Today, I have the great pleasure to bring our epic countdown of the best non-qualifying Eurovision entries to its conclusion! Following on from our three previous articles, the tension is mounting, for – in true semi-final spirit – there are just ten slots remaining, and a total of 135 rejected ESC entries all vying for one of them. Which ones do we think were the most undeserved semi-final casualties? All will be revealed by the culmination of this post!
In recent years, the majority of Eurovision entries have had one major obstacle to circumnavigate in order to bring their countries the contest glory they so desire. This obstacle is of course the semi-final elimination process. Many favourites do manage to traverse these muddy waters, and reach the solace of the grand final on the other side. However, there have been just as many injustices along the way, whereby absolutely amazing songs have been unceremoniously abandoned on the Tuesday or Thursday nights and largely forgotten about. Well no longer! We have collected and resurrected the best of these semi-final casualties, and assembled them for your nostalgic enjoyment (you can thank us later, it’s alright).
This top 40 has been brought to you in four stages – two articles were published last weekend, and the final two parts this weekend, so that we now reveal our top 10 in time to get started on our national final coverage next weekend! In addition, for the first time since we started featuring multi-stage countdowns, Rory and I have both contributed two articles each, rather than having just one narrative voice guiding you guys through the entire list. We have ranked the entries together too, so what we have prepared really is reflective of our combined opinion.
While we’re here, I may as well stress that point – this ranking represents our opinion, and as such it may be a little controversial or unexpected. Please take this into account before passing a condemnatory eye over some of our more ambiguous choices! Right, let’s see who’s managed to make this part of the countdown!
10 – Pernilla Karlsson – När Jag Blundar (Finland 2012)
We’ll start this final part by rewinding to the absolutely STUNNING Finnish entry from Baku, which is one of my favourite Eurovision songs of all time. Not only is it the epitome of everything I look for in a ballad, “När Jag Blundar” has an unparalleled level of sheer beauty to it that I don’t think I’ve seen in many other songs. The melody itself is simple and understated, but the ingenious instrumentation – including that spine-tingling descending harp motif – brings it a dimension of subtle complexity which commands the attention of the listener without being intrusive and diva-esque. The live performance was stripped back – as expected – and vocally sound. If I’m brutally honest, I never really expected this one to qualify, and I can understand how some viewers probably found it bland and forgettable; but nothing will ever stop me from loving this piece of music. I’m proud of how well Pernilla did to even win the Finnish ticket to Baku, and yes, if she had featured in the final, it would have been a dream come true, but now, more than 18 months on, I still listen to this song more than any of those which were performed on Saturday night. You’ll always have a fan in me Pernilla!
9 – Evridiki – Comme Ci Comme Ça (Cyprus 2007)
Very much a case of the fanwank flop here, Cyprus’ Evridiki came at the 2007 contest like a juggernaut of pent-up exotic aggression, which, for a song like “Comme Ci Comme Ça” was entirely appropriate. She attacked that song like she had just walked in on it sleeping with her boyfriend, pouring so much pent-up energy into it that the viewers were probably genuinely frightened of running into her on a dark night, lest they should suffer the same fate. I mean, come on, look at those demented head movements, people. Scaaaaary. And therein, I believe, lies the reason for its failure to qualify *sad face*. Although a little incongruous, the French language brought an extra dimension to what was already a supremely catchy pop-rock number, and the electro influences took this even further. I mean, all the pieces were there, they just weren’t assembled quite right, and our angry Cypriot thunderstorm had to suffer the consequences.
8 – Marcin Mrozinski – Legenda (Poland 2010)
I’m pretty sure that a lot of fans will be surprised to find this one so high in our list, as the majority of comments I’ve ever heard about the song have been damningly negative. Well, not today. The two of us both LOVED Marcin’s song, and it’s about time we fought back against those who so openly detest it! Generically unclassifiable, this folksy number had enough drama to give a Jedward press conference a run for its money. Hopping between octaves, time signatures and keys, the song keeps you guessing from start to finish, with Marcin’s commanding and powerful vocals anchoring the entire thing and giving a sense of gusto to the proceedings. And all that aside, the chorus is ridonkulously catchy! Of course, the moment the camera zoomed in on the melodramatic apple chomper, the song was just about doomed. Indeed, I’m surprised it finished as high as it did, considering the sheer strangeness of the performance. Just makes you think, what if they’d done it normally, eh?
