We are continuing our series looking at the countries currently competing at Eurovision and the reasons why we love them. Next up, we’re heading back to Lisbon where we’re setting down with a plateful of pasteis de nata and looking at Portugal at Eurovision.
When Salvador Sobral melted hearts with his soft ballad “Amar Pelos Dois” in 2017, it wasn’t only his dream that came true – it was the dream of his entire country, Portugal. Since their debut in the contest way back in 1964, we’ve seen tears, heartbreak, joy, controversy – and even crazy psychedelic colour schemes – at Eurovision. Now let’s look at the 10 reasons why we love Portugal at the Eurovision Song Contest.
1. They’re plucky and persistent
Just like its people, Portugal has never been one to give up easily. They joined in 1964, and have become one of the contest’s mainstays — despite usually only finishing in the mid to lower end of the table. Even in their first year, António Calvário‘s “Oração” still, sadly, came last. They’ve also failed to qualify eight times in the past 14 years, but it hasn’t put them off. In fact, they’ve only missed five contests to date — two of those were due to relegation, and two were due to financial reasons. But it is a little curious that three of those years have been when Sweden has hosted…
2. They aren’t afraid to be quirky
With such consistently disappointing results, Portugal developed a rather irreverent attitude to Eurovision over the years. Perhaps figuring they had nothing to lose, the Atlantic nation has used the contest as a way to showcase their traditional music, experiment with totally wacky staging – and even cheerfully encourage Europe to start an uprising and “sing against oppression”. While 2011’s “A luta é alegria” (The Struggle is Joy) by Homens da Luta didn’t qualify for the final, we’ll certainly struggle to forget it.
3. They are proud of their culture
Portugal’s rich history has been instrumental in crafting their unique culture, which is duly reflected in their Eurovision appearances. Having once possessed a maritime Empire that spanned the Americas, Africa, India, Indonesia and beyond, influences from around the world have poured into Portugal. Many of their contest entries have roots in this colonial, seafaring heritage — take Vânia Fernandes and her “Senhora do Mar (Negras águas”) or “Lady of the Sea (Dark Waters)”. The song was sung from a woman’s perspective, missing her man who was lost at sea. The sadness of missing someone who was far away came to be known in Portuguese as saudade, and often stemmed from sailors and merchants feeling homesick, or wives longing for their distant husbands.
4. Divas galore
When they’re not feeling the saudade, Portuguese folk know how to bring the party. With a proven track record of sending daring divas to the stage, Portugal has never been afraid to bring the Latin fire to the contest. But they don’t stop at lighting the fuego – though, technically it’s fogo. They also gave us Beyoncé-worthy balladeers such as Filipa Azevedo, whose “Há Dias Assim” wouldn’t have sounded out of place at a Destiny’s Child concert. You slay, diva!
5. They go hard… or they go home
Portugal’s 50-year run of bad luck finally came to an end in 2017, when Salvador Sobral won hearts and minds across the continent with “Amar Pelos Dois” (Love for Both of Us), a song penned by his equally talented and adorable sister Luísa. They won 758 points, the highest number in the competition yet. However, a year later, Cláudia Pascoal and Isaura‘s saudade-filled “O Jardim” was Portugal’s fourth last-place result — a placing that stung on their home turf.
6. EPIC hosting skills
Of course, it’s not just the music we love about Eurovision. The hosts have an important part to play in creating a fun-filled, Eurovision-tastic evening. This year’s contest was a star-studded event, with its all-female presenting team coming from a varied background — a TV chat show host, an NCIS: Los Angeles star, a dancer and a Festival da Canção veteran host. They kept their cool even when, inevitably, the connection dropped out or there was an awkward pause. It did sting a bit when they told us that Portugal “didn’t care anymore”, though.
7. So. Many. COLOURS!
Like the ornate tiling that adorns Lisbon’s colourful streets, bright costumes are a staple of Portuguese Eurovision. Flor-de-Lis wowed us in 2009, when they burst onto the stage in an explosion of colour and music with “Todos as Ruas do Amor”. It was so vibrant, it rivalled even Moldova that year. The bohemian theme and soft guitar reminded us of the hippies of old, but Flor-de-Lis was still distinctly Portuguese. A passionate love poem with a folksy sound and musicians in traditional dress-themed outfits, it was never far away from the famous fado clubs that are so unique to Portugal.
