The concept of former participants returning to the Eurovision stage is not a new one, the Eurovision archives are littered with examples of artists making a second (or third) attempt to win the competition. This year is no different, and if anything we are seeing evidence of this trend growing, with an astonishing total of seven former artists taking to the stage in Stockholm this year.
In this article, we will explore the possible reasons why so many artists look to return to Eurovision; whether their previous experience would give them any advantage in the competition; what motivates them to return?, what do they have to gain?, and what are they potentially putting at risk? We will also take a look at the seven returning acts this year in some detail and how our ESC Bubble team think their results might compare.
Artists have been returning to Eurovision ever since the very early years of the contest. Lys Assia, the first ever Eurovision winner in 1956 entered again in 1957 and 1958, and also made a bold attempt to return yet again in Malmo 2013 with her collaboration with New Jack on the song ‘All In Your Head’, but was ultimately unsuccessful in the Swiss national final.
So what might motivate an artist to return, and why do we see so many returning artists?
- Because they had such a great time the first time around. Surely, right?… If an artist didn’t enjoy their first experience then why come back? But perhaps some artists more than others have really shown a continuing love of the contest, and have become firm fan favourites in the process. (for example: Carola, Zjelko Joksimovic, Johnny Logan)
- To defend their title!. In 2010, Lena Meyer-Landrut, almost immediately after her victory in Oslo with her song ‘Sattelite’ expressed her intention to return and defend her title. Lo and behold, the German national final in 2011 was used to choose only which song Lena would perform on home territory in Dusseldorf. Her ‘Taken By A Stranger’ finished in a credible 10th position.
- To bounce back from a disappointing previous result. There’s a famous saying that ‘if at first you do not succeed, try and try again’ and no-one has followed this advice quite like San Marino’s Valentina Monetta. After two consecutive failures to qualify (missing out by a small margin with both ‘The Social Network Song’ and ‘Chrisilide (Vola)’), Valentina finally made the final at the third attempt with ‘Maybe’.
- A potential lack of options for small broadcasters. For smaller nations, there is often not a vast pool of talented performers to choose from. We often see a whole host of familiar names and faces in national finals for smaller nations, with many being selected to represent their country on multiple occasions. For instance Malta has sent Chiara to Eurovision on three occasions and Fabrizio Fanielo twice. So it’s perhaps not a surprise to see Ira Losco returning this year.
But whatever their motivation for returning, is it always a good idea to try again? Do returning artists have any kind of advantage over their competitors? The answer is probably not, and history shows as many examples of failed attempts to return as positive ones. Whilst there may be some advantage in the fact that the returning artists know exactly what to expect when they get immersed in the ESC bubble, the most important factor is always the quality of the song. So, with this in mind, we have prepared a countdown of the top 5 best (and worst) returning entrants from recent years.
The Top 5 returning disasters:
- Elitsa & Stoyan – Samo Shampioni (Bulgaria 2013). Elitsa & Stoyan had a lot on the line when they returned to the Eurovision stage. Having delivered Bulgaria’s best ever result (5th Place in 2007 with ‘Water’), they were tasked with halting a worrying run of five successive semi-final exits for Bulgaria. They failed to deliver that much needed qualification (finishing 12th in the semi-final), and this may have been one of the factors behind Bulgaria’s non-attendance in 2014 and 2015. Of course this year Bulgaria are returning, and once again looking to a former participant to return them to the Eurovision final. The main reason for their lack of success second time around?, the quality of the song – it was simply not as good as ‘Water’.
- Niamh Kavanagh – ‘It’s For You’ (Ireland 2010). A former winner, with ‘In Your Eyes’ from 1993, Niamh returned to the Eurovision stage in Oslo with ‘It’s For You’, and despite delivering a rare qualification for Eurovision’s most successful nation, she failed to muster enough points to finish any higher than 23rd in the final. Again the song was simply not as strong.
- Fabrizio Faniello – ‘I Do’ (Malta 2006). After a reasonable 9th place result in 2001 with ‘Another Summer Night’, Fabrizio tried again in 2006, but did astonishingly badly, scoring just a single point and with it 24th (and last) place. This hasn’t deterred Fabrizio though, and he has tried to represent Malta by entering the Maltese pre-selection on three further occasions (making a total of 10 attempts!), so we wouldn’t rule out yet another visit to Eurovision for Mr Faniello at some point in the future!.
