WE LISTENED TO ALL 43 EUROVISION SONGS SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO
If you like oiled-up dudes playing drums, summer-ready club bangers and fraught displays of international political tensions in the unlikeliest of settings, then do we have a show for you!
The 63rd annual Eurovision Song Contest starts Tuesday for a spectacle of music, pageantry and voting, with all of Europe and also Australia for some reason coming together to determine which country is the best at crafting a campy, benign pop song for this very specific occasion. People in the U.S. can’t vote in the contest, but that doesn’t mean we can’t listen to all 43 songs, rank them, and judge the shit out of them! Take a look at our preview and go into Saturday’s final ready to root for your favorite.
43. Jessika (feat. Jenifer Brening) - “Who We Are” (San Marino): First rule of Eurovision: You never want to get upstaged by a pair of small humanoid robots doing rudimentary dance moves in your own music video.
42. Cláudia Pascual - “O Jardim” (Portugal): Oh look, they followed up their ballad from last year that somehow won with another ballad. NEXT.
41. Vanja Radovanovic - “Inje” (Montenegro): I see Montenegro has decided to follow last year’s performance, an intergalactic genderfluid dance anthem performed by a sexy Dothraki, with this very Eurovision-y ballad. I’m not mad, I just wanted another intergalactic genderfluid dance anthem.
40. Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro - “Non mi avete fatto niente” (Italy): This is to Eurovision entries what Crash was to the 2006 Oscars: a well-intentioned but heavy-handed and kind of discomfiting attempt to humanize big, terrible problems that impact all of us. It’s clearly resonating with people, but the Paris attack memorial and war footage in the video just feels like tragedy porn for Douze Points. And, ugh, like Crash, this is totally going to win, isn’t it?
39. Mikolas Josef - “Lie to Me” (Czechia): The song is catchy and likable in an early-Justin-Timberlake-meets-GAP-ad sort of way—the backing vocals will give you echoes of “Señorita” and Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t.” But loooordt, are the lyrics cringey. The opening couplet of “Oh oh she a good girl at home but / Her skirt goes up like Marilyn Monroe's,” which sounds like a bad, early Tom Petty draft, doesn’t it? There’s also lines about “steady plenty motherfuckers wanna eat my spaghetti” and “set my camel in the mood” (there is a literal live camel in the video), which, boy, songwriters are sure getting creative with how they talk about their dicks, huh?
It is exactly the kind of song you would totally get into if it came on at a wedding but then you would feel kind of gross about yourself. Like “Blurred Lines.”
38. Ari Ólafsson - “Our Choice” (Iceland): Eurovision is full of inspirational ballads and your mileage may vary, and no matter how well-meaning the singers or their messages are, I will inevitably still try to time my beer and bathroom breaks to the bulk of them. This effort from Iceland is redeemed a little bit by this sweet lil baby boy’s sincerity, and the high note he valiantly goes for heading into the final chorus.
37. Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao - “For You” (Georgia): This had one of the worst thumbs-up-to-thumbs-down ratios from viewers on YouTube, and sure, nothing about it screams “WINNER!” or even advancing-to-the-finals, probably. But props to Georgia for taking a risk, showing off their musical traditions and for that radiating harmony in the final minute. She loves a big cantorial moment.
36. Michael Schulte - “You Let Me Walk Alone” (Germany): To fully appreciate this song, one must see it in its natural state, which is the background music to an Olympic figure skater’s short program. Someone make it happen.
35. MELOVIN - “Under the Ladder” (Ukraine):
Music Video Director: Okay Melovin how do you want to convey your Eurovision song in music video form
MELOVIN: Well it’s a driving anthem about fear and risk
Director: Okay so you’re going to be interacting with this woman
MELOVIN: I like it
Director: And she’s gonna look like a medieval witch with a candle crown
Director: And you’re also gonna be in a wind tunnel
MELOVIN: That… works with the lyrics
Director: Inside a giant room full of plastic sheeting
Director: And then you’re gonna play a piano but we’re gonna set it on fire
34. Sevak Khanagyan - “Qami” (Armenia): This is... fine? Khanagyan’s got a nice big voice on this ballad, and it’s lovely, but nothing particularly stands out here. Even the video is mostly just Khanagyan looking sultry in a room with a bunch of strobes and fog machines, like he’s in a parking garage behind a roller rink.
33. Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer - “Light Me Up” (Poland): The most notable thing about this entry is that the bulk of the video was filmed in Barcelona, with plenty of footage of Las Ramblas, La Boquería and bright, sunny Catalan beaches. Think Rick Steves set to the music of Avicii.
32. The Humans - “Goodbye” (Romania): This isn’t the most exciting entry, but it appeals to the same part of my brain that absolutely NEEDS to belt out every word of “You Oughta Know” or “Before He Cheats” in the car.
31. Waylon - “Outlaw in ‘Em” (Netherlands): It’s “Save a Horse, Ride a Rent-a-Bike and Crash it Into a Canal!” Congratulations to Waylon on making the first Eurovision entry that you could hear at a University of Tennessee football tailgate.
30. SuRie - “Storm” (United Kingdom): A British entry that doesn’t suck? In MY Eurovision? It’s more likely than you think! If you’re a sucker for an inspirational chorus and a stadium-clap bridge, SuRie’s got you covered. She also does a lovely cover of Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.”
29. AWS - “Viszlát nyár” (Hungary): Token rock entry time! The title translates to “Goodbye, Summer,” and a rough translation of the lyrics indicates that it’s about leaving a relationship gone wrong. This is a song that would be in your iPod Shuffle rotation if you were a deeply emotional, Xanga-blogging teen in the early aughts. Which, honestly, Eurovision needs more for the emo kids. Also, the chorus sounds exactly like The Lonely Island’s “I Just Had Sex,” which is probably a coincidence but I like to imagine it’s not.
28. Aisel - “X My Heart” (Azerbaijan): Is it the best big, inspirational pop anthem in this year’s crop in this year’s roster? Nah. Would I get down to this if I were wedding-drunk or in a bathrobe in front of my mirror at home? Absolutely.
27. Elina Nechayeva - “Forza” (Estonia): I normally just skip over the ballads because I am a monster incapable of feeling emotion and just want to get to the kitsch, but can we talk about THAT DRESS. She is pretty much wearing a cyclorama as a ball skirt and a friggin’ kaleidoscope light show is being projected onto her dress. In the words of our Heauxs Lord and Savior Jasmine Masters, “Just because of that gown, girl, you’re safe as fuck.”
Her voice is pretty incredible, too. Sparkle, Neely, sparkle!
26. Alekseev - “Forever” (Belarus): The song is actually kind of dope, but Alekseev is more the other kind of dope in the video. He starts off focused on his music and his art, and by the end he’s dousing himself with water and doing pushups and mugging for the camera like your worst Tinder nightmare.
25. Eugent Bushpepa - “Mall” (Albania): Even before looking up the lyrics and their English translation, I knew exactly what this was about. Earnest, heartsick dudes with acoustic guitars are truly everywhere, and their musings a universal language.
24. Eye Cue - “Lost and Found” (FYR Macedonia): Every YouTube comment about this song, save for the ones referencing Balkan geopolitics, essentially says the same thing: the listener starts out unconvinced, but by the third or fourth listen of “Lost and Found,” they are getting their lives. I’m more partial to Marija Ivanovska’s extremely good suit covered in eyes.
23. Rasmussen - “Higher Ground” (Denmark): I’m so glad an army of pirates from the future have traveled through space and time to bring their harmonious, motivational sea chantey to the Eurovision stage and teach the masses. This is what they listen to at the gym in Asgard to get hyped for one more set.
22. Ieva Zasimauskaite - “When We’re Old” (Lithuania): You’re probably wondering why this is ranked so high. Well, I’m a sucker for a singer who sounds like Diet Natalie Merchant and a video that tells the story of an adorable elderly married couple enjoying their twilight years together that makes me miss my grandmas. I should really start watching This Is Us if I’m this easily emotionally manipulated, damn.
21. Alexander Rybak - “That’s How You Write A Song” (Norway): Eurovision’s favorite fiddle-playing human Golden Retriever is back! Alexander Rybak brought the Eurovision title home to Norway in 2009 with some masterful fiddling, a dramatic and sweet love song and this adorable charm that makes you wanna reach into your wallet and pull out 20 bucks so he can take his date to the movie house.
Like Rybak, his 2018 entry song is cute and charming, a meta ode to music complete with an intergenerational dance party in the video. It’s not nearly as memorable as his ‘09 entry, “Fairytale,” but if he competed for Norway every year, I wouldn’t be mad about it.
