Eurovision Semi-Finals: The Shock Non-Qualifiers
The Eurovision Song Contest premiered in 1956 with only seven countries competing. Nowadays, upwards of 40 countries take part in the annual event, which is far too many songs for only one show.
To combat this a semi-final process was introduced and ever since many songs that didn’t qualify have shocked Eurovision fans.
We’ve taken a look at just some of those surprises, who tragically didn’t make the Eurovision Grand Final.
Estonia 2017 – Koit Toome and Laura – ‘Verona’
14th place in Semi-Final 2 (85 points)
The 2017 contest in Kyiv, Ukraine was the second time competing at the Eurovision for Koit Toome and Laura, but the first time as a duet. Their song ‘Verona’ is a love song, referencing the play Romeo and Juliet and depicts two lovers “lost in Verona”, in a modern-ballad style song with nice harmonies. This was a fan favourite going into the contest, finishing 3rd in the OGAE poll leading up to the Contest.
It was a catchy song with just the right amount of kitsch to appeal to a widespread audience. Plus, who could forget Koit’s *dramatic* stares into the camera (see the video above if you don’t know what we’re talking about).
It placed 6th in the televote of the semi-final, however only 17th with the juries, rendering a 14th place overall. It was a strong televote result, with a favourable running order, performing second last, and even with a microphone malfunction (Laura’s first line is muted), it still did remarkably well. Evidently, the juries did not agree, receiving only 16 points, 7 of which came from one country. It was a case of “what went wrong” for Estonia; a fan favourite leading in, but not qualifying for the Grand Final. They seemingly got lost in the semi-final, rather than lost in Verona.
Portugal 2019 – Conan Osiris – ‘Telemóveis’ (translation: ‘Mobile Phones’)
15th place in Semi-Final 1 (51 points)
It was Conan Osiris who flew the Portuguese flag at the contest in Tel Aviv in 2019. Osiris presents a strong message in his song, stating that “people are caring about their mobile phones that they are starting to neglect their family, even kill themselves if their phone breaks”. The song itself showcases a very “Portuguese” sound, combining traditional instruments with some electronic elements to create a memorable hook; along with an eye-catching stage show.
It was not to be, however. The song placed 12th with the public vote, and last with the juries, receiving only 8 points combining for a 15th place finish. For the public, this was always a divisive song given its different sound; many viewed it as a “love or hate” song. It had divided fans, but it was 10th in the odds to qualify so was still a surprise.
Interestingly enough, it received the maximum 12 televote points from both Spain and France, so when people liked it, they loved it. For the jury vote however, they obviously sided more towards ‘hate’ despite its unique qualities.
Iceland 2016 – Greta Salóme – ‘Hear Them Calling
14th in Semi-Final 1 (51 points)
It was returning artist Greta Salóme who represented Iceland in Stockholm in 2016, after first singing in 2012. After winning Söngvakkepnin, the Icelandic national selection show, Salóme was an instant hit, with an infectious hook and a real Nordic feel to the entry. In addition, the staging went from strength to strength in Stockholm, with a captivating stage, put together by Australian Jono Simpson, show depicting mystical creatures haunting in the background. Overall, a fantastic package that some touted for a top 10 finish in the Grand Final.
Going into the first semi-final in Stockholm it was 5th favourite to qualify but in a real surprise, Iceland failed to get through. The song placed 13th with both the televote and the jury vote for an overall 14th place finish, a disappointing result. On a personal note, I was dumbfounded when this did not reach the final, it was one of my favourites of the year. From a theoretical standpoint, possible reasons for a low finish include the staging drawing focus away from the song, some noted that potentially Greta got “lost” on the physically bigger stage than in the national final, or simply that the entry did not stand out as anything other than a regulation pop song. Other than 7 points from the Sammarinese jury, the highest number of points it received from any country, jury or televote, was 5, and thus a semi-final exit. Unfortunately for Greta, the people counting the votes did not hear them calling for Iceland.
Belgium 2006 – Kate Ryan – ‘Je t’adore’ (translation: ‘I Love You’)
12th in the only Semi-Final (69 points)
When Kate Ryan was selected to represent Belgium at the contest in Athens, it was a big coup for the broadcaster as Ryan was a familiar name on the music scene. The song had all hallmarks of a success; a beautiful woman singing, English lyrics, a catchy chorus and a disco/dancing sound. In the lead up to the Contest the BBC put together a musical expert jury which included former Eurovision entrants. They ranked the song 1st out of the 27 entries. So it was a considerable shock when Ryan and Belgium failed to progress to the Grand Final.
The song placed 12th with 69 points, falling two places short of a finals berth. .
Finland 2017 – Norma John – ‘Blackbird’
12th place in Semi-Final 1 (92 points)
It was Finnish duo Norma John who represented the Nordic nation in Kyiv in 2017. Their song ‘Blackbird’ was a haunting, poetic and intense ballad. The staging for the song was dark with a mysterious atmosphere in which lead singer Leena’s piercing and powerful vocals dominate the performance.
However, despite this, Finland was not able to qualify for the Grand Final, leaving many fans disappointed. Despite going in 8th favourite in the betting for the semi-final, it placed 12th with the juries, and 10th with the televote, meaning it would have qualified if it were televote only, rendering a 12th place finish
Portugal 2014 – Suzy – ‘Quero ser tua’ (translation: ‘I want to be yours’)
11th place in Semi-Final 1 (39 points)
Suzy’s song ‘Quero ser tua’ is an upbeat, dance track, combining pop elements with a Portuguese sound to create an uplifting song which sounds like it could be the anthem to a World Cup. Despite the upbeat performance, she missed out on a Grand Final spot by a solitary point. She finished 11th with 39 points with San Marino’s Valentina Monetta pipping her for the 10th sport.
There are some possible explanations for its non-qualification. It finished 6th in the televote, so the fun, party elements resonated with viewers who were compelled to vote for the entry. Its downfall, however, was that it came dead last with the juries, who obviously didn’t find it to their taste.
Suzy has gone on to be a fan favourite and did make a guest appearance during the 2018 Eurovision Grand Final in Lisbon.
Switzerland 2018 – ZiBBZ – ‘Stones’
13th in Semi-Final 1 (86 points)
It was LA-based brother-sister duo ZiBBZ who represented Switzerland in Lisbon in 2018 with the song ‘Stones’. The track, which blends a strong, raspy female vocal with a catchy pop/rock track sends a strong anti-bullying message. This is depicted in the video clip as well as in the live performance, where, during the instrumental bridge, singer Corinne lights a flare and states “I want anybody who’s ever been hurt by anyone, put your hands up!”.
It was not to be, however, with a 13th placed finish overall. The song was ranked 10th by the juries, so this would have qualified on their vote, but it was the televote which let the song down, placing a low 15th. This semi-final was labelled by many fans as the “semi-final of death”, with a tremendous number of strong acts which easily could have made the final (and this article!). Perhaps this song was simply a victim of a strong semi-final.
So many good songs, yet so few Grand Final positions. This list (which is by no means exhaustive) demonstrates that to be successful at Eurovision, a song needs to tick all the boxes, not just a few. Opinions will vary heavily on songs, and in recent years we have seen such small margins on songs which miss out on the Grand Final, so in future, there is only one way to avoid a part two to this article and to more shock non-qualifiers, and that it to vote, vote and vote again!