The anticipation for Eurovision 2023 is hotting up. After placing second last year, the UK will stage the 67th Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, and will host the global event in close collaboration with the winning country, Ukraine.
With just a couple of months to go until all eyes are on the North of England, Eurovision announcements are coming thick and fast. We know the names of the TV presenters (contest staple Graham Norton, Hannah Waddingham, Alesha Dixon and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina), and this week the UK’s entry was revealed: Mae Muller with her absolute banger of a tune, I Wrote A Song.
Of course, over the years Eurovision has produced loads of brilliant songs. We asked the Northern Soul team and our friends for their favourites. The collection is eclectic, just like the competition itself. And, as a proper treat, we’ve compiled a playlist of Eurovision classics. Is your favourite Eurovision song on the list?
Bethany Smith, Eurovision Correspondent at Northern Soul
Drip Drop by Safura, Azerbaijan 2010
Eurovision is the one thing that brings my family together, no matter what. Every year, we bond over the eclectic music and flamboyant contest. I reckon my Mum had me rocking out to the show in the womb. So, while it was rather difficult to pick my favourite Eurovision song, the one track I always go back to is Drip Drop by Safura, Azerbaijan’s entry from 2010.
The melancholic lyrics and pleading melody have always felt so visceral. In fact, I get goosebumps every time I hear her calling “can I love you forever through this?” to her lover. Love has always fascinated me and, although I was just 10-years-old when I heard this song for the first time, I remember feeling the anguish of a relationship breakdown. To my young self, it was absolutely devastating. Flash forward 13 years and a few heartbreaks of my own and this song still elicits the same feeling. Drip Drop will always be my favourite Eurovision track.
Desmond Bullen, Northern Soul writer
Pokusaj by Laka, Bosnia & Herzegovina 2008
The best of pop eludes words. There is an alchemy that arises somewhere between the lyric and the melody that resists reduction into a simple formula. So it is with Laka’s exquisite Pokusaj. Staged at the final like a piece of East European theatre as directed by Tim Burton, it is three minutes of breathless wonder, suggesting in its three minutes the breadth of life in all its melancholy and joy. Terry Wogan didn’t understand. But I do.
Tom Stockton, PR manager at Breakout Liverpool
Hatrið mun sigra by Hataria, Iceland 2019
When asked what my favourite Eurovision song is, a few of the classics spring to mind. Would I choose Euphoria? Rise Like a Phoenix? Dancing Lasha Tumbai? No. There’s only one that makes me feel like I’m transcending to another dimension. When, in the first few seconds, I heard the growling beat kick in, I knew it was something different.
A self-styled “anti-capitalist, BDSM, techno performance art group”, Hatari from Iceland captured my attention with their post-apocalyptic look and the contrasting voices of the two lead singers. Their song, Hatrið mun sigra, finished 10th in 2019. Hatrið mun sigra means “Hate will prevail”, admittedly not a particularly cheerful title but one which conveys the emotion and political messages in their performances. The way the members of the band writhe around the stage like possessed snakes is captivating. Meanwhile, the song oscillates between furious verses and a gentle, angelic chorus. Each second feels like a compelling moment. To top it all off, what makes it so uniquely Eurovision is the absolutely bonkers (and perfect) inclusion of a key change at the end. As soon as the song finished, I pressed repeat. And again. And again, despite not understanding a word of Icelandic.
Amy Stone, Northern Soul writer
Diva by Dana International, Israel 1998
Some 25 years ago, Dana International (Sharon Cohen) dazzled us all with her rendition of Diva, sung in Hebrew, winning the Eurovision Song Contest. I love Eurovision entries sung in a representative’s original language. It’s one of the best things about the competition: a genuine celebration of different cultures, languages and identities. Speaking of which, at the time Ru Paul was 20-plus years away. Trans culture was not part of mainstream pop culture in the way it is today. This was a watershed moment, celebrating trans identity on a world stage – Dana was the competition’s first trans winner.
The win proved controversial within Israel’s Orthodox Jewish community. After her victory, she addressed her detractors. “My victory proves God is on my side,” read her statement. “I want to send my critics a message of forgiveness: try to accept me. I am what I am.” In a 2018 interview with The Guardian, marking 20 years since the win, she said: “I don’t care what they say about me. I believe in God, in freedom, that everyone has a right to live how they choose.” On top of all that, it’s an absolute disco belter of a track. How can you not get it stuck in your head? Viva la Diva!
Helen Nugent, Editor of Northern Soul
Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz, United Kingdom 1981
In 1981, aged just seven-years-old, I was obsessed with three things: Blake’s 7, Cola Cubes, and Bucks Fizz. It was a seminal year for my young self. Not only did the BBC massacre the entire cast of my favourite show thereby scarring for me life (thanks Auntie), but the world was introduced to four British singers with a propensity for primary colours, cheeky winks to camera, and whipping their skirts off.
Aside from the fact that the 1981 UK Eurovision entry was so blimmin’ good that it actually won, Making Your Mind Up was, and is, a first-rate pop song. And so began my love affair with Bucks Fizz. I hoovered up subsequent songs and albums and, 80s nostalgia aside, they really do stand the test of time. Listen to If you can’t stand the heat and London Town if you don’t believe me.
A few years ago, I interviewed Cheryl Baker while she was appearing in the stage musical of Happy Days. It’s no exaggeration to say that I was totally star-struck. More than 40 years had passed since I first saw Mike Nolan jettisoning her skirt on Eurovision but I could barely get my questions out. Bucks Fizz, I want to see some more.
