‘MEH’ OR MEMORABLE? | Ranking every Eurovision winner of the 2010s from the least to the most iconic
Here’s a thought that’s as terrifying as it is exciting: in just under four months’ time, we’ll be crowning the first Eurovision champion of the 2020s.
It’s also weird when you consider that Duncan Laurence only won the 2019 contest like, last week. What’s that now? It was EIGHT MONTHS AGO?!? How does this happen?!?!?
Cue existential crisis in 3, 2, 1…
Anyway, because there’s only a limited time until Duncan is dethroned (not as painful as it sounds) I thought I’d better take a look back at the ten top-scoring songs of ye olde 2010s while there’s no brand new winner to discuss instead. But, rather than ranking them like the basic bitch I am, a.k.a. by how much I like them – or not – I figured I’d take the chance to be PURE EVIL instead. I’m ranking them based on two things: how memorable they are, and how iconic they are. In other words, how well will they stand the test of time and how many f-bombs will we give about them in ten, twenty or fifty years? Let’s investigate.
Just before I do, a disclaimer. This is a VERY subjective topic, and everybody would do it differently, so respect my opinion (the right one) and I’ll respect yours. Also, I don’t mean to take anything away from any of the winners in question. They were all worthy in their own way (well, except for one) but the truth is, some of them will stick in our memories like superglue and others just won’t. This is my opinion on which ones aren’t sticky at all and which ones are impossible to prise off.
You know their names: Satellite, Running Scared, Euphoria, Only Teardrops, Rise Like A Phoenix, Heroes, 1944, Amar Pelos Dois, Toy and Arcade. Here’s how I think they rate on the ‘meh’ to memorable scale. Share your ranking in the comments!
#10 | Running Scared, Ell & Nikki (Azerbaijan 2011)
I’m sorry, but I really don’t think this is debatable. 2011 was a weak Eurovision edition compared to what came before and (mostly) after it, IMO – but even so, it’s been nine years and I still don’t understand how Running Scared managed to win the whole thing. It’s perfectly pleasant (YAWN) and was performed well (despite the distracting cougar-and-prey dynamic between Nikki and the obviously much younger Ell). But by beating out the likes of Popular, New Tomorrow and Love In Rewind (to name a few) it screams accidental winner to me. The word ‘iconic’ doesn’t describe anything about it, and if you can change my mind you deserve more douze points than Azerbaijan got during the Düsseldorf grand final. For the record, they only scored three sets, and that says it all. I don’t begrudge Azerbaijan winning so soon after their debut – I just wish it was with another song.
#9 | Arcade, Duncan Laurence (The Netherlands 2019)
Before you grab a pitchfork and hunt me down in a rage to rival The Hulk’s most spectacular, hear me out. Firstly, there is a HUGE gap between the memorability of Arcade and Running Scared. Secondly, I know Duncan has only been Eurovision’s reigning champ for a matter of months, and not enough time has passed to see how well his winner stands the test of it – this is just my take on things right now. Thirdly, as worthy of a winner as Arcade is (it’s stunning, and the bare-bones staging meant a song really did win this particular song contest) I just can’t consider it a heavy hitter looking back at most of the other songs that won this decade. In thirty years, most of us will remember Loreen’s crab-dancing, Conchita’s impeccable facial hair and Netta’s chicken noises before we remember this sadboi sitting at his piano…as magical as the moment was.
#8 | Amar Pelos Dois, Salvador Sobral (Portugal 2017)
Beautiful? Yes. Emotional? Yes. A deserved win for Portugal after an incredibly long wait and a lot of injustices? I’d say so. But iconic in comparison to some of the other top-ranking tracks of the 2010s? I think not, personally. If I asked you to name the first ESC winning song that popped into your head, I have a hard time believing you’d say Salvador’s. Amar Pelos Dois is reminiscent of some of Eurovision’s earliest winners, and I love how Luísa Sobral managed to create something so classic and timeless. Yet it kind of fades into the background for me, and if I’m 100% honest (aren’t I always, even at the risk of provoking easily-angered Eurofans) I would have preferred Bulgaria to take the trophy home in 2017. At the end of the day – and the last decade – Salvador’s controversial post-win speech is more unforgettable than the song that led him to make it. That’s my personal tea.
#7 | Only Teardrops, Emmelie de Forest (Denmark 2013)
If you’re a long(ish) time reader of EBJ, firstly, thanks and congratulations on having such great taste. Secondly, you might know that I’m not Emmelie de Forest’s biggest fan in terms of her contest-winning status. I can accept that she won fair and square in Malmö six and a half years ago (WHAT!). But to me, Only Teardrops is Denmark by numbers Eurovision-wise. It’s competent and polished, but just not that exciting. As a result, I’m never going to file it under ‘Iconic’ in my hypothetical but very well-organised drawer of documents. I’ll drop a few points for the pan flute riff, which did come under fire for being plagiarised but sounds better in Only Teardrops. Apart from that, bare feet and unbrushed hair (while a look) does not bump up the wow factor. I’m more into edgy Norwegian ice queens who feed me their love myself.
