Some countries may have a short bench of good musical artists. For others, it may be that what is popular music in their home country doesn’t translate to us. The entry decisionmakers may have an outdated or misguided view of what they believe will appeal to Eurovision voters. And for other countries, we just 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 Britain’s tragedy is not its music scene; it’s the cynical, outdated view that the BBC and a lot Brits have of the competition. The country that gave us Coldplay, Amy Winehouse, and Simon Cowell has no business finishing in the bottom three as often as it does. Yet the UK insists on sending tired warhorses like Engelbert Humperdinck and Andrew Lloyd Webber (who to be fair finished 5th place with his ballad for Jade Ewen, “My Time”) or miserable pop throwbacks like “Flying the Flag“ or “That Sounds Good to Me“. Any excuse a Brit can offer for why the UK doesn’t win was nullified by Germany’s win in 2010 (because no one can argue that the UK is less popular than Germany on the continent). The fact is that the BBC isn’t even trying.
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. Poland. With Poland, we regularly find ourselves questioning their entry’s taste level. In 2010 there was a staged rape and murder. In 2007, Jet Set mashed up two horrible songs, and it sounded like they kept singing “Time to Potty” instead of “Time to Party”. The staging, the costumes, the hair, the makeup… 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.
4. Netherlands. 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.
6. 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.
7. Croatia. Evidently we don’t understand Croatian sensibilities. It seems like Croatia sends 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.
8. 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.
9. Macedonia. Generally speaking, Macedonia is one of those countries whose entries come and go without you noticing it. They’re never disastrous, but they’re never interesting. To be fair, they ran into a hot steak with 2011′s underrated performance from Vlatko Ilievski and 2012′s terrific performance from Kaliopi. Not that either song was particularly good, but you couldn’t tell.