The Tie For Fourteenth Place
We polled seven of ESC Insight’s regular writers for this countdown, and we have a four-way tie at the bottom of the table. Csaba Szigeti’s rather tortured ballad landed Hungary in the bottom three on its second Eurovision Song Contest appearance in 1995. Three years later, Charlie was similarly lost in the shuffle during the fan favourite-packed 1998 Song Contest. Ten years after that, Czesy’s classy but forgettable ‘Candlelight’ finished last in its Semi Final (still Hungary’s worst ever performance).
Most recently, viral sensation Boggie’s plaintive ‘Wars for Nothing’ cruised through the 2015 Semi Finals but finished in a disappointing 20th place at the Grand Final in Vienna. It’s the kind of song that doesn’t exactly bear repeat listening, so perhaps the sheer amount of times we had to sit through it in the press centre that year still rankles. The message is noble, but it’s all just a bit… preachy.
‘Új név a régi ház falán’, by Csaba Szigeti (1995)
‘A holnap már nem lesz szomorú’ by Charlie (1998)
‘Candlelight’ by Czesy (2008)
‘Wars for Nothing’, by Boggie (2015)
13: Miért kell, hogy elmenj?’ by V.I.P. (1997)
This sweetly harmonised boyband ballad was a modest success for Hungary in the 1997 Song Contest, scoring 39 points and a 12th place finish. The production is actually quite on trend for the time, and the boys sing it well. It’s not hard to imagine a contemporary group like Boyzone or Backstreet Boys having a hit with an English language version and similar finger clicking choreography. They even stand up from their stools for the final chorus, a boyband staple!
12: ‘Dance With Me’ by Zoli Adok (2009)
“The lights are bright, the mood is raw, and in the middle of the night, we’ll dance ’till we get sore…”
This likably ridiculous disco pastiche only made it to Moscow when not one, but two previously selected candidates were abruptly withdrawn, leaving cruise ship star Zoli Adok as the last man standing. Songs like this were fairly ten-a-penny during mid-00s Eurovision, but Adok throws himself into it with gay abandon and… enthusiastic choreography.
11: ‘Az én apám’ by Joci Pápai (2019)
Going back to Eurovision after a successful first try is always a risky game, and in the case of Joci Pápai’s second effort it was clearly a case of diminishing returns, as he brough Hungary’s eight-year qualification streak to an end.
A mournful folk ballad about childhood memories and Pápai’s relationship with his father, ‘Az én apám’ does nothing particularly wrong, it simply isn’t anywhere near as striking as his first entry. Sandwiched between high energy entries from Czech Republic and Belarus in the Semi Final, it just wound up feeling like a bit of a buzzkill…
10: ‘Kinek Mondjam el vetkeimet’ by Friderika Bayer (1994)
Hungary’s first ever appearance on the Eurovision broadcast remains their most successful at the Song Contest, finishing in fourth place in a year that saw no fewer than seven countries – all from Eastern and Central Europe – making their debut. A sweet and spiritual acoustic ballad buoyed by a lovely, plaintive performance from Bayer, this was exactly the sort of thing that the juries loved to reward in the mid-90s when they had 100 percent of the vote. It’s also ESC Insight’s favourite 90s entry from Hungary.
9: Pioneer’, by Freddie (2016)
A photogenic chap with a distinctively gravelly voice, Freddie made a confident impression in 2016, extending Hungary’s run of qualifiers and setting hearts aflutter across the continent. The song is a solid but unremarkable slice of AOR radio, and 19th place in the Stockholm final feels about right.