7 – Poli Genova – Na Inat (Bulgaria 2011)
Every time I look back at this performance, I get so inexpressibly sad that it was cast aside in the semi-final; probably more so than most others in this list. Everything about it was as good as it could possibly be. The song, a very modern contemporary pop-rock effort, which – if sung in English by someone like Avril Lavigne or Taylor Swift – would be an international smash hit without question. As it happens, it was sung in Bulgarian by Poli Genova, and it was sung a billion times better than either of the two aforementioned North Americans would have managed. The fabulous backdrop and the clever camera work both complemented the strength of both her voice and the song, to the extent where the language barrier was not a hurdle in conveying the exact message of the lyrics. It really was brilliant, and everytime I go back over it all, I remember what an injustice its eventual result was!
6 – Hannah Mancini – Straight Into Love (Slovenia 2013)
Oh, hello there, what do we have here? Surely not the lovely Hannah Mancini, her EXQUISITE backing dancers *swoon* and the shamazing song “Straight Into Love”? Oh yeah.. because this incredible package unbelievably finished LAST in its semi final back in May. LAST. L.A.S.T. Below “Mizerja”. And that, my friends, is an absolute travesty. Allow me to elaborate. Yes, her vocals weren’t brilliant, but neither were Alyona Lanskaya’s, and she sailed through to Saturday night. Neither, let’s be fair, were Emmelie de Forest’s; her feathery little voice could be described as “shaky” at best. Hannah, on the other hand, poured her heart and soul into this infectiously catchy modern number, which, by the way, I still absolutely adore belting out more than six months after it failed to qualify. This wasn’t perfect, but none of the sixteen in that semi-final were. And this one wasn’t far off. 😦
5 – Andrea Demirovic – Just Get Out Of My Life (Montenegro 2009)
In my opinion, this is the last good song Ralph Siegel wrote, before completely losing touch with the twenty-first century altogether. Yes, it’s a bit of a disco throwback, but it’s just about modern enough to attract younger, more contemporary audiences – such as myself and Rory, who both fell in love with this song back in 2009 when it narrowly missed out on a spot in the Moscow final. The synth-strings motif which serves as the introduction and musical break at various points in the song is instantly memorable, and the chorus is well-constructed and easy to sing along to. So why didn’t it qualify? Well, just look at the performance. That’s why. The whole conflicted mentality/warring lovers thing could have come across really well, but it all falls down within five seconds, when it becomes blatantly obvious that the bloke on stage with her has never slept with a woman in his life, thus making himself a rather tenuous choice as Andrea’s ex-lover, right? And his ridiculous dancing totally distracted from the brilliance of the song. Shame, really. Would have been a very deserved qualification for Montenegro!
4 – Deep Zone & Balthazar – DJ, Take Me Away (Bulgaria 2008)
Yet another Bulgarian entry now. (I did warn you we kinda love them) Back in 2008, Bulgaria’s future at Eurovision looked bright, coming off the back of their first ever qualification and subsequent top 5 result the previous year with “Water”. All of this came crashing down in Belgrade however, where, in an admittedly strong semi-final, “DJ, Take Me Away” – a brave and boundary-pushing selection, it must be said – ran out of steam and slumped to 12th place, thus missing out on the final. Many people would blame this on the minute-long instrumental breakdown which introduced the song, so much so that Joanna’s eventual vocal section does come as something of a surprise. But if you overlook that first minute (come on, record-scratching?! That went out of fashion with Love City Groove…) what you’re left with is a sublimely catchy, very contemporary club record which was delivered energetically and enthusiastically by all involved. What I always think about with this one is that, had the previous year’s qualification rules still been in place, this song would have had an automatic ticket to the final, thanks to Elitsa and Stoyan’s result in Helsinki. Sad loss, Europe!
3 – Moje 3 – Ljubav Je Svuda (Serbia 2013)
Very much a love it or hate it song here, Moje 3’s fantabulous “Ljubav Je Svuda” is our number 3 tonight, yet another one of the many unfortunate casualties from the first semi final in Malmö. We have already discussed those hideous costumes, and concluded that it would have been a lot better had they worn their NF outfits, however, aesthetics aside… THIS IS A BRILLIANT SONG!?! It is generic and uncomplicated, I know, but that chorus is so infectious, and the girls performed it with such animation that the lyrics were really brought to life, despite the language barrier. Okay, so Mirna did look a tad lesbiany, and Sara looked more demented than Evridiki… but still. The song, people, the song. Thoroughly deserved a spot in the final, and I for one was considerably shocked that it didn’t make it.
