May 2012. Fresh from defeat, the people behind San Marino’s entry meet in the Eurovision Bunker. San Marino needs a new song, producer and artist to take Eurovision glory and prove the rest of Europe wrong.
Then someone has a better idea: send Valentina Monetta, again. With one year they can mould a one-woman weapon targeted at Malmö. A spot in the final will not elude the Sammarinese this time. Fast forward a year and Baku is forgotten. Europe will regret ever doubting La Repubblica.
But something goes catastrophically wrong. Despite being a fan favourite—and placing second with the 2013 Wiwi Jury—Valentina fails to qualify for the final. Only now does it dawn on the team from San Marino that returning an artist wasn’t that innovative an idea to begin with.
Each year, Eurovision is a case of out with the old and in with the new. The location and image change and a new group of artists gather, determined to win the Contest. But among the new, there are normally a few familiar faces. Artists may return to improve on their last performance, or perhaps to capitalize upon the popularity gained in their previous appearance. Most commonly, though, artists return because they have won once, and believe they can do so again, most famously Johnny Logan for Ireland in 1980 and 1987.
Sending an artist again can be an astute move, especially if they were successful without actually winning. Russia’s Dima Bilan in 2008 is an excellent example. His Second Place finish in 2006 was a set back, but he returned in 2008 with a stronger song, and more memorable staging to deliver victory for Russia. More recently Zeljko Joksimovic in 2012, Sakis Rouvas in 2009, and Chiara in 2005 all benefitted from previous appearances to achieve success. Sweden’s Carola must be among the best example of the merits of returning an artist, delivering one Winning Song and two Top Five entries.
Returning an artist can be a poisoned chalice, though. It’s quite telling that beyond Johnny Logan nobody has won the Contest twice. Lena in 2011 earned a respectable 10th Place finish, but Dana International also returned and received an ecstatic reception for ‘Ding Dong’, only to fail to qualify. Even qualifying for the final doesn’t ensure success, as Charlotte Perrelli and Niamh Kavanagh learned to their cost in 2008 and 2010.
Returning artists can also lose their appeal. Jedward’s 2011 success owed to the novelty factor more than vocal ability. In 2012, the Russian Grannies stole their novelty. Although they faired well in the televoting, the juries were bored, and left them in an unimpressive 19th Place. Chiara too suffered from Eurovision fatigue in 2009. Third time around the Maltese magic had worn off, landing her in 22nd place.
To win with a returning artist, the artist it seems cannot be a former winner. They need to have placed impressively on the scoreboard, won over viewers and (increasingly today) the juries. Crucially they must return with a better song and staging. With that in mind, who should re-enter?
Firstly, Yohanna for Iceland – unfairly overshadowed by the Rybak, her gorgeous vocals could take us all to Iceland for the first time. Secondly, Gaitana for Ukraine given a deeper song could return the Contest to Kiev. If Greece ever resolves its economy, Kalomoira would be an amazing choice – given another ethnic-dance hit. Lastly, after ‘Swedish Pop Voices’ Sweden should send Darin & Agnes as a duet. The Duo wowed the crowd in Malmö and it was the Swedes who wrote ‘Running Scared’ – when the Swedes are ready to host again, they should give these two a call!
Which artists do you want to see return to the Eurovision stage?
Photo: Sander Hesterman (EBU)