Top 10: Best host-country songs in ESC history

Hey everyone and welcome to another top 10! In today’s countdown, we’ll pick out the best songs a host country sent to the Contest the year they held it. Luckily, there weren’t as many songs we had to shortlist, as there were only 58 songs to choose from, but which of those 58 is the best? Keep reading to find out!

Is the first winner at Eurovision the best host-country song too?
Is the first winner at Eurovision the best host-country song too?

So, to not confuse anyone, the definition of what a ‘host-country song’ is that it’s a song Country X sends to Eurovision that is being hosted in Country X. Basically, it’s a song that represents a country on home soil. There were only 58 songs to pick our top 10 from this time, like I said at the top of the article, but of those 58, it was incredibly hard to put the ten in order. But enjoy the countdown for what it is and hopefully you’ll agree with who we’ve put in. Right, let’s get started then!

10 – Robin Stjernberg – “You” (Sweden 2013)

We’ll start the countdown with the most recent host-country song and that is ‘You’. Of course, if Robin didn’t make it through the Andra Chansen, which was a topic discussed by James thanks to the suggestion of one of our readers (yes we do take notice!), ‘You’ wouldn’t have been in Malmö and our favourite Swede with a quiff would be absent (and trust me, that would have been a big deal). The song was a very good song from the host-country and you could tell that even though the arena was downsized from previous years, the Swedish fans still came out in force to support their act. It’s pretty sad that it only got 14th place, but to be honest, it was going to look like a four-horse race with Denmark, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Norway anyway. At least he didn’t let Sweden down and now that cute little face of his can keep making music. Good job Robin!

9 – Niamh Kavanagh – “In Your Eyes” (Ireland 1993)

Of the seven times Ireland has hosted Eurovision, two of those times were won on home ground. Niamh was the first person to win on home soil since Milk & Honey and Gali Atarti won the Contest back in 1979 for Israel. ‘In Your Eyes’ was one of the standout songs for me in 1993 Contest and it was the deserving winner in Millstreet (even though the ‘arena’ looked like it could only hold the singers and the stage.. Greece’s NF in 2011 ring a bell?). I won’t go on too much about why I thought it won, but it was a good song that Ireland sent to represent them and when you look back on the performance, it really is a good show, but many fans (including our own James) don’t really think it was a good winner and hence, it’s mentioned in our worst winners article, but from a host-country perspective, it’s a good show!

8 – Salomé – “Vivo Cantando” (Spain 1969)

Another winner on home ground, this time in Spain back in the sixties. Salomé was representing her home country after Massiel won in 1968 and the following year that success was repeated and Salomé won! …Along with Lulu, Lenny Kuhr and Frida Boccara. Ooh, awkward! It’s been so long since Spain had a host-country song; in fact ‘Vivo Cantando’ is the only Spanish host-county song in the history of Eurovision… so far. The performance of the song was pretty energetic for a song in the sixties, and Salomé’s outfit was probably the first sight of fringe at Eurovision (of course it wasn’t Alyona Lanskaya fringe, but at least they were trying to make an effort). The energetic performance combined with a catchy song with four key changes (ValMon, eat your heart out!) gave us Spain’s best host-country song… and one of the best songs of the 1969 Contest.

7 – Ann-Marie David – “Tu te reconnaîtras” (Luxembourg 1973)

The third winner on home soil is that of Ann-Marie David of Luxembourg. Though the staging was rather cramped in 1973, but nevertheless, Ann-Marie gave a stunning performance of that power-jazz-ballad of hers. Her voice was perfect for the song and when she performed it (on Youtube of course, I wasn’t born then), I had goosebumps while she was doing her thing on the stage. The song really was a really good choice for Luxembourg and that was proven when she won in her home country, a mere four points ahead of Mocadades from Spain. ‘Tu reconnaîtras’ was a really good song from the host country and it didn’t surprise me when it won (although I would have liked Belgium to do a bit better than just last place!), so well done Ann-Marie, it was truly a magnificent song and I definitely recognise myself now!

