ahead

Picking a song for any given year at Eurovision is a complicated task. Some countries manage to select an entry that’s more or less contemporary, others bring something dated, and then there are those special instances in which a country sends a song for the future of Eurovision. Think 2040, not 2020.

Most of these songs met little success in the contest, and neither juries nor televoters backed them. But that doesn’t always mean there isn’t merit. It just means the songs and stage shows were ahead of their time. Here’s our tribute to some of those misunderstood masterpieces.

Poland 1995: Justyna Steczkowska – “Sama”

One would think that coming after Edyta Gorniak’s second place, Poland’s representative in 1995 might have tried to match her predecessor in terms of style or genre. However, Justyna had other plans: she was to deliver a song from the year 2051. The then 22-year-old singer opened the show with the sound of Warsaw’s alternative bars. Joined by some musicians, she mixed vocal flourishes, opera and a curious handography. Sadly, Europe wasn’t impressed: Poland received 15 points and finished 18th.

Israel 1990: Rita – “Shara barkhovot”

Not only was Israel’s entry in 1990 ahead of its time musically, but also lyrically. Rita sang about a woman who left the hell of her relationship with a man and found a much brighter future. We’re talking about 1990, a time when many countries in Europe didn’t keep statistics on the number of women murdered by their husbands (a statistic and issue that is now widely tracked). Musically, “Shara barkhovot” is an incredibly rich composition which has aged much better than most of the entries of that year. Rita performed it passionately, but Europe gave her a cold reception: 18th place, 16 points.

Montenegro 2013: Who See & Nina Žižić – “Igranka”

“Igranka” was too much for the jurors in 2013. This is probably the song that most fans agree was the most unfairly eliminated in a semi-final ever. Montenegro threw a party on stage like no other and that performance alone has more power than all the other Montenegrin entries combined (and that includes “The Real Thing“). In the end, while the televote placed Montenegro fourth, the jury left them 14th and that resulted in a painful 12th place overall.

Iceland 1997: Paul Oskar – “Minn hinsti dans”

Just like with “Igranka”, “Minn hinsti dans” was too much for the jurors, while televoters seemed to back the song. In 1997, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the UK experimented with televote for the first time ever. Iceland managed to score points in all those countries except for Germany, while the Estonian jury was the only one to award points to this vinyl-filled performance from Paul Oskar. Also worth noting: he was the first openly gay performer (at the moment of his participation) to enter Eurovision.

Slovenia 2002: Sestre – “Samo ljubezen”

One would think Eurovision’s first drag act would be a glitter-filled performance by a single artist. However, Eurovision is extra for a reason, and thus its first drag act had to be a trio of Slovene queens dressed as glittery flight attendants. While “Samo ljubezen” could even be defined as slightly dated for 2002, Sestre definitely weren’t. In fact, their participation caused a ruckus heard even in the Slovenian parliament, with some deputies arguing the group should be unendorsed. Luckily, they weren’t. They got to Tallinn and placed 13th. Would they have fared even better years later?

Portugal 2019: Conan Osíris – “Telemóveis”

Y’all were waiting for this one. In 2019, Portugal bared all with Conan Osiris and his dancer João. And Europe let them flop. Portugal sent the most unique performance of the year: contemporary dance, a mix of traditional elements and ultra-modern beats and the striking quirkiness of Conan and João. The jurors placing this last hurt more than the dancer’s death drop. While nodding to the ancient traditions of kabuki and buto, this reached so far into the future it may just have rewound to the past. A mind-bobbling performance that left many with tingles.

Turkey 1980: Ajda Pekkan – “Petr’oil”

Was the ballad-dominated Eurovision of the early 1980s ready for the precursor of belly-dance pop? Clearly not. Turkey’s third Eurovision attempt was carried by one of their biggest stars, Ajda Pekkan. She brought to Den Haag a forerunner of the much successful Turkish bops of the 2000s, which equally deserve some love. Sadly, the jurors placed them 15th with 23 points, 12 of which came from Morocco, who participated for the first and last time ever.

