Year in, year out, Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang keep Aussie fans coming back to SBS's Eurovision coverage, not just to see the wondrous on-stage spectacle, but also for their warm and witty commentary.
Genevieve Dwyer

14 Apr 2016 - 9:53 AM  UPDATED 15 Apr 2016 - 10:47 AM

With their irreverence and genuine affection for the comp, our Aussie presenters Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang have done us proud and played a huge part in building Australia's great relationship with the world's most famous song contest. 

They’re excellent translators of the pomp and pageantry that makes up the world’s biggest party, then telling it like it is for audiences back home.

So from years spent hosting, and many more years spent eagerly watching, what are the entries that most stand out in their minds? Julia and Sam break down their top five Eurovision performances.


The Eurovision greats by Julia Zemiro


5. Conchita Wurst and Dana International

The reason we are all here again this year in Vienna is Conchita. It’s all due to her astounding performance last year with 'Rise like a Phoenix'. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house for the drag queen with a beard who could actually belt it out. 

A very honourable mention to Dana International who certainly broke new ground as a transgender winner in 1998 for Israel. Champions and Divas both.

Dana International performs at Eurovision 1998


4. Iceland’s Yohanna

In 2009, Yohanna came second in 2009 with ‘Is it true?’.

Don’t be fooled by her baby blue, full-length satin ruffled dress and her pretty blonde hair. Her song is a perfect pop ballad, with all the right key changes and she has a voice to die for. Her money note was sublime.

Singing live, dress rehearsal after dress rehearsal, and in the final, Yohanna nailed it. Every time. Only a Norwegian boy with a winning smile and a violin could beat her. And he did.


3. Serbia

Okay. Let’s get to the real deal at Eurovision and that’s the countries that still insist on singing in their own language. I choose Serbia!

From sultry winner Marija Serifovic’s ‘Molitva’ to crowd favourite Nina with ‘Caroban’. 

The Serbs continue to show us great songs and singers, in different genres year after year in their own language. Thanking you!


2. Italy

My guilty pleasure: the Italians. Pop sounds fab in Italian. It just works. And hipster Marco Mengoni in 2013 melted my old cougar heart with ‘L’essenziale’. Can’t remember if he cracked the top 10. Don’t care. 

It’s a Eurovision song on high rotation at mine. I learnt the whole song in Italian so I can pretend I speak another language.


1. France

And yes. I could say ABBA’s 'Waterloo'. I love those Swedes. But I’m going to put forward the French… again because they stubbornly refuse to sing in English and they are my people. 

From a 1965 Serge Gainsbourg classic like ‘Poupée de cire, poupée de son’, a black and white beauty of a clip where France Gall sings her baby talk ye-ye style… right through to the mature and classic Frida Boccara in 1969 with ‘Un Jour, Un Enfant’. 

A true songstress in charge of her material and her emotions. Exquisite. And how Eurovision used to be!


Sam Pang's favourite performances...


5. Petr Elfimov, Belarus 2009

Belarus. 'Eyes that Never Lie' was the song. Didn’t make the Final. It was that night that I learnt the meaning of injustice.


4. Svetlana, Ukraine 2009

"Be my Valentine! (The Anti-crisis Girl)" - her words not mine - was performed on a giant apparatus called a Hell Machine. Trust me, it was appropriately named. Joining her on stage were semi-naked gladiators, drums and fire. Just another night at Eurovision.


3. Engelbert Humperdink, UK 2012

Also in 2012. Seeing a legend live on stage was amazing. He was the first performer of the night. I believe it's because he’s usually in bed by 8 p.m. Engelbert may or may not have hooked up with one of the Russian Grannies (see below).


2. Russian Grannies, 2012

Buranovskiye Babushki finished second. Probably for the best. If you win of course you have to sing your song again at the end of the night and I’m not sure they had another 3 minutes in them. Their choreography on stage involved baking. Need I say more!


1. Spain’s stage invader, 2010

Serial pest Jimmy Jump invaded the stage during Spain’s performance in 2010. I didn’t realise at first. Just thought he was part of the performance. Lucky Julia was there! Spain got to sing their song again at the end. I actually preferred it the first time. I thought Jump really added something.


The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast on SBS’s Eurovision Weekend - Friday 13, Saturday 14 and Grand Final Sunday 15 May, 7.30pm on SBS, with LIVE early morning broadcasts from 5am on Wednesday 11, Friday 13 and Sunday 15 May.

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