Once a year, dozens of European nations come together for the Eurovision Song Contest, in which each country picks an act who performs their song live on television, after which they are voted upon and a winner is crowned. This year, the Contest is being held in the city of Malmö, Sweden, with a tagline of “We Are One”. 39 countries are participating in this event, and after two semi-finals earlier this week, that pack is down to 26, who will perform in the live final later on today. You can stream it at Eurovision’s official website or if you’re outside of North America, you can probably find a national broadcaster that will air the show on television.
In the U.S., we generally aren’t in the loop with what goes on at Eurovision. We don’t even have our own Amerivision where all fifty states could participate in a contest such as this. (Wouldn’t that be fun?) Despite this, we’ve seen established acts in the United States go onto success at the annual contest. Cliff Richard and Katrina & The Waves have both scored highly for the United Kingdom with their original songs, though those specific compositions were never issued in the States. In 1988, future superstar Celine Dion, representing for Switzerland, won that year’s contest with the French song “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi” (“Don’t Leave Without Me”), competing against Luxembourg’s Lara Fabian, best known for her 2000 single, “I Will Love Again”. This year, German dance and electronic act Cascada, who hit the top ten here in 2006 with “Everytime We Touch”, will be competing for Germany with “Glorious”, which has yet to see a release here. There have also been a few cases of songs that did well at Eurovision that became hits in the United States in an alternate version or cover. For example, fourth-place entry at the 1967 Contest, “L’amour Est Bleu” by Luxembourg’s Vicky Leandros, became a #1 on the Hot 100 the following year in an instrumental version by Paul Mauriat, “Love Is Blue”.
To date, only four finalists from the Eurovision Song Contest have ever made the top 40 on the Hot 100 in their original form by the original artist or band. Remember these pop ditties?
“Nel Blu Dipino Di Blu (Volare)”, Domenico Modugno (#1, 1958) [English: “In The Blue-Painted Sky (I Will Fly)”]
Though the Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956, it gained worldwide popularity two years later when this song competed in it. Though Italy’s entry only made it to third place, it became a smash hit in the United States, spending five non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the then-newly created Hot 100, becoming the top song of the year. Furthermore, it also received Record and Song Of The Year honors at the very first GRAMMY Awards in 1959. Modugno would only ever chart one other song in the U.S., his next year’s entry in the Contest: “Piove (Ciao, Ciao Bambina)” (#97). [English: “It’s Raining (Bye, Bye Baby)”.]
“Waterloo”, ABBA (#6, 1974)
Here’s the biggest act to come out of Eurovision with the amount of international success that the group has had. Back in 1974, the quartet competed with their debut single, “Waterloo”, and it won the Contest by six points, giving the country their first ever win. Released in both English and Swedish versions, the song did very well all over Europe and also cracked the top ten in the U.S., going as high as #6. ABBA would have a total of fourteen songs hit the Hot 100’s top 40, with “Dancing Queen” going to #1 in 1977, their biggest single. They last charted in 1982 and have never created new material together since that date.
“Save Your Kisses For Me”, Brotherhood Of Man (#27, 1976)
You may recall that this group first made the top 40 in the U.S. as a quintet with their song “United We Stand”. It went to #13 during the summer of 1970. Six years later, a totally revamped group reduced to a quartet, all new members, won that year’s Eurovision Song Contest for the United Kingdom, and became so popular that it registered a minor charting here nationally, as well as a #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Though it reignited their career in their homeland for several more years, this was it for them in the U.S., and the song quickly faded away. The quartet is still together today and play live on occasion.
“Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit”, Gina G (#11, 1997)
Australian-born Gina G was the United Kingdom’s pick for the 1996 Eurovision Contest, though her song ranked in 8th place when all was said and done. However, it did climb to #1 in the United Kingdom, the last single (thus far) by any participating act from the U.K. to hit #1 on that country’s Singles Chart. Several months later, the song charted in the United States, becoming a top ten radio hit and a #11 smash on the Hot 100. Though she had a string of large singles overseas, she only charted one more time here with the #46 “Gimme Some Love” in the summer of 1997. She’s largely done with recording and performing.
Check out the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest when it airs later today. I’m personally rooting for Denmark, Finland, Ireland and the United Kingdom! Let me know your picks in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.