6 – Jelena Tomašević – “Oro” (Serbia 2008)

Ah ‘Oro’, easily the one of the best Balkan songs that was ever in Eurovision and it won the top spot in our Balkan ballads top. The simplicity of the song and the dramatic story that unfolded on stage just gave us a very small insight into how much the song was filled with love. The supporters for Serbia absolutely went mad for Jelena after she finished performing and who could blame them? Serbia knows how to send a good song to Eurovision (well, that is for ‘Cipela’ and ‘Ljubav je svuda’) , so when they hosted the show in 2008, I was expecting them to pull out all the stops, which they did! Jelena finished sixth in the voting, but that was really good for a host country in recent times. However, for this countdown, she’ll finish sixth because as much as we love her, there are better songs to pick from, but well done for winning the Balkan ballads top.

5 – Elisabeth Andreassen – “I Evighet” (Norway 1996)

‘I Evighet’ is probably the best Norwegian host-country song ever. The performance Elisabeth gave was a little stiff, as you can probably tell (what she was doing with her hands, I have no idea), but the song definitely makes up for it. At the start and end of the performance, those Norwegians were cheering for their ‘home girl’ to quote Nargiz Birk-Petersen in 2012, but her song was really good. The fact she came second just showed that everyone else liked her.. just not as much as they liked Eimear Quinn, who is Ireland’s best winner in my opinion. Those panpipes that the guy was playing looked a little out of place, but they provided on the musical front, I’ll tell you that! At least Norway got 10 of their 76 points they had yet to receive at the time, thanks to Ingrid. But well done to Elisabeth for coming in a very respectable second place; the Norwegians were very proud of you!

4 – Anna Vissi – “Everything” (Greece 2006)

Anna Vissi, oh what can I say about her? She won our best key changes top and she is the best Greek host singer.. that’s because she is currently the only one who has taken that role! ‘Everything’ was one of the best songs that was in Eurovision in Athens (other great songs were those of Ukraine, Croatia, Norway, Sweden and Bosnia & Herzegovina) and in the various points of the performance where the audience was shown, all you could see were Greek flags! You could also hear the crowd singing along with Anna during the first chorus and this shows that everybody just loved her and the song to the point they knew every single word. So from a host-country view, she has been one of the strongest host-country singers and even though she only managed to finish in ninth place, everybody loves “EVERYTHING SHE DOES”. Sorry, I had to put it in!

3 – Lys Assia – “Refrain” (Switzerland 1956)

Oh the Golden Queen of Eurovision, Lys Assia! The quality of music was so different from the fifties compared to what it is now. The first winner of Eurovision also was one of the best host-country songs ever in Eurovision, as it was the first winner on home soil. Now it’s one of the most famous songs the Eurovision has ever churned out. Of course, as it was the fifties, there was very little movement and no props were allowed in the show, so the performance definitely revolved around the singer and the song, and that was a very good thing to start out with, because it meant that ‘Refrain’ would be the ultimate champion of this, the first ever Eurovision Song Contest. Sadly now, something like this woudn’t even qualify for the final or anywhere even near the Contest itself, so it’s very good that it won when it did. Well done Lys!

2 – Tajci – “Hajde Da Ludujemo” (Yugoslavia 1990)

The penultimate time Yugoslavia took part as a whole country, this song definitely was a bridge into what was to become the modern era of Eurovision. The stage was designed like a dancefloor and her song was very much disco-influenced, so it worked out quite brilliantly! If Tajci had won for Yugoslavia in Lausanne instead of Riva, 1) we wouldn’t be having her in this countdown and 2) something horrible probably would have been sent to Zagreb to represent the host country. The song is pretty catchy and the performance very eye-catching (I bet many people enjoyed it when she started to stick her ass out, but like Elisabeth, our #5, I have no idea what those hand movements during the performance were about!), so it was a good choice to send ‘Hajde Da Ludujemo’ to represent them and they finished in 7th place, a great placing for a song about going crazy!

So you’ve seen 9 of the best songs from a host country, but our #1 beats them all to it!

