EUROVISION COUNTDOWN: My Top 25 2016-2020
So….after spending the past month plus running down all 41 of this years’ entries, I have been working on some other ESC related lists and such. I’ll have two or three more throughout this week, and of course, next week we’ll have complete coverage of all the specials, concluding with the Eurovision Europe Shine A Light special a week from this Saturday.
What I’ve done for this list – I’ve taken my top five personal favorite songs from each year I’ve been watching ESC since it officially became available in the U.S. – that’s 2016-2020. Then, I threw all my rankings for each of those years out, and started from scratch to rank them all in my favorite order. This was NOT an easy thing to do. Although it is telling that my tastes are often completely different from EuroFans – only one of the actual winners – and three of the favorites in the cancelled 2020 contest – are in my top 25. Two songs that missed the finals also rank in my top 25. Below, I’ll list all of them from 25-1, with the number, song, artist, country, and the final Eurovision placement, along with a few notes and thoughts and a music video. Please note that not all the videos may be viewable on all mediums, but they all played when I put this together this morning, as I checked them all on PC. Your Smart TV, dongle, phone or tablet may vary…:-)
AND AWAY WEEEE GOOOOOO!
#25 – “Lights And Shadows” – O’G3NE – The Netherlands 2017 – 11th
This trio of sisters – two of them fraternal twins – captured my heart in an instant with their total resemblance – both look and sound – to American girl group trio Wilson Phillips. This beautiful song about how life brings both triumph and tragedy (the lights and shadows of the title) is fantastic. Their harmonies are top notch and they pulled it off live in the final as well. I would have liked to have seen a better placement, but 11th isn’t bad at all for such a pretty and poignant little song…
#24 – “Last Of Our Kind” – Rykka – Switzerland 2016 – Semi 1 18th
This little gem sooooo got the shaft, unfairly finishing last and getting eliminated in the second semifinal. It’s an awesome little number, but it ended up being hindered in the long run by the live performance, where Rykka looked like she was doing calisthenics, bobbing up and down in time to the music, like one of those kinetic energy glass birds (I have know idea what kind of a bird it was supposed to be, though) that you tapped and it would bob up and down and into glasses or saucers like it was drinking – totally a product of the kitschy sixties. Anyway, that performance was weird but the song is fantastic.
#23 – “Bones” – Equinox – Bulgaria 2018 – 14th
This song is what happens when EVERYTHING goes WRONG. Made up of Bulgarian singers Zhana Bergendorff, Georgi Simeonov, and Vlado Mihailov, and American singers Johnny Manuel (an “America’s Got Talent” Golden Buzzer contestant the previous year) and Trey Campbell, this SHOULD have been much bigger than it ended up being. In fact, it was the #1 song pick of US fans in an official poll, it was in the top three of nearly everyone in the Euro ESC fandom YouTube countdown community, it had UNBELIEVABLE fan support all the way around, and it should have easily finished in the top five at the finals…and then the unthinkable happened – they couldn’t match the recording live – and it cost them dearly, barely making it out of the semis. Despite all that, the song itself is still fantastic, incredibly intense lyrically, and luscious, and worthy of better than it ended up getting.
#22 – “I’ve Been Waiting For This Night” – Donny Montell – Lithuania 2016 – 9th
This song is great, but I have to be honest, it’s really saved more by not having to watch the dorky video. It also has that annoying repeat word at the end of each line of the two verses. But I LOVE the sentiment of the song, and Montell’s smooth and silky vocals really clicked with me. It’s become sort of a semi-classic with ESC fans, has always been a fan favorite and it’s easy to see why.