Germany 1996: Leon – “Planet of blue”

Germany’s flawless Eurovision attendance record was broken in 1996 when they were relegated in a pre-qualification round. The country picked Leon’s dance-pop track “Planet of Blue” in their national final. The song could have gone on to become a Europe-wide hit, had the Eurovision jurors not buried it. Discuss: how would “Planet of Blue” have placed two years later, when the the relegation system was changed and the televote implemented?

Russia 2001: Mumiy Troll – “Lady Alpine Blue”

Throughout the 2010s, Russia has been sending quite formulaic “Love, love, peace, peace” power ballads, which have given them great results. Before finding that formula, in the early 2000s, Russia thought a bit more outside the box. And in 2001 they even brought an indie-pop band, before that genre rose to the mainstream. “Lady Alpine Blue” had everything that has defined the genre: a slightly underground sound and overly complicated lyrics. Russia only managed to come 12th in a field of 23 entries.

Yugoslavia 1974: Korni Grupa – “Generacija ’42”

The song that preceded “Waterloo” at the 1974 grand final was a progressive rock number that talked about the generation born during the years of WWII. “Waterloo” was one of the first pop songs to win Eurovision. But how did the 1974 juries receive Yugoslavia’s answer to Deep Purple? Korni Grupa finished 12th in a field of 17 entries and only managed to pick up six points. Far too few for a whole generation.

These are 10 songs that dared to defy Eurovision conventions…and were beaten by them. Which other songs do you think were ahead of their time at the contest? How would any of these have fared in other years? Especulate in the comment section below!

Read more lists here!

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Veta
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Veta

Where is Finland 2011’s Paradise Oskar?? How could you forget him? He totally must be a part of this list! His song was ahead of its time not only in terms of Eurovision (now a song about ecology would have won), but in terms of the whole world. He basically predicted Greta Thunberg’s activism.

L'oiseau
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L'oiseau

This is a great article! And it includes some of my all time favorites, such as Turkey 1980, Israel 1990, Poland 1995, Iceland 1997 and now Portugal 2019. On the top of my head I would also maybe include Monoco 1963 (Francoise Hardy), Sweden 1972, for different reasons from 1983 Spain , Belgium and Germany (yeah… 1983 was a great year…) and a shout out to Gina G, UK 1997, who brought a song of its time but was not well treated by the juries and antecipated what ESC would become two years after.

brennan
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brennan

also morocco’s ‘bitaqat hub’, considering how far samira said’s career went in the arabic speaking world afterwards

Euphoria
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Euphoria

O Jardim was robbed and ideky

brunowskii
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brunowskii

Nice post
I’d include macedonian masterpieces Dance Alone from Jana Bur?eska and Eye Cue’s Lost & Found

avner
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avner

Yugoslavia 1974 “Generacija ’42” is actually an old fave of mine; it did get played in Israel quite a lot at the time.

I would also add 2014 Israel “Same Heart” to the “ahead of its time” list. It ranked low despite fans love, I think, because of its in-your-face female power – it just was not embraced at the time; it was, however, an early sign of what is to come. With Toy winning in Lisbon, that entry could take some credit.

iceland_boy
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iceland_boy

Slovenia 1997, 2001, 2002, 2007 and maybe even 2019. Feels like they paved the way.

neeejaaa
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neeejaaa

Despite all the bad songs Slovenia gave us, there are a few that changed the game!

lovefromgreece
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lovefromgreece

Exactly, yes, a 1997 ballad gives this oriental and balcanic vibe that got very popular in early 00s like Lane Moje, Layla, Molitva, Oro etc.
2001… this could easly be a number one hit 10 years later, worldwide.
2002… first drag queens. no words needed.
2007… opera and pop mix together for the very first time I guess?
2019 ‘we are sick of the fireworks, half naked girls and superficiality. we want art, depth and feelings.” THIS ERA IS COMING!

neeejaaa
Guest
neeejaaa

Energy, oh what you do to me…. Energy by Nusa Derenda from 2001! It was waaaaaay ahead of its time; the production, the performance, her outfit… But it was also Slovenia, so of course it didn’t win. My favorite ESC song ever! :)***

MusicIstheKey
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MusicIstheKey

Good article. Many good songs mentioned. One song I haven’t seen yet – the lovely jazzy song “Heute In Jerusalem” from 1979. Or even “So geth das jede Nacht” from 1956. First even rock’n’r’oll song

PP77
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PP77

Belgium 1981

Álex
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Álex

I believe Spain’s 2006 “Bloody Mary” by Las Ketchup was ahead of its time. It would have been top 5 in 2019 for sure.