1 – Lena Meyer-Landrut – “Taken By A Stranger” (Germany 2011)

I was in the Esprit/Düsseldorf Arena when this was performed and woah, they fans just were crazy for Lena.. and to be honest, so was I. ‘Taken By A Stranger’ was a love/hate song; you either liked it or you didn’t. Let me tell you, the Germans were so proud of their Lena and when they picked ‘Taken By A Stranger’ to represent Germany, I was ecstatic! The performance was very enigmatic,; there was an air of mystery to her and those dancing sperm dancers of hers were just fantastic (I don’t know about any of you, but I know the dance routine.. am I a little sad? Probably..). This is what a host-country should send; a really good singer with a strong song and a memorable performance (Ukraine, you should be taking notes! ‘Raznom nas bahato’ definitely doesn’t fit that description!). The German fans came out in force for their girl and fair play to Lena, she finished just about stayed in the top 10, thanks to Latvia and now she’s the proud titleholder of ESC Views’ ‘Best Host-Country Song in Eurovision History’! Glückwunsch Lena!

Your views:

What would you say would be the best from a host-country in the history of Eurovision?

Is our top 10 accurate to your own?
Is our top 10 accurate to your own?

Angelos Noutsos from Sweden: Good songs from host countries… Tajci is unbeatable!

Nick van Lith from the Netherlands: That’s Anna Vissi for me. Anna Vissi is the best host entry ever, in my all time top 5. The pure expression of emotion and passion. Lena is a good 2nd, but Taken By A Stranger is no Satellite…

Nadine Glöck from Germany: 1. Latvia 2003, 2. Belgium 1987, 3. Greece 2006, 4. Estonia 2002, 5. UK 1977, 6. Yugoslavia 1990, 7. Germany 1983.

Shaun AB from Malta: I’d have to go for Azerbaijan 2012!

We have a huge variety of answers from the fans, ranging from ‘Rock Bottom’ in 1977 for the UK to ‘When the Music Dies’ in 2012 for Azerbaijan. As well these countries, we also had some mentions for ‘Take Him Home’ (Ireland 1988), ‘Never Ever Let You Go’ (Denmark 2001) and ‘For Real’ (Turkey 2004). But what is your favourite host-country song? Who would you add to or take away from the list? Feel free to let us know what you think by commenting below!

Would it work… if Spain sang in English?

Hey everyone and welcome back to the ‘Would It Work’ series! Leading on from the UK possibly going “Eastern”, today’s article concerns Spain and their continual trick of only singing in Spanish. Okay, the language can work for some songs such as ‘Quedaté Conmigo’ or ‘La, La, La’, but could Spain get a better result if they sent a song in English in the future?

More than just a few words of English please Spain!
More than just a few words of English please Spain!

Spain is known for sending songs to Eurovision in its native tongue, but there are those (and let me emphasise this) *rare* occasions where the odd word of English is dropped into the performance. Take ESDM for example; even though the entire song was in Spanish, they at least finished the song with the English translation of “Contigo hasta el final”: ‘With you until the end’. Now, we appreciate that they take the time to speak some English in their dying moments on stage, but I’d personally enjoy it if Spain sent a song that had a fair bit of English in it. That’s why when Soraya was sent to Eurovision with a bilingual song, I was actually ecstatic (oh the joys of youth!) and I was expecting great things of her, but we know how well she did, don’t we?

Well yes, she came second last. I was heartbroken. But the performance was, I believe, what let the Spanish down. The song was fine; in fact, in the series made in the run-up to the Contest, Andreas Schacht, said that:

The song uses the Eurovision formula and has a very eye-catching performance with lots of dancers […] it’s a very strong song.

So the man who edited eurovision.tv was for the song, but it seems that Europe didn’t like it. Like I said just above, the performance was probably what let her down. It was a pretty cheesy one and her vocals weren’t exactly the best on the night. So as much as were praising it, she flopped horribly and now she’s a part of this article. But moving onto the main point of this article, would it work if Spain sent something in English? Well, ask this woman, Ana Criado. She’s half-Spanish, but most of her discography is in English.