#21 – “Vislat Nyar” – AWS – Hungary 2018 – 21st
Funny, I could have sworn this song finished in the top ten, not at #21, but oh well. This screamcore beauty channels the anger at having recently lost a parent (in this case a beloved father) into the singer’s (and the world’s?) loss of innocence as another summer closes (English translation of the title “Goodbye Summer“), and it makes for an utterly mesmerizing package, with the song a true standout among the entries that year. We’ll get more into daddy issues a little further up the countdown…
#20 – “Supergirl” – Stefania – Greece 2020 – NONE
One of the five officially “lost” songs of the cancelled 2020 contest, I finally connected with Greece thanks to this irresistibly catchy little “superhero romantic angst” number. I ADORE Stefania’s vocals on the song, love the decidedly Greek-flavored back beat, and the video is just cute all the way around. Fans weren’t hugely impressed, and I don’t know how it would have finished in the long run, but I’d like to think it would have done pretty well…
#19 – “You Are The Only One” – Sergey Lazarev – Russia 2016 – 3rd
It says A LOT that Lazarev is the only act with TWO songs on this list, because from the second I first heard and saw him in 2016 I have wondered why this man isn’t a worldwide superstar yet. OMG this guy can SING and he really puts everything he is into every song he does. He came really close with this one, finishing third in 2016, and deserved it every stretch of the way. The video is a little weird, but incredible to watch, and the song is just AWESOME!
#18 – “Don’t Come Easy” – Isaiah – Australia 2017 – 9th
Then barely 17, Isaiah had grabbed my heart a few months earlier when he won the Aussie “X Factor” franchise, and an online friend sent me a clip. When I found out he was going to be the Aussie rep at Eurovision in 2017, I was super happy. And he doesn’t disappoint, either. I have remained a HUGE fan of his from day one, and this song is fantastic, and might have finished a bit higher had he not had a few vocal issues at the jury-voted semi rehearsal. But he didn’t do badly, and the song is a gem as far as I’m concerned.
#17 – “Yodel It!” – Ilinca featuring Alex Florez – Romania 2017 – 7th
It’s YODELING! What’s NOT to love? Seriously, this song is just plain FUN all the way around. Ilinca’s yodeling talents are fantastic, and she’s an awesome singer too. Plus the video is hella fun, despite my constant fears that poor Alex is going to take one wrong step and come plummeting 60 or so feet back down to earth, that perch of his was barely big enough to stand on!
#16 – “Respondez-moi” – Gjon’s Tears – Switzerland 2020 – NONE
I went into my various issues with this song on this year’s countdown, but I still ADORE this song – Gjon’s vocals are STELLAR, and as long as he performs it in FRENCH, I will stay a fan of this exquisite work. Because I already featured the personally-disliked official video on his countdown entry, the video above is of the incredible acoustic version – just Gjon, his perfect voice, and his piano, and it gives me CHILLS.
#15 – “Occidentali’s Karma” – Francisco Gabbini – Italy 2017 – 6th
Propelled by its goofy video featuring a man in a gorilla suit dancing, this song, which pokes fun at the Western world for being so money and possession oriented when life and spirituality should be the first thing on the agenda, won me over from the second I saw it. It even picked up a few minor pockets of airplay in the U.S., which surprised me. But it’s a great song, and the video is awesome!
#14 – “Roi” – Bilal Hassani – France 2019 – 16th
This song gives me chills, every time. It should have been MUCH MUCH higher up. Hassani got his start as a YouTuber, and has become an outspoken activist for LGBTQ+ issues in the years since. This song, in “Frenglish” (half a line in French, half in English) is so beautiful and its sentiment should be part of everyone’s life – stand up and believe in yourself and you will make others believe in you as well. It should be a mantra for everyone…
#13 – “Higher Ground” – Rasmussen – Denmark 2018 – 9th
So…Denmark was apparently paying LOTS of attention to “Game Of Thrones” at the time this was out, eh? Telling the legend of Viking Magnuss Erlandsson, the story tells of someone who was determined to handle conflicts through peaceful means rather than brute force. The vocal is just STELLAR, and the live presentation just knocks your socks off…
#12 – “Beautiful Mess” – Kristian Kostov – Bulgaria 2017 – 2nd
I truly think Kostov was ROBBED of winning this championship. 2017’s winner, Salvador Sobral, and his love song “Amar pelos dois“, just SWEPT through the contest to become the all time point champion, but I never got the love for that song – it’s pretty (and I ADORE Alexander Rybak‘s English cover from the same year), but nowhere NEAR as stellar as this powerful love song. 17-year-old Kostov brought down the house with his live performance, and made me a permanent fan – I think he’s destined for worldwide greatness someday…and he SHOULD have had a winner with this, no question about it…
#11 – “Say Na Na Na” – Serhat – San Marino 2019 – 19th
OMG, people REALLY undeservedly slammed all over this last year and it ended up becoming San Marino’s best showing to date! This goofy little song in which Serhat guides you through all of life’s troubles with a quick utterance of the title phrase is just terrific, a great sentiment in a year where the contest gave us a number of heavy, serious songs. The video is charming to boot, particularly the little briefcase dance after the first chorus, and the wonderful little girl who concludes the song. Serhat had represented San Marino in 2016 as well, and that song, “I Didn’t Know” became a Billboard Dance Chart hit in 2017 in a new version dueting with the legendary Martha Wash, and making Serhat the only act from Turkey to ever chart in America – I would have loved for him to do the same with this – it just was AWESOME!
