Un Point: 'La Det Swinge' by Bobbysocks - Norway (1985)
After years spent languishing at the bottom of the scoreboard (frequently with nul points), Norway scored its first victory in 1985 with this feel-good 50s style toe-tapper. Laced with sax and doo-wops, it’s a song about dancing and performed with such joie de vivre that the urge to cut the rug is irresistible. Hanne Krogh and Elisabeth Andreassen were the be-sequined belters of Bobbysocks and the only thing better than watching them storm the stage to begin their number was seeing them race back, in a state of near hysteria, to claim their victory.
Deux Points: 'Everyway That I Can' by Sertab Erener - Turkey (2003)
With its saucy English lyrics and pulsating Middle Eastern rhythm, 'Everyway That I Can' won Turkey the admiration of the West and enough points to take the trophy east. It’s an “I-want-you-back” song but Sertab Erener isn’t the type to plead. Hearing her snarling vocals you’d hardly believe she was a classically trained soprano and she even raps: “I’m in love with you – I’ll do all you want me to – You make me want to huh-huh – Make me want to huh-huh-huh!”
The bondage-themed belly-dance routine was priceless.
Trois Points: 'Net Als Toen' by Corry Brokken - Netherlands (1957)
In this delightful song a woman pines for the romance she once shared with her husband who now sits in his armchair reading the newspaper. Corry Brokken was a lovely singer – her tone was warm, her phrasing was effortless – and she could act. Watching her work the TV camera is a joy and, even if you don’t speak a word of Dutch, you’ll get the story simply by watching her face. Some say Corry was too young for the material but to me she’s playing an older woman seeing herself as a girl again. Whatever the intention the effect is charming.
Quatre Points: 'Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi' by Celine Dion - Switzerland (1988)
This up-tempo anthem about adventure and romance is a nifty piece of song-writing (with a brilliant key change) but it’s Celine Dion who makes it a classic. The singing is faultless. Her pitch is perfect and her range over almost two octaves never strains. She performs with a lovely sense of youthful vigour – she was 20 years old at the time – and the finale is spectacular. The audience goes mad for her. Yes, I know her outfit was awful but if you can sing like that you can wear a wheat bag for all I care.
Cinq Points: 'Wild Dances' by Ruslana - Ukraine (2004)
Lots of physical activity on the Eurovision stage is usually a smokescreen for a crappy song but 'Wild Dances' is a great song. It’s a thrilling melange of Eastern sounds and pithy English and, as it’s about wild dancing, presenting it with lots of physical activity was mandatory. Ruslana sang like a Valkyrie – even while being hurled in the air – and her stage act was something Eurovision had never seen before. The dancing wasn’t just poncing about; it was an integral part of the song – and Ruslana pulled off something no one had ever thought possible. She made Eurovision sexy.
Six Points: 'Un Jour, Un Enfant' by Frida Boccara - France (1969)
Four songs tied for first place in 1969. Two of them were rubbish and a third wasn’t bad. The fourth was the best and how it finished alongside something like 'Boom Bang-A-Bang' is a mystery that rivals that of the Bermuda Triangle. 'Un Jour, Un Enfant' is an enchanting song. It’s beautifully written – the contrast between the ineffably sad melody and the determined rhythm is particularly effective – and Frida Boccara was its ideal interpreter. She gave a heartfelt dramatic performance, tender and full of contrast, and the soaring vocals in the song’s closing moments were glorious.
Sept Points: 'Waterloo' by Abba - Sweden (1974)
'Waterloo' is such a palatable pop song you forget its conceit: that Napoleon’s downfall compares with succumbing to the charms of an insistent suitor. This wry duality gets an extra twist from the suggestively kinky lyrics: “But how could I ever refuse? I feel like I win when I lose." 'Waterloo' isn’t ABBA’s best song – those came later – but it’s a lot of fun. It’s like three minutes of being tickled. Annifrid and Agnetha were excellent singers, not really shown at their best here just belting it out, but they give charming and ebullient performances nonetheless.
Huit Points: 'Hold Me Now' by Johnny Logan - Ireland (1987)
I still can’t quite believe the man they call Mr. Eurovision was born in Frankston. This was Johnny Logan’s second win, a song he wrote himself and one of the best Eurovision songs of all time. The lyrics are emotionally heightened but straightforward and the chorus – words of reassurance from one whose heart is being torn apart – is a ripper. Johnny’s a fine singer with an endearing flair for melodrama. On the night he seemed a little nervous but when you’re selling a song like this any suggestion of vulnerability works in your favor.
Dix Points: 'Molitva' by Marija Serifovic - Serbia (2007)
Wearing a black men’s suit and reading glasses, Marija Serifovic looked anything but the regulation Eurovision chanteuse; which was only fitting because she wasn’t. There have been many excellent female singers throughout the history of Eurovision but only rarely have they given a performance like this. From the intimate opening to the blistering emotional outpouring at the key change Marija was totally compelling – powerful, unafraid and vulnerable – and she communicated things in Serbian you wouldn’t pick up from mere words in any language. It was a cry from the heart and an extraordinary experience.
Douze Points: 'Love Shine a Light' by Katrina and the Waves - United Kingdom (1997)
If the contest is all about love, peace and harmony, this is the best Eurovision song ever. Skirting the ponderousness of other anthems on the subject, 'Love Shine a Light' makes a simple statement about love and hope and does it so efficiently the rhyming of “girl” and “world” doesn’t make your toes curl over. Katrina and the Waves (those purveyors from the 80s of 'Walking on Sunshine') perform with a joyous sense of celebration – Katrina especially looks like she’s having a ball – and the chorus is mighty. It was voted for it in droves for good reason.
Geoff Wallis has been a follower of the Eurovision Song Contest since 1998. He has made an extensive study of all 59 competitions and is a firm believer that the best Eurovision entries are well written and well sung.