- Charlotte Pirelli – ‘Hero’ (Sweden 2008). After winner the contest in 1999 with ‘Take Me To Your Heaven’, Charlotte came back to the contest in 2008 with ‘Hero’. Big things were expected of her, and the song very quickly became a fan favourite. However, Charlotte had to rely on a short-lived rule enabling a jury to select the final qualifier from the semi-final. She went on to finish in a lowly eighteenth place in the final in Belgrade.
- Dana International – ‘Ding Dong’ (Israel 2011). The top spot for returning disasters simply has to go to Dana Intl. One of the contest’s most iconic winners returned after a 13 year gap with a song that was vastly inferior to her previous entry ‘Diva’. So much inferior that even the most ardent of Eurovision fans often struggle to recall the song. She became the first ever returning winner to fail to qualify for the final, finishing a distant fifteenth in her semi.
The top 5 returning successes:
- Valentina Monetta – ‘Maybe’ (San Marino 2014). Although ‘Maybe’ didn’t quite set the scoreboard alight in the final in Copenhagen (finishing a lowly 24th), at least she got there at the third time trying. Valentina has to get bonus points for effort and perseverance. This gave San Marino their best ever result and their first ever qualification to the Eurovision final, which cannot be underestimated as an achievement.
- Zelkjo Joksimovic – ‘Nije Ljubav Stvar’ (Serbia 2012). Zelkjo first entered Eurovision in 2004 representing Serbia and Montenegro with ‘Lane Moje’, a song which has remained hugely popular with a large section of Eurovision fans. Lane Moje finished second behind Ruslana’s ‘Wild Dances’. Zelkjo returned with ‘Nije Ljubav Stvar’ and had another top-3 finish receiving significant critical acclaim for the composition. Zelkjo has also composed entries for Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia 2006 finishing 3rd), and more recently for Montenegro with Knez’s ‘Adio’ (finishing 13th).
- Dima Bilan – ‘Believe’ (Russia 2008). Dima’s first entry ‘Never Let You Go’ finished in a very healthy 2nd place behind Lordi in Athens (2006), equalling Russia’s best result (matching Alsou’s ‘Solo’ from 2000). So when he returned to the Eurovision stage he had a lot on the line, but a strong performance with striking staging helped ‘Believe’ to deliver Russia’s first and only victory in the contest. Dima also tried to enter a third time in 2012, teaming up with Yulia Volkova (who would have been a returning artist herself having represented Russia in 2003 as one half of TATU), but the power-duo finished second behind Buranovskiye Babushki.
- Carola – ‘Fangad Av En Stormvind’ (Sweden 1991). Carola Haggkvist first entered Eurovision aged just 16 with ‘Framling’ finishing in 3rd place. The song earned her great fame in her native Sweden with huge domestic success. So when Carola returned to Melodifestivalen (and ultimately Eurovision) in 1991, big things were expected. Although most fans would argue that ‘Fangad Av En Stormvind’ wasn’t as strong an entry as Framling, it managed to win the contest albeit in somewhat complicated circumstances – having tied with France, the result was determined by the notorious ‘countback’ rule and with Sweden scoring more ’10s’ than France, Carola was crowned the winner. Carola made a further comeback some fifteen years later in 2006, with ‘Invincible’, and finished in a strong 5th place. Her three top-5 placings have led to many Eurovision fans considering her to be the ‘Queen of Eurovision’
- Johnny Logan – ‘Hold Me Now’ (Ireland 1987). If Carola is the queen, then Johnny Logan is certainly the ‘King of Eurovision’. He followed up his 1980 victory with ‘What’s Another Year’, with a second Eurovision win in 1987 with ‘Hold Me Now’. Not content with just two victories, Johnny then returned to the contest as a writer in 1992 and scored a ‘third’ victory with Linda Martin’s ‘Why Me’. A fact he doesn’t seem to want to let us forget!
So what are the chances of this year’s returning artist joining either of these top-5s?, we asked our editorial team to review each of the seven songs and predict how they might fare, and this is the verdict.