#6 | Toy, Netta (Israel 2018)
I can hear your jaw hitting the floor at the prospect of me naming Netta neither memorable nor iconic. BUT WAIT! That’s not what I’m saying by ranking her just below the mid-mark of this list. Netta as a person and a performer is nothing if not memorable, and she grabbed the attention of plenty of people outside of the ESC bubble when she won with Toy…even if that was mainly down to those memeable chicken noises. I just feel like it didn’t take long for the Toy fever to wear off, and for a certain other song from Cyprus to elegantly leapfrog over it as the preferred tune from 2018. Fuego is the one that has stood the test of time better so far – revisit the results of the last few ESC 250s for confirmation. If Netta hadn’t found herself overshadowed by Eleni, I might have ranked her a little higher, but not much.
#5 | 1944, Jamala (Ukraine 2016)
Now that we’re heading into top half territory (in my opinion), I can kick Negative Nancy to the kerb and become…Jubilant Jaz? Just be more positive re: the remaining winners’ memorability, basically. For some, Ukraine’s win in Stockholm is only memorable because of the controversy that surrounded it. For me that’s part of a bigger and very impactful package. There’s never been a winning Eurovision song that packed – and unpacked – the punch of emotion that 1944 does. The fact that it was performed pretty simply in terms of props (zero) and visuals (a subtle handful plus the Pivotal Moment Explosion of CGI Tree, as I like to call it) let the song speak for itself, and it had many powerful statements to make. As a massive 1944 fan and someone who cries every time Jamala hits that sky-high note, I am a bit biased…but I doubt I’ll forget this any time soon.
#4 | Satellite, Lena (Germany 2010)
Here we have the very first winner of the 2010s – an off-the-wall earworm of a pop song, performed by awkward teenager and future superstar/fashion icon/general queen of everything Lena Meyer-Landrut. This track and the quirky, simplistic performance that accompanied it have both stood the test of time, and still seem so fresh that as a pairing, they could probably win Eurovision now (or at least make up for Germany’s unfortunate yet predictable nul points in Tel Aviv). If that’s not iconic, then I don’t know what is. There’s so much about this to grab on to: the “distinctive” (read: weird-ass) lyrics that detail Lena’s underwear-buying habits and include the word ‘toenails’ to great effect; her unusual vocals and dance moves; and of course, her LBD (the most iconic of fashion basics that will never do you wrong). It’s all solid gold. Good luck topping this in the 2020s, Deutschland.
#3 | Heroes, Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden 2015)
First on the podium is Sweden’s most recent champ, and a man who gets more attractive with every year that goes by (but that’s a subject for a different, much thirstier list). I will admit, I’ve ranked Måns’ Heroes so highly thanks to its unforgettable staging more than anything else – though as a Swedenstan from way back, I love the song to death and think MZW is a showman and a half. But let’s face it: in a Eurovision feat. the strongest top five I can recall, Sweden would not have won without that cartoon stick Måns and the tale he helped to tell across Heroes’ three minutes. I’m sure that if we sit down in fifty years and make a list of the most memorably-performed winning songs, this will still be one of the first performances to come to our collective minds (can we actually pencil in a date for that? It sounds like fun to me). It was revolutionary and has been copycatted ever since.
#2 | Rise Like A Phoenix, Conchita Wurst (Austria 2014)
I just talked about a performance that provided most of the x factor in a winning recipe. Now it’s time to travel back to 2014, when it was the performer taking care of that. Who could possibly have a mental blank when Copenhagen’s winner comes up in conversation? Upsettingly, to some Conchita was/is the headliner of a carnival freakshow. To those of us who aren’t hideous human beings however, she was/is a poster-person for individuality, determination and rising (like a phoenix, obviously) above adversity. ALL of that inspirational stuff. Not to mention more confident and glamorous than I could ever hope to be, with a teeny-tiny waist thrown in for good measure. Conchita’s powerful look and persona were combined with a dramatic Bond-esque anthem and a classy, moody staging concept – and together, they were flawless. She is an icon, no question.
#1 | Euphoria, Loreen (Sweden 2012)
By process of elimination and/or common sense, you would have seen my number one (Helena Paparizou pun intended but irrelevant) coming. Almost eight years ago, a Eurovision entry arrived on the scene that would be a game-changer. From the moment Loreen stepped on the Melodifestivalen 2012 stage after crashing out of Andra Chansen the previous year, we knew something special was afoot. Or barefoot, in this case. She won that competition by a landslide, and it was clear that if she didn’t do the same in Baku that May…well, that just wasn’t an option. Perfect, exciting, unique and showstopping are only a few words I can use to describe Euphoria in terms of listening to it and watching Loreen crab-dance her way through it (while trying not to inhale fake snow…again). As we all know, it has topped the ESC 250 countdown every year since 2012, and until something deserving comes along to dethrone it – which may well be never – it will be a worthy winner. Eurovision has never been better, or more memorable, than this. Try and prove me wrong!
That’s it! I’ve showed you mine, now you’re basically obligated to show me yours. How would you rank the ten winners of the 2010s based on how iconic/memorable they are? Do you agree that Euphoria should be in the no. 1 spot? Let me know below.
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