Our beloved Eurovision Song Contest celebrated its sixty-first year in 2016. That means sixty-one years of history of the world largest music competition – a platform for artists the world over to showcase their talents, cultural identities and music to millions upon millions of people each and every year. For some artists, one attempt is enough. For many others, the urge to take on Eurovision is an addiction — or at least a chance for redemption if things didn’t work out the first time around. Today, we go back right to the very beginning to determine which artists had the most successful comebacks in Eurovision history.

There have been 169 occasions when an artist has returned to the competition at least once in a later year. Of these 169 entries, 58 improved on their previous result, 9 equalled their previous result, and a massive 102 failed to do better on their next attempt(s).

For the purpose of this exercise, we decided to include all artists from 1956 to 2016 that have only ever competed as the main performer in their country’s act. This means we have excluded artists who returned as backing vocalists (e.g. Iceland‘s Hera Bjork), competed in pre-qualifying rounds and didn’t actually make it to the Eurovision stage (e.g. FYR Macedonia‘s Kaliopi), artists who returned as musicians (e.g. Albania‘s Bledar Sejko), and artists who previously competed in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest and later returned to the adult contest (e.g. Russia‘s Tolmachevy Sisters). We also based the results on rankings, and not scores.

THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COMEBACKS OF ALL TIME

1. Poli Genova (Bulgaria) – Eurovision 2011 to 2016

One of the biggest Eurovision fan favourites, the beautiful Poli Genova from Bulgaria came in like a wrecking ball in Dusseldorf in 2011 with her song “Na Inat”. Fans were gutted after she missed out on a spot in the final, some even calling it the biggest injustice in Eurovision that year. After placing twelfth in her semi final with 48 points and ranking 29th overall, she came back in 2016 hungry for the win. Her song “If Love Was A Crime” became a Euroclub anthem in Stockholm, and even UK commentator Graham Norton claimed that “it’s a song worthy of a top three finish.” After finishing fourth in the final with a massive 307 points, she moved up twenty-five rankings on her return, thus making Poli Genova the most successful comeback of all time.

2. Hanne Krogh of Bobbysocks (Norway) – Eurovision 1971 to 1985

Norway has had some huge successes and quite a number of epic fails to match. After taking a break from the contest in 1970, the nordic powerhouse returned the following year with Hanne Krogh with the song “Lykken er”. The song finished a mere seventeenth place with 65 points. Fourteen years later, Hanne teamed with Elisabeth Andreasson to form Bobbysocks, who went on to win Eurovision 1985 in Gothenburg with their Eurovision classic “La det swinge”. With a difference of fourteen ranking positions, Hanne Krogh of Norway slides into second place.

Tied 3. Camillo Felgen (Luxembourg) – Eurovision 1960 to 1962

Throwing it back old school now to Eurovision 1960. After a brief break from the show, Luxembourg returned to the competition with Camillo Felgen. His first attempt did not produce an ideal result for the former Eurovision powerhouse, placing 13th (a.k.a. last that year) with one point. In an effort to redeem himself, Camillo returned to Eurovision in 1962 to a home crowd, and placed a modest third place with his French chanson “Petit bonhomme”. Sadly, Camillo Felgen passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on as the third most successful comeback of all time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7oiuG6fzwg

Tied 3. Cheryl Baker of Co-Co and Bucks Fizz (United Kingdom) – Eurovision 1978 to 1981

Brining it back to the land of coloured TV is the United Kingdom‘s Cheryl Baker. Originally participating as a band member in Co-Co at Eurovision 1978 placing eleventh, she returned as a member of Bucks Fizz at Eurovision 1981 in Dublin and went on to win the contest with the smash hit “Making Your Mind Up”. With an increase of ten rankings, Cheryl Baker is tied as the third most successful comeback in Eurovision history.

Tied 5. Mia Martini (Italy) – Eurovision 1977 to 1992; Sebnem Paker (Turkey) – Eurovision 1996 to 1997; Valentina Monetta (San Marino) – Eurovision 2012 to 2013

Fifth place for the most successful Eurovision comebacks is shared among three amazing artists spanning five decades. The first is Mia Martini from Italy. After competing in Eurovision 1977 with “Libera”, she placed thirteenth out of eighteen countries. Fifteen years later, she competed at Eurovision 1992 in Malmö with her song “Rapsodia” and finished fourth out of twenty-three countries.

The second artist to tie for fifth is Sebnem Paker from Turkey. Her entry at Eurovision 1996 faired mid-table in the final, placing twelfth out of twenty-three countries in the final. Her return the following year was met with far more success. Her entry for Eurovision 1997 in Dublin, “Dinle”, placed a respectable third, giving Turkey their third most successful result behind Sertab Erener in 2003 and maNga in 2010.

Lucky last in the fifth place group is the beloved Valentina Monetta from San Marino. Although she competed at Eurovision for three consecutive years in 2012, 2013 and 2014 – the latter gaining her a place in the final – it was the jump in rankings from 2012 to 2013 that have seen Valentina gain this spot in the most successful comebacks. Her 2012 effort in Baku saw her place thirty-sixth out of forty-two countries. However, her song “Crisalide (Vola)” in 2013, which was a fan favourite, narrowly missed a place in the final. A ranking of twenty-seventh out of thirty-nine countries sees Valentina tie for fifth place.