Malta: Ira Losco – WOW (Walk On Water). Ira returns to Eurovision after the longest gap of the seven returning acts, it’s difficult to believe that a whole 14 years has passed since we first heard ‘7th Wonder’ which went on to finish 2nd in the contest in Tallinn in 2002. Whilst our team on the whole like ‘Walk On Water’, and in many cases prefer it to ‘7th Wonder’, it is difficult to see Ira going that step further and taking the Eurovision crown. Our Editor Melissa said of the song “I think that she will get a worse result in 2016, with the semi-final not in place in 2002 the quality of entries in the final has really increased, and whilst I love her song, I think she will struggle to make the top 10”
Bosnia Herzegovina: Deen – ‘Ljubav Je’. Deen is returning after a gap of some 12 years. He finished in 9th place in 2004 which remains Bosnia’s best result ever at Eurovision, so he has rather a lot on the line when he takes to the stage with ‘Ljubav Je’ alongside Dalal, Ana Rucner and Jala. The unanimous opinion in the ESC Bubble team is that Deen will struggle to qualify this year. It is of course very difficult to compare the two songs because they are so very different in style.
Bulgaria: Poli Genova – ‘If Love Was A Crime’. Poli last took to the Eurovision stage in 2011 with ‘Na Inat’ missing out narrowly on a place in the final. She kept us waiting for what seemed like an age before finally unveiling ‘If Love Was A Crime’, but can she return Bulgaria to the final?. Anne thinks she can go even further than that saying “Poli has really stepped up her game, it easily sucks you in almost straight away and that fantastic one line in Bulgarian in the chorus keeps it interesting. It will definitely qualify and a top 10 finish is certainly not out of the question”
Iceland: Greta Salome – ‘Hear Them Calling’. Greta is one of three artists making a comeback from 2012. In Baku she performed ‘Never Forget’ (alongside another returning artist – Jonsi), and finished in a disappointing 20th place. This year she returns as a solo artist with ‘Hear Them Calling’ making use of some unique visual staging. Mikael says that: “I like everything about this mysterious song, I think she will qualify for the final and will finish higher than she did in 2012, perhaps making the top 15”
FYR Macedonia: Kaliopi ‘Dona’. This will be Kaliopi’s third attempt at Eurovision. After missing out in 1996, Kaliopi returned in 2012 with ‘Crno I Belo’, qualifying for the final and finishing in 13th place. Her dramatic performance and unique vocal capacity made her an instant hit with fans, and when she announced a return in 2016 there was a lot of excitement amongst Eurovision fans. Of course this means little to her chances this year as for the majority of casual viewers may not remember her from 2012, and it will ultimately come down to the quality of the song. Is Dona as good as Crno I Belo?, our Editor Anne thinks it’s a close run thing, saying “Queen Kaliopi, well she can do no wrong for me. I slightly prefer Crno I Belo. Basically she sells every performance, so Dona will be an easy qualifier. I don’t think it will do quite as well as 2012’s effort”.
Lithuania: Donny Montell – ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Night’. The third of our 2012 returners, Donny Montell will be looking to improve on his 14th place finish in Baku. Donny was a big favourite all the way through a long drawn-out preselection series in Lithuania, but do we prefer it to ‘Love is Blind’?. Our Editor Andy thinks that Donny might get a similar result this time around saying “Much better song this year. The blindfold in 2012 was hilarious’ – I think it will come 14th in the final if it qualifies”.
Montenegro: Highway – ‘The Real Thing’. Bojan Jovovic returns to Eurovision with his new band ‘Highway’. Bojan was formerly a member of ‘No Name’ who represented Serbia and Montenegro back in 2005, finishing in 7th place. The style of ‘The Real Thing’ is very different from ‘Zauvijek Moja’ and so difficult to compare, however the ESC Bubble team think that Montenegro will fall well short of that previous 7th place, and may well struggle to qualify from their semi-final. Melissa said “It won’t beat the result of 2005. Highway’s sound is very unique and many die-hard schlager fans will brand it as ‘noise’. It will be lucky to qualify, even though I don’t mind the song myself”.
Do you agree with the team’s comments?, will any of the returning artists regret coming back, or will they finally achieve the result that have been looking for?, we’d love to hear your views so please leave your comments below!.