This song is something that Spain hasn’t tried properly yet; a really modern song and if she sings the song just as good as she does in the music video, then something like this or another song released by her could really work to Spain’s advantage. Sending something modern in English is a tried-and-tested way of getting a good position and if the song is popular, it’ll get up there in the top 10, but as James explained before, modern songs can be cursed when it comes to Eurovision, so Spain would need to tread carefully if something like ‘The Quest of A Dream’ was picked by RTVE. But singing in English helps a country get votes because if you have a good song and it’s in English, those countries such as the UK and Ireland (and that whole general area where they speak English) will vote for you. So Spain would be in a pretty good position if something along the lines of Ana Criado was sent… or is that just me?

Your views:

Do you think it would work if Spain tried singing in English?

Would an English song for Spain work for them?
Would an English song for Spain work for them?

Seth Wezendonk from the Netherlands: No, because the Spanish language sounds much better. It has something magical!

Kyösti Rönkkö from Finland: Spanish definitely!

Michael Romano from Australia: Do we really want one of the few countries that sings in its national language to start singing in English? It didn’t exactly help Soraya, she came second last. I think that if they want to do well they can start by changing the head of delegation, he seems to be a major problem for Spain. 

Costas Pom from Germany: How about a good Latin pop song in Spanish? So obvious and yet Spain is trying everything else but that the last years.

From what I’ve collected from the fans, singing in English wouldn’t go do well. Sending a “good Latin pop song in Spanish”, according to Costas, would be the obvious choice. It would be a good way to go for Spain as it hasn’t been done in a long time. Michael thinks that the Head of Delegation is what’s holding them back. I don’t know whether he really is a major problem, but I’m not going to argue with the fans opinions, I’m more interested into what you think! Do you think sending a song in English would be the best choice for Spain or should they just stick with singing in Spanish? Feel free to let us know what you think by commenting below!

Possible Artists: Greece

Okay, so the national final season is drawing ever nearer, and as various countries have been confirming their participation in Copenhagen, we’ve been taking you through our personal recommendations for twenty countries to date – all of which can be viewed again by visiting our Possible Artists page. Tonight’s instalment is focused on a Mediterranean nation which has one of the strongest Eurovision track records of recent years… the land of Elena Paparizou, Ellada!

It's been proposed many a time before... but could 2014 FINALLY be Despina's year?
It’s been proposed many a time before… but could 2014 FINALLY be Despina’s year?

Now, before I start, I should really justify this article’s existence a little, owing to the fact that we’re all aware how unlikely it is that Greece will be able to participate in Copenhagen at all. The dissolution and ensuing restructure of the ERT/NERIT broadcaster, discussed by Rory in the linked article, has left Greek television with very few alternatives to a 2014 withdrawal, however as we are still waiting for an official announcement, it could be argued that they are investigating every last available option in the hope that participation is still possible.

So whilst this article may initially seem a little overly optimistic, my primary suggestion, in fact, ties in with the financial obstacles that lie between Greece and Copenhagen 2014. I’m sure you’re already familiar with her, but ladies and gentlemen, have a listen to the fabulous Despina Vandi:

Without doubt one of the most successful Greek artists of all time, 44-year-old Vandi’s formidable career stretches back to the mid-90s, in which time she has released nine studio albums, and countless successful singles and other music collections. Generally alert to popular trends in contemporary music, her stylistic focus has shifted multiple times over the years, with her music having incorporated elements of rock, dance, laïko and mainstream pop over the years. In addition to this, the vast majority of her songs have been written by Phoebus – an equally big name in the Greek music industry, whose past collaborations include 1993 entrant Katy Garbi and local superstar Elli Kokkinou. Despina’s music is almost exclusively composed by this guy, their partnership (strictly musical… Despina is in fact married to a footballer…) has yielded some of the most iconic and successful records in Greek music history.

The above video accompanies the song “To Asteri Mou”, the song which I would describe as the strongest offering from her brilliant 2012 album “Allaksa”. As this is her most recent release, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to argue that a prospective Eurovision entry from Ms. Vandi would come out sounding a little like this – although perhaps this is more down to the style Phoebus is writing at the moment (similarities can be identified with some of the songs he recently composed for Stella Kalli – here and here) One thing is for sure though, regardless of the stylistic qualities of her entry, any Eurovision attempt by Despina Vandi would be almost guaranteed to carry a whole lot of pre-contest clout. Put simply, she is an absolute legend.

