The Eurovision Song Contest was launched in 1956, a more innocent time, and whilst it has produced iconic performances and timeless songs, as society has evolved and our understanding of social issues has broadened, some Eurovision songs have not aged well.
Boom Bang-a-Bang by Lulu (1969)
The United Kingdom’s 1969 Eurovision Song Contest entry is a catchy pop tune that ultimately tied for first place. However, its lyrics have not aged gracefully; its repetitive chorus includes the phrase “boom bang-a-bang,” now considered a gross caricature of firearm sounds. In a time when gun violence and its impact on society are significant concerns, the lyrics are seen as trivialising a serious issue. Using “bang” as a metaphor for love could be considered inappropriate or even promoting violence in today’s context. While the song was not intended to have a violent message, modern audiences might not be as forgiving, given the increased awareness of the impact of language on real-world issues.
A-Ba-Ni-Bi by Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta (1978)
Israel’s 1978 Eurovision winner is a catchy disco tune. The song’s title and chorus are based on the Hebrew children’s language game “B-language,” in which each syllable is repeated with a “B” sound. While the song was not considered offensive then, it has been criticised recently for promoting cultural insensitivity. The linguistic game highlights the challenges non-native speakers and individuals with language difficulties face. Its lyrics could be interpreted as belittling or mocking those who do not understand the coded language. In a time when inclusivity and respect for cultural differences are highly valued, A-Ba-Ni-Bi might not be received as warmly as it once was.
Hasta la Vista by Olexandr Ponomariov (2003)
Ukraine’s 2003 Eurovision entry is an upbeat pop tune with lyrics centred around saying goodbye to a romantic partner. However, the repeated use of the Spanish phrase “hasta la vista” has been criticised for cultural appropriation and misrepresentation of the Spanish language. In our increasingly globalised society, respecting and accurately portraying the diverse cultures and languages represented in the Eurovision Song Contest is essential.
Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (1981)
Bucks Fizz, representing the United Kingdom, won the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest. However, the lyrics, encouraging a young girl to “make up her mind” about her romantic feelings, have been criticised for perpetuating gender stereotypes and pressuring women to adhere to traditional relationship expectations. The lyrics are considered dated and potentially offensive in today’s more gender-equal society.
Puppet on a String” by Sandie Shaw (1967)
Sandie Shaw won in 1967 with a catchy pop tune with an upbeat melody. However, its lyrics can be perceived as encouraging reckless gambling. Phrases like “I may win on the roundabout, then I’ll lose on the swings” may be interpreted as promoting an unhealthy attitude to online betting – something especially likely during the Eurovision Song Contest when some countries have been said to inflate the odds of a win artificially.
Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley by Herrey’s (1984)
The 1984 Swedish entry is a catchy and energetic pop song. The song’s nonsensical lyrics, including phrases like “diggi-loo diggi-ley, life is going my way,” have been criticised for their frivolous nature and potential to mock individuals with language difficulties who struggle to understand and communicate in foreign languages. In today’s increasingly multicultural and multilingual society, such lyrics may be considered exclusionary and perpetuate cultural insensitivity.
Après Toi by Vicky Leandros (1972)
Luxembourg’s winning entry in the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest is a dramatic ballad about a woman pledging to follow her lover no matter where he goes. However, the song’s lyrics can be interpreted as promoting codependency and the unhealthy idea that one should sacrifice their own needs and desires for their partner. This message is considered potentially harmful in today’s more emotionally aware society.
My Number One by Helena Paparizou (2005)
Greece’s winning entry in the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest is a dance-pop song that became popular across Europe. However, the lyrics, which focus on the singer’s willingness to submit to a lover’s desires, may be problematic from a feminist perspective. In a time where female empowerment and gender equality are highly valued, the song’s message may be seen as reinforcing traditional gender roles and perpetuating the objectification of women. Plus, in some countries doing a ‘number one’ refers to urination, and when considered in such a context, the song becomes even more problematic.
Beşinci Mevsim by Seyyal Taner & Grup Lokomotif (1987)
Turkey’s 1987 Eurovision entry features an upbeat pop melody with a lyric that can be interpreted as perpetuating traditional gender roles. The song’s lyric emphasises the singer’s desire to remain youthful and attractive while expressing concerns about ageing and the passage of time. The song’s lyrics reinforce ageist and sexist attitudes in a society that increasingly values body positivity and challenges unrealistic beauty standards.
Say Wonderful Things by Ronnie Carroll (1963)
The United Kingdom’s 1963 entry is a romantic ballad with a soothing melody. However, the song’s lyrics, which include phrases like “I’ll belong to you for eternity,” can be perceived as promoting a narrow view of love and happiness through codependent relationships. These lyrics may be considered harmful and offensive today, emphasising the importance of healthy boundaries and individual growth.
Fångad av en stormvind by Carola (1991)
Sweden’s 1991 winning entry is an energetic pop song with a powerful message of love and perseverance. Despite its uplifting melody, the song’s lyrics, which include lines like “trapped by a storm wind, I’ll stay by your side,” can be criticised for promoting the idea that one should endure hardship in relationships without considering personal well-being. In a time when the importance of mental health and self-care is increasingly recognised, these lyrics may be seen as promoting a potentially harmful narrative.
Belle by Daniel Popović (1983)
Yugoslavia’s 1983 entry is a clap-along pop tune. However, the song’s lyric, which includes phrases like “you are beautiful like a dream” and “you belong to the man who will conquer you,” can be perceived as objectifying women and promoting traditional gender roles. In today’s climate, which values gender equality and respect for individual autonomy, these lyrics may be considered offensive and outdated.
Save Your Kisses for Me by Brotherhood of Man (1976)
The truly bad apple in this entire batch. The United Kingdom’s 1976 Eurovision winner may present as an innocent, catchy pop tune with a memorable melody. However, the lyric, which waits until the end to focus on an insistence that a young girl saves her kisses for a grown man with a moustache (even though she’s only three), is now seen as inappropriate, given the implied age difference. In an era where discussions around consent and age dynamics are more prevalent, the song’s lyrics may cause discomfort.
As society evolves and values shift, these and many other Eurovision Song Contest entries have become controversial. Some may argue that these songs should be viewed within the context of their time, while others believe that they should be reevaluated and critiqued based on today’s standards.
Regardless of one’s stance on the issue, future Eurovision participants and organisers must remain mindful of the messages conveyed through their music, ensuring that the contest celebrates unity, diversity, and understanding.