8. They rarely sing in other languages
Also distinctive to Portugal is the native language, which has Latin roots, but an unmistakable and unusual sound. Unlike most other nations competing in Eurovision, Portugal has sung in Portuguese every single year it took part, with English only featuring briefly (and on very rare occasions). This makes Portugal stand out from the crowd and ensures that it maintains its national identity in an increasingly homogeneous event. It’s a winning formula, too: 2017’s “Amar Pelos Dois” made beautiful use of Portuguese’s unique expressiveness, taking the entire continent by storm.
9. Their own song sparked a revolution
It’s said that in the dying days of Salazar’s dictatorship, the broadcast of a single Eurovision song was the signal to start an uprising and bring down the government. Legend has it that just before 11PM on 24 April 1974, “E Depois do Adeus” (“And After the Goodbyes”) by Paulo de Carvalho was played by a Lisbon radio station. The song acted as a signal to the rebels to start the famous Carnation Revolution.
10. They have an eye for talent
For eagle-eyed Eurovision fans, you might be able to spot a familiar face in the 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually. Portugal’s 1996 entrant, Lúcia Moniz, plays Colin Firth’s shy Portuguese love interest. But at Eurovision, she was anything but the shrinking violet — dressed all in red, she enraptured the audience with her ukelele and on-point harmonies. Her song “O meu coração não tem cor” (“My Heart has no Colour”) was a soliloquy dedicated to Portugal and all its former colonies, singing high praises of its dance styles, food — and of course, song. Better yet, Lúcia achieved the best result for Portugal until Salvador Sobral’s win, coming in sixth out of 23.
Bonus! Suzy opened the very first Wiwi Jam
When it came to kicking off the very first Wiwi Jam at Stockholm in 2016, there was only one woman for the job. Suzy might not have qualified for the grand final in 2014, but there was plenty of life left in her song “Quero ser tua”. Suzy took to the Hard Rock Cafe stage and gave a memorable performance that got the crowd moving.
We love you, Portugal. Here’s hoping your next win will be sooner than 50 years’ time.
What are your favourite Eurovision moments from Portugal? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
In 96, Lúcia Moniz had a ukulele or a cavaquinho?! As the cavaquinho is portuguese, I suppose she had a national instrument (that gave birth to ukulele)…
The best? 1971 – Menina by Tonicha.
I love how you wrote “COLOURS” in all the colors of the rainbow. 😀
Really, it’s nicer for me to write about Portugal than Sweden! A country which really deserves credit. No matter the trends in ESC, they have been “stubborn” enough to stick to their roots. usually earnest, “proper”, quality songs. I admit I find some of their recent ballads boring (2012, 10, 08, 1993, 97 – OK less recent) – but also there it’s obvious they take ESC really seriously. And crowned it with a very deserved victory last year. A wonderful song, in my view one of the best winners ever! 🙂 And I also think he had some points in… Read more »
My PT top 10: 1) 1980, 2) 2017, 3) 1984, 4) 1968, 5) 1986, 6) 1976, 7) 1977, 8) 1983, 9) 1998, 10) 1989
They were both amazing this year.
ESC 2019 will be decisive to know if Portugal is now a lion or just an angry cat.
Portugal’s best ever Simone de Oliveira. Queen<3
Really? I honestly can’t stand her voice…And she is somewhat a “diva”, which isn’t a good sign either
Myname, are you portuguese? she’s definitely not a diva lol
Portugal was never one of my favourite Eurovision countries. But now I love them because after 50 years and numerous bad results, they finally made it. They won with a beautiful song proving that anyone can win anytime, even after 50 years.
I also love them singing always in portugeuse, even though they have this strange accent.
From Portugal I love “Senhora do Mar” and of course “Amar pelos dois”. I voted for them in 2017.
Oh! Portugal also have the least-deserved last place of all time in the form of O jardim. My favorite before the contest. It was such a shame that it flew under the radar the night of. It’s a beautiful song.