2 – Sofi Marinova – Love Unlimited (Bulgaria 2012)
Sofi Marinova, Eurovision’s very own Chuck Norris. She is the queen of everything. Undisputed. Unrivalled. Sofi is law. You don’t know why you love her, but it is an unquestionable fact that you just do. Now, knowing that, watch the performance of “Love Unlimited”. And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Quite simply the best thing to ever exist. Starting – slightly off-key, may I add – with that robot effect on her voice, the camera cuts to her and you realise there isn’t a single soul on that vast stage with her, nope, just Empress Marinova strutting her stuff in that
hideous amazing outfit. And that grin. For the remainder of the song, her vocals were genuinely on point, and the song itself is oddly catchy, and weirdly mesmerising. Of course, despite the fact that Sofi is God, I never thought this would be anywhere near qualification, regardless of how much I loved it – and yet, technically, this song was the closest, out of all 165 non-qualifiers in ESC history, to making it into the final, ending up tied for points with Tooji, and eventually falling foul of the countback rule. *sob*. I mean, come on, I haven’t listened to “Stay” since Tooji sang it in the final, whereas “Love Unlimited” still receives regular outings on my iPod. Amazing song. And then, you know, Sofi.
1 – Kristina – Horehronie (Slovakia 2010)
All the songs we’ve featured so far most definitely didn’t deserve to languish in the semis, but, of course, the epitome of Eurovision injustice is this one. Kristina’s incredible “Horehronie”, which represented Slovakia in Oslo. Where do I start with this one, eh? Well, personally, back in February 2010, the NF season wasn’t going brilliantly, as far as I was concerned. Aside from Hera Björk’s “Je Ne Sais Quoi”, there hadn’t been a single selected song which I loved. Then, along came this one. Ethno-pop, tick. Slavic language, tick. Female vocalist, tick. Everything I look for in a song right there. But this wasn’t just ANY old Eastern-European ethnic number, hell no. That beautiful melody, the powerful pounding rhythm, the ambient flutes… I had it on repeat pretty much from the moment it was selected, until the start of the first semi-final in May. Words fall short in their efforts to articulate just how much I loved – and still love – this amazing song. I do not understand why Europe didn’t vote for this. I do not, and will not, ever comprehend how the juries failed to see any merit in it. The live vocals, I concede, weren’t the strongest, but see above comments re. Hannah Mancini. Live vocals aren’t a hurdle for everyone, and this song still came across as beautiful even when not performed at 100%. My lowest point as an ESC fan was the moment when Iceland came out of the last envelope in that semi. I loved Iceland. But I loved Slovakia more. And with that, my little fanboy world was ripped apart.
Perhaps not so melodramatically, Rory also loved “Horehronie”, and thus it has been crowned as the eventual victor in our epic quest to identify what we consider to be the best non-qualifier in Eurovision history. I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading the articles in this series – we’ve certainly enjoyed putting them together – but, for one last time, what do you think? Which non-qualifiers would have been included in YOUR top ten?
Simon Ball from the United Kingdom: For me the best ever non-qualifier was Drama Queen – outstanding song and performance. Loved My Galileo too, and A Century Of Love, and Israel’s ‘Time’ from a couple of years back.
Claus Michael Fasting from Norway: Mine is Stella Mwangi – Haba Haba (Norway 2011), Guri Schanke – Ven a Bailar Conmingo (Norway 2007) & Valentina Monetta – Crisalide (Vola) (San Marino 2013)
Ian Titterton from the United Kingdom: This is my life (Sweden 2010), My Dream (Malta 2010), San aggelos s’agapisa (Cyprus 2011) & Verjamem (Slovenia 2012) are the ones I think should’ve qualified for sure. Plenty of others aswell i could think of. Oh yeah and Follow my heart – Ich Troje, can’t believe I nearly forgot that one.
As has been the case with all of our articles in this top 40, the response from the fan community has been incredibly varied, which just goes to prove how subjective the subject of non-qualifiers is! Hopefully you agree with some of our comments on the songs which have reached our top 10 today, but whatever your viewpoint, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below and tell us what you think!