2004 saw the international release of the above single “Gia”, an ethnically-infused, ridonkulously catchy powerball of hi-energy dance music, which charted in the USA. IN. THE. USA. A Greek artist. A very Greek-sounding song. And it charted in the USA. That kinda thing does not happen often.

Aside from this, she has amassed a loyal following across Europe which extends well outside the borders of her native country. Now, we’ve had artists like that at the contest before, and whilst it is by no means a guarantee of success, it would make pretty much every listener sit up and listen when she walked onstage simply because “ooh look, it’s Despina Vandi!” Catch my drift? Not only is her music brilliant, she would go to the contest as EASILY the biggest name in the line-up. And that’s GOT to count for something, right?

Now here’s the catch. Despina has been linked to Eurovision multiple times in the past. Sometimes just a rumoured name in fan circles, or – certainly in 2005 at least – officially approached by ERT. But each time, she has declined to participate. Even when it was an internal selection, and she would have pretty much complete creative control. She wasn’t feeling it. Now, a lot has changed in eight years – her career is still going as well as ever, yet perhaps approaching it as a more mature artist, her feelings may have altered somewhat? In 2005, she was still riding high in the wake of “Gia”‘s international success, surely she must have been aspiring to build on that success in some way, and Eurovision wasn’t the platform she needed back then.

Fast-forward to 2013/2014, and it can be inferred that – based on her previous release rate – a new album will be on its way in the coming months. A new album, which will need promoting across Europe… a new album, whose lead single could just possibly serve as the Greek Eurovision entry? Who knows. After she was the host of the 2013 national final, I’d say anything is possible. Her opinion of the contest may be softening… and with Phoebus’ entire record label behind her, with more than enough money to make up for ERT/NERIT’s shortfalls… this is looking like one hell of a solution from where I’m sitting!

Of course, Despina Vandi on the ESC stage is one hell of a pipe dream, and considering the very slim chances of getting her on board, I’ve come up with another suggestion which is perhaps a little more realistic:

Greece have pushed the boat out many a time before, and whilst they achieved phenomenal success with a more formulaic approach in the 2000s, the top 10 placing of the 2011 and 2013 entries stand to prove that thinking outside the box could be just as effective. So, this is where I reckon an act like Slick Beats could come in. These guys are straight down the line euphoric dance music, and unashamedly so. Just listen to how contemporary that sound is. I was first introduced to this song by a friend who is not even remotely bothered about “foreign music”, she simply heard this song, thought it was ph’nom, and sent me the link. And it was only at that point that I did some digging and discovered these guys are Greek.

If they would consider singing – or even just producing – an ESC entry, the resulting song would easily be one of the most up-to-date contributions to the show, and the sort of performance this genre allows for will most certainly appeal to the more generic fans. Catchy, uncomplicated, glittery and fabulous. You may see it as a little cliché, but have Greece ever tried this before? No, they most certainly have not. Add a contemporary style to a pre-existing diaspora vote and what do you have? A bloody good chance of success, that’s what.

Oh my god. Imagine this. Despina Vandi singing a song written by Phoebus and produced by Slick Beats. *dies*

Your Views:

Would Despina or Slick Beats be a good choice for Greece?
Would Despina or Slick Beats be a good choice for Greece?

Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: Despina is a perfect candidate for the Greeks. I love her!

Richard Lee from the United Kingdom: I have been to Greece many times, although I do not understand the words I love this song 10/10

Morten Boldt Hansen from Norway: Despina is GREAT!!!!

Svetlana Andriyenko from Ukraine: I like many Despina’s songs, I hope she sings at Eurovision one day

Aha, I told you she was popular, didn’t I. For what I think is the first time, one of our Possible Artist suggestions has been met with universal approval from the surveyed fans. So, all we need to do now is hope and pray that somehow the Greek television situation can be resolved in time to facilitate a Eurovision entry from Despina Vandi. Realistically, it’s extremely unlikely, but there’s no harm in dreaming, ey?