Avast, ye landlubbers! At the moment, TikTok is going wild for sea shanties. But these songs traditionally beloved of sailors have also found a place on the Eurovision stage. We’re taking a look at sea shanty-inspired and nautical-themed songs that have been heard at Eurovision and national finals.
1. Latvia: Pirates of the Sea – “Wolves of the Sea” (Eurovision 2008)
In 2008, Latvia served some Baltic seafaring electronica fantasy with “Wolves of the Sea”. Originally intended for Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, “Wolves of the Sea” combined sea shanty style with a slick schlager sound. Pirates of the Sea’s performance came with nautical-themed staging which added to the drama. The song was a hit with Eurovision audiences and placed 12 in the grand final. It has since become a live staple of the Scottish “pirate metal” band Alestorm.
2. Portugal: Vânia Fernandes – “Senhora do mar (Negras águas)” (Eurovision 2008)
In 2008, Vânia Fernandes sang to “Senhora do mar” — the lady of the sea. It’s not strictly a sea shanty, but it does capture the drama and cruelty of the ocean. In the official English version, Vânia sings “Your sad and cold waves, deepest of all graves / Have frozen the fire of my days”. The sea is a cruel mistress and can separate sailors from their loved ones. “Senhora do mar” finished 13th in the grand final.
3. Germany: Santiano – “Fiddler on the Deck” (Unser Song für Dänemark 2014)
Santiano are a German band who specialise in folk music, including sea shanties. For Germany’s national final in 2014, they performed two songs, including the rousing “Fiddler on the Deck”. The song told the tale of a ship’s fiddle player, said to be “the one to blame when the devil calls your name”. The song made it to the second round of grand final voting but missed out on making the super final.
4. Iceland: Greta Salóme & Jónsi – “Never Forget” (Eurovision 2012)
“Never Forget” isn’t really a sea shanty, but it does seem to represent the other side of the equation — a woman left at home while her sweetheart is away at sea. The poetic lyrics express longing and hope, with the pre-chorus asserting, “And when the golden sun arises far across the sea / The dawn will break as darkness fades, forever we’ll be free”. “Never Forget” placed 20th in the grand final.
5. Turkey: Can Bonomo – “Love Me Back” (Eurovision 2012)
Surrounded by the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black seas, Turkey has a rich seafaring history. Can Bonomo paid tribute to the life of the lonely sailor in his 2012 song “Love Me Back”. The song lyrics both used seafaring literally and metaphorically, as Can sang “I’m a lonely sailor / Drinking the night away / My ship is made from hope / She’s searching for your bay”. “Love Me Back” placed 7th in the grand final.
6. Sweden: Timoteij – “Kom” (Melodifestivalen 2010)
Timoteij’s Melodifestivalen entry “Kom” wasn’t specifically a sea shanty, but the song did have a hearty seafaring sound amid its folk-pop vibes. The lyrics take their inspiration from the seasons, inviting a lover to come along during the summer while the night is still warm. “Kom” placed fifth in the Melodifestivalen grand final.
7. Denmark: Rasmussen – “Higher Ground” (Eurovision 2018)
“Higher Ground” takes its inspiration from the Vikings — but it’s not a typical tale of a battle from these epic seafarers. The song tells the tale of the Viking earl Magnus Erlendsson, who refused to fight. While “Higher Ground” sets the scene with “Ships in the making / Bound for a distant shore”, it’s more about the action on land. However, the Lisbon staging had a nautical theme, complete with ship sails. “HIgher Ground” finished ninth in the grand final.
Mermaid bonus! San Marino: Valentina Monetta – “Maybe (Forse)” (Eurovision 2014)
Along with sea shanties, sailors also like mermaids. While Valentina Monetta didn’t literally bring mermaid eleaganza to Copenhagen (the home of The Little Mermaid), she certainly alluded to it. Her song “Maybe (Forse)” begins with the lyric “Maybe there’s a pearl in the shell” and the staging presents Valentina as that shimmering pearl, in front of what looks like a giant shell. “Maybe” took San Marino to the grand final where it placed 24th.
We also have mention to Malta’s three-time Eurovision star Chiara and her 2014 single “Mermaid in Love”. She accurately captures the stress of being a mermaid falling in love with a human.
– A shoutout to Eurovision superfan @elainovision and her Twitter discussion about Eurovision sea shanties, as well as contributions from the wiwibloggs team.
What do you think? What is your favourite nautical Eurovision song? Should more countries take inspiration from the sea? Have your say below!