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Are You Sure That's Not a Eurovision Song? Written by on December 10, 2012 | 18 Comments

Over the past few years, I’ve been introducing Eurovision to my friends and family who weren’t familiar with the idea (as Americans, the ESC can often be, quite literally, a foreign concept).  Often times, when I explain the idea of a European pop music festival to others, I get the response of “Oh!  Wasn’t (insert band here) in that?”.

While many correctly recall that ABBA and Céline Dion were famous alumni, others seem to think that any and every campy, catchy, European song that has entered the American consciousness has tread the boards at Eurovision at some point.  That being said, some of these red herrings could have easily made an impact on the scoreboard if they were actually ESC songs.

Would they have done better than their real-life counterparts?

Dragostea Din Tea, by O-Zone

Released in 2003, the globally-popular “Numa-Numa Song” actually predates Moldova’s participation in Eurovision by two years.  Arguably the biggest global hit to come out of Chisinau, “Dragostea din tea”, or “Love from the Linden Trees”, topped a dozen singles charts and was eventually translated into numerous languages.

It became famous (or, more accurately, infamous) in the US when a video of New Jersey resident Gary Brolsma awkwardly lip-synching to the Romanian-language hit went viral.  Interestingly, after O-Zone broke up in 2005, member Arsenium took the stage with Natalia Gordienko on behalf of Moldova in Athens.  The pair came in 20th place with “Loca“.

Stereo Love, by Edward Maya and Vika Jigulina

Massive hit “Stereo Love” topped the charts in ten countries, and even cracked into the US Top 20, a rare feat for a Romanian song.  It was released in October of 2009, making it eligible for the 2010 contest.  If it had gone in place of Ovi and Paula’s “Playing with Fire“, could the hypnotic accordion riff have beaten the saucy piano duet’s third place?

Prisencolinensinainciusol, by Adriano Celentano

Ok now, let’s go a bit retro. When it comes to appealing to a universal audience at Eurovision, many countries tend to default to performing in English, as opposed to their own national language.  On the other hand, Belgium’s 2003 entry, “Sanomi“, nearly struck gold by performing in a completely made-up tongue.  What would happen if someone came in and sang in gibberish that was designed to sound like English?

The November 1972 (and therefore 1973-eligible) release “Prisencolinensinainciusol” was brassy, bold, ballsy, and catchy as heck, while taking perfect advantage of the EBUs recently-loosened restrictions on language.  Italy’s actual entry that year, “Chi sarà con te” came in a disappointing 13th place in Luxembourg.  Would Adriano Celentano’s experimental proto-rap performance piece have done any better, or would it have been too ahead of its time?  (And for you eagle-eyed readers, yes, that is Raffaela Carrá flailing about wildly in the video below.)

Bom-Bom, by Sam and the Womp

Ok, I realize this is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it song, so let’s just look at it in a logical, mathematical sense.

“Ovo Je Balkan” + Lena Meyer-Landrut = Sam and the Womp’s “Bom-Bom”.

Blending a musical style that is highly popular across a swath of Eastern Europe with a fun, quirky female vocal, this is a bouncy slice of ethnopop confectionery that makes its presence known.  It’s even a Eurovision-perfect 3 minutes long…shame it was released before the September 1, 2012 deadline, or else the BBC could have had a bouncy little contender that would have completely washed the aftertaste of Humperdinck out of Europe’s collective mouth.

MFG, by Die Fantastischen Vier

It’s not easy to top Germany’s performance in 1999; Süpriz’s “” took the country to a very respectable bronze-medal position that year.  However, that was also the year that brought us arguably the biggest hit from groundbreaking German rap group Die Fantastischen Vier, “MfG”.  Catchy and more than a little bit cheeky, it would have been an interesting counterpoint to the other rap entries submitted to the Contest by that point (namely, the United Kingdom in 1995, Denmark in 1997, and, arguably, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999).

Alina Süggeler, Roman Lob, Thomas D, and Stefan Raab

Like “Prisencolinensinainciusol”, would it have been too “out there” for voters and juries?  (By the by, the idea of Eurovision isn’t lost on Fanta 4 member Thomas D, who headed up the jury on “Unser Star für Baku” that discovered Roman Lob!)

Save Your Love, by Renée and Renato

When I told Ewan about my ideas for this article, he immediately chimed in with this doozy.  If you want songs that are in a nation’s collective psyche, then you can’t go wrong with the one-hit wonder of “Save Your Love”. While it was the 1982 Christmas number one in the UK, the timing of the song would have made it eligible for Eurovision 1981 if it had only been lifted from the vaults in time.

Allegedly inspired by the previous winning UK song from the Brotherhood of Man, it would have replaced the next winning UK song (and that costume change) from Bucks Fizz…and likely handed victory to Ralph Siegel’s “Johnny Blue”. So we saved something.

Who did we miss?

There are plenty of other examples of “Eurovision Red Herrings”, especially to American ears.  I’ve fielded questions about songs by Ace of Base, Right Said Fred, or the Vengaboys, and even 1983 hit “99 Luftballons” (which, frankly, could have gone over brilliantly in Munich, where that year’s event was hosted).  Which songs have confused your non-Eurovision-addicted friends and family over the years?

