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Douze Points: Defying the odds, Eurovision’s biggest disappointments

According to the famous ABBA song, the winner takes it all. Yet as the undoubtedly most famous act to have won Eurovision, it’s no wonder they’d sing about winning. Whilst the Eurovision Song Contest has its fair share of incredible winners, many of the competing songs seem destined to be forgotten once the credits start rolling. But what about, specifically, those songs that were expected to do something special and then didn’t? Here are some of the songs that for one reason or another didn’t have that special moment on the big night.

A special mention needs to be given to all those acts who didn’t even make it to the Eurovision stage, especially those in 2021. Unfortunately we will never know if they were destined for musical greatness, or if audiences at home would have been leaving to put the kettle on. 

Whilst for most casual fans of the contest Eurovision is merely a three-hour affair, those who are more invested will follow it for weeks and even months; watching national selections and pre-contest parties. Because of this there is usually a pretty good indication of who will do well before rehearsals even begin. And in 2017 the favourite going into the contest was Italy, represented by Francesco Gabbani with the song ‘Occidentali’s Karma’ (Westerner’s Karma).

It’s easy to understand Italy’s popularity in this contest and why it was expected by many to do well. The song itself was a criticism of materialist lifestyle and the attempted westernisation of aspects of other cultures, with references to Buddhism in the song’s chorus. The staging as well was simple and effective, whilst also cohesively working with the song. And who wouldn’t find a dancing gorilla memorable? 

However it was not to be for Gabbani, and he had to settle with a respectable sixth-place, with Portugal ultimately winning with the stunningly beautiful Amar Pelos Dois; incidentally this was Portugal’s first victory. On stage Gabbani’s performance seemed somewhat empty, and the dancing gorilla was more cliched than entertaining.

Moving forward a few years, in 2019 Tamara Todevska’s song Proud gave North Macedonia it’s best ever result – seventh place. This might seem a slightly odd inclusion in this list, but stay with me on this one. Tamara went into the contest sitting at fifteenth place in the odds. However, she quickly impressed with a moving performance of female empowerment, delivered with truly impressive vocals. Once the voting started, it began looking like a three horse race between North Macedonia, Sweden and The Netherlands.

In the end, it was The Netherlands who won overall, but Sweden topped the jury voting on the night, with North Macedonia only a few points behind. Or so it seemed. It was not until after the contest that it came out the Belarussian jury had incorrectly calculated their points, and that North Macedonia should’ve won the jury. Whilst this didn’t have too much of an impact on the overall results, it did rob Tamara the joy of realising she had been the jury’s favourite on the night, a truly well-earned accolade.

The 2021 contest witnessed not one, but two surprisingly disappointing results in both San Marino and Croatia. Perhaps the former of these was the most surprising. It’s safe to say that I, alongside many others, were unbelievably surprised to discover that the microstate had managed to get Flo Rida to feature on their act. Unsurprisingly this led to them racing up the odds, and many were anticipating that Senhit and Flo Rida would give San Marino it’s best ever result with their song Adrenalina. 

I can distinctly remember watching the contest and just before the hosts gave San Marino its points from the televote, turning to my friends and telling them to expect a huge score. It turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong, as San Marino received a meagre 13 points from the viewers at home. We were astounded. To this day I’m not sure how this song was so poorly received. One particularly farfetched theory that I heard was that the viewers at home believed that the Sammarinese act was actually the interval due to both them performing last and the presence of Flo Rida. I’m not quite sure whether this is true. If I had to take a guess, the reason for San Marino’s poor performance was probably just due to its rather chaotic staging, and maybe the song just didn’t connect with viewers at home.

Finally, we have Croatia who in 2021 was represented by Albina with the very aptly named song Tick-Tock. For a song with a name so relevant and current, you would have anticipated it would do well. Both the juries and televoters from semi-final one certainly thought so and wanted to see it in the final. Yet due to the intricacies of the voting system, Croatia did not find itself being one of the ten countries qualifying for the final. Whilst Tick-Tock was by no means one of my favourite songs in the contest, it nevertheless was incredibly disappointing for such a catchy and enjoyable song with a stylish staging to miss out on the final in such a way.

At the end of the day, Eurovision is a contest and there inevitably will be acts who don’t perform as well as some were expecting. However this is part of the entertainment; if the results were consistently as expected, would millions really be tuning in to watch?

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