While kitsch is a Eurovision staple, some entries cross the line into the realm of bad taste. What were they thinking? Clearly they should have taken a step back or gotten a second opinion. Other entries showed great promise and simply failed to live up to the hype. They thought about it too much. These songs left us shaking our heads in disbelief. How could you mess that up? Our focus is 2006 and later.
1. DJ Bobo—Vampires are Alive (Switzerland 2007). “Vampires are Alive” was a bookie’s choice to contend and 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. The performance was tired, the choreography surprisingly stagnant, and nothing could hide the fact that DJ Bobo looked too old to carry the performance. Switzerland failed to qualify for the finals.
2. Anna Bergendahl—This is My Life (Sweden 2010). Never send a girl to do a diva’s work. In 2010, Sweden tried to break free from the ABBA sound with a singer-songwriter entry. They needn’t have bothered. The lighting and camerawork overshadowed the mood piece, Bergendahl seemed nervous onstage, and she attempted to overcompensate with a shaky vocal. For the first time ever, Sweden failed to qualify for the finals.
3. Silvia Night—Congratulations (Iceland 2006). In 2006, Iceland sent a comic actress to Greece with an entry that satirized the Eurovision Song Contest. The staging sent up various Eurovision performance conventions, such as rapid costume changes, gyrating male dancers, fireworks, and water deluges. The lyrics were self-congratulatory for the contest she was about to win. The entry caused controversy because some lyrics violated the contest’s policy for expletives, and her response to the protest (“fucking Greeks”) was viewed as an insult by the host country. Her routine was booed by the crowd from start to finish. Controversy notwithstanding, the joke wasn’t funny. The Icelandic entry was upstaged by Lithuania, whose “We are the Winners” told the same joke more succinctly and more effectively. Iceland failed to qualify for the finals.
4. Safura—Drip Drop (Azerbaijan 2010). In 2010, Azerbaijan was the bookie’s choice to take the Eurovision crown. Azerbaijan spared no expense to win: they spent over a million dollars to stage and market the song—they released a slickly-produced recorded version for free download (which, in truth, sounded great), they hired Beyonce’s choreographer, and they put her in a designer, light-up dress. They sailed through the semi-finals, then, disastrously, they drew the first slot in the final. What’s less discussed is that the number was simply overstaged. Safura was uncomfortable walking down steep steps in 4-inch heels and needed her “scumbag” boyfriend to help her down the stairs; the choreography sent her down the catwalk to reach the wind machine, and during the climactic point of the song sent her running back to reach her next mark at center stage (the so-called “Safura sprint”). Graham Norton put it best: “Beyonce got his best work.” Azerbaijan finished a disappointing 5th.
5. De Toppers—Shine (Netherlands 2009). In 2009, Netherlands thought they had a sure thing with the Toppers. In the Netherlands, the Toppers are big business; they can sell out Amsterdam Arena, but their native appeal did not extend to the rest of the continent. The Guardian UK described them as “a boy band crossed with the cast of the Last of the Summer Wine.” They performed last in the semi-finals, after 7 acts that ultimately qualified. Perhaps the long wait tired them (and the voters) out. The Netherlands failed to qualify for the finals.
6. Josh Dubovie—That Sounds Good to Me (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. In 2010, they replicated the 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 it was the talent that made it work in 2009, not the formula. Pete Waterman hadn’t been a successful songwriter since the 80s, and the UK wound up with a stale reject of an 80s pop song. The staging was equally stiff, and the backup singers were painfully out of tune. Though an amiable performer, Josh Dubovie could not overcome his problematic material. UK finished last.
7. Sebastian Tellier—Divine (France 2008). In 2008, France made a newfound commitment to the Eurovision Song Contest. They took a leap of faith, awarding their entry to an established French recording artist, and for the first time, entered a song in English. Tellier’s performance was stiff and his heavily-engineered sound did not play well live. France finished 19th.
8. Teapacks—Push the Button (Israel 2007). In 2007, Israel entered a political protest song about “crazy rulers” and the risk of nuclear war. Some felt the song was about Ahmadinejad and the threat of nuclear war with Iran. Because political songs are usually not permitted at Eurovision, the song was controversial. Teapacks, however, went 2nd in the semi-finals, and delivered a performance absent of the energy, anger or intensity needed for its subject matter. Simply put, the song was dull. Israel failed to qualify for the finals.
9. Oscar Sings Alex Swings—Miss Kiss Kiss Bang (Germany 2009). In 2009, the German jury picked their entry without soliciting public input. They 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 choreographed their routine with 2 girls in traditional—more or less—German garb. They then featured American burlesque star Dita Von Teese in the routine. Three problems: 1) it seems that no one in Europe has heard of Dita Von Teese; 2) some countries were uncomfortable with female nudity (pasties-covered boobies), so Germany had to tone down the revealing costumes during rehearsals; 3) the choreography and camerawork focused on the vocalist and the dancers, undermining their stratagem to feature a “celebrity”. Germany finished 20th.
10. Marcin Mrozinski—Legenda (Poland 2010). Viewers were not in love with this fairytale. In 2010, Poland staged a baffling performance with back up singers taking bites out of apples and a staged rape/murder of a back-up singer. Poland failed to qualify for the finals.
11. Yüksek Sadakat—Live it Up (Turkey 2011). Turkey went back to its rock formula for 2011, but the entry was perhaps a little too 80s for peoples’ liking. With Turkey’s friends it might have been forgivable. What wasn’t forgivable was the lead singer’s baffling choice of wardrobe, a gold bird shirt and leprechaun-green jeans. The contortionist in the metal ball upstage center was just there, and no one knew why. Sure, at the end she turned into a bird, but Yüksek Sadakat had lost us by then. Turkey stunned Europe by showing that it was possible for them to not qualify.
12. Trackshittaz—Woki Mit Deim Popo (Austria 2012). We love us some Trackshittaz, but even they were making jokes about flopping at Eurovision. Aside from the fact that it was kind of uncomfortable to watch the pole dancers during their performance, the big issue with their staging was that they couldn’t let go of the glow-in-the-dark bit that was so effective during the Austrian national final. When the delegation found out they could never get the Crystal Hall dark enough for it, they should have restaged it, rather than go for the tacky sewn-on lights on the performances. The cheapness of it all destroyed all chances of a butt-shaking performance in the Final.