Bulgaria's Eurovision Journey: The Big Turnaround
Today is Independence Day in Bulgaria, which marks the day in 1908 when the country proclaimed independence from the Ottoman Empire. To celebrate we are taking a look at Bulgaria’s journey in the Eurovision Song Contest, which had a tough beginning, but has seen a remarkable turn-around in the last 4 years.
Bulgaria first joined the contest in 2005 and have participated 12 times. They failed to qualify at their debut when Kaffe represented with ‘Lorraine’.
An unlucky trend continued from there, seeing them only qualify once in the next 9 years. This made their only appearance in the final over this period in 2007 when Elitsa & Stoyan performed ‘Water’. The song was the first time the country performed in Bulgarian at the contest and was an upbeat electronic track. It placed an impressive 5th in the final, which proved to be their best result for some time to come.
Over the next 6 years they failed to qualify, although only just missing out in 2012 when they came 10th place in a tie break with Norway. The tie broke in Norway’s favour due to the rule that the entry that receives points from the most countries wins.
They also only narrowly missed out in 2008 when they came 11th in the semi final with ‘DJ Take Me Away’ by Deep Zone & Balthazer. In 2011 Poli Genova made her first appearance in the contest after winning the Bulgarian national final on her fourth attempt. She performed a song in Bulgarian called ‘Na inat’ and placed 12th in the semi final.
In 2013 Elitsa & Stoyan were chosen via internal selection, with hopes they would repeat their qualifying success in 2007, and performed the song ‘Samo shampioni’. They once again missed out on a place in the final however, placing 12th in the semi.
Later in 2013 the broadcaster BNT announced they wouldn’t be taking part in 2014 due to financial reasons. Their withdrawal extended up to 2016, when they finally made their return… and that is where their Eurovision journey turned the corner.
For their return BNT internally selected Poli Genova and selected ‘If Love Was a Crime’, a song written by members of the Symphonix International team. It’s an upbeat song, with a banging chorus and it received a fair bit of fan popularity when it was released in the lead-up to the contest.
Poli came 5th in the semi final and went on to place 4th overall in the final – Bulgaria’s best result at the time. Four years on the song is still holding up as a fan favourite, coming 2nd in the ‘Eurovision Again’ watch party held this year, and receiving a good amount of love in the yearly countdowns (coming 8th in the OGAE Australia Top 100 2020, and 31st in the ESC250 2019).
Hot on the heals of their 2016 success, BNT put out an open call for songs for 2017 and again enlisted the Symphonix International Team. They internally selected Kristian Kostov who was known from ‘The Voice Kids Russia’ and ‘X Factor Bulgaria’, where he was the runner-up. He performed ‘Beautiful Mess’ at the contest and came first in the semi final, going on to place 2nd overall in the final, eclipsing Bulgaria’s 2016 success and delivering their best result to date.
For 2018 BNT received a record number of submissions as part of their internal selection process, and once again enlisted Symphonix International who wrote the song ‘Bones’ and assembled a group of five singers specifically to perform it, calling them Equinox. They continued Bulgaria’s new streak of success, qualifying for the final and placing 14th. Johnny Manuel, one of the members of Equinox, went on to become a familiar face on Australian TV when he competed on ‘The Voice Australia’ in 2020.
Before the 2020 contest was cancelled, Victoria was selected as the artist to represent Bulgaria with the song ‘Tears Getting Sober’. The song was generally expected to perform well at the contest, seeing a sturdy amount of popularity in the lead up. In Australia it was voted 7th by the public for the SBS special ‘Eurovision: Big Night In’ and it was voted 9th in the JOY FM 2020 Preview Show.
BNT have confirmed that Victoria will return to Eurovision in 2021.
Will she deliver Bulgaria a well deserved first win in the contest? Bulgaria 2022 has a nice ring to it!