National Finals versus Internal Selection - How Past Eurovision Winners were Selected
Eurovision entries can be selected in a variety of ways. Broadcasters can internally select an artist and a song to send to Eurovision, or they can hold a national final to choose an artist and song.
They can also internally select an artist and hold a national final for the song, and sometimes even hold a national final for an artist when they’ve already internally selected the song.
So, of the 67 winners of the Eurovision Song Contest, how did their broadcasters choose them, and which was the most successful method?
From the four winners of the Eurovision Song Contest between 1956 and 1959, all four of the entries (100%) had to win national finals in their respective countries.
Three of the national finals chose both the winning entry and artist, while the French national final in 1958 chose the winning entry, 'Dors, mon amour' ('Sleep, my love'), as André Claveau had been internally selected by RTF.
The first winning entry of the contest, Lys Assia’s 'Refrain', first won “Concours Eurovision” (“Eurovision Contest”) in 1956 in Switzerland.
Corry Brokken’s 'Net als toen' ('Just like then') and Teddy Scholten’s 'Een beetje' ('A little bit') first had to win “Nationaal Songfestival” (“National Song Contest”) in the Netherlands in 1957 and 1959 respectively.
The 1960s is the decade with the most Eurovision winners, with thirteen winners across ten contests. From these thirteen winners, seven of the entries (54%) were internally selected by national broadcasters, while six of the entries (46%) won national finals beforehand.
French broadcaster RTF internally selected Eurovision winners Jacqueline Boyer’s 'Tom Pillibi' in 1960, Isabelle Aubret’s 'Un premier amour' ('A first love') in 1962, and Frida Boccara’s 'Un jour, un enfant' ('A day, a child') in 1969.
Luxembourgish broadcaster RTL internally selected Eurovision winners Jean-Claude Pascal’s 'Nous les amoureux' ('We, the lovers') in 1961 and France Gall’s 'Poupee de cire, poupee de son' ('Wax doll, rag doll') in 1965.
Austrian broadcaster ORF internally selected Udo Jürgen’s 'Merci, Cherie' ('Thank you, darling') in 1966, and Spanish broadcaster TVE internally selected Massiel’s 'La, la, la' in 1968.
British broadcaster BBC held its national final “A Song for Europe”, which selected Sandie Shaw’s 'Puppet on a String' in 1967 and Lulu’s 'Boom Bang-a-Bang' in 1969. For both of these national finals, the artists had been internally selected by BBC, while the songs were chosen through the national final.
The Spanish national final in 1969 that selected Salomé’s 'Vivo cantando' ('I live singing') had also already internally selected Salome to represent the country.
Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann’s 'Dansevise' ('Dance song') won “Dansk Melodi Grand Prix” in 1963 in Denmark, and Gigliola Cinquetti’s 'Non ho l’età' ('I’m not old enough') won the famous Italian “Sanremo Music Festival” in 1964, while the Netherlands “Nationaal Songfestival” produced its third Eurovision winner with Lenny Kuhr’s 'De troubadour' ('The troubadour').
From the ten winners of the Eurovision Song Contest in the 1970s, all but one was selected by way of a national final (90%).
The internally selected winning entry of the 1970s was Séverine’s 'Un banc, un arbre, une rue' ('A bench, a tree, a street'), selected by TMC to represent Monaco. Monaco has never held a national final for Eurovision any year that they have competed.
The Luxembourgish national finals held in 1972 and 1973 selected consecutive winners in Vicky Leandros’ 'Après toi' ('After you') and Anne-Marie David’s 'Tu te reconnaîtras' ('You’ll recognize yourself'). In both of these national finals, the artists had already been selected, and the final was held to choose the songs.
The “Israel Song Festival” held in 1978 and 1979 also selected consecutive winners in Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta’s 'A-Ba-Ni-Bi' and Gali Atari and Milk and Honey’s 'Hallelujah'.
The BBC’s “A Song for Europe” provided the United Kingdom with a third win with Brotherhood of Man’s 'Save Your Kisses for Me', and was the first winner for the United Kingdom where the artist had not already been internally selected.
French broadcaster TF1 held a national final in 1977 to choose Marie Myriam’s 'L’oiseau et l’enfant' ('The bird and the child'), which won Eurovision that year, while the Netherland’s “Nationaal Songfestival” provided Eurovision with a fourth Dutch winner with Teach-In’s 'Ding-A-Dong' in 1975.
The “National Song Contest” held in 1970 chose the first of Ireland’s seven Eurovision victories with Dana’s 'All Kinds of Everything', while world-famous national final “Melodifestivalen” shot powerhouse group ABBA to fame through their winning entry 'Waterloo' in 1974.
Like with the 1970s, the 1980s also provided ten Eurovision winners with only one internally selected by a broadcaster and nine (90%) by national final.
The winning Eurovision song of the 1980s internally selected was Corinne Hermès’ 'Si la vie est cadeau' ('If life is a gift'), the most recent Luxembourgish winner.
Ireland recorded two wins in the 1980s, the first chosen by the “National Song Contest” in 1980 – Johnny Logan’s 'What’s Another Year'. This was the same format that chose Ireland’s first winner, Dana. However, Ireland changed the name of their national final to “Eurosong”, which chosen 1987 winner, Johnny Logan’s 'Hold Me Now'.
The BBC’s “A Song for Europe” made a comeback in 1981 when Bucks Fizz’s 'Making Your Mind Up' won the contest. This was the last British song to win Eurovision under the banner of “A Song for Europe”.
