We will be the first ones to admit that there is a lot of schlock to wade through in the annals of the Eurovision Song Contest. But even during darker days of the Grand Prix, there was good music to be found. Here, in no particular order, are songs that we would listen to even if they weren’t Songs for Europe.
“If Love Was a Crime” by Poli Genova
After taking two years off, Bulgaria returned to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016 with a sure-fire hit. If we were to quibble, it would be with the staging, but considering Poli Genova scored Bulgaria’s best ever finish and highest ever point total, who are we to quibble?
“Siren” by Malcolm Lincoln
Too cool for Eurovision, Malcolm Lincoln’s “Siren” is chock full of post-punk art-pop goodness.
“Visionary Dream” by Sopho Khalvashi
Georgia started off its Eurovision participation on a high note. Is it techno? Is it electronica? Is it Georgian folk? Who knows, but it is super.
“Shady Lady” by Ani Lorak
This is the dance pop number that all other Eurovision dance pop numbers have to live up to, and never do. While we don’t begrudge Dima Bilan his victory in 2008, we are among those who say this is the best Eurovision entry that didn’t win Eurovision.
“Song #1” by Serebro
Naughty girl band pop at its finest. Russia will see your Sugababes and raise you a cherry on that pie.
“Believe Again” by Brinck
We admit a certain fondness for Ronan Keating. Why he’s writing songs for Denmark and not Ireland we don’t know.
“Euphoria” by Loreen
Terrific Swedish pop, with a near perfect fit of song and artist, that was masterfully staged. This was deservedly a massive hit after it won.
“Ale Jestem” by Anna Maria Jopek
“Out On My Own” by Michelle
This is one of those songs that, when you hear the recorded version, you wonder why it didn’t do better. Then you find out it went first at the Grand Prix and Michelle spent most of her performance sitting on the floor. Still, it’s a soaring, melodious ballad that deserved a better fate.
“Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix)” by ByeAlex
There were plenty of conventional choices that folks in Hungary could have voted through to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013. But ByeAlex charmed us with a gentle meditation on love that you didn’t need to know Hungarian to understand.
“Birds” by Anouk
Anouk carried Netherlands to its first Eurovision final in nine years with a haunting, lushly orchestrated anthem that ignored the standard templates for Eurovision ballads.
“Rändajad” by Urban Symphony
A classy, neo-classical number that almost made new age seem cool. You need only to look to Slovenia’s entry that same year to appreciate just how good “Rändajad” is.
“Hemel en Aarde” by Edsilia Rombley
Listening to Edsilia Rombley harkens back to Chaka Khan, Anita Baker, and other great female R&B artists of the 1980s. Perhaps that time capsule quality is what kept her from winning the contest in 1998 (the song finished 4th), but this uplifting number is a triumph of songwriting and vocal performance. The brass and string orchestration is a bonus.
“Calm After the Storm” by The Common Linnets
The Common Linnets are a country duo comprised of Ilse DeLange and Waylon, both established country singers in the Netherlands. They went to Copenhagen with an uncompromising low-key country ballad that was lush and gorgeous. Although they ultimately finished 2nd to Austria’s Conchita Wurst, the Common Linnets found themselves in the top ten charts of 16 countries and collected three gold records for their efforts. Not bad for a runner-up.
“Running” by András Kállay-Saunders
“Running” is a stunningly good radio-friendly pop song with probably the darkest subject matter ever addressed in a Grand Prix final (“Dschinghis Khan” notwithstanding). András Kállay-Saunders unflinchingly addresses the story of child abuse with an introspective, restrained vocal. The song arrangement keeps the listener off-kilter with changes in rhythm between verse and refrain. Hungary put together a visually arresting and impressionistic staging, and finished 5th in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.
“Waterloo” by ABBA
What else can you say about the most famous Eurovision of song of all? Other than the fact that it holds up so well forty years on.