20. Amaia y Alfred - “Tu Canción” (Spain): They’re in love! They’re gonna sing about it! You’re gonna listen! I’m being unusually charitable with my rankings of the ballads this year, which normally get relegated to the back of the list, but this is sweet and I can’t really hate on it. I’ve gone soft.
19. Julia Samoylova - “I Won’t Break” (Russia): Samoylova was supposed to compete for Russia in last year’s Eurovision contest, but she was banned from entering Ukraine due to her performing shows in Crimea in a few years before. The week of last year’s final, Samoylova performed again in Crimea at a Victory Day concert, because if there’s one thing Eurovision loves, it’s pretending to be apolitical while actually being 100% about geopolitics all the time. Oh, the new song’s pretty good too.
18. Yianna Terzi - “Oniro Mou” (Greece): Oooh, there was some drama this year with the Greek selection process for Eurovision this year! Apparently Yianna Terzi was selected after the national final was canceled and every other entry was disqualified. She Trixie Mattel’d her way into that semifinal. But, with a commanding voice and a lush final-third orchestral moment, Terzi more than proves that no matter what happened, she deserves to be in this year’s roster.
17. Christabelle - “Taboo” (Malta): The song’s a perfectly solid banger but can we talk about the video? What is happening? A bunch of club performers have been captured by a shadowy fascist regime and are being forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the locals, only to be rescued by an army of extras from a Trojan War-themed porno? This was probably not the interpretation Christabelle intended, but the production value is pretty impressive nonetheless.
16. Equinox - “Bones” (Bulgaria): One of the composers/singers on “Bones,” American Trey Campbell, has written songs for Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha and other people whose names you probably couldn’t recognize but you hear their songs at the gym like all the time.
Bulgaria’s really stepped its Eurovision game up, finishing 4th and 2nd respectively in the past two years, and with the help of this transatlantic supergroup, featuring America’s Got Talent and Bulgarian boy band alumni, they should be title contenders once again.
15. Madame Monsieur - “Mercy” (France): Usually when Eurovision artists want to create a “message song,” it’s either an insufferable ballad or too ambiguous to be meaningful, as lampshaded in the iconic “Love Love Peace Peace” performance, and the contest has a ban on explicitly political material. There are exceptions, of course, especially in recent years, such as Ukrainian singer Jamala, who won in 2016 with “1944,” a sober number inspired by the forced deportation of Crimean Tatars under Stalin.
The lyrics of Madame Monsieur’s airy folk-pop entry focus on the global refugee crisis and urge compassion towards those fleeing to Europe. In the tradition of songs like Suzanne Vega’s “Luka,” they explore the issue from the perspective of a child narrator, while video extras wander iconic European landmarks in life jackets and space blankets. May the viewers of Eurovision on both sides of the Atlantic take the message to heart.
14. DoReDos - “My Lucky Day” (Moldova): It must have really been DoReDos’ lucky day if they got Artie from Glee to be in their video! But for real, this has everything: opulent Santorini vistas, a catchy Balkan brass hook, a love triangle plot and, oh yes, the outfit changes, including a Kentucky Derby-worthy hat.
13. Laura Rizzotto - “Funny Girl” (Latvia): Latvia’s best entry that I can remember serves a little Ariana Grande, a little ‘90s R&B and a tiny bit of Bond theme.
12. Saara Aalto - “Monsters” (Finland): The story the “Monsters” video is telling is “art history major goes to QUEEN at SmartBar for the first time and just never leaves,” and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. This is the sort of sweet, juicy disco-pop decadence you come to Eurovision for.
11. Lea Sirk - “Hvala, ne” (Slovenia): Hvala, YAY! What I want to know is who are the 2,500 people who gave this a thumbs-down on YouTube? Probably the same people who voted for Portugal last year. Ugh. This is awesome and it probably won’t even make the finals. The Balkan and Balkan-adjacent countries are always getting jerked at Eurovision. Just ask last year’ REAL winner.
10. Jessica Mauboy - “We Got Love” (Australia): Australia once again comes out the gate with a respectable, accessible and well-produced jam that will probably finish Top Five. Jessica Mauboy is the second Australian Idol contestant to represent at Eurovision, which I mention only so you will imagine a future in which this pattern continues and Australian Idol’s most famous alum, Courtney Act, goes on to replicate her Big Brother UK success and win Eurovision.
