Most of the time, when a Eurovision song is revealed, it’s the same version that we eventually hear performed months later on the arena stage, though sometimes big changes are made to songs after they’ve won a national final. But for every “Love Kills”, it seems there are plenty of others that aren’t helped by a remix. We look at the song changes made before Vienna.
Note: we’re not looking at songs that were edited down to under three minutes (like “Grande Amore” or “De la capat”), songs that changed lyrics to another language but kept the music the same (like “Beauty Never Lies”), or song title changes (like “Don’t Deny”/”Face the Shadow”).
1. Belarus: Uzari & Maimuna – “Time”
The version of “Time” that won Eurofest 2015 had a dominant introduction and Maimuna’s violin featured more in the verses. Then two months later a new version of the song was released. It focused on more on Uzari in the first half, and added a stripped-down handclap backing to intensify a later chorus. All up, the new version just made the song a bit punchier and didn’t add anything new. “Time” missed out on qualifying for the final, but came in 12th place in the semi, with 39 points.
2. Cyprus: John Karayiannis – “One Thing I Should Have Done”
There weren’t many changes made between the version that won Giannis the Eurovision Song Project and the one John performed on stage in Vienna. The same simple acoustic arrangement was kept, but near the end of the song some big orchestral flourishes were added to emphasise the emotion. The song made it to the final where it placed 22nd with only 11 points – but it had the unenviable position of directly following “Heroes”.
3. FYR Macedonia: Daniel Kajmakoski – “Esenski Lisja”/”Autumn Leaves”
It was no surprise that Daniel Kajmakoski performed the English version of his song at Eurovision, but that wasn’t the only change. The English version had modern backing music, away from the older-style orchestration of Skopje Fest, and Daniel used R&B backing vocals. But the change didn’t equal good results. FYR Macedonia finished second to last in their semi, with only 28 points.
4. Georgia: Nina Sublatti – “Warrior”
Nina Sublatti won the Georgian national final with her own composition, but Swedish songwriter Thomas G:Son was called in to fine-tune “Warrior”. Thomas and Nina removed the breathy backing vocals, the cheesy keyboard under the chorus, and the meandering Eastern-inspired vocal break, and generally made the song even more oximated. It worked. “Warrior” was a burst of attitude in the slower second half of the final, and it placed 11th, narrowly missing out on a top-ten finish.
5. Ireland: Molly Sterling – “Playing with Numbers”
When Molly Sterling won Eurosong with “Playing with Numbers”, it became obvious to Molly’s co-writer and co-producer Greg French that what worked in the tiny Late Late Show studio might get lost on the giant Wiener Stadthalle stage. The new version ramped up the emotion with drum rolls, cymbal crashes and a strong orchestral accompaniment. But that wasn’t enough to save it and “Playing with Numbers” still felt swamped on the arena stage. The song placed 12th in its semi-final, with 35 points.
6. Malta: Amber – “Warrior”
Amber’s “Warrior” had one of the biggest transformations. The version that took her to victory at MESC had a stripped-down, modern electronic arrangement and Amber’s vocals were loud and powerful the whole way. The new version added a full orchestra to the song and Amber delivered the verses in quieter tones, building to full diva style at the end of the song – anything but minimalist. The new arrangement wasn’t enough to get Malta into the final. It placed 11th in its semi-final, narrowly missing out with 43 points.
7. Portugal: Leonor Andrade – “Há um mar que nos separa”
When Leonor Andrade won Festival da Canção 2015, “Há um mar que nos separa” had a rock sound with faint keyboard. A few weeks later a revamped version of the song came out, toning down the rock sound, adding electronic textures and throwing in some African-inspired chanting on the chorus. Fans agreed that while the original song had needed work, those weren’t the changes anyone had in mind. The song came 14th in its semi-final, managing only 19 points.
8. Switzerland: Mélanie René – “Time to Shine”
After Mélanie René won Die Entscheidungsshow, there was one obvious issue with the song – that cheesy guitar solo. Fortunately Switzerland realised this and by the time the song was performed in Vienna, the guitar solo had been reined in. But despite Mélanie having a strong, expressive voice, her self-empowerment anthem didn’t win over audiences. Switzerland finished last in their heat with only four points – one of their lowest semi-final scores ever.
A curious pattern
We’re noticing a pattern here. Only two of these songs qualified for the grand final. All the other songs that made it to the final were ones that didn’t have any changes made. The pattern repeats itself when you look at the songs that have won Eurovision in recent years – they were all first released in their final version.
Not every country has the resources to ensure all songs entered in a national final are of ESC grand final quality, but it seems some countries are picking national final winners and thinking, “Well, it’s not perfect, but we can fix the song with a remix, right?”
What’s the solution? Well, at its heart Eurovision is a song contest. Putting the emphasis on good songwriting and song production at early stages seems to be the key. Picking a great singer with an average song and hoping it’ll all come right with a remix is taking a risk that usually doesn’t pay off.
Can a remix save an average song? Share your thoughts below.