Special shout out: Helena Paparizou (Greece) – Eurovision 2001 to Eurovision 2005

Our ranking system looks at absolute differences in rankings, which is a good general indicator. But obviously it’s problematic when an act moves from, say third place to first place, as Helena Paparizou did. In 2001 she and fierce girl group Antique placed third for Greece with their sexy number “Die For You”. And then she came back as a solo artist in 2005 and won it all with “My Number 1”. That’s just a two-place difference…but it’s two places TO THE TOP.

Other Eurovision acts that either improved or equaled their previous ranking include some of Eurovision’s biggest names, including Greece’s Anna Vissi, Switzerland’s Lys Assia, FYR Macedonia’s Karolina Goceva, Lithuania’s Donny Montell, Sweden’s Carola, Ireland’s Linda Martin, Malta’s Chiara, Russia’s Dima Bilan, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Dino Merlin, Austria’s Udo Jurgens and Ireland’s Johnny Logan.

What are your favourite and least favourite Eurovision comebacks of all time? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Panagiotis
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Panagiotis

HELENA PAPARIZOU – MY NUMBER ONE, the best comeback, one of the best winners and Songs, love it! ????

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

@an esc fan Poli’s dress was ‘lit’ x’D

an esc fan
Guest
an esc fan

Poli had a good song, but worst dress. Croatia and Bulgaria were trying too hard, and is awful.
In 2015, Nadav Guedj from Israel did the chicken dance, but his legs did not look like accolades ( ) .
Hope next year we will just see nice , wearable outfits.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

Queen Sebnem Paker omg. She was so ROBBED in 1997.

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

There can only be one winner in this category. Not even close. Johnny Logan!
He won. Then he won again. You can’t really do better than that, and nobody ever has. The end.

Charles
Guest
Charles

… I can’t stop noticing that no video link was posted for the legendary Mia Martini and instead we get as predictable the same old boring Gloria-Gaynor-wannabe-song from San Marino that for reason fans still love and cry about … Well at least we get to see a 60s performance and the amusing Bobbysocks to just to remind us all that there was life and Eurovision before Dana International decided to show up and turned this upside down.

Alenn
Guest
Alenn

And Danijela (6th in 1995 with Magazin, 5th on 1998).
Also, Constantinos Christoforou (Cyprus 1996, 9th place, 2002 with One, 6th place).
Actually, the list could go on and on and on… Anyway, I like these kinds of lists, they make a great read for the Eurovision “off-season”! Are you going to make another one, with those who came back and flopped (Dana, Edsilia, Chiara-3rd time, Perrelli, Niam Kavanagh, Elitsa & Stoyan etc.)?

Alenn
Guest
Alenn

Also, Doris Dragovic should be mentioned (Yugoslavia 1986-11th place, Croatia 1999-4th place)

Alenn
Guest
Alenn

@an esc fan:

Exactly, this list is about those who made that ‘big jump’. Dima Bilan should be in a different list, which would also include Chiara, Helena and Carola.

Ern
Guest
Ern

Poli would have done even better than 3rd place had she worn a better dress.

what
Guest
what

Lys Assia ? Seriously ? Also, Chiara and Dima Bilan should’ve been mentionned (at least). 😉

an esc fan
Guest
an esc fan

No.1 should be Dima Bilan, but I don’t know the criteria, place 2 in 2006, and place 1 in 2008, is not a big jump, and maybe that is why he was not included.

Red
Guest
Red

Chiara from Malta should have been given a special shoutout as well, in my opinion. That woman’s voice and her songs are amazing. I really hope she does come back for a fourth time and hopefully finally come first.

1998-3rd
2005- 2nd

ESCFan
Guest
ESCFan

She was robbed in 2010 🙁 Poli should have won eurovision 2016 – I still get goosebumps listening to her song.

I want Amber (Malta) to have an amazing comeback 🙁

Davve
Guest
Davve

Polis song in 2011 was not bad, but weak. And it was not a winnee song. She came back with a modern song and did great! Good for her!

Davve
Guest
Davve

Havent you forgotten Dima Bilan @wiwibloggs?

Alenn
Guest
Alenn

@Josh Salmon:

No problem 🙂
Come to think of it, 1993 and 1996 were much different than the regular semi-finals we have today, the eliminated artists never got to perform on the actual Eurovision stage, so it makes sense to leave them out.

YoungsterJoey
Guest
YoungsterJoey

I quite liked this article. It’s something different compared to other “lists.”

Kohlibri
Guest
Kohlibri

Udo Jürgens should be on this list too :O

Alenn
Guest
Alenn

And there was also that Romanian singer, Monica Anghel, who finished dead last (29th) in 1996, but then she came back in 2002 and finished 9th (20 places up).

Alenn
Guest
Alenn

Shouldn’t Kaliopi be on the list? From 26th in the 1996 pre-qualifying round, she went on to finish 13th in 2012. (13 places up)