About The Author: Samantha Ross

Vaguely aware of the Contest since childhood, a fanatic since 2008, and an ESC blogger since 2009, Samantha Ross made her first sojourn to Eurovision in 2011, and was quickly welcomed into the fold at ESC Insight. Over the years, she's been interviewed by BBC World News, SVT, LBC Radio, and many others. She was a semi-regular contributor to Oystermouth Radio's weekly dedicated Eurovision program, "Wales 12 Points". Furthermore, Samantha contributed to BBC Radio 2's coverage of the Copenhagen contest, and was a member of the official web team in 2014 and 2015. She also worked as a member of the Bulgarian Delegation, serving as Assistant Head of Press in Kyiv and Lisbon. When not at Eurovision, Samantha is a regular on the Twin Cities pub quiz circuit, and has volunteered as a moderator for the local high school quiz bowl for over ten years. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but is wistfully looking for opportunities to get geographically closer to the heart of the Eurovision action. You can follow Samantha on Twitter (@escinsider).

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18 responses to “Are You Sure That's Not a Eurovision Song?”

  1. Dimitry Latvia USA says:

    I thought “Mr. Saxo beat” by Alexandra Stan was related to Eurovision. That song could give Romania it’s first victory for sure.

  2. Dimitry Latvia USA says:

    Also, “Macarena” would go down a treat. In recent years, Russia could try luck with “Chumachedshaya vesna” by Potap and Nastya.

  3. Ben says:

    Various tracks are coming to mind that I think wouldn’t have been out of place at ESC…

    “Bang Bang Bang” by Mark Ronson & the Business International

    “My Wicked Heart” by Diana Vickers (a very possible alternative to Sam and the Womp, Ewan!)

    or for a more sincere type of song, which is more wishful thinking on my part, check out “Further” by Long-View, a not particularly famous band from Manchester who released one of the best albums I bought in the noughties. I would love the UK to send some melancholic rock one year.

  4. Ben says:

    Oh and this just came to mind as well. Probably would have done well when it came out in 2003/4ish.

  5. Nick says:

    I’m a somewhat private person by nature, so my Eurovision interactions have stayed almost exclusively in the Eurovision eCommunity (how long has it been since “e” was put before something to represent online?). However, if I had to hazard a guess or two, I’d say one song might be Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” which, although it had a release date 11 days after the ’97 contest and was therefore ineligible for any contest, to virgin ears, would probably seem like an obvious pick for Denmark. The other song I hit on immediately might be “Caramelldansen” by Caramell (how innovative), which might’ve represented Sweden in Tallinn rather than what seriously might have been the gayest Eurovision performance ever by Afro-Dite. Even though most people have heard it as the ineligible super-speed version from 2006, the original song, which was released in November 2001, might not have been so bad, especially if it had been retooled before the show. Other songs that are just off the top of my head are Shakira’s “Waka Waka” (especially after Norway went “Haba Haba”), “Asereje” by Las Ketchup, which actually makes the most sense to me, as Las Ketchup took their office chairs to Athens and sung for Spain in 2006 and, bear with me now, PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” which fits the profile of catchy hook, easy choreography and foreign sound. Of course at the moment, it wouldn’t be evident, but in a few years, it just might work. Just to supplement the text, here’s “Caramelldansen.”

  6. Nick, funny you should mention “Barbie Girl”…Aqua actually had their moment in the ESC spotlight as the infamous interval act for Copenhagen 2001!

  7. Matt says:

    Sam, just remember this. Denmark that year nearly got deep trouble for aqua swear, not only on live national tv….. but on live world wide tv. Also, wasn’t that the year that the uk’s commentary team had to say sorry to the Danish royal family for what they said on live tv??

  8. Ewan Spence says:

    By ‘bbc team’ you mean Terry Wogan? Yes he was rather blunt that year… Dr Death and the Tooth Fairy, as I recall.

  9. Stephen P says:

    I always thought What If by Kate Winslet could have been a Eurovision-by-numbers ballad. It was released in November 2001 so could have represented the UK in Tallinn, but I don’t think it would have done any better than Ms. Garlick.

  10. Nick says:

    I knew I’d forgotten something from that stupidly long comment! Yes, I remember on the huge stage in Copenhagen how Aqua sweared and nearly sunk the mood the following morning.

  11. Ewan Spence says:

    Jessica Garlick, robbed by the running order!

  12. Now, now, Ewan…that’s a different article. 😉

  13. Ben says:

    3rd place ain’t bad for a #2! Having said that I cannot understand why Latvia won that year. I wasn’t even following, I hadn’t even heard of the contest back then, this is just me going on Youtube clips. What the hell was that? Looked like someone dove into Jane Fonda’s 1980s wardrobe, came out and performed something that I literally cannot remember how it goes.

  14. Ben says:

    Ok, just watched it again. Awkward lesbian salsa.

  15. Matt says:

    Ewan, you are right on the mark. At the time, the name was on the tip of my tongue.

  16. Paul Lashmana says:

    I have a few of those, where friends think it took part.

    One is “Ti Amo” by Umberto Tozzi. Okay he and Raf did take part with the rather nice “Gente di Mare”.

    Another one: Peter Maffay and “Du”.

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