#10 – “All Of My Love” – Destiny – Malta 2020 – NONE
Another sadly “lost” song of the cancelled 2020 contest, I went into great detail about it last week – I love Destiny, I love the video, I love the song, I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS! And I STILL think it would be a runaway smash on the US charts if we could get it over here…
#9 – “Scream” – Sergey Lazarev – Russia 2019 – 3rd
The second of Lazarev’s Eurovision entries on my list, this song became my wife’s most favorite video from the 2019 contest, and it’s easy to see why. Powerful enough with just the song, it’s made even more powerful with the video featuring a little girl princess and the little boy who would be her knight in shining armor protector from the dragons menacing her. Again, very “Game Of Thrones” in style, and the video, featuring live action and several different styles of animation, was truly a masterpiece.
#8 – “Together” – Ryan O’Shaughnessy – Ireland 2018 – 16th
It is SUCH a crime that SO MUCH CRAP finished ahead of this utterly spine-chilling song that never fails to make me bawl my eyes out. Utterly simplistic and raw in its soft spoken, gut-wrenching tale of someone who’s love has cheated on them, O’Shaugnessy’s vocals stand out on their own…but the video, appearing to have been filmed in one long take and featuring a same-sex couple out on the town one evening who break into dance at just the right moments, absolutely GUTTED me the first time I saw it, and it happened again when I re-watched it this morning, and now even just thinking about it has tears pouring my face…IT HAPPENS EVERY DAMN TIME!! So tell me again why did the usually-reliable Alexander Rybak‘s pedestrian crapfest “That’s How You Write A Song” (and several other unworthy songs) finish HIGHER than this masterpiece? Life – and the Eurovision Song Contest – just ISN’T FAIR sometimes….