World-famous “Melodifestivalen” provided a second Eurovision winner in 1984 (ten years after ABBA) with the Herrey’s 'Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley', while Swiss national final “Concours Eurovision” provided a second Eurovision winner thirty-two years after its first with then unknown Celine Dion’s 'Ne partez pas sans moi' ('Don’t leave without me').
German national final “Ein Lied für Harrogate” selected Nicole’s 'Ein bißchen Frieden' ('A little peace') in 1982, Norwegian national final “Melodi Grand Prix” selected Bobbysocks! 'La det swinge' ('Let it swing') in 1985, Belgian national final (also entitled “Eurosong”) selected Sandra Kim’s 'J’aime la vie' ('I love life') in 1986, and Yugoslav national final “Jugovizija” selected Riva’s 'Rock Me' in 1989.
In the 1990s, eight of the ten (80%) Eurovision winners were selected through national finals, showing a slight decrease over the last two decades.
The two internally selected Eurovision winners were Toto Cutugno’s 'Insieme: 1992' ('Together: 1992') in 1990 by RAI for Italy, and Dana International’s 'Diva' in 1998 by IBA for Israel.
The 90s were Ireland’s decade for Eurovision, with four winning entries in five years (including three consecutive wins) all chosen by the national final “Eurosong”. These were Linda Martin’s 'Why Me', Niamh Kavanagh’s 'In Your Eyes', Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan’s 'Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids', and Eimear Quinn’s 'The Voice' in 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1996 respectively.
Sweden’s two wins were chosen through “Melodifestivalen”, and were Carola’s 'Fångad av en stormvind' ('Captured by a love storm') and Charlotte Nilsson’s 'Take Me to Your Heaven' in 1991 and 1999 respectively.
Norway’s “Melodi Grand Prix” produced a second Norwegian winner with Secret Garden’s 'Nocturne' in 1995, and the BBC’s “Great British Song Contest” in 1997 chose the nation’s most recent winner in Katrina and the Waves’ 'Love Shine a Light'.
As with the 1990s, the 2000s also had eight of its ten (80%) Eurovision winners chosen through broadcasters national finals.
Turkish broadcaster TRT internally selected Sertab Erener’s 'Everyway That I Can' in 2003, while Ukrainian broadcaster NTU internally selected Ruslana’s 'Wild Dances' the next year.
“Dansk Melodi Grand Prix” gave Denmark its second Eurovision winner through the Olsen Brothers’ 'Fly on the Wings of Love', and “Melodi Grand Prix” gave Norway its third winner with Alexander Rybak’s 'Fairytale'.
Between 2001 and 2008, all of the winning nations had never won Eurovision before. Six of these were selected through national finals.
Tanel Padar, Dave Benton and 2XL’s 'Everybody' won Estonian national final “Eurolaul” in 2001, followed by Marie N’s 'I Wanna' selected through Latvian national final “Eirodziesma” in 2002.
Greek 2005 winner, Helena Paparizou’s 'My Number One', was chosen through national final “Eurovision Party” after the artist was internally selected by broadcaster ERT. This was followed the next year by Lordi’s 'Hard Rock Hallelujah', who won “Euroviisukarsinta” in Finland earlier in the year.
Debuting nation Serbia selected Marija Šerifović’s 'Moltiva' ('Prayer') through “Beovizija” in 2007, while Dima Bilan’s 'Believe' won the Russian national final “Evrovidenie” in 2008.
The downward trend has continued into the 2010s, with eight of the last ten (80%) Eurovision winners being selected by way of national final, and only six of those choosing the winning songs.
The most recent Eurovision winner, Duncan Laurence’s 'Arcade', was internally chosen by AVROTROS, the Dutch national broadcaster. He is joined by 2014 winner Conchita Wurst’s 'Rise Like a Phoenix', which was also internally selected by ORF.
Netta Barzilai, who won Eurovision in 2018, was chosen through reality singing competition “HaKokhav Haba L’Eurovizion” (“The Next Star for Eurovision”), while 'Toy' was internally selected and released a month later. She joined the duo of Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal, who together were chosen as the winners of “Milli Seçim Turu” (“National Selection Round”), and represented Azerbaijan with the internally selected song of 'Running Scared' as Ell & Nikki in Düsseldorf.
Lena’s 'Satellite' won German national final “Unser Star für Oslo” in 2010, while “Dansk Melodi Grand Prix” provided a third Danish win with Emmelie de Forest’s 'Only Teardrops' in 2013.
Jamala’s '1944' was selected through “Vidbir” in 2016, and Salvador Sobral’s 'Amar pelos dois' ('To love for the both of us') was selected through long-running national final “Festival da Canção” in 2017.
Loreen’s 'Euphoria' and Måns Zelmerlöw’s 'Heroes' were both chosen through the Swedish national final “Melodifestivalen” in 2012 and 2015 respectively.
Out of 67 wins, 52 (78%) somehow involved a national final, with 50 (75%) directly selecting the winning song.
On at least 7 (11%) occasions, the winning artist had already been selected, and the national final was simply held for the song, while twice (3%) the national final was only held for the artist, while the song was internally selected.
While the 1960s were an odd decade for having so few national final winners (at only 46%), the use of national finals to choose the winners have been on a slow decline, with 100% of winners in the 1950’s chosen by national final, 90% in the 1970s and 1980s, 80% in the 1990s and 2000s, and only 60% of the songs chosen by national final in the 2010s.
But however the winning songs were chosen, Eurovision fans love them all!