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Ask ESC Insight: Three Minutes That Will Make You Fall In Love With The National Final Season Written by on September 28, 2018 | 7 Comments

As the momentum of the new season of the Eurovision Song Contest builds, many Song Contest fans are ready for an onslaught of music. Others, especially those who just tune in to the broadcasts during May, are wondering what the fuss is all about. As the names and dates are slowly revealed, the latest Ask ESC Insight looks over previous National Finals seasons to find out what song we would each play to get someone to fall in love with the early competitive rounds of Eurovision.

Ewan Spence

Someday’ by Hera Bjork (Denmark 2009)

I’m definitely playing to the gallery with this choice here, and I’m making the assumption that I’m talking to someone who already gets Eurovision, who tunes in during May (and maybe follows the action online), but needs a nudge to realise the same love and emotion is on show throughout the year… you just need to find it.

Which means turning to a Eurovision legend who’s been at the front of the stage, who’s backed up other successful acts, and who continues to love the Contest. And yes, while ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ gets the heart racing, has the moves, and still fills the dance floor, for me the Danish 2009 selection is a far better signature song for Hera Bjork… and its gems like ‘Someday’ you miss if you aren’t following the National Finals.

John Egan

Get Frighten’ by Lolita Zero (Lithuania 2017)

Who doesn’t enjoy a classic Euro disco stomper performed by an impossibly tall Lithuanian drag queen and her minions? It’s got an instant hook, several OMG moments, and the best talking bridge since Sertab’s “Everyway That I Can” huh-huhed its way into our hearts.

The best part? One of the minions is actually doing the singing: Lolita’s lip synching. Like a proper drag queen. I’m still mad that this wasn’t in Kyiv… Europe was deprived of two minutes and forty seven seconds of perfectly choreographed car crash chaos. Hellooooo Europe!

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Samantha Ross

Human Beings’ by Karin Park (Norway 2015)

What do I look for when I peruse the seemingly endless parade of National Finalists? In a perfect world, I like to see songs that align with the music that I listen to outside of the Eurovision Song Contest bubble. I want a sleek, modern production, an engaging performer, an uplifting chorus, and (if it’s in a language I understand) a message or story that grabs me in the three minutes that a singer has my undivided attention.

For me, Karin Park’s ‘Human Beings’ checks all of those boxes. Knowing that Karin wrote the ever-so-industrially-slinky ‘I Feed You My Love’ for Margaret Berger, ‘Human Beings’ felt like both a logical continuation of a Eurovision path that started in 2013 as well as an invitation to explore her brilliant solo work. Yes, caffeinated bops and dramatic balladry will always be a part of the Eurovision landscape, especially to those who only know the Song Contest by reputation, but time marches onwards, it’s important to show newcomers that there really is no line between ‘Eurovision Music’ and ‘Everything Else’.

Wivian Kristiansen

“Fjaðrir” by Sunday (Iceland 2015)

I’m thinking that most of the hardcore fans are already following the National Finals, no? So I decided to go for a song I believe might tempt the more casual viewers into checking out a National Final or two.

The song I have chosen is ‘Fjaðrir’ (‘Feathers’) by Sunday, which was one of the finalists in Söngvakeppnin 2015. And it should, without a doubt, have been the Icelandic entry in Vienna. This song, especially the Icelandic version, is a perfect example of today’s modern Icelandic indie pop. You can literally hear the Icelandic landscape in this with Hildur’s atmospheric gliding voice on top of Guðfinnur’s electronica accompaniment. Sheer beauty. And something that will never win in Iceland, though I think it would do really well at the Eurovision Song Contest.

I believe this is the kind of song that could potentially turn one of those ‘I don’t like Eurovision music’ people into, perhaps not a fan, but at least someone with a more balanced view of what Eurovision music is.

Read more from Wivian at EscXtra.

Brandon McCann

Temple of Love’ by BWO (Sweden 2006)

My quintessential Eurovision entry that got away. The defining hit from a popular Swedish band whose music I adore and learnt of through their appearances in Melodifestivalen.

