Eurovision’s Greatest Hits

Eurovision Song Contest

The logo for the Eurovision Song Contest 2011

So, as we revealed in our last look at Eurovision, there’s a lot about the contest which is a bit strange and hard to take. But that doesn’t mean every single entry is cheesy or unsettling. Or at least, if they are, some do it in a more brilliant way than others.

As it’s a Friday, here are five Eurovision performances which you can’t really argue with (although you are welcome to splutter).

Starting with a blast from the past. Cliff Richard in a frilly shirt in 1968:

Can anyone else hear a bit of Blur’s “Country House” to this? No? Just me then. Cliff sadly did not win that year, but the song has been inescapable ever since. Probably because it’s hard to figure out what else to sing when you want to congratulate someone.

Here’s the BBC’s beloved Terry Wogan introducing Bucks Fizz in 1981. This is what the UK sent to Eurovision at the height of the post-punk, synthpop, ska revival, mod revival, new romantic era. A fifties throwback tune, with actual hand-jiving, in which the girls’ skirts are whipped off two-thirds of the way through.

Naturally we won that year. And why? Didn’t you hear me? Skirts! Removed!

Of course, as soon as everyone realized a little bit of theatrical presentation would get them attention, the entries started to ramp up the camp. And so, a mere 17 years after Bucks Fizz, Israel’s 1998 entry Dana International beat all comers with a slice of dramatic disco that was almost entirely drowned out by the media frenzy around Dana herself. You’d think they’d never seen a transsexual before.

Dana’s success only made everything MORE dramatic in presentation, but it’s still been fairly musically tame so far: what about The Rock, I hear you ask? How come dance music and cheesy pop music is over-represented, while good honest, thrusting and grunty old hard rock gets kicked to the kerb? Well, what if a proper rock song, brilliantly called “Hard Rock Hallelujah,” actually WON? Well that’s exactly what happened in 2006. Say hello to Lordi, say goodbye to your breakfast:

That commentator you can hear is Terry Wogan again, and his irreverent (or downright rude) comments are VITAL to getting the full Eurovision experience. Or at least, they have been, over the years. He doesn’t do it any more, so they gave the job to Graham Norton.

After Lordi and Dana had wiped the floor with our eyeballs, all bets were off, which resulted in this, from 2007. This is Verka Serduczka, from Ukraine. He’s not entirely serious, if the glittery uniforms didn’t give it away. And no, I have no idea what that hat is all about.

So there you have it. Those are, believe it or not, among the best that Eurovision has had to offer so far.

Watch this space for the worst, coming soon. And yes, it WILL be hard to tell the difference.

Which was your favorite? Tell us here.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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