As the Rio 2016 Olympics dominate headlines, athletes who didn’t quite make it to the Games are feeling the sting of coming close but not quite close enough. But take heart! As these three Eurovision 2016 artists show, losing at home one year can set the stage for a future win or selection at home — and then success on the international stage.
Jamala (Ukraine 2011)
Jamala made her first attempt to represent Ukraine in 2011 with the song “Smile”. With her Retro-Pop number and bluesy vocal, she quickly became a crowd favourite. As uplifting and endearing as Jamala is, the refrain sounds like nails down a chalkboard to me. But hey: The song came from her début album, so in that sense her artistry had yet to blossom. The stylistic transformation couldn’t have been any greater between this and the stunning “1944”, sung in 2016.
Musically the latter feels a lot closer to her heart than the Retro-American soundbite above. Could she have topped Mika Newton’s fourth place at Eurovision that year? She bided her time and the rest is history.
Sergey Lazarev (Russia 2008)
Similar to Jamala, Sergey’s first shot at representing his country was early in his career. In a David versus Goliath standoff, he went up against famed heartthrob Dima Bilan, who sought to avenge finishing as runner-up at Eurovision 2006. Sergey’s vocals weren’t the best — they were disguised heavily by the prerecorded vocal — and the production even for 2008 sounds several years past its sell-by date.
It still proved to be a launch pad. In subsequent years he bolstered his profile in Russia and sold millions of records in the process. Beloved by millions, his popularity and showmanship led Russia’s state broadcaster to internally select him for Eurovision 2016. Not only did he have a bigger budget behind him, but also the right people. His so-called “dream team” included composer Filip Kirkorov, songwriter Dimitris Kontopoulos and choreographer Fokas Evangelinos, who helped Sergey climb all the way to third place in Stockholm. Time and money well spent!
Zoe (Austria 2015)
Quel chance indeed. Unlike Jamala or Sergey, who experienced seismic improvements in quality, Zoe’s 2015 effort “Quel Filou” holds up to her 2016 entry “Loin d’ici”. It’s very French, quite traditional and in terms of image there’s a distinct 1920’s backstreets of Paris vibe going on. The camera work is effective with plenty of close cuts and Zoe herself shows oodles of charm, arguably making her a more justified winner than the Makemakes.
How would it have slotted into the highly competitive 2015 lineup? And crucially would it have trumped her 13th place finish in 2016?
Minus One, Agnete and Lidia Isac all made it to the contest after more than one attempt, albeit to a lesser degree of success than the above examples. Feel free to offer your opinions on the entries that got away. Could they have succeeded on the Eurovision stage or is it best that they didn’t get the call up?