I chose this catchy electro-pop entry specifically because I feel it’s a bridge between die-hard Eurovision Song Contest fans and pop music enjoyers even with no appreciation for the Song Contest. This is my ‘gateway’ song to help convert the masses to the Contest – nearly all of the time it works quite well and I couldn’t be more proud of it.

Brandon is the driving force behind WaveScope, a new Android app covering Eurovision news.

Sharleen Wright

Smile’ by Jamala (Ukraine 2011)

Our Eurovision Song Contest winner from 2016 comes with form, with a song that is a far cry from the brooding ‘1944’.

In 2011, the uptempo and annoyingly catchy ‘Smile’ emerged from a multi-week national selection process that has since gone down in National Final history. Jamala was quirky, popular in jazz circles, and had a song that was clearly hard to get out of your head from the first listen.

When it came to the Ukrainian National Final, Jamala went into the hotly-contested show also featuring Zlata (who went on to represent Ukraine in 2013) carrying the ‘favourite’ status. She was leading the public voting throughout the show, but when it came down to the final moments, a last minute surge of internet and SMS votes, alongside a lower than expected jury vote, left Mika Newton to emerge the victor.

It was discovered shortly thereafter that many of the SMS and internet votes for Mika were from the same source. The controversy saw Jamala claim she would never enter the competition again. Clearly, she changed her mind just five years later, but ‘Smile’, in my opinion, remains the song she should have taken to the Contest and in no doubt, would have brought Eurovision back to Ukraine much earlier.

What Just Missed The Cut?

Over on ESC Insight’s Patreon Page, we’ve gathered together some of the songs that were very nearly in this article, but just missed out. Think of it as a DVD Extra of this article for our supporters. You can find the extra National Final songs here, and feel free to explore Patreon to find out how you can support  ESC Insight through the season.

Over To You!

Time to put your own thinking caps on! Which songs stand out for you? Which will entice the mainstream to spend their weekends discovering music from across the continent? Which stick in your mind? And to make it interesting, you all have the same caveat… no songs that made it to May.

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (

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7 responses to “Ask ESC Insight: Three Minutes That Will Make You Fall In Love With The National Final Season”

  1. David says:

    Mick Pedaja’s “Seis” (Estonia 2016) has already brought a couple of friends around to checking out the occasional national final; it has the same quietening effect on a room as “Amor Pelos Dois,” especially with the bass turned up.
    And I’ve played Laing’s “Wechselt die Beleuchtung” (Germany 2015) – and sometimes “Zeig deine Muskeln” (same year) – to show persuade some German friends that it’s time they switched on again earlier in the season (as well as the fact that the lyrics do not have to be all la-la-la).

  2. Shai says:

    I don’t watch national finals.
    Just don’t have the time for it.

    John Egan’s choice will only enforce the prejudices people have about the contest. After watching the clip, those people will say, what an utter rubbish.

  3. MartsHH says:

    I got three entries into my mind at once – when I read your article – in no particular order:

    Fool Moon – It Can’t Be Over – Hungary 2014 – something special/different
    Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’ – Sweden 2013 – a good pinch of pop
    Lo Stato Sociale – Una vita in vacanza – Italy 2018 – great Italian song

    I think it is important to show that there is quality songs are shown at the national selections!

  4. Tommy E says:

    Loads of good stuff in the Estonian finals through the years. Everything from Laura for example. Winny Puhh would appeal to some I guess 🙂

  5. dimitris esc says:

    Mikael Saari -We Should Be Through (UMK 2013)
    Mick Pedaja -Seis(Eesti Laul 2016)
    Danielfy Gergely – Azt Mondtad (A Dal 2018)
    Carmell – Faces (Polish NF 2017)
    Laila Samuels “Afterglow” – (Norsk MGP 2016)
    Pain Of Salvation-Road Salt (Melodifestivalen 2010)
    Puskas Peti-Csillagok(A Dal 2013)
    And so many others.

  6. dimitris esc says:

    *Puskas Peti competed with “Csillagok” in 2012.

  7. Ewan Spence says:

    ‘We Should Be Through’ was fabulous!

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