Dani
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Dani

Might be too soon, but I think “Feed You My Love” by Margaret Berger would have exploded today. it is so contemporary yet has strong 80s wibe that is very appreciated nowadays.

Also “Taken By A Stranger” was so ahead of its time. I could imagine Billie Eilish singing it.

Ieva
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Ieva

Lithuania’s Aiste Smilgeviciute (1999) and Estonia’s Malcolm Lincoln (2010).

kohen
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kohen

the Petr-oil song is one of my favourite entry from Turkey (of course with Sebnem’s Dinle 97′).. Lyrics are quite meaningful and ahead of its time but sadly jurors and audience could not understand them i guess 🙁
*by the way this post is just amazing and also I want to add Estonian Siren song (2010) pure quality

Alaska
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Alaska

I would include Turkey’s “Bana Bana” (1989) in this list.

NickC
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NickC

Turkey in the 80s was either utter rubbish, like 81, 83 or 87, or underrated masterpieces, like 80, 85, 86, 89. When quality was not rewarded, Turks tried their luck with outrageous. Hence the zig zag pattern. Then in the 90s they reverted to safe and mediocre, like 91, 92, 95, 98, 99 to avoid shame or disappointment. Only in 97 with the unexpected success of dinle, they became bold again to take risks. Those were also the years the music industry was becoming professional, it was not only televotes that brought success in the 00s. Case in point, compare… Read more »

TheDrMistery
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TheDrMistery

91 was actually a great song and performance. Easily top 5 of the year for me, very fun.

Jonas
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Jonas

I loved the dark set of 1995. It was perfect for Sama, and many others that year.

James
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James

I don’t recall watching Montenegro 2013 previously until today (October 9, 2019) so I decided to give it ago.

And I can sort of understand why the juries ranked this otherwise great song down.

Fatima
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Fatima

Try to get the English version of Petr’oil. It’s outstanding.

Sebas
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Sebas

Amazing post, this songs I do agree are just simply amazing and overall, original. Portugal 2019, Poland 1995 and Israel 1990 are my total favorites!

Blahh
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Blahh

I loved Poland 95…. should have done much better! Lidt seems to be missing UK 94…she was robber (and that’s coming from an Irishman!)

Karen
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Karen

oh come one! „ahead of their time“ is an euphemism for „horribly bad!“

Denis
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Denis

I know. It’s like ahead of their time is an excuse for mediocricy. Portugal 2019 is a mess of a song that doesn’t belong to any time. Montenegro 2013 wasn’t ahead, it was just of it’s time. With a more creative staging it would have impressed more people. And a less repetetive song. And actual singing.
Slovenia 2002 was outdated even in 2002. It wouldn’t have done better if it competed in later years. Men dressed as women stopped being funny in the 90s.

Bart
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Bart

You are such a biggot.

Trash KAN
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Trash KAN

Well you cannot make a foolish generalization just like that. You fail to see the worth of these songs if you instantly say they’re horribly bad like that.

OrangeVorty
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OrangeVorty

What great taste! Lol “Sama” and “Shara barkhovot” are two of my favourite songs to this day. I’m still in disbelief that Rita didn’t do better almost 20 years later. The orchestra; the construction of the song; the vocals; the performance. Wow! So memorable. I think 1990 was one of the better contests from the decade.

Purple Mask
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Purple Mask

Fantastic article. Thank you Luis.

oli
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oli

Wow, so glad you included Poland ’95. I remember being blown away by “Sama” (I was a big Björk fan at the time) and was very disappointed that such an unique song wasn’t appreciated by the jurors. It was in my top 3 together with Norway and Spain. I also had Paul Oskar, Igranka and Conan Osiris in my top 3 those years. LOL.

