Best Ever Eurovision Song Contest Performances
The biggest event of the year is right around the corner at Bodog Sportsbook – and it’s not the Super Bowl, or March Madness. Eurovision Song Contest 2023 lands in Liverpool, England this Tuesday with the first of two semifinals; the second will be held Thursday, then the Grand Final on Saturday, as 37 countries vie for the iconic (yet nameless) glass microphone winner’s trophy.
At press time, Sweden continues to lead the field at –150 on Bodog Sportsbook’s entertainment odds board, with Loreen set to perform her smash hit “Tattoo.” If she succeeds, Loreen will become just the third performer ever to win multiple titles for her country; her previous effort is one of our top five best ever Eurovision song contest performances, listed here in chronological order.
“Waterloo” – ABBA (1974)
Pop music was at a crossroads in 1974. Progressive rock was winding down, David Bowie stopped performing as Ziggy Stardust, and Patti Smith’s recording of “Hey Joe” heralded the beginning of the punk movement. This was also the year that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, changing their sound forever.
More than anything, this was a time in music where mainstream listeners were turning away from heavier issues and looking for something fun to dance to. That’s what Eurovision is about (mostly), and ABBA was the quintessential Eurovision act. The Swedish quartet won the 1974 contest held in Brighton, England with “Waterloo,” the first single off their second album – also called Waterloo.
The enduring legacy of ABBA’s performance was recognized in 2005, the 50th anniversary of Eurovision; “Waterloo” was named the best Eurovision song of all-time, and was voted again for the same distinction before the 2021 contest.
“Making Your Mind Up” – Bucks Fizz (1981)
Disco was still the music of choice for most listeners in 1981, although electronic and New Wave acts like Gary Numan, Soft Cell and The Human League had made their voices heard. This was also the year that Simon and Garfunkel held their free reunion concert in Central Park, and MTV debuted with “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.
Bucks Fizz was the right band at the right time. Formed specifically for the 1981 Eurovision contest in Dublin, this English quartet – two women and two men, just like ABBA – gave a memorable performance of their debut single “Making Your Mind Up” where the male singers tore off the dresses of the female singers, revealing mini-skirts underneath.
Heading into the contest, the disco group Liquid Gold were considered the favourites to represent the United Kingdom with “Don’t Panic,” but it was Bucks Fizz earning the nod after their victory at that year’s A Song for Europe broadcast – now known as Eurovision: You Decide. Smart choice. The UK took first in a very tight race ahead of Germany, France and Switzerland.
“Ne partez pas sans moi” – Celine Dion (1988)
“Making Your Mind Up” was written by Andy Hill and John Danter, and it’s no coincidence that Hill went on to great success producing and writing songs for Celine Dion – although this 1988 Eurovision winner isn’t part of his portfolio. “Ne partez pas sans moi” (“Don’t Leave Without Me”) was penned by Atilla Sereftug and composed by Nella Martinetti.
If you’re wondering how a French-Canadian singer could win Eurovision, it’s the song that matters, not the performer. Martinetti was from Switzerland, so that was the winning country for the 1988 contest held once again in Dublin.
Dion was absolutely perfect for the job. Pop music was everywhere in the late ‘80s, and Dion’s performance at Eurovision launched her international singing career; while this song appeared only as a B-side in Canada, it’s remembered in retrospect as one of the most popular songs in Eurovision history – and it had the narrowest possible margin of victory, defeating the UK entry (Scott Fitzgerald’s “Go”) by a single point. Naturally, we’re proud to list Celine among our best ever Eurovision Song Contest performances.
“Hard Rock Hallelujah” – Lordi (2006)
Change was in the air in the mid-Aughts. Music was getting a bit edgier, and it was high time for one of the more unconventional Eurovision entries to finally break through. Imagine a somewhat tamer, Finnish version of Gwar, and you’ve got Lordi, a hard rock/metal act (fronted by the eponymous Mr Lordi) that first made the scene in 2002 with their hit “Would You Love a Monsterman?”
Lordi would ascend the Eurovision throne in 2006 with their performance of “Hard Rock Hallelujah” from their third album The Arockalypse. Athens was the venue, marking the first time that Greece was the host country; this was also the first hard rock song to win the contest, and the first band to perform the winner since 1997 (Katrina and the Waves, United Kingdom, “Love Shines a Light”).
“Euphoria” – Loreen (2012)
Our Eurovision tour began with a Swedish act, and it ends with another. No more edginess; Loreen was part of the Idol 2004 competition in her native country, then took various jobs in television before re-entering the fray at Melodifestivalen 2011 with the song “My Heart Is Refusing Me,” which cracked the Top 10 in Sweden.
Loreen went on to win Melodifestivalen 2023 with “Tattoo,” which she will be performing this week in Liverpool, but it was “Euphoria” that swept the 2012 Eurovision contest in Baku, Azerbaijan. The first single from Loreen’s debut studio album Heal was No. 1 with both the jury and the televoters, racking up 372 points – the second-most ever at the time.
“Euphoria” went on to top the charts in 17 European countries, still a record to this day, and the song even found favour with critics as well as pop music fans. It makes perfect sense that Loreen finds herself in the pole position for this year’s Eurovision odds at Bodog Sportsbook. Keep checking in for updated lines, and we’ll see you in Liverpool as we look to add some more names to the best ever Eurovision Song contest performances.