#7 – “Toy” – Netta – Israel 2018 – GRAND CHAMPION
OMG, Netta grabbed me from the second I saw the video – the beat box CLUCKING, the funky dancing, the empowering message – it was no surprise to me that she was a favorite that year, and ended up becoming Israel’s FOURTH Grand Champion. And one who deserved it all the way. Netta reached the top of Billboard‘s Club Play dance chart in late 2018 and it should have crossed over to US radio but the idiots who are of the collective hive mind that now rule what passes as top 40 radio had NO CLUE what to do with this awesome kickass grrl power anthem…
#6 – “Az en apam” – Joci Papai – Hungary 2019 – Semi 1 19th
Another utterly BEAUTIFUL song that totally got shafted at the contest. I mentioned daddy issues a little earlier – this one hits me in the GUT every time I see it. I don’t speak Hungarian, but the nice thing about ESC is that you can 1) read the translated lyrics, which speak of “My Father” (English title), and 2) you can get a sense of what the song is saying by the video. I have NEVER been able to find out the name of the teen actor who appears as the central character in this exquisitely beautiful, heart-wrenching video, but I so would love to give him a name shoutout here, because he’s just fuckin’ BRILLIANT in his performance here. This song triggers the tearducts every time – the father is not in the picture anymore obviously, and there’s a scene in the middle of the video where the teen is taking a rest from dragging his heavy chest to wherever he’s on a quest to get, and sits down on it, as he watches a father and son, the boy much younger than he, climb into a car. The little boy and the teenager lock eyes for one second, the expressions say it all…and THANKS, I’m crying AGAIN….Joci had been to Eurovision before, and this song SHOULD have been a monster, but it was eliminated in semifinal one. But to me, it was a REAL WINNER…and always will be…
#5 – “Move” – The Mamas – Sweden 2020 – NONE
Again, a sadly “lost” song from the cancelled 2020 contest, I wrote a book about this one last weekend – I LOVE this song, the staging, the performance, the video, the ladies – it’s just a WINNER for me. I think it sadly would have finished in the middle somewhere, because fan support was lacking, but a surprise top ten finish would have been awesome for this glorious song…
#4 – “Think About Things” – Dadi og Gagnamagnid – Iceland 2020 – NONE
You can say what you want about this number – as I said this past weekend, it had me permanently hooked from the wind machine. I am thoroughly and completely convinced that had the 2020 contest not been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, Iceland would have landed their first Grand Championship with this sweet and hilarious little ditty written from new, excited, and a little scared new father to his newborn daughter. And because you’ve all already seen the goofy, fun, and UTTERLY AWESOME national final video this past weekend, I’ve included the music video, which is equally hilarious; my friend Eric said he thought it was even better. I disagree, but there’s no doubt in my mind, Dadi Freyr is going to be someone to be contended with on the world music stage in the not too distant future…
#3 – “The Sound Of Silence” – Dami Im – Austraila 2016 – 2nd
Ms. Im is a true music goddess – this song is bar none the BEST song Australia has ever entered into the contest, and I truly think that if it weren’t for the then (and now, honestly) political situation in the Ukraine, which no doubt contributed in some ways (small or large, doesn’t matter because it would have done well either way anyway) to the win for Jamala‘s “1944“, it would have taken the whole enchilada that year. Im has continued her winning ways since ESC, releasing an utterly fantastic album of covers of music from the Carpenters, and then a cool and modern-hip remake of “I Say A Little Prayer” after that. She is just FANTASTIC and so deserves to be a superstar EVERYWHERE, just like this song should have been a massive worldwide hit…
#2 – “Proud – Tamara Todevska – North Macedonia 2019 – 7th
From the second I heard this song, I had it at #1 on my 2019 countdown. Timed perfectly to the Me Too movement, this song about empowering women to speak up and have people around them encourage them was a BLOCKBUSTER. It had very little fan support at the beginning – it’s very understated, let’s face it – but the ESC jury vote gave it the top spot for a brief moment or two of glory; the televote wasn’t as strong, but still gave North Macedonia their biggest ESC hit EVER, finishing in 7th place. The video also pays tribute to the women who dare to speak up and as the song title indicates, a lot of people, both men and women, are proud for their doing so….an incredibly POWERFUL song…
#1 – “Color Of Your Life” – Michel Szpak – Poland 2016 – 8th
It is going to take A LOT to EVER dislodge this song from my top spot. I have become a HUUUUGE fan of Szpak’s as a result of this song, and have followed his career and his releases for the past four years. The man – a winner of Poland’s “X Factor” franchise – is, quite honestly, a vocal GOD – he has an amazing range, and amazing power to back it up. I don’t know why the Jury didn’t like the song at all that year, but the fans powered it up to finish in eighth place – it deserved top 3 if you ask me, and it was my #1 song pick that year – the wise and introspective lyrics combine with the power of Szpak’s voice to push it to the top of my 2016-2020 favorites countdown, and the video I have chosen is from a live performance, which I believe is the Poland national final or semi-final, or a roundup show. But either way, this song will probably be at #1 on my list for a long, long time….
And as Porky Pig used to always say…..”T-t-that’s ALL , Folks!”
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