Polegend Godgarina
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Polegend Godgarina

accurate list! i would add o jardim, it sounds like a billie eilish song before she went mainstream

Joe
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Joe

That song was robbed.

dandy
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dandy

O Jardim is the kind of song that when it ends, people ask : “When will this girl start to sing….oh, is it over?”
It’s just lazy and bad.

dandy
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dandy

Remember two words : LAST PLACE.
Try harder, don’t be lazy thinking you are artsy.

fasttortoise
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fasttortoise

Omer Naber’s entry in 2005 was very modern… then his 2017 entry was really dated! The man can’t win!

Mr. Vanilla Bean
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Mr. Vanilla Bean

So true. He totally should have failed with the bad song in 2005 and kept the great “Stop” for 2017 to reach at least one Eurovision final.

Davve
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Davve

Iceland 1997 was a modern song 1-2 years before its time

Marika
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Marika

I miss here BULGARIA 2008!!!!!! Deep zone – DJ take me away

Henrikh Mugosa
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Henrikh Mugosa

That’s the only Bulgarian entry I never was able to appreciate.

TheDrMistery
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TheDrMistery

You appreciate 2009? Cool…

Veta
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Veta

Well, the problem with that entry were the vocals, not the song itself.

Michael
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Michael

It’s not so much that these songs were “ahead” of their time, more like they matched with the hot sound of the era. Igranka being dubstep at the height of it’s popularity. Iceland 1997 and Germany 1996 coming when eurodance was really popular. Yugoslavia 1974 coming the year after Pink Floyd made Dark Side of the Moon etc. The jurors were just out of touch. I’d like to nominate Germany 2011 for being an electronic song that seemingly inspired other electronic songs throughout the decade.

Polegend Godgarina
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Polegend Godgarina

this list contains ZERO lies omg. poland 1995 is a timeless masterpiece, iceland 1997 was too experimental for the juries and gp, and petr’oil is a classic. taste! i would also add o jardim – it sounds like a billie eilish song, before she was popular.

Kirby
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Kirby

I’d add the retrofuturistic entry of Monaco in 1967: “Boum-Badaboum” by Minouche Barelli, with that cinematic atmosphere and a cool countdown in French. It was written by Serge Gainsbourg and placed 5th.

Sabrina
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Sabrina

Great article and list, and also many awesome suggestions in the comments. It bothers me when the juries are so focused on rewarding the kind of music that’s typical of that time and end up closing their eyes for entries that are pushing the boundaries. I would add Germany 1975, if not for the song itself, at least for Joy’s spetacular performance which was clearly much ahead of her time. One of my favorites ever, along with the aforementioned “Sama”.

Nicolas
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Nicolas

Norway 2016 🙁

Fionn
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Fionn

I still listen to telemoveis and it deffo deserved to do much better

Jo.
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Jo.

Europe got Igranka, the tasteless juries didn’t.

ESCFan2009
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ESCFan2009

The first time ever I was thankful for the existence of juries ^^

NickC
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NickC

Great research, great article. Thank you guys. I would add Turkey 1989 and push the button song from Israel. Now more relevant than ever with Trump, Putin, Johnson , Modi, Netenyahu and all the other strongmen in power.

Alaska
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Alaska

“Bana Bana” is still a contemporary piece of brilliant music these days!

TheDrMistery
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TheDrMistery

Wow, these are almost my thoughts written by someone else. My favorite article in a while. So many great pre-1998 entries with Justyna first… (heart emoji).

Joh
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Joh

Belgium 1983 “rendez vous” definatly

Lola
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Lola

Iceland 1997 and of course Belgium 1980 should be on this list or at least honorable mentions. Telex will always be remebered as they shadiest entry with an avant-garde approach. Even as a ESC lover you can’t deny that they were legendary

Joh
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Joh

Hows about Belgium 1983?

Lola
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Lola

Yeah them too, but if I had to pick one, I would say 1980

Davve
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Davve

199 7 is mentioned!

Thunder and lightning it's getting exciting
Guest
Thunder and lightning it's getting exciting

I love Conan Osíris – “Telemóveis” 😉

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Slovenia 2007 for me. Pioneer work.

