Welcome to Group D of the Eurovision Championships! This week, it’s the Francophone stalwarts vs. the Nordic powerhouses. France start the group as top seeds and with good reason too having won the contest 5 times with the most recent coming in 1977. Their neighbours Belgium have won the contest more recently but will be disappointed to have only won once given their number of participations (they have the same number of victories as Monaco). Finland have won the contest even more recently but their 1 victory in 53 attempts is also nothing to get excited about. Finally, we have Iceland, the first of our nations presented to have won out through qualification. Even though Iceland have never won the contest, it could be argued that they are the ones most in touch with Eurovision today. The two countries who qualify out of this tight group will be the ones who can best adapt their catalogue of Eurovision entries to be most in touch with the type of Eurovision that you (the voters) love but which two nations will that be?
France (1977 & 1991)
Though 5 times is an extremely impressive number to have won Eurovision, does it really tell the whole story of the French at Eurovision? After all, their only victory since the introduction of the 12, 10, 8, etc. scoring structure came in 1977 and their best result since the abolishment of the native language rule came in 2001 when they came 4th. On both occasions, they achieved their result with a French woman standing on stage belting out a ballad so let’s zero in on that. 1977 was the year that Marie Myriam came to London and narrowly pipped the home act to the victory with her song ‘L’oiseau et l’enfant’. The song is a classic French ballad about love with some bird and child imagery thrown in for good measure. 14 years later, Amina was unlucky to be on the wrong end of a narrow result when her song ‘C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison’ tied for the victory in Rome with her Swedish counterpart. Had she won (as she would have done under today’s rules), it would have been a perfect French winner, a ballad that was about love but performed in a way that was stylistically, visually and artistically spectacular and definitely ahead of its time for Eurovision. Sure, it’s easy to accuse the French of being one-trick ponies and until they score a victory by doing something different, it will be very difficult to know for certain. One thing I do know for sure is that every Eurovision fan has a French song that they love and it’s clear that when they do get Eurovision right that they get it perfect. Is that enough for them to earn your vote?
Belgium (1986 & 2003)
Belgium’s history at Eurovision has been extremely inconsistent. The initial contests in the 1950s were positive for them but their momentum had fallen flat by the time they reached 1961. Their only victory at the contest came in 1986 when they sent a 13 year-old Sandra Kim to Bergen with the upbeat pop song ‘J’aime la vie’. If that wasn’t already strange, the closest that they subsequently came to winning again came in 2003 when Belgian folk music group Urban Trad performed ‘Sanomi’ (a song sung entirely in an imaginary language) in Riga and remarkably came two points from victory. This was almost immediately followed by six years out of the Grand Final as the Semi Final era proved unkind to them. When they have qualified out of the Semis, they have always placed in the top half of the standings and 2015-2017 represented the first signs of momentum towards Belgium developing a consistent formula for Eurovision but alas it was not to be. Belgium Eurovision is staggered, it doesn’t have a consistent identity and that can perhaps be blamed on the French & Flemish broadcasters exchanging delegation responsibilities every other year. On the bright side though, it is a fun little show to watch and fly or flop, there’s always something fascinating about the strategy Belgium pick for Eurovision dominance each year. Could that kookiness win them enough votes get them out of the group?
Finland (1973 & 2006)
Looking back at Finland’s Eurovision record (see what I did there) it’s remarkable to note that they didn’t even come close to the Eurovision summit before their first victory. The closest they came was in 1973 in Luxembourg when Marion Rung went one better than her 7th placed finish in 1962 with her song ‘Tom, Tom, Tom’. That is literally it. After that, they managed a couple more unremarkable 7th placed finishes. Leading up to 2006 in Athens, they hadn’t reached the Final for 4 years having been relegated in 2002 and then failed to qualify out of the Semi Finals in 2004 & 2005. Then Lordi showed up and they rocked hard to victory in Athens with Eurovision classic ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’, doing Eurovision as it has never been done before. The years since have not been the kindest to Finland with many of their most iconic modern artists (Krista Siegfrids, Saara Aalto, Darude) underperforming come the contest but it can’t be argued that Finland haven’t brought something special and unique to the contest that might just be worth a cheeky, wee vote.
Iceland (1990 & 1999)
Please vote no later than 23.59 BST July 16th and then check the site out the next day when we will release the vote for Group E, a face-off between The Netherlands, Germany, Yugoslavia & Slovenia.