like a car driving too fast down a highway. It’s a well-constructed song that breaks all of the rules of what is a successful Eurovision entry while still being a tight, three minute pop song.
“Soldi” by Mahmood
Mahmood tells his story in “Soldi” by building the verse and the bridge up, but instead of releasing all that tension, he just drops the beat for the chorus. This isn’t a song about resolving emotions, and you can tell that even if you don’t speak Italian. “Soldi” earned Italy a richly deserved second place at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.
“Shady Lady” by Ani Lorak
Over a decade after it came second at the Eurovision Song Contest, “Shady Lady” still has the power to thrill. Its lush, strings-heavy orchestration propels it forward, and Ani Lorak fully embodies the song’s story. “Baby, don’t call me baby” is a classic Eurovision lyric and Ani sells it for all that it’s worth.
“If Love Was a Crime” by Poli Genova
Bulgaria returned to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016 after a couple of years off with a new game plan: send great songs. “If Love Was a Crime” is a song that is immediately awesome. Its finger snap-laden beat and rich, pulsating bass line builds to an anthemic chorus that has everyone singing along in Bulgarian.
“Occidentali’s Karma” by Francesco Gabbani
I latched onto “Occidentali’s Karma” right after its first performance at Sanremo 2017. Sure, the dancer in the gorilla suit caught my attention, but the song’s tuneful effervescence and playful satire hooked me. “Occidentali’s Karma” pokes fun at 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’s a delightful song.
“Nobody But You” by Cesár Sampson
Grand in scope but intimate in execution, “Nobody But You” is a joyous, buoyant song. Chock full of soaring vocals and crisp harmonies, it overcomes some lyrical awkwardness to leave an indelible impression. Cesár Sampson knows how to use his vocal as an instrument to make “Nobody But You” soar, and it’s easy to understand why his song topped the jury vote in 2018.
“Grab the Moment” by JOWST
“Grab the Moment” is such a cool, unassuming song. Sure it has those vocal effects, but the music lives up to the lyrics about keeping yourself calm and fighting back against the voices that tell you you’re not good enough. Aleksander Walmann’s vocal is so smooth and mellow, and he projects confidence over adversity while still acknowledging self-doubt. JOWST’s arrangement seamlessly combines electronica and rock without being gimmicky. It’s a near-perfect anthem for anyone with anxiety.
“Birds” by Anouk
Anouk sparked a revival in The Netherlands’ Eurovision fortunes when she represented her home country in 2013. Her song “Birds” was hauntingly beautiful, capturing the heartache and depression that comes from the end of a relationship. The lush orchestrations and the eerie vocal arrangements help make a song that could have been relentlessly dour radiate with hope. Even if the lyrics talk about “Birds falling down the rooftops/Out of the sky like raindrops.” Anouk’s melodramatic flair makes her song even more memorable, and she finished ninth in the Grand Final.
“Visionary Dream” by Sopho Khalvashi
Georgia made an audacious debut to the Eurovision Song Contest with an entry that seemingly served as a mission statement for their participation. “Visionary Dream” starts off with neo-traditional instrumentation, then adds lush classical orchestrations when Sopho Khalvashi starts to sing. When the chorus hits, the song suddenly veers into electronic pop. It’s Georgia’s Eurovision history in one neat little package.
“Blackbird” by Norma John
“Blackbird” may be a song about painful longing, but musically it is exquisite. Leena Tirronen’s vocal soars even as she imbues it with a lingering ache. The arrangement is sumptuous and ethereal, with Lasse Pirrainen’s piano giving me chills like I just walked in from the rain. I am still shocked that Norma John didn’t qualify for the 2017 Grand Final with “Blackbird,” although maybe it’s just a little too sad for everyone. But it still envelopes me like a hug at the end of a rough day.
“Ale Jestem” by Anna Maria Jopek
“Ale Jestem” represented Poland at the 1997 Song Contest and it’s the perfect song to listen to as each Eurovision season comes to an end. The song is about experiencing the simpler, natural joys of life, and it is able to convey that meaning through its orchestration. You don’t have to speak Polish to capture its message. The synths may be sound a bit dated now, but they also unintentionally help give the song a bit of warm nostalgia that just elevates it further.