The Great Unloved – the songs fans have forgotten
For those unaware, the Eurovision Song Contest Top 250 (or ESC250) is an annual song countdown run by fan blog Songfestival.be to determine the Eurovision fan community’s 250 favourite entries of all time.
Fans allocate 12 to 1 points, in the traditional Eurovision style, to their top 10 favourite numbers from the entire Eurovision canon.
Once a song has been and competed in the Contest proper, a position in the 250 is one of the highest legacy honours able to be bestowed upon a Eurovision entry – it shows that a song has an established fanbase, as well as a place in the hearts and memories of those who cherish the Contest most.
If the Contest proper is like an election, then the ESC250 is the census: an annual ranking of songs on a scale of pure belovedness and presence of mind in Eurofans at that exact moment in history. A high place in the survey guarantees we’ll be hearing it at Europarties for a while yet.
Since 2017, Songfestival.be has published a full list of results, showing the number of votes received by each song in the Contest’s entire history - and as an intriguing thought exercise, we’re going to take a deep dive; not into the shining bejewelled sacred cows that we hear every year, but into the other end - to view the songs that, for the past three years, have not received a single vote. Those that the Eurocommunity has forgotten - or chosen to forget.
These are the great unloved – we’ve picked 10 out of the 77 songs that fall into this category.
The KMG's – ‘LovePower’ (Belgium 2007)
The most recent unloved song is this jazzy number from keytar-wielding Belgian group the KMG’s, short for the Krazy Mess Groovers. Consisting of members of Pakistani, Polish, Vietnamese, French and Belgian origin, the band performed under such colourful pseudonyms as Sexyfire, Mr Scotch, Mr French Kiss, Big Boss, Mr Cream and Lady Soulflower. However, despite their stage names sounding like the adult entertainment Avengers, the Groovers failed to make a splash in Helsinki, finishing 26th of 28 in what was then the only semi final – with many commenters unsure of the Howard Dean-esque scream at the end.
Paule Desjardins – ‘La belle amour’ (France 1957)
The second entry ever to finish runner-up and a rare Eurovision entry to clock in at over three minutes, ‘La belle amour’ (‘The beautiful love’), sung in the then typical French chanson style, is a paean to the simple pleasures of romance, such as sharing good wine, dancing together in a ballroom, and spending time in nature. Although Desjardins was relatively unknown, the song’s lyricist is an interesting figure – New Caledonia-born Francis Carco, a French poet, author, dramatist, World War I fighter pilot and art critic, known for his brief dalliance with famed New Zealand novelist Katherine Mansfield.
V.I.P. – ‘Miért kell, hogy elmenj?’ (Hungary 1997)
In what is seen as one of the best years for countries celebrating their ethnic stylings, Hungary decided to swing the lever in the complete opposite direction and send bubbly Boyzonesque boyband V.I.P., with their croonish ballad ‘Miért kell, hogy elmenj?’ (‘Why Do You Have to Go?’). V.I.P. was led by brothers Viktor and Imre Rakonczai, alongside fellow singers Józsa Alex and Gergő Rácz. Despite their best efforts, V.I.P. may as well have stood for Very Insignificant Placing, as they came equal 12th on the night.
Viktor later composed Hungary’s 2008 entry ‘Candlelight’, while Gergő won the 2020 edition of A Dal, formerly Hungary’s national final.
Brixx – ‘Video, video’ (Denmark 1982)
In what is surely one of the most forward-thinking Eurovision numbers of all time, this charming and synthful Danish entry relates the all-too-close-to-home struggle of having too much content. While we in 2020 get this from social media and streaming platforms, Brixx lead singer/composer/lyricist Jens Brixtofte has just discovered the VHS tape recorder and is using it to watch everything from Humphrey Bogart to Wimbledon – much to his paramour