We’re continuing our journey through the continent, spreading the love to each country in turn with 10 reasons why we love them. Today it’s the turn of Belgium to blush as we heap praise on their epic entries of late as well as looking into their back catalogue.
Belgium debuted back in 1956 in the very first contest in Lugano, Switzerland. Since then, they’ve sent 60 songs to the contest, only missing out on the fun in 1994, 1997 and 2001 due to the old relegation system before semi-finals were in existence. Whilst they’ve had some stand-out entries in a bad light, recently they have become one of the most dependable countries at Eurovision to send complete quality entries, and we can’t get enough. Here’s 10 reasons why we love Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest.
1. What a turn-around
In 2014, Belgium sent the somewhat dreary “Mother” by Axel Hirsoux, a tenor ballad about a man grieving for his late mum, complete with a ghostly lady dancing behind him. Whilst very touching, the song didn’t translate into votes and it didn’t qualify. However, the next year the selection method was switched up, opting for internal selection instead of a public vote, and The Voice Belgique runner-up Loic Nottet was announced. “Rhythm Inside” is still ranked as one of the most quality entries of recent years and is the mark of Belgium’s turnaround. Since Loic came fourth, they’ve had another two top-ten finishes, and despite the fact they weren’t in the final this year, it was considered the big shock of the year, as Sennek with “A Matter of Time” was a firm fan favourite.
2. Who needs to sing in a real language when you can just make one up… twice?
Despite the fact Belgium is a country of several languages, on two occasions Belgium decided to send songs in totally made-up languages. “Sanomi” by Urban Trad and “O Julissi” by Ishtar made no sense to viewers as they weren’t based in any sense of reality, but despite this Urban Trad managed to come second in the contest behind Sertab Erener. With 165 points, they were just two points behind the Turkish winner.
3. Two words: Barbara Dex
In 1993, the then 19-year-old Barabra Dex represented Belgium at Eurovision with a simple song in Flemish called “Iemand als jij”, but it wasn’t her song that has made her a Eurovision icon… it was her stage costume. Barbara made the dress herself, and it was less-than-pretty. The garment (which was akin to old tights with a huge collar and buttons) was so bad that an award was named after her to honour the worst dressed entrant every year. Of course, we know our favourites who have received the award over recent years (Moje 3 being a personal favourite), but it must be said it is a funny and interesting part of contest culture — and we have Barbara to thank for it all!
4. The existence of Tom Dice
Tom Dice arrived on the Eurovision scene in 2010 after he was internally chosen by VRT, with the beautiful track “Me and My Guitar”. The song went to the contest in Oslo, and won its semi-final — the only time to date Belgium has achieved this. It’s one of the most remembered songs from the 2010 edition of Eurovision, along with maNga and of course Lena, and it brought a softer approach to a pop-heavy year.
5. Two different cultures and sounds in one country
With two distinct regional broadcasters sending entries to the contest bi-annually, we get two very different sets of ideas and plans each year. The Walloon broadcaster RTBF holds the baton on odd-number years and more recently holds a better record than its Flemish counterpart VRT. Though both have united in upping the quality in the last decade. We can go from the cool niche that Loic Nottet had, into a funky banger from Laura Tesoro.
6. They have some of the most artistic videos
Since their overhaul in quality, Belgium’s official music videos have been some of the best every year. It started with the “Rhythm Inside” video about insecurities and real beauty, and most recently Sennek’s clip was stunning, with her in a grand estate looking elegant. Not to mention Blanche’s modern and minimalist video that went with “City Lights”.
7. They don’t follow a typical formula
Belgium never go with the norm in Eurovision, by taking chances with genres and unique voices. Even Axel Hirsoux had something very different to everything else, and now they’ve not been shy to bring minimalist indie-tinged entries which are unforgettable and mesmerising. Even going further back, with the aforementioned invented languages they’ve taken risks.
8. They gave Eurovision its youngest ever winner
In 1986, 13-year-old Sandra Kim won Eurovision with the sassy electro-pop number “J’aime la vie”. This made her the youngest winner of Eurovision — and it’s a record that will remain unchallenged. In 1990 a minimum age of 16 was introduced, meaning that no pre-teen singer is going to snatch Sandra’s crown.
9. Iconic dance moves
Laura Tesoro closed the first semi-final in Stockholm and brought the house down with her stunning dance moves. We were all amazed when we saw the stage production put forth, and she managed to bag a top-ten spot. Loic also had interesting choreography (partially performed by SuRie, who would later represent the UK in 2018), which stuck in viewers minds. It’s easy to look back on Belgium’s participation and remember many performances that have something iconic about them with dance, and we love them for it.
10. One of the most reliable countries in the whole contest
For any fans of the contest who have joined in 2015 or beyond, there really aren’t enough words to describe how crazy it is that we are assured to get a fan favourite from Belgium every single year. No one would have expected them to be the ones to have the glow-up that they did, and we can guarantee that no matter the result of the contest, we are going to get a fantastic song from RTBF next year, especially since the broadcaster’s last two entrants have both come fourth in the contest. We really have got something brilliant to look forward to next year, we can almost be certain.
Bonus! Roberto Bellarosa’s dancers
In 2013, Roberto Bellarosa’s backing dancers had some of the strangest yet most memorable choreography we’ve ever seen at the Eurovision Song Contest. Those moves had many a commentator making remarks, and it’s not hard to see why.
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