8:’Sound of our Hearts’, by Compact Disco (2012)
Electro outfit Compact Disco were already a popular and established act when they travelled to Baku in 2012, which gave the smooth radio pop of ‘Sound of our Hearts’ a sheen of professionalism that probably helped them to inch over the line in a tightly fought Semi Final. The dreaded second place slot in the Grand Final running order consigned them to a bottom three finish, but they got a warmer reception from our panel
7: ‘Unsubstantial Blues’, by Magdi Rúzsa (2007)
A full blooded soul ballad with more than a hint of Janis Joplin to the delivery, Magdi Rúzsa’s self-penned ‘Unsubstantial Blues’ gave Hungary their second top ten finish, over a decade after their first. The simple but effective bus stop staging helped the performance linger in viewers minds, but the multi-talented Rúzsa required no gimmicks to make a big impression. Her career has continued to go from strength to strength in her home country, where her albums still routinely pick up Gold and Platinum awards.
(One set of douze points. from Elaine O’Neill)
6: ‘Running’, by András Kállay-Saunders (2014)
The first entry to gain a place in every one of the panel members’ top ten, András Kállay-Saunders’ brooding, dubstep-influenced ode to a domestic abuse victim became Hungary’s highest placing entry in two decades, securing in fifth place in the hugely competitive Copenhagen 2014. The choreography is a little over-literal for such a dark subject matter, but this was a slick, professional package that deservedly flew high in Copenhagen.
5: ‘Forogj, világ!’, by Nox (2005)
After a six year absence, Hungary (briefly) returned to the Contest in 2005 with a high-energy folk-dance entry that had the misfortune of participating in a year that was chock full of them. The 12th place finish in Kyiv was respectable but disappointing, and the country wound up taking yet another year off in 2006 to lick their wounds. The song endures as a minor fan favourite though.
4: ‘What About My Dreams?’, by Kati Wolf (2011)
After taking yet another year out in 2010, Hungary returned with one of the great modern fan favourites in 2011 (John, you were the only person to give this douze points, yes? – Ewan), courtesy of the quirkily-named Kati Wolf. A barnstorming dance number with amusingly hectoring lyrics (“What about how I feel? What about my needs“), ‘What About My Dreams’ was so rapturously received that Hungary found themselves in the unusual position of going into the Contest that year among the bookies favourites.
In the end, the performance was a little underpowered, and in any event the age of the Eurovision diva was evidently on the wane. But despite finishing in a lowly 22nd place, What About My Dreams endures as a deathless Euroclub and karaoke staple. And when you think about it, isn’t that the real victory?
(One set of douze points, from John Lucas).
3: ‘Origo’, by Joci Pápai (2017)
The first and most successful of Joci Pápai’s Eurovision efforts, ‘Origo’ pulls off the difficult trick of combining traditional Romani instrumentation with hip hop beats and a complete lack of English lyrics in a package that was soulful and accessible enough to appeal to voters across all borders. The plaintive choreography was a highlight of the 2017 Contest, and helped Origo to land their fifth and – t0 date – last Top Ten finish.
2: ‘Kedvesem’, by ByeAlex (2013)
One of the most surprising success stories of the 2013 Song Contest, ByeAlex’s gentle indie-pop ballad went into Malmö almost entirely unfancied by the bookmakers. A subtle remix and a quirky but sincere performance featuring an animated backdrop created by the singer’s sister helped the song to not only defy expectations and crack the Top Ten in the Grand finals, but also to enjoy a solid afterlife, cracking the charts in several European countries.
(Three sets of douze points, from Ellie Chalkley, Sharleen Wright, and Samantha Ross)
1: ‘Viszlát nyár’, by AWS (2018)
A controversial result? Perhaps, but when the final votes were tallied, the hard rockers had it by a single point over ‘Kedvesem’. In Lisbon 2018 they narrowly squeaked into the Grand Final and finished in 21st place, but their humour, showmanship and liberal use of pyro won them many admirers in Lisbon (not least from the stage crew, who loved using all the pyro in just three minutes).
The exposure they won at the Song Contest also led to them being booked to appear at several major metal and hard rock festivals across Europe in the months that followed. Anything that can get Eurovision fans moshing has got to be considered something of a classic, right?
(Two sets of douze points, from Ben Robertson, Ross Middleton).
Do you agree with our rankings? Let us know and share your own in the comments section below…