Switzerland has released the audio of its entries, and countries from Ukraine to Latvia have leaked details of their participation at Eurovision 2013. As participating countries figure out how to win Eurovision next year, here’s a simple guide to making the Top 10. Note: These rules don’t apply to Spain and Greece, who should probably just focus on raising money to send someone (anyone) to Malmö

The first thing to keep in mind is that ESC is incredibly competitive. Everyone makes fun of it. Everyone denigrates it saying it’s a bubble gum pop factory. But it’s not. An act has to be incredibly good and countries have to pick acts that respect that. Gimmicks don’t win Eurovision.

Let’s start with what not to do.

Russia’s Buranovskiye Babushki

1. Do not copy Sweden’s Loreen or Russia’s Buranovskiye Babushki. Every year a couple of countries copy the previous year’s winner and that never works. Singing grannies once is marginally cute. Ten singing granny acts next year will have people running for the exits. Loreen was amazing and unique. Ten Loreen clones with ten wind machines? Not so much.

2. Do not send anyone back again. Jedward were better this year than last, but voters do not respond well to someone they saw the previous year. ESC rewards the new and different (unlike most pop music where listeners keep purchasing similar songs regurgitated by the same artists).

3. Do not send has-beens who want to resurrect their careers (U.K. – are you listening?). Every year the U.K. and occasionally one or two other countries send acts that are past their prime, acts that have retired, or acts that have not done anything new in decades. Placeholders never do well.

4. Do not send some totally out-there act (sometimes known as a “gimmick”). Yes it worked well for Russia this year. But more often it’s a good way to end up in last place (or second to last, just ahead of the U.K.).

5. Don’t have a song similar to a neighboring country. Cyprus and Greece both had really good acts in 2012 that were very similar – and so they split the vote. (But not in our Eurovision Death Match Poll).

6. Do not have an accordion in the act.

Now let’s turn to what acts should do.

1. The artist needs to be incredibly talented. Look at the top entries this year (Russia excluded) – absolutely amazing talent. The ESC vote, especially the judges, strongly rewards raw talent. Even the Albanians who glue dreadlocks to their breasts.

2. The act should be little known outside of its home country. ESC voters are looking for something a little different, and a familiar face simply is not different. This is why returning acts always do poorly – everyone has seen them before. (This is also why established pop artists—hello Blue!—finish below expectations at ESC.)

3. The act should be pop/something, not just pop. Loreen did pop/techno. A number of top acts did pop/ballads. Italy had what could be described as pop/jazz. It needs to be mixed up a little. Valentina Monetta just did pop, and we all know how that ended.

Sweden’s Loreen plays in the snow at Eurovision 2012

4. Keep the staging simple. Loreen had one of the more complex numbers of recent winners, and while there was a lot to it, it still came across as a very simple, almost stark, presentation.

5. The act needs to be original and different (but not too different). Even for a soloist, the best ones tend to present it a bit differently from before.

6. The song has to reach the viewers. Grab hold of them, reach deep into their soul, and not let go (at least until the voting is over).

At the end of the day only one act can come in first. And 42 countries cannot all make the final. But ESC does reward the best acts. The best example of this in 2012 was Moldova’s Pasha Parfeny. He sang really well, was unknown before Eurovision, and presented a seriously different pop/ballad. His stage act (lots of stoned cavewomen) was more complex (which I think hurt them), and the song did not grab you emotionally the way Pastora Soler’s did. But 11th place is very impressive, and well deserved.

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9 years ago

I wouldn’t exactly say Greece and Cyprus had very similar songs in 2012 when Wiwibloggs mentioned ‘Don’t have a song similar to a neighboring country’.

Cyprus’ entry “La La Love” was an uptempo dance track that has the potential to do very well commercially (It certainly did, especially in Sweden). “Aphrodisiac” was an uptempo pop song that you usually expect from Greece, especially as they won the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest with an uptempo pop song.

I agree that both countries had really good acts in 2012 but certainly not similar!

David Thielen
9 years ago

Katrina & the Waves resurrected their career? When?

9 years ago

Well, i don’t agree with the fact of artist that use Eurovision to resurrect their careers (Katrina & the Waves is the perfect example of an artist that did well resurrecting her career with eurovision).

9 years ago

The ‘Do not send has-beens who want to resurrect their careers’ is very much impossible for the U.K. I’m afraid.

The British music industry wouldn’t even touch the Eurovision Song Contest with a barge pole as they ALWAYS see it as career suicide.

Sadly, the U.K. will have to compete with very limited resources and they’re stuck with the unknowns and has-beens. So if Europe’s thinking the likes of Adele, Rita Ora or Ed Sheeran, forget it!

However, the U.K. DID have the occasional success using an unknown singer, with Jessica Garlick in 2002 and Jade Ewen in 2009.

9 years ago

Hahaha! Love the list! But why no accordion :o? It worked well for Serduchka! Even if it was not on stage ;o

Adam from California, USA
Adam from California, USA
9 years ago

I will still never understand why Anggun who sung “Echo (You and I)” didn’t place better. The song was great, her voice was wonderful. Perhaps if she had used the guys in the video dressed up as soldiers as opposed to those guys doing gymnastics all over the stage would have helped but that’s still no reason for her to come in last via the televoting.