We continue to look at all the countries currently competing in the Eurovision Song Contest and why we love them — for all the right (and sometimes wrong) reasons. Today, we take a trip to the Alps and look at Switzerland, in their long and very mixed history at the contest.
Switzerland is the original home of Eurovision, with Swiss broadcasting executive Marcel Bezençon launching the contest in Lugano, a city in the south of his home country. Through their many years in the contest, they’ve produced very mixed results and some of the contest’s biggest and most memorable moments. They’ve had less success in recent years, but we’ll never stop loving the white cross at Eurovision! Here’s 10 reasons why we love Switzerland at the Eurovision Song Contest!
1. The original host and winner
Way back in 1956, Switzerland had already left their mark on the contest. The Teatro Kursaal in Lugano, in Italian-speaking Switzerland, was where our beloved event first started on 24 May 1956. Only seven countries participated, and each got to send two songs. The host nation sent a song in German “Das alte Karussell” and in French “Refrain“, both performed by Lys Assia. Though the full results were never released, “Refrain” was declared the winner, and Lys Assia became the Grande Dame of Eurovision. Most of the television footage has since been lost, but thankfully we can still see the gorgeous Lys Assia, then aged 26, performing the winner’s reprise. Already making Eurovision history!
2. Another Eurovision superstar
To us Eurovision fans, Lys Assia is a big enough name in itself. But, 32 years later, Switzerland went one better. In 1988, a 20-year-old Canadian singer named Céline Dion won the Swiss national final, beating Furbaz into second place. She then represented the country in Dublin, singing the dramatic ballad “Ne partez pas sans moi”. Her stellar voice and passion won her the trophy, beating the British Scott Fitzgerald by a mere one point. This propelled the Canadian — who then was only known in the French-speaking world — to international superstardom. She has since won five Grammy Awards and sold well over 200 million albums. She is the most successful Canadian musician of all time and maintains an honoured place in Swiss Eurovision history.
3. Working all those languages
Switzerland is one of the most multi-lingual countries in the world, with an impressive four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. And all of them have had songs representing Switzerland at Eurovision. French is the most popular language, featuring in most of their entries and both winners, but the others have also had their share of stage time. Some songs even featured two of their official languages. In 1989, when Switzerland hosted the contest, they sent the only song to be written in Romansh: “Viver senza tei” by Furbaz. While it didn’t exactly have the same success as Céline Dion, it’s still a special moment for those lovers of language!
4. They wanted us to celebrate and clap our hands
For all those high points in Eurovision history, Switzerland also covered the other end of the spectrum. In 2004, Piero and the Music Stars sent us what is possibly the least successful song in contest history. In a 22-song semi-final and with 33 countries voting, “Celebrate” ended up finishing last with nul points. This wasn’t for a lack of enthusiasm, as Piero and his backing dancers all danced so much that they ran out of breath by the final chorus. It was a low moment for Switzerland, but we can’t help but love the cheesiness and the lovably third-rate song. Celebrate, oh celebrate! Have a wonderful time!
5. They’re not afraid of bringing in the big names
Switzerland may have created stars, but they’re also not afraid of bringing in already-established big names to the contest. After flopping hard in 2004, they sent for Estonian girl rock band Vanilla Ninja. Their emo rock song “Cool Vibes” was a true trailblazer for its time, and earned Switzerland their first top-ten finish in over a decade. The next year, they formed the international supergroup six4one, featuring Andreas Lundstedt of Alcazar and famous Bosnian opera singer and TV star Tinka Milinovic, amongst others. And, the year after that, they sent for one of the most successful Swiss musicians, DJ BoBo. His song “Vampires Are Alive” was a hot favourite in 2007 and, despite not living up to its hype, remains a fan favourite.
6. They know how to make a fan favourite
From “Vampires Are Alive” and “Era stupendo” last decade, to “Apollo” and “Stones” this decade, Switzerland can really excite the fans. Often the love of these songs is never shown on the scoreboard, but that won’t stop our playlists being filled with Swiss goodness. And, if true success is measured in love, Switzerland is very successful indeed.
7. A true “can do” attitude
Since the turn of the century, Switzerland has had a less than stellar record. Vanilla Ninja in 2005 scored their only top-ten placing. In total, they’ve been seen in the grand final only four times. So much disappointment could leave a country not bothering to put any effort in, or simply withdrawing altogether. Not Switzerland. They never give up. After four years of failing to qualify despite sending quality entries, they got their taste of success in 2011; qualifying in tenth place despite a hotly contested semi-final. And, three years later, their effort finally landed them on the top half of the scoreboard. It’s true that their most recent entries probably didn’t get nearly enough points as they should have, but we know that Switzerland has it in them, and with them switching things up for 2019, we’re very excited.
8. That gritty pop-rock goodness
Who can resist mentioning their latest entry? The sister-brother duo ZiBBZ were one of the first acts chosen for Lisbon, but their kickass song “Stones” was a true fan favourite. Despite being ignored by the bookies for months, the odds shortened after the rehearsals and everyone was praying for a dark horse. It didn’t happen in the end, possibly due to it being in one of the toughest semi-finals in history, but they still gave a killer performance that we’ll be replaying for years.
9. Those costume choices
As hit-and-miss as they’ve been with results, the same is very true of the outfits. Sometimes, they really get it right. Mélanie René looked spectacular in her flowing white dress and black dress — costume reveal included! Takasa also looked sharp in their ties, and Coco Gfeller from ZiBBZ sported a crimson hat and cowboy boots that we loved. Sometimes, however, they don’t get it right at all. Despite creating plenty of hype, it can’t be argued that Timebelle’s lack of success came from Miruna’s unnecessarily flamboyant yellow outfit. Rykka‘s dress was compared to the skin of a sausage. And even Céline Dion couldn’t escape the fashion with her jacket and tutu combo. At least the Swiss outfits are always memorable.
10. Lys Assia
Only one person could really finish off this list. The wonderful, late Lys Assia was always the true sweetheart of Eurovision. She represented Switzerland twice more after claiming the first Eurovision trophy, singing songs in German, French and Italian. Over 50 years later, she was back at it, attempting to represent Switzerland both in 2012 and 2013. She’s always been a true fan of the contest, being in an honoured guest and giving her list of favourites every year. When Petra Mede asked her in 2013 at how she looked so beautiful for her advanced age, she replied, “the music, my fans, the people. You have to get out to do Eurovision, then you can live”. She sadly passed away, aged 94, on 24 March 2018. Mme. Assia, whenever you are, you will always have our love.
The oldest performer in Eurovision history competed for Switzerland in 2013. Emil Ramsauer was born on 28 February 1918, and 95 years old when he played the double bass with Takasa. He celebrated his 100th birthday earlier this year. Age is no barrier with Switzerland!
What do you think? What are your favourite things about Switzerland at Eurovision? Share the love in the comments section below!