While sometimes Eurovision can feel dominated by English-language songs, this year there was something of a renaissance for songs in other languages. Following Jamala’s 2016 win with the bilingual “1944”, seven songs ended up in the 2017 grand final with lyrics other than English. But how did they do? Let’s take a look!
Note: For this list, we’re including bilingual songs that include some English, as well as those sung entirely in a non-English language.
7. Spain: Manel Navarro – “Do It for Your Lover”
Languages: Spanish and English
Grand final: 26th (5 points)
“Do It For Your Lover” originally had all-English lyrics, but before the national final, Manel changed the verses to Spanish. But this meant that most Eurovision listeners couldn’t understand the heartfelt lyrics of the verses and just heard the basic, repetitive chorus that urged the audience to “clap your hands and do it for your lover”. It wasn’t successful for Spain. The bilingual “Do It For Your Lover” placed last in the grand final with only five points, all from televoters in neighbouring Portugal.
6. Belarus: Naviband – “Story of My Life”
Grand final: 17th (83 points)
Belarus has been competing in Eurovision since 2004, but this year marked the first time they’d entered a song in Belarusian. The infectiously positive “Story of my Life” smashed through any potential language barriers and had audiences merrily bopping along. Naviband managed to do what Belarus’ previous two English-language entries couldn’t — it qualified for the grand final, where it placed 17th with a decent 83 points.
5. Croatia: Jacques Houdek – “My Friend”
Languages: Italian and English
Grand final: 13th (128 points)
Croatia was the only Balkan country to make it to the grand final but “My Friend” didn’t have any lyrics in Croatian. Instead, flamboyant performer Jacques Houdek used a combination of English and Italian, to represent a pop singer and an opera singer. And it worked — the two Jacques brought Croatia its best result since 2006, 13th place in the grand final with 128 points.
4. France: Alma – “Requiem”
Languages: French and English
Grand final: 12th (135 points)
When Alma and “Requiem” were first confirmed as France’s entry for Kyiv, the song was entirely sung in French. But after a revamp, the version for Eurovision was revealed with an English chorus. Fans were initially apprehensive about the new lyrics, but at the grand final Alma delivered the bilingual song with elegance and mystique. It placed 12th with 135 points, which gave France its third-best result in the past decade.
3. Hungary: Joci Pápai – “Origo”
Grand final: 8th (200 points)
Since the launch of national selection A Dal in 2012, Hungary has never been afraid of selecting songs with melodious Hungarian lyrics. Joci Papai delivered the powerful “Origo”, a song of societal prejudices, God and music which combined traditional Romani style with modern rap. Televoters were especially taken with the performance. “Origo” gave Hungary its third-best ever result, in eighth place with 200 points.
2. Italy: Francesco Gabbani – “Occidentali’s Karma”
Grand final: 6th (334 points)
While “Occidentali’s Karma” had a few words and phrases from other languages, it was by and large an Italian song. The lyrics might have had more meaning to the Sanremo audience, but Francesco Gabbani’s energetic performance (helped out by his ape friend) made the performance popular with viewers. While it didn’t win, as many had expected it to, the song still placed well. It finished sixth, with 334 points.
1. Portugal: Salvador Sobral “Amar pelos dois”
Place: 1st (758 points)
Portugal first competed in Eurovision in 1964, and since then they have always entered with a song in Portuguese. Sometimes there has been another language in the mix, but Portugal has never caved in and gone with a 100% English entry. And for all those decades they’ve been the odd country out, often sending forgettable songs in a language few others in Europe can understand. (Where’s Brazil when you need it?)
But this year, everything went right. “Amar Pelos Dois” was yet another song proudly sung in Portuguese. But this time the song had a strong and sentimental melody. Along with Salvador’s quirky jazz vocal style, the lyrics cut right through the language barrier and touched the hearts of listeners all over Europe. After 53 years, Portugal finally had its first win, with a massive 758 points.
Poll results: What is the best non-English entry at Eurovision 2017?
Earlier we asked wiwbloggs readers to pick their favourite non-English song from 2017 (we didn’t include Croatia’s entry in this poll).
Readers picked Italy’s entry, with 29.07% of the vote going to Francesco Gabbani with “Occidentali’s Karma”. Second place went to France’s Alma with 21.88% of the vote, and third place went to Portugal, where 20.01% of the vote went to Salvador Sobral
- Italy: Francesco Gabbani with “Occidentalli’s Karma” 29.07% (2,164 votes)
- France: Alma with “Requiem” 21.88% (1,629 votes)
- Portugal: Salvador Sobral with “Amar pelos dois” 20.01% (1,490 votes)
- Hungary: Joci Pápai with “Origo” 13.58% (1,011 votes)
- Belarus: Naviband with “Historija mayho zyccia” 11.73% (873 votes)
- Spain: Manel Navarro with “Do it for your lover” 3.73% (278 votes)
What do you think? What was your favourite non-English song? Should more countries send songs in other languages? Share your thoughts below!
Photos: Andres Putting (EBU)