Un Point: 'Boom Bang-a-Bang' by Lulu - United Kingdom (1969)
The Brits are among Eurovision’s most vocal detractors and with a list of entries like theirs they have every right to be. 'Puppet on a String' was the UK’s first winner and all their subsequent entries emulated its success by being just as twee if not more so. 'Boom Bang-A-Bang'is the worst of the lot and perversely it was assigned to one of Britain’s best vocalists. Hearing Lulu’s soulful voice belting out “My heart goes Boom Bang-a-Bang, Boom Bang-a-Bang, when you are near – Boom Bang-a-Bang, Boom Bang-a-Bang, loud in my ear” is enough to make you want to puncture your own with a screwdriver.
Deux Points: 'Fairytale' by Alexander Rybak - Norway (2009)
“Years ago when I was younger I kind of liked a girl I knew.” That’s pretty bad, even by ESL standards, but with Alexander bellowing like an injured elk and acrobatic folk dancers doing flip-flops across the stage who was listening to the lyrics? 'Fairytale' won the competition by the biggest margin in Eurovision history – 169 points – but its success is attributable almost entirely to the staging and the undeniable appeal of a pixie-faced boy thrashing the life out of a violin. “I’m in love with a fairy tale – even though it hurts.” It certainly does.
Trois Points: 'Poupée de cire, poupée de son' by France Gall - Luxembourg (1965)
This is a hip little song with clever and sophisticated lyrics. But when France Gall starts singing them watch those dogs run out of the room. On the night, one bung note after another slipped from her pretty little lips and she was so consistently off-key the song started to sound like an avant-garde performance piece. I like to think the audio died during this performance but the judges didn’t notice because they were consumed by France Gall’s comeliness. They certainly didn’t vote for her voice. You could peel paint with it.
Quatre Points: 'Diva' by Dana International - Israel (1998)
Dana International isn’t much of a singer – her pitch is wobbly and her phrasing is flat – and 'Diva'isn’t much of a song. The melody (particularly in the chorus) is irritating and the lyrics sound like they were nicked from a New Age publication about finding your inner goddess. It’s not even a decent disco song. Have you ever tried dancing to it? 'Diva' won by the narrowest of margins and would most likely have come twelfth but for Dana International’s notoriety. The win did some good for the LGBT community but that doesn’t make it a good song.
Cinq Points: 'Rock 'n' Roll Kids' by Paul Harrington & Charlie McGettigan - Ireland (1994)
A review of the Irish back catalogue reveals a strong tendency towards the sentimental. Kept in check, it produces good and sometimes great songs. This isn’t one of them. Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan are fine musicians but the material is so mawkish it would have been unbearable performed by U2 and Sinead O’Connor. “I was yours and you were mine – That was once upon a time – Now we never seem to rock and roll anymore.” Listening to this saccharine dirge you’d assume they’d never rock and rolled in their lives.
Six Points: 'Insieme: 1992' by Toto Cotugno - Italy (1990)
For a competition that celebrates love, peace and harmony a song about the imminent formation of the European Union is a bizarre choice. Anthems are easy prey to kitsch but when the subject is a politico-economic trading bloc and the lyrics are better suited to a whimsical love song – “Give me your hand so we can fly – Europe is not so far away” – you’re guaranteed garbage. As off-putting as the song is it’s nothing compared to the singer. With that murderous stare, Toto Cotugno looks like he wants to bundle you into the boot of his car.
Sept Points: 'Rock me' by Riva - Yugoslavia (1989)
The badness of 'Rock Me' sneaks up on you. The verse is engaging and the vocals are pleasant but once that chorus kicks in it’s a glum procession to the final chord. The chorus should be the best part of a song but in 'Rock Me' it’s the worst. It’s the most basic repetition of the title (with “baby” added) that gets reworked over and over until the depressing and desperate key change. The band looked great – their stylist was an 80s chic virtuoso – but they really should have hired a choreographer with a better sense of balance.
Huit Points: 'Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley' by Herreys - Sweden (1984)
'Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley' has become a byword for bad Eurovision and, while there’s been a lot worse, it’s still pretty awful. The melody sounds like the theme from a 70s British sitcom and the lyrics (a lot of tosh about dancing about in golden boots) are dreadful even by Eurovision standards. It’s the three brothers Herrey however who doom this entry to its ignominious fate. Their singing isn’t good – I’m always suspicious of a vocal group with backing singers – and their dancing is diabolical. I’m convinced the choreographer was an aerobics instructor working from an incomplete IKEA manual.
Dix Points:'Believe' by Dima Bilan - Russia (2008)
When Dima Bilan appeared at Eurovision in 2006 I was smitten. But two years later, when he won the competition, the thrill was gone. Rolling around on the floor, bawling out an awful ballad and flashing his nipples, the winsome pop star of yesteryear had acquired the icy appeal of a Siberian winter. The song sounded like it had been assembled by a pit crew and Dima sang it like he was revving an engine. Wrong Grand Prix, guys! And what was the ice skater all about? An abysmal song but a triumph for the Eastern Bloc diaspora vote.
Douze Points: 'Running Scared' by Ell & Nikki - Azerbaijan (2011)
This song is so forgettable I’m amazed anyone remembered it when it came time to vote. The chorus is cumbersome and the lyrics – “Baby, I just want to be around you all the time – Oh God – I need you – Oh!” – sound like they were written in the car on the way to the recording studio. Lousy singers think breathy vocals are automatically sexy but they’re not – especially when they’re flat – and Ell’s gooey smiles and Nikki’s sulk were no substitute for genuine chemistry. The Rock Eisteddfod choreography was some of the worst ever attached to a winning song.