Leigh Purves, sister of Eurovision songwriter
Cry Baby by Jemini, United Kingdom 2003
It was Eurovision 2003 and there was much excitement in my house. Not only was it time to gather round the box with baited breath and shout along with the wonderful Terry Wogan, but my sister Mel Purves had helped to produce the UK entry alongside her friend Martin Isherwood. Yep! That year we watched lovely pop duo Jemini sing Cry Baby on stage in Latvia.
My elderly grandfather Bill had even bought the track and we were all so proud of my sister. It was such a feel-good disco pop-fest that my friends were dancing round the room. Singers Gemma Abbey and Chris Chromby belted out the vocals over a catchy-infectious tune although, sadly, the Eurovision judges didn’t see it so. Nul points. Despite the tears and obscenities from my loyal friends and the memories of seeing my sister’s brave smile on TV from Latvia, that song is still on one of my playlists and represents determination, disco and serious kitchen dancing.
Drew Tosh, Northern Soul writer
Rock Bottom by Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran, United Kingdom 1977
THE golden era for the UK in Eurovision was 1967-77. In those 11 years we won three times and came second on no less than five occasions, including in 1977. That year is often referred to as the year of punk and, in keeping with the mood, the UK’s entry was aptly entitled Rock Bottom.
But this jolly piano-led track was intended to lift the mood of the nation, urging us all to “rub it out and start it again”. Co-written and performed by the UK’s premier female hit-maker of the 70s Lynsey de Paul (accompanied by Mike Moran), the stiff upper lip message of the song was severely put to the test. At the time, de Paul was dealing with horrendous lawsuits from a gangster ex-manager, BBC technicians went on strike forcing the contest (held in London that year) to be postponed to a later date and, following Brotherhood of Man’s win for the UK the previous year, it was later revealed that the corporation didn’t want to shell out for two back-to-back wins so they hoped that the UK would fail.
However, de Paul was a plucky lady and she and Moran gave it their all on the night, holding the lead for most of the voting until France, our regular nemesis at the time, predictably gave us nil points – something to do with failing to agree to trade with them in apples or lamb or something – conveniently allowing their own dreary ballad to overtake us and snatch victory. But Rock Bottom was the biggest hit across Europe that year and remains a cheery tune that always brings a smile.
Megan Bond, Northern Soul writer
Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw, Sweden 2015
Thinking about Eurovision, there is one performance that stands out: Sweden’s 2015 entry, Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw. I was 13 and it was the first time that I sat down to watch Eurovision with my mum. I’d never bothered with Eurovision before but, as soon as Zelmerlöw started singing, I fell in love with the competition and everything about it. And that song – the great vocals, the choreography, animation that beautifully visualized the lyrics to the song – it’s the best Eurovision entry of all time, I promise you.
There’s also an honorary mention for Eurovision 2021 which was my favourite year for contestants – France, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Ukraine all rank in my top 10 Eurovision performances.
Nathan Greatrex, Eurovision fan
Voilà by Barbara Pravi, France 2021
I have a few favourite Eurovision tracks from over the years but, if I was to take the classics out of the mix and to go for a more modern entry, there is one stand-out entry who I believe was absolutely robbed. Barbara Pravi’s Voilà is without a doubt the most real, raw and emotional track I’ve seen and heard while watching Eurovision. It’s always powerful when a country submits a song in its own language, but this one was special. From the simplicity of the stage performance to the dynamics of the constantly building strings and quiet acapellas, this is my favourite Eurovision track.
Elaine Smith, Eurovision fan
From as far back as I can remember, I have enjoyed watching Eurovision. My first memorable song was Bucks Fizz in 1981 when I was nine with Making Your Mind Up. Fast forward to 2021 and Eurovision winners Måneskin with their song Zitti E Buoni which, for many reasons, is now my favourite.
What struck me straightaway was their image, their originality and the swagger with which they owned the stage. They oozed confidence. As a fan of rock music, I found their style innovative and edgy. I was so taken with their performance that they’re the only Eurovision act I long to see live.
Eugene Walsh, Eurovision fan
Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi, Finland 2006
“Am I really seeing this?” Those were my thoughts when Lordi attacked the stage in 2006. Like a high-speed collision of Slipknot and Kiss, the style of nightmares all at once becoming accessible – if not wholly acceptable – against the backdrop of Eurovision. What we got was the dark theatre of Meatloaf teamed with the biting energy of Scandinavian metal, albeit a bit restrained. Was it cheesy? Oh hell, it was cheesy. Was it overdone? Yes, to the nth degree. Did it suffer as a result? Not at all.
Lordi were there to celebrate one thing. Music. Why so serious and solemn all you naysayers? Lighten up! Did they savage the ethos of Eurovision? No, they merely reframed it in wrought iron and threw in some skulls and blood. What’s wrong with that? Sequins and pastel shades go only so far.
Samantha Smith, Eurovision fan
Euphoria by Loreen, Sweden 2012
My favourite song from Eurovision is 2012’s entry from Sweden, Euphoria by Loreen. It brings back memories of happy times with my family as we always sing it together on karaoke nights. I will blast it in the car with my sister and scream the words out of the window. No matter what mood you’re in, it always manages to cheer you up.
Emily Charlotte Davenport, Eurovision fan
Spirit in the Sky by KEiiNO, Norway 2019
There are so many Eurovision songs that I love and have a visceral grip on my soul. But my all-time favourite song has to be Spirit in the Sky by KEiiNO. It’s phenomenal. The beats, the harmonies and the weird – but definitely the highlight – jokey section. The song slaps. It combines all the best parts of Eurovision great music including bopping beats, a mix of languages, and that distinctive Eurovision quirkiness.
Main image: credit BBC/Liverpool City Council/James Stack