Curses of the Eurovision Song Contest: The curse of last year’s hosts
The Eurovision Song Contest is – by the superstitious, at least – believed to be plagued by curses.
They’re curses that can cause bad results or even have countries leave the contest.
In this short series, we take a look at a few of these Eurovision curses, finishing up with the curse of last year’s hosts.
The curse is a trend that appears to be consistent across the history of the contest.
Countries that won the competition two years previously have a tendency to have poor performances in the contest. The increased incidences of the curse in recent years are sometimes attributed to the increased number of performers in the competition overall, but are also sometimes attributed to relaxed efforts in choosing a competitor the year after hosting or a conscious decision on behalf of the broadcaster due to the inflating costs of hosting the competition.
We have a look at the entries in the 21st century that are believed to have suffered from the curse of last year’s hosts.
Did Not Qualify
Since the introduction of the semi-finals, five entries (29.4%) provided by the previous year's hosts have failed to qualify from the semi-finals.
In 2004, following their hosting the previous year, Latvian Eurovision broadcaster LTV hosted the fifth edition of their national final ‘Eirodziesma’. The national final was won by Fomins & Kleins with their Latvian-language entry ‘Dziesma par laimi’ (‘A song about happiness’).
The rock-inspired track received a total of 23 points in the semi-final, placing seventeenth out of the 22 competing entries, and becoming the first time that the previous year’s host nation failed to even qualify for the Grand Final.
However, it isn’t the only occurrence of the previous year’s hosts failing to qualify for the Grand Final.
Five years later, in 2009, Serbian Eurovision broadcaster RTS hosted the seventh edition of their national final ‘Beovizija’. Following a semi-final and a final, the national final was won by Marko Kon and Milan Nikolić with their Serbian-language entry ‘Cipela’ (‘Shoe’).
The accordion-ridden entry received a total of 60 points in the second semi-final, placing tenth in a field of nineteen. Due to the rules at the time, the top nine entries from each semi-final qualified to the Grand Final alongside one wildcard from the juries, leaving the song in the semi-final and failing to qualify.
Another two years later, in 2011, Norwegian Eurovision broadcaster NRK hosted its long-running national final ‘Melodi Grand Prix’. After three semi-finals, a second chance round and a final, the national final was won by Stella Mwangi with her English and Swahili language entry ‘Haba Haba’ (‘Little by Little’).
The entry received a total of 30 points in the first semi-final, placing seventeenth in a field of nineteen, and failing to qualify for the Grand Final. BBC commentator Graham Norton stated in his commentary of the Grand Final broadcast that it might not have been the wisest decision to send an entry with a chorus in Swahili.
In 2015, Danish Eurovision broadcaster DR hosted the forty-fifth edition of their long-running national final ‘Dansk Melodi Grand Prix’. The national final was won by Anti Social Media with the song ‘The Way You Are’, which went to represent the country in Vienna in Austria, the year after Denmark had hosted.
At Eurovision, the entry came thirteenth in its semi-final, failing to qualify to the Grand Final. However, the song was one of Australia’s favourites in the semi-final, receiving a total of four points from us. We were one of the highest points-givers to the entry (behind Estonia, Hungary, and Romania).
The most recent non-qualifier from the previous year’s host country, and also the most recent subject of the curse of last year’s hosts took place at the most recent edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019.
Conan Osíris won the long-running Portuguese national final ‘Festival da Canção’ hosted by national Eurovision broadcaster RTP, but received just 51 points in its Eurovision semi-final, failing to qualify.
Australian televoters were a fan of the song, however, placing the song seventh in their rankings and providing the entry with four points from the televote.
Low Grand Final Position
Of course, not all of the entries suffering from the curse of last year’s hosts fail to qualify from their semi-finals, especially those from before the semi-finals existed.
Since the start of the 21st century, four entries (19%) would be regarded as having low Grand Final positions..
In 2000, following their hosting in Jerusalem the previous year, Israeli broadcaster IBA internally selected PingPong to represent the country with the entry ‘Sameach’ (‘Happy’). The internal selection process caused some controversy after one of the committee members, radio entertainer and writer Irit Linor, stated that she was uninterested in the process. When she was asked whether she thought PingPong’s ‘Sameach’ stood a chance, she replied “Who cares?”
Israel came twenty-second at the Eurovision Song Contest 2000 from a field of twenty-four, receiving a total of just seven points.
Two years later, in 2002, Danish broadcaster DR chose Malene Mortensen’s ‘Tell Me Who You Are’ through their national final ‘Dansk Melodi Grand Prix’. Prior to the contest, the entry had in fact been one of the favourites to win on the night. However, the song eventually came in last place on the scoreboard, receiving a total of just seven points.
The next year, Estonia’s Ruffus singing ‘Eighties Coming Back’ was also a favourite to win the contest. Estonia had hosted the year before in Tallinn after winning the contest in 2001. However, again, the curse of last year’s hosts struck, and the entry ended up coming twenty-first in a field of twenty-six.
It was a few years before a previous years host nation came towards the lower end of the Grand Final. In 2008, Finnish broadcaster Yle selected their Eurovision entrant through ‘Euroviisut’. The month-long show was eventually won by Teräsbetoni with the song Finnish-language entry ‘Missä miehet ratsastaa’ (‘Where the men ride’).
Despite qualifying for the final, the entry was not incredibly popular across Europe, receiving a total of thirty-five points and finishing in twenty-second position.
Low Position for the Country
Despite having gone through entries that both failed to qualify and performed poorly at the Grand Final, there is another form of the curse of last year’s hosts – the entry placing lower than the country would usually perform. And there are three particular entries that come to mind when considering where the nation's usually place.
In 2005, after hosting in Istanbul the previous year, Turkey’s Gülseren with ‘Rimi Rimi Ley’ came thirteenth in the Grand Final. While for most countries this would be a decently rated entry, for Turkey’s run of great entries throughout the 2000’s, the entry was somewhat more disappointing than their other entries.
In 2010, in Oslo, the previous year’s host Russia sent Peter Nalitch and Friends with the entry ‘Lost and Forgotten’, which came eleventh in the Grand Final. While for many countries this would be an extraordinary result, Russia is a country with thirteen top ten results out of twenty-two participations, giving eleventh place a lower-than-average result.
The most recent time that a country who had hosted the previous year received a position lower than average for the country was in 2018, when the hosts of the previous year, Ukraine, came seventeenth at the Grand Final with Mélovin’s ‘Under the Ladder’.
One country has suffered from the curse of last year’s hosts more than any other since the introduction of the 1 to 8, 10 and 12 point system: Norway. The includes coming last with “nul points” in 1997, as well as failing to qualify to the Grand Final in 2011.
The curse of the previous year’s hosts does not always occur, of course. For example, in 1994, the previous year’s hosts, Ireland, won the competition for the third year in a row. And in 1959, the Netherlands won the competition after hosting the contest in Hilversum the previous year. And in 1960, France won the competition after hosting the contest in Cannes the previous year, with the exact same occurrence happening again in 1962.
What will this mean next year for Italy? They've had a decade-long run of some of the best results of any competing nation, so can it withstand this Eurovision curse next year?