Summer is here and with each passing week the Eurovision 2018 national final season is getting closer. Most of us are already planning our trip to Lisbon and eagerly awaiting what next year has in store. However, it’s always nice to take a stroll down memory lane and look at national finals from the past and what they had to offer.
As y’all know, the “right” song winning each national final is a matter of taste (and heated debate). Every year there always seems to be at least a few non-selected songs that could have potentially gone on to win Eurovision if they survived the blood bath at home. Let’s take a look at ten of the ones that got away.
1. Blár Ópal with “Stattu upp” – Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins 2012
Greta and Jónsi proudly represented Iceland in Baku, but the runner-up from Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins 2012, the boyband Blár Ópal, were decent competition. “Stattu upp” was a dance track with a capital D, and the band had brief success after the national finals.
What if “Never forget” had lost and this song, in Icelandic with a rap part, had gone to Azerbaijan? Would they have met the same fate as the Austrian Trackshittaz and placed last in their semi? Rap has never had much success at Eurovision, especially with non-English lyrics. But still we wonder: Deal or no deal?
2. Hotel FM with “Come as one” – Selectia Nationala 2010
The Romanian powerhouse duo Ovi and Paula fired things up in Oslo in 2010, placing third after Lena and MaNga. “Playing with Fire” has become an evergreen among Eurovision fans, and what a great song it was (and is)! But what if Hotel FM, their successor in 2011, had won Selectia Nationala with their beautiful ballad “Come as One”?
The song, written by Gabriel Baruta and Alexandra Ivan, came in fourth that year. It delivers a strong eco-message, as well as complex vocal harmonies. It’s difficult to say where the song would have placed, but that does not change the fact that “Come as One” is one solid ballad performed with feeling. All you want to do is to hug David Bryan and tell him that everything will be okay.
3. Sunstroke Project & DJ Michael Ra with “Day After Day” – O melodie pentru Europa 2015
Sunstroke Project sans Olia Tira had a comeback in the Moldovan national finals in 2015. People (yours truly included) got all fired up. Epic Sax Guy had a chance at another epic performance in Eurovision! And a new generation of ESC lovers had the opportunity to feast their ears on Sergey’s amazing voice! What could possible go wrong?
Enter Eduard Romanyuta. Some artists at O melodie pentru Europa 2015 were furious, and so were many fans, over his victory. But those were the results, and Europe was denied of the joy that is Sunstroke Project. Eduard failed to take Moldova to the finals — something that Sunstroke Project would have done easily. “Day After Day” might not be as epic as “Run Away” and “Hey Mamma”, but still. Thankfully good things do come to those who wait and Sunstroke Project wrote their name in the Eurovision history book by returning in 2017 and giving Moldova its best result ever! Revenge is sweet.
4. Hungry Hearts feat. Lisa Dillan with “Laika” – Melodi Grand Prix 2016
One does not make a list like this without the Hungry Hearts! Agnete may have won MGP in 2016, but it was this group of lesbian space cowgirls and their cosmonaut dog who truly captured the hearts of Europe. A wacky performance and an oddly satisfying song, it left fans chanting “The streets of Moscow with my girlfriend”. I say that the Hungry Hearts were robbed.
Sorry, Agnete — you did a great job and your performance was perfect, but I have to go with my hungry heart on this one. Laika was an epic song and still is. Plus, the band touched my boobs in Stockholm during The Wiwi Jam and for a split second, I seriously considered changing sides. Hungry Hearts FTW. Always.
5. Muri & Mario with “To Stjerner” – Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016
Last year DGMP gave us “Soldiers of Love” — an unexpected winner that ultimately failed to make the Eurovision final. The Danes — such massive trolls! “Oh, you like Simone and her heart-shaped box? That is so cute! But we’re gonna go with this one!”
However, with all due respect to Simone and Lighthouse X, it was Muri & Mario who took my breath away with their ever-so-delightful “To Stjerner”. An upbeat tune in Danish with a warm, cuddly feeling, “To Stjerner” has its rightful place on my playlist, and will never leave it. Ever.
6. Faun with “Hörst du die Trommeln” – Unser Song fur Österreich 2015
Aah, Unser Song fur Österreich. The national finals that stopped hearts across the continent when the winner said: “Nah, not up for it. Give it to Ann Sophie!” and then walked off stage, leaving Ann Sophie and Germany in a state of “What the fudge just happened?!” What a great year. But those national finals were amazing!
So, so many good songs, but my favourite would have to be the pagan folk band Faun and this outstanding song. I was rooting for them all the way, but me and the German public don’t see eye to eye. Like, never (hello Avantasia!). Andreas Kummert won and then Ann Sophie went to Vienna, and the rest is history. Faun would have scored higher — I’m certain of it. How can anyone frown upon a masterpiece like “Hörst du die Trommeln”? Ann Sophie rocked in her onesie on stage, but Faun would have rocked more.
7. Nika Zorjan with “Fse” – EMA 2017
Okay, so Omar Naber got another shot of getting Slovenia into the finals on Ukrainian soil. And he failed. Bless his heart. But what if Nika Zorjan had gone to Kyiv, with the powerful “Fse”, which was written and composed by everyone’s favourite ESC couple Maaraaya?
Things might have taken a different turn, because although “On My Way” was Omar’s heartfelt and personal journey to self-improvement and the vocals were spot on, Nika should have been the obvious choice for Slovenia, considering that she had everything going for her. A good song, a beautiful voice and a memorable performance. But alas, the Slovenian juries were determined to give Omar a second chance, and therefore we will never know if Nika could have been responsible for Slovenia returning to the final.
8. Mick Pedaja with “Seis” – Eesti Laul 2016
I love Juri Pootsman and I adore “Play”, but he finished last. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that things might have taken a different turn with Mick. “Seis” is just so dreamy and hypnotising and Mick is simply out of this world.
When listening to this song, I always find myself drifting away to a safe place, where there is nothing but tall trees and silence, and nothing bad can happen in that place. Am I making sense here? Or maybe “Seis” would have been lost. I don’t know. A brilliant song, nonetheless. One of the great ones.
9. Jon Henrik Fjällgren with “Jag är fri (Manne leam friije)” – Melodifestivalen 2015
Joik, the traditional form of singing among the Sami people, doesn’t show up at ESC very often. But Jon Henrik, a Swedish Sami of Colombian descent, brought the genre to Melodifestivalen through this powerful and gorgeous song. And — if one remembers the voting procedure — he gave Måns some tough competition for first place.
Sweden may not have ended up as the winner with this one at Eurovision, but hot damn, I love this song! I love it more than “Heroes”. Sorry, Måns. It’s a guaranteed goosebump ride every single time. I have a thing for traditional music of all countries, and this song and Jon Henrik’s voice are rare and wonderful gems.
10. Mikael Saari with “On It Goes” – UMK 2016
ESC fans frequently feel broken-hearted during national final season, but rarely with such force as at UMK 2016. It was there that fan favourite Mikael Saari was left behind as Sandhja swooped in and grabbed the ticket to Stockholm. Saara Aalto, another fan favourite with a strong stage show for “No Fear”, also missed out.
Sandhja really was fun and giddy and just loved life, but still crashed out in the semis. I might be off the charts here, but I am fairly certain that the results would have been different. Finland would have gone to the finals without trouble, and probably straight to the top ten. We’ll never know though, but it’s fun to imagine.
What are your thoughts? Would these songs have been better choices for Eurovision? What national final songs do you think were robbed? Share your comments below!