When most of the internally selected artists decided on their entries for the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s probably safe to assume that each of them had a few potential entries for Rotterdam 2020. With a third of the broadcasters deciding to send the same artists in 2021, the easiest thing to do would be to go back to the 2020 submissions and choose again.
But is turning to what is effectively ‘Plan B’ a wise move? It’s been tried before and the results are… well, let’s find out how they turned out.
Germany 1976: ‘Sing Sang Song‘ replaces ‘Der Star‘
There are a few countries that have form for going with Plan B. In the current Big Five, Germany are the champions of change.
After a National Selection aired over two nights in 1976, German broadcaster NDR came back two weeks later to find out who had gathered the most postcard ballots from the 12 runners.
A gentler format you might think, but not one without a twist before the result. Schlager and Opera singer Tony Marshall won with over 125,000 votes before it was discovered that his song ‘Der Star‘ had in fact been performed publicly before the Final, breaking the rules in place.
Les Humphries Singers, some 20,000 votes behind were promoted up to first and took ‘Sing Sang Song’‘ to The Hague.
Germany finished 15th out of 18.
Germany 1999: ‘Reise nach Jerusalem‘ for ‘Hör den Kindern einfach zu‘
On 12 March 1999, 32.6% of the voters chose Corinna May as the winner of ‘Countdown Grand Prix’ to represent Germany in Jerusalem. However, just four days later it was revealed that ‘Hör den Kindern einfach zu‘ had in fact been released in 1997, a fact that was not lost on many prominent songwriters of the time.
May was duly disqualified, and the familiar songwriting duo of Ralph Siegel and Bernd Meinunger picked up the ticket to Jerusalem with Surpriz’s ‘Reise nach Jerusalem’… a coincidence that was not lost on many.
It’s worth pointing out this is one of the few times where ‘Plan B’ has worked out. Germany finished third.
Lithuania 2002: ‘Happy You’ for ‘We All’
Lithuania’s National Final ‘Eurovizijos’ might have been on to deliver LRT’s best ever finish to date when B’Avarija’s ‘We All‘ was chosen as their entry for Tallinn 2020 in February.
Come March came their disqualification. Once more the rules around pre-show performances was broken, in this case a Lithuanian version of the same song had been released on CD In September of the previous year. That led to Aivaras, who’d ended just two points behind in the national final, taking the nine hour bus trip to Estonia to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest instead.
Lithuania finished 23rd of 24. Making it worse, this was the era of relegations out of the Contest, and the country would not make another final until 2006.
Hungary 2009: ‘Dance With Me’ for ‘If You Wanna Party’ and ‘Magányos csónak’
It’s fair to say that they had a few issues in Budapest in 2009, resulting in Plan B being replaced by Plan C!
In January of that year MTV held an open call for songs, and in early February declared that Márk Zentai would go to Moscow with ‘If You Wanna Party‘. Not long after that announcement, his song was disqualified for having been released five years earlier under another title.
Kátya Tompos was decreed as the replacement a day later with ‘Magányos csónak‘ amid protest from the songwriter’s union among others. MTV’s hand was forced again however when Tompos herself said she was no longer interested in going to Moscow, leading the broadcaster to announce a third choice just seven days after their original!
Zoli Adok’s ‘Dance With Me‘ finished 15th in the Semi-Final and failed to qualify.
Ukraine 2010: ‘Sweet People’ for ‘I Love You’ and ‘To Be Free’
Possibly gathering the largest cult following of recent National Finals, Ukraine got themselves into an almighty mess in the run up to Oslo 2010. In late December, Vasyl Lazorovych was internally chosen by then broadcaster NTU for the Song Contest. The song ‘I Love You‘ was announced out of his shortlist on March 5th.
However, by the fifteenth, trouble was brewing. On the seventeenth, NTU declared that a new National FInal would be held.
The management at the broadcaster had changed, and Lazorovych’s selection was placed in doubt due to what is best described as politics inside NTU. Lazorovych was allowed to take part in the re-run on March 20th which included 19 other songs. This show was won by Alyosha singing ‘To Be Free‘, with poor Vasyl only coming seventh.
The drama didn’t end there, however. There were allegations that this new song firstly was plagiarised. Even if it wasn’t, it had been released some two years previously. After getting an extension from the EBU to submit their song officially, ‘Sweet People; was handed over on 24 March and would go on to finish tenth.
Germany 2015: ‘Black Smoke’ for ‘Heart Of Stone’
Possibly the best recent case of ‘we’ll go for Plan B then?’, German broadcaster NDR was thrown into a decision live on air in one of the most jaw-dropping National Finals of recent years.
We’ll skip forward to that fact that in the third round of ;Unser Song für Österreich’, Andreas Kümmert got 78 percent of the votes to sing ‘Heart of Stone‘ in Vienna, ahead of Ann Sophie who picked up the other 22 percent. However, it’s worth bearing in mind here that Kümmert may well have had both the first and second placed song in the previous round – artists sang two different songs, but the rules said you had to have two different acts in the Super Final
Stepping up to take his prize, Kümmert let off the bombshell that he didn’t really fancy Eurovision after all, and suggested that Ann Sophie was ‘more qualified and suited’ to representing Germany instead.
Host Barbara Schöneberger somehow managed to hold the show together; Kümmert dropped the mic and turned his back on the audience to walk out of the spotlight; and a visibly shocked Ann Sophie ended up sort of accepting the honour on stage (although she probably didn’t have much other choice) with NDR confirming Ann Sophie later that night in a subdued press conference.
The result of the hastily improvised Plan B? Germany came joint last with the dreaded ‘nul points’.
Belarus 2011, 2012, and 2013: Essentially Everything Changed
Rivalling Germany in ‘How not to do Plan A’, Belarus has had some embarrassing years, some hilarious years, and some questionable years… the latter two of which all centred around one girl in particular.
But first, 2011, when ‘Born in Byelorussia‘ was announced as the entry on 28 February, to be performed by Anastasia Vinnikova. Three days later the title was changed to ‘I Am Belarusian‘ alongside an announcement that new lyrics were to be written that were less Soviet-focussed. By 12 March the entire song was canned for having apparently been performed in public in 2010. The jaunty ‘I Love Belarus’ would end up going to Düsseldorf instead, finishing fourteenth in the Semi Final. came 14/19 in the Semi.
A year later, the five-act national final saw Alyona Lanskaya’s ‘All My Life‘ top the televoting with Litesound winning the jury vote. Having been at this show myself, I can say with relative confidence that Litesound were by far the favourite of the audience in the Sports Palace, and Lanskaya wasn’t a popular winner.
Ten days later the country’s President declared that he was launching an investigation into the ‘unfair’ win, and two days after Lanskaya was disqualified with mutterings of a rigged televote appearing online. Litesound, who’d finished second, were given the ticket to Baku… where they finished sixteenth in the Semi Final
Belarus selected their song for the 2013 Contest in December 2012. Less than ten months after being disqualified for unfairly winning a National Final, Lanskaya romped home with full marks form the jury, and more televotes than the songs finishing in second, third,fourth, and fifth combined.
Come January, BTRC were publicly saying that ‘Rhythm of Love’ could be switched out, and on 7 March the Plan B of ‘Solayoh’ was revealed as the official entry. Lanskaya’s third Eurovision entry in twelve months went on to qualify, and finished sixteenth on the Saturday night.