Hannah
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Hannah

That was such a good one! It was one of my favourites from 2007 (although I am a little biased, I’ve always had a soft spot for opera)

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Well, you can justify anything by calling it “ahead of its time”. Slovenia 2002 happened because certain television executives rigged the voting, rendering the runaway televote winner chanceless against a corrupt and paid for jury. Yeah, truly “lucky”. Playing dress-up was hardly ahead of anyone’s time. And Germany 1996 sounds and looks like this should have never had its time. Same with Portugal 2019. Sometimes people don’t want to get it, you know? A big yes to Montenegro 2013, Iceland 1997 and Russia 2001. Three iconic entries. I wish Russia would dare to dare again instead of being all “love… Read more »

MusicIstheKey
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MusicIstheKey

I agree with what you say about Slovenia 2002. Sometimes it’s not good too be “ahead”

nejcjsnfjs
Guest
nejcjsnfjs

i agree with most of these, but i’d even argue maybe moustache ( ?? 2014) was ahead of its time? the song is still a bop today, just with funny lyrics.

Skiwalko
Guest
Skiwalko

I know winners don’t really count here, but I just wanted to give a little shout-out to “Dansevise” – to me it’s just amazing how a 56 years old song sounds ahead of its time in 2019! One of a kind winner in a year full of strong entries.
Honorable mentions: ICE 97 (duh), GER 75, FIN 77, BEL 80, FRA 94, TUR 84, GEO 07 (just to name a few).

Tibor
Guest
Tibor

I mean, I’m with you, Sopho Khalvashi should have finished higher, but isn’t this still Georgia’s best result ever? Nevertheless, 12th place was a crime, one of my favourite Eurovision entries of all time. I think I had her as third at the time, but today I would put her as my winner, hands down.

TheDrMistery
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TheDrMistery

Georgia was 9th twice – 2010 and 2011.

Tibor
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Tibor

Okay, my bad. Then this shoud have been Georgia’s best result. 🙂

Sabrina
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Sabrina

“Dansevise” is fantastic, a timeless piece of music.

Kong Christian stod ved højen mast
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Kong Christian stod ved højen mast

Fun fact: “Dansevise” is a part of the Danish Culture Canon as designated by the Danish Ministry of Culture. No joke:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danish_Culture_Canon#Popular_music

An American ESC Fan
Guest
An American ESC Fan

Agreed on “Dansevise” and “Visionary Dream”, I love both. The latter is my favorite Georgian entry of all time and in my Top 5 of 2007.

keith mawson
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keith mawson

And mine, Been wanting to go to Georgia ever since

Milan
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Milan

There was no better choice than Justyna for the opening act of that 1995 edition, which has remained one of my favourites of all time. I still remember the stunned silence after the song ended 🙂

Joe
Guest
Joe

Starting with Poland, ending with Greece. One of the few times when the random running order nailed it.

TheDrMistery
Guest
TheDrMistery

Not that either participant would agree, given the places. But at least both countries voted for each other.

Trash KAN
Guest
Trash KAN

You would know that those behind the ones allotting the scores back in 2013 have f***ed up when you see that Igranka did not qualify to the grand final. I and others would simply let it pass but you would still wonder why the split results weren’t revealed until now. Many were skeptical over the nonqualification of well-liked songs like Igranka and then that lack of split results revelation would justify what many were thinking all along. Oh well, just like what Anke have said in the past: Europe is watching.

Rockfan
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Rockfan

Kudos for mentioning Yugoslavia 74, one of the best ever entries 🙂 And HOW much more interesting Russian entries were in the first decade of this millenium, than the 2nd!. They should send more songs like 2001, maybe their best one

Rockfan
Guest
Rockfan

Slovenia 02 is a real guilty pleasure 🙂 just like Germany 00 and Montenegro 17

PP77
Guest
PP77

Bosnia-Herzegovina 2001

Maya G
Guest
Maya G

OMG yesss! Such an amazing entry.

PP77
Guest
PP77

Norway 1986 (both dancers are man), Turkey 1989, Lithuania 1999