Our beloved Eurovision Song Contest celebrated its sixty-first year in 2016. That means sixty-one years of history of the world largest music competition – a platform for artists the world over to showcase their talents, cultural identities and music to millions upon millions of people each and every year. For some artists, one attempt is enough. For many others, the urge to take on Eurovision is an addiction — or at least a chance for redemption if things didn’t work out the first time around. Today, we go back right to the very beginning to determine which artists had the most successful comebacks in Eurovision history.
There have been 169 occasions when an artist has returned to the competition at least once in a later year. Of these 169 entries, 58 improved on their previous result, 9 equalled their previous result, and a massive 102 failed to do better on their next attempt(s).
For the purpose of this exercise, we decided to include all artists from 1956 to 2016 that have only ever competed as the main performer in their country’s act. This means we have excluded artists who returned as backing vocalists (e.g. Iceland‘s Hera Bjork), competed in pre-qualifying rounds and didn’t actually make it to the Eurovision stage (e.g. FYR Macedonia‘s Kaliopi), artists who returned as musicians (e.g. Albania‘s Bledar Sejko), and artists who previously competed in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest and later returned to the adult contest (e.g. Russia‘s Tolmachevy Sisters). We also based the results on rankings, and not scores.
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COMEBACKS OF ALL TIME
1. Poli Genova (Bulgaria) – Eurovision 2011 to 2016
One of the biggest Eurovision fan favourites, the beautiful Poli Genova from Bulgaria came in like a wrecking ball in Dusseldorf in 2011 with her song “Na Inat”. Fans were gutted after she missed out on a spot in the final, some even calling it the biggest injustice in Eurovision that year. After placing twelfth in her semi final with 48 points and ranking 29th overall, she came back in 2016 hungry for the win. Her song “If Love Was A Crime” became a Euroclub anthem in Stockholm, and even UK commentator Graham Norton claimed that “it’s a song worthy of a top three finish.” After finishing fourth in the final with a massive 307 points, she moved up twenty-five rankings on her return, thus making Poli Genova the most successful comeback of all time.
2. Hanne Krogh of Bobbysocks (Norway) – Eurovision 1971 to 1985
Norway has had some huge successes and quite a number of epic fails to match. After taking a break from the contest in 1970, the nordic powerhouse returned the following year with Hanne Krogh with the song “Lykken er”. The song finished a mere seventeenth place with 65 points. Fourteen years later, Hanne teamed with Elisabeth Andreasson to form Bobbysocks, who went on to win Eurovision 1985 in Gothenburg with their Eurovision classic “La det swinge”. With a difference of fourteen ranking positions, Hanne Krogh of Norway slides into second place.
Tied 3. Camillo Felgen (Luxembourg) – Eurovision 1960 to 1962
Throwing it back old school now to Eurovision 1960. After a brief break from the show, Luxembourg returned to the competition with Camillo Felgen. His first attempt did not produce an ideal result for the former Eurovision powerhouse, placing 13th (a.k.a. last that year) with one point. In an effort to redeem himself, Camillo returned to Eurovision in 1962 to a home crowd, and placed a modest third place with his French chanson “Petit bonhomme”. Sadly, Camillo Felgen passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on as the third most successful comeback of all time.
Tied 3. Cheryl Baker of Co-Co and Bucks Fizz (United Kingdom) – Eurovision 1978 to 1981
Brining it back to the land of coloured TV is the United Kingdom‘s Cheryl Baker. Originally participating as a band member in Co-Co at Eurovision 1978 placing eleventh, she returned as a member of Bucks Fizz at Eurovision 1981 in Dublin and went on to win the contest with the smash hit “Making Your Mind Up”. With an increase of ten rankings, Cheryl Baker is tied as the third most successful comeback in Eurovision history.
Tied 5. Mia Martini (Italy) – Eurovision 1977 to 1992; Sebnem Paker (Turkey) – Eurovision 1996 to 1997; Valentina Monetta (San Marino) – Eurovision 2012 to 2013
Fifth place for the most successful Eurovision comebacks is shared among three amazing artists spanning five decades. The first is Mia Martini from Italy. After competing in Eurovision 1977 with “Libera”, she placed thirteenth out of eighteen countries. Fifteen years later, she competed at Eurovision 1992 in Malmö with her song “Rapsodia” and finished fourth out of twenty-three countries.
The second artist to tie for fifth is Sebnem Paker from Turkey. Her entry at Eurovision 1996 faired mid-table in the final, placing twelfth out of twenty-three countries in the final. Her return the following year was met with far more success. Her entry for Eurovision 1997 in Dublin, “Dinle”, placed a respectable third, giving Turkey their third most successful result behind Sertab Erener in 2003 and maNga in 2010.
Lucky last in the fifth place group is the beloved Valentina Monetta from San Marino. Although she competed at Eurovision for three consecutive years in 2012, 2013 and 2014 – the latter gaining her a place in the final – it was the jump in rankings from 2012 to 2013 that have seen Valentina gain this spot in the most successful comebacks. Her 2012 effort in Baku saw her place thirty-sixth out of forty-two countries. However, her song “Crisalide (Vola)” in 2013, which was a fan favourite, narrowly missed a place in the final. A ranking of twenty-seventh out of thirty-nine countries sees Valentina tie for fifth place.
Special shout out: Helena Paparizou (Greece) – Eurovision 2001 to Eurovision 2005
Our ranking system looks at absolute differences in rankings, which is a good general indicator. But obviously it’s problematic when an act moves from, say third place to first place, as Helena Paparizou did. In 2001 she and fierce girl group Antique placed third for Greece with their sexy number “Die For You”. And then she came back as a solo artist in 2005 and won it all with “My Number 1”. That’s just a two-place difference…but it’s two places TO THE TOP.
Other Eurovision acts that either improved or equaled their previous ranking include some of Eurovision’s biggest names, including Greece’s Anna Vissi, Switzerland’s Lys Assia, FYR Macedonia’s Karolina Goceva, Lithuania’s Donny Montell, Sweden’s Carola, Ireland’s Linda Martin, Malta’s Chiara, Russia’s Dima Bilan, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Dino Merlin, Austria’s Udo Jurgens and Ireland’s Johnny Logan.
What are your favourite and least favourite Eurovision comebacks of all time? Let us know in the comments section below.