9. Franka - “Crazy” (Croatia): Can’t wait for this to appear in the trailer for the lost Fifty Shades sequel!
8. ZiBBZ - “Stones” (Switzerland): The Gfeller siblings (the name “Zibbz” is a play on “sibs,” which, ugh) have some strong musical credentials—she’s performed with Prince and Donna Summer, he’s a member of the iconic Street Drum Corps. And their Eurovision song exudes Song of the Summer energy.
I think this is the first time I’ve gone through the Eurovision numbers and the vast majority actually feel current, like something that would play on Top 40 radio anywhere in the world. Is this a signal of things to come? Are we getting bored with all the kitsch?
7. Sanja Ilić & Balkanika - “Nova Deca” (Serbia): If you were looking for all the trappings of a grade-A Eurovision classic, you will find them here. We have the folk wind instrument played by an older gentleman, a sweaty dude playing the drums, an elegantly-harmonized folk ballad that picks up into a Eurodance number, gowns with lace and tufty things and stuff. Oh, and the lyrics are about love and giving the next generation a better world. That’s *looks at notes* literally everything on the checklist.
6. Cesár Sampson - “Nobody But You” (Austria): I’m a latecomer to Eurovision, but it’s been my experience that you’re more likely to hear oiled-up dudes playing medieval horns or singing Russian grannies in a Eurovision track than a gospel choir interplaying with some gorgeous R&B vocals. Looking forward to seeing this staged as well, based on the descriptions of the rehearsal setup.
5. Benjamin Ingrosso - “Dance You Off” (Sweden): Oh shit, someone trapped Sweden’s Eurovision contender in the void where they keep Max Headroom! Oh no, wait, it’s cool, he escaped and now he’s singing under a bridge like me after drinking too much in the West Loop. Except that I neither sound as good nor am as cool as Benjamin Ingrosso, who—fun fact!—won Sweden’s version of Dancing With the Stars in 2014.
As we’ve come to expect from Sweden’s Eurovision entries in recent years, “Dance You Off” is current, funky and buttery-smooth. Go on, you handsome dancing man.
4. Sennek - “Matter of Time” (Belgium): Man, the theme for the new James Bond movie sounds great! But for real, this is at least the fourth consecutive year Belgium has put forth a quality entry, and it’s only a “Matter of Time” (ughhhh, sorry) before they take home their second title.
3. Ryan O’Shaughnessy - “Together” (Ireland): I think it’s fair to say that Eurovision has embraced its status as an LGBT Icon. In 1998, transgender Israeli pop singer Dana International broke barriers and turned it out, winning that year’s competition with “Diva,” a bop that still holds up. And in 2014, the stunning bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst took the title in 2014 with “Rise Like a Phoenix.” For fuck’s sake, the American telecast is on Logo and this year’s commentators are Ross Matthews and Shangela!
That said, to see a song/video featuring a same-sex relationship is still pretty rare, even on as glittery of a stage as Eurovision, and I’m already getting verklempt thinking about the little gaybies all over Europe watching this video and seeing new possibilities. If “Dance You Off” was the Sam Smith/Disclosure collab, this is the tender Sam Smith ballad. And in the spirit of 20GayTeen, I kind of want it to win?
2. Netta - “Toy” (Israel): After rumors throughout the 2017 Eurovision cycle that this would be their last ride, Israel has returned to the Eurovision Song Contest, and their entry is a heavy favorite to win it all. And rightly so.
This is probably mean but “TOY” is like if a Meghan Trainor song were interesting. It’s as close to a proper “to hell with the patriarchy” anthem as we’d ever get in a Eurovision song, and I am more than a little bit jealous of Netta Barzilai’s ability to rock every single look in this video. Even the chicken-noise a cappella hook, which would be obnoxious in about 98% of all songs, works here, and not just because it’s Eurovision and we make concessions for that sort of thing.
1. Eleni Foureira - “Fuego” (Cyprus): I love a Eurovision entry that gives full summertime day party in Mykonos fantasy, and this gives full summertime day party in Mykonos fantasy. It is fun and opulent and serving elements of all the best pop icons, like, like all of us, she too saw the “Beautiful Liar” video and wasn’t sure who she loved more afterward.
Also, I think this is the first time in years an artist’s Eurovision entry has made me want to look up their other songs, and guess what y’all I’m an Eleni Foureira stan now. This would get Douze Points from me if they let Americans vote, which, come on, if Australia gets to do it...