On December 21, 2013, I sat down on a sunny Saturday lunchtime to watch Ukraine select its participant for the then months away 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. The broadcast was simple, the production was poor, and if my recollection is accurate, the show wasn’t even in widescreen. Even so, it was the start of a journey that would change my life.
I’ve now watched ten years of Eurovision national selections. I have embraced winners and mourned my favourites that lost. The songs from these ten seasons have shaped my music consumption; I have a playlist of 429 songs that lasts nearly a day if it were to be played non-stop.
I wanted to look back at my favourites that narrowly (and in some cases widely) missed out on representing their countries at Eurovision. Oh, what could have been.
2014: Michael Rune feat Natascha Bessez – Wanna Be Loved
After Denmark won Eurovision in 2013, I spent the following months teaching myself about Danish culture, music and the country’s language. I supported Emmelie de Forest to her victory so I bizarrely felt I owed it to myself, or her, to learn more. When Dansk Melodi Grand Prix was held in Odense in the run-up to the contest, my anticipation to watch Danish television was at its apex. I was giddy.
Danish saxophonist Michael Rune paired up with American vocalist Natascha Bessez to create the club track that never was. Wanna Be Loved is a total anthem. There’s nothing missing. Rune and Bessez would’ve done the business if it wasn’t for Basim. What a robbery. And it’s just a crying shame the track isn’t available on streaming services.
2015: Elephants From Neptune – Unriddle Me
This one could have gone a number of different ways, but Eesti Laul in 2015 was a showcase of eclectic Estonian music, so I couldn’t leave it out.
Elephants From Neptune shoved so much indie flavour into their track. Their performance was aggressive, sharp and punchy. Why can’t we have more songs like this at the contest?
2016: Ace Wilder – Don’t Worry
I’m trying hard to say I wasn’t swayed by the best staging Melfest has ever seen, but I’m failing.
Even so, Don’t Worry is funny, relatable, engaging, uptempo, enjoyable and fun. Everything If I Were Sorry isn’t.
2017: Mariette – A Million Years
This is a Mariette-only zone. Nobody else was ever going to get a look in here.
Sometimes I despair at Swedish voters because they wouldn’t know a good song if it slapped them in the face. A Million Years was the song to send in 2017. Yes, I Can’t Go On is a cracking little tune with innovative staging, but it wasn’t it.
Mariette deserved to represent Sweden in 2017, and even now if I had free rein to choose one Swedish artist to go to Eurovision, it would be Mariette.
2018: Aleksander Walmann – Talk To The Hand
Jowst gets a lot of unnecessary and unjustified hate from some Eurovision fans. He’s a music producer who is making an honest living to provide for his family. I’ve been a fan of his since Grab The Moment and his back catalogue is brilliant. Happier, Everybody Knows and Kiss The Ring are all underappreciated tracks.
Jowst rescued Norway from the despair of non-qualification in 2016 alongside Aleksander Walmann with the song Grab The Moment. 12 months later, Jowst returned to Melodi Grand Prix as a songwriter on Talk To The Hand, performed again by Walmann. The song featured an unreal bassline hook by Magnus Klausen that Jowst saw on Instagram and sampled to create the intro.
Talk To The Hand went up against some stiff competition in the most entertaining edition of MGP I’ve ever watched. Would it have performed better at Eurovision than That’s How You Write A Song? Probably not. But it’s a properly entertaining song that I still listen to today.
2019: Mørland – En liverdd mann
Forgive this slightly romantic choice. I know En livredd mann is long-forgotten by many, but this piece is by me, not anyone else.
Mørland is a masterful composer and songwriter. From the days of writing, recording and producing every track on his noughties indie band’s one and only album (Caught In The Headlights by Absent Elk), to crafting romantic, honest and sometimes heartbreaking songs for artists like Rebecca Thorsen, James Morrison and Andrei Duțu, the man never misses.
Inspired by the death of his mother earlier in the decade, and being scared of his own son going through the same emotions he did if he passed too soon, En livredd mann was Mørland’s first song written in Norwegian. The composition is unmistakably Mørland and was a continuation of his debut solo album released three years earlier.
I was in the Oslo Spektrum on the night Melodi Grand Prix took place that year, and I knew the song wouldn’t do much damage in the competition. Nevertheless, I cheered and supported him and I remember that night with fondness.
2020: Pinguini Tattici Nucleari – Ringo Starr
“Festival di Sanremo isn’t a national final” blah blah blah, yeah yeah yeah. Anyway, Pinguini Tattici Nucleari.
Sanremo in 2020 was one hell of an event with drama all over the place: “Bugogate”, Sky TG24 breaking the news of the winner too early and Piero Pelù “stealing” a lady’s handbag. The talent in this edition was the best it’s been in years with Francesco Gabbani coming close to the victory, and Raphael Gualazzi, Levante, Elodie, Le Vibrazioni and Achille Lauro all bringing their A game. Leo Gassman made his debut in the newcomers’ section and won it too.
Pinguini Tattici Nucleari were a surprise package. With Enrico Melozzi as the conductor, the lads took to the stage with the confidence of a band knowing full well that they could do no wrong. All the members had energy, but Riccardo Zanotti channelled it all and gave the performance his all. He’s not the best vocalist I’ve ever heard, but he’s a proper frontman and performer. Even without the live performance, Ringo Starr is an explosive rock-pop song with heaps of instruments that make it louder, more impressive and more enjoyable the more I listen.
2021: Eric Saade – Every Minute
The Eurovision winner that should’ve, could’ve and perhaps even would’ve been. Sweden did Eric Saade dirty in 2021 when the country’s voters and the international juries favoured Tusse.
Every Minute stands the test of time and will continue to do so. As a song it is minimalist yet grand, commercial yet edgy. The performance and staging was slick, polished and unique. It was box-fresh. What an injustice that it didn’t grace the Eurovision stage.
2022: La Rappresentante di Lista – Ciao ciao
I did want to give this to Rave med de hårde drenge but the pull of La Rappresentante di Lista was too strong.
Ciao Ciao was unrivalled for fun and energy during Italy’s most-watched television programme in 2022, and boy, do we need fun and energy during the marathon broadcast.
The song’s bassline is sexy and the brass accompaniment is wonderful. Vocalist Veronica Lucchesi carries the track ultimately. Whenever I hear Ciao Ciao it tickles my brain. I have it on my hype playlist.
2023: Theoz – Mer av dig
This year’s national final season was the poorest I’ve ever seen. That’s not to say it was bad, only comparatively against the stellar quality of the years that preceded it. Even Melfest was comparatively poor.
That said, future Melfest winner Theoz wears the crown. Loreen was categorically the standout performer this year, but Theoz built on his Melfest birth last year with Mer av dig. The kid is a bundle of energy, fun and enthusiasm and is building a platform for success.
His track this year – much like Som du vill last year – was a pop banger. It nabbed fifth place in the final and rightly so. More of this please, young man.