I’d compare it to In Love for a While in that both songs were very good and maybe just came last cuz they didn’t stand out as much
Not to mention they were before the U.K. with the stage invader and all. That couldn’t have helped.
Great thing about Portugal’s win was that it made me go back and re-examine their old songs, and I found that I really enjoyed the majority of them! The tunes were always there, even if the results weren’t reflecting them. They did a terrific job hosting this year, and Amar pelos dois is one of my all-time Eurovision favorites, just the kind of song I like seeing win the contest. I’ll also shout out O meu coracao nao tem cor, their second-best result, which gets me dancing every time I hear it.
You can always count on Portugal, one of only a mere few who stubbornly sticks to their native language (whether bilingual or otherwise) when sending their songs to the contest.
“While 2010’s “A Luta É Alegria” (The Struggle is Joy) by Homens da Luta didn’t qualify for the final, we’ll certainly struggle to forget it.”
It was in 2011! Wiwibloggs make a lot of mistakes nowadays, what is up?
I like this little great country full of identity and their amazing cultural heritage. They are one of the oldest Nation-State in the world, however they still being quite unknown for a lot of people.
Because of their bad results and scores I started to pay more attention to the portuguese entries…Some of them were bad, but others were pretty good. They are one of my favourite countries at ESC
I was very glad when they finally won. Portugal deserved that, the portuguese people deserved that
I’m being honest right now, Lisbon 2018 was probably the best edition i have seen.
In my opinion was not the best…but one of the best ever
The stage, the host, the logo, the soundtrack, the venue the city the songs in 2018 were pretty good…It was a very good edition and Portugal totaly deserved that.
For me best 2014 (Best stage ever, good postcards,only I dont like male host because, they didn t stop booing in hall in voting, especially actor had some anti russian attitude in voting),like 2 female host next year in Vienna (when they said to publick to calm down)
It wasn’t the best edition, but it was a great edition. Mainly because of the songs selected. I liked the logo, the interval acts, the stage was ok, the comic sketches weren’t funny, Catarina Furtado & Sílvia Alberto were lousy as hosts, and Daniela Ruah was wooden, only Filomena Cautela did her job properly. For me 1996 & 2014 are still the best editions ever!
And song from 2006 from Portugal was for me one of worst song in history in Eurovision with song from Austria 1988. And costume from 2006 deserved to won Barbara Dex award for decade, and this outfit was one of worst in history of Eurovision.
For me best 5 song from Portugal 1996 then 1988, 1982,1991,1981 . I also like song from 1966, 1969, 1980, 1989, 1992,1993, 1994, 1997,1998, 2003,2008,2010,2012,2017,2018 Overrated for me in 1972 2009, 2018 Deserved to won in 1996 not in 2018 Underrated for me 1969 (deserved to be in TOP 5) , 1981 (deserved to be in TOP 10) , 1982 (deserved to be in TOP 10), 1988 (deserved to be in TOP 10), 1989 (deserved to be in TOP 10) , 1990, 1997 (last place with Norway with 0 points, deserved to be in TOP 10), 2003 . 2008 (deserved… Read more »
Mistake overrated in 2017 not 2018
Deserved to won 1996 not in 2017
Well I don’t really love Portugal at the contest , I’m a bit intrigued by its result and how they differ from my general taste!
For me , they won with their weakest entry in the last 5 years and their two strongest entries in the same period imo ended up being last(O Jardim) and failed to qualify.(Se hum mar que nos separa)
Also known for sending the male with the best hair in ESC ever in 1999 haha 🙂
I was hoping you’d make mention of one of my fav ESC numbers for Portugal: Dulce Pontes! I still love Lusitana Paixao after all these years!
Yes, in my opinion, 1991 “Lusitana Paixão” is the second best Portuguese entry, after “Amar pelos Dois” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_LXg1SJ6PU
What a surprise. Salvador is not mentioned as one of the reasons… 😀
Was Lena herself a reason for Germany? Salvador fans obsessed as always.
He was obviously being ironic…
Number 5 and 8.
I agree – deffo a big reason 🙂
Toto Cutugno was mentioned because his hair colour was all over the place, and you want Sobral to be named the reason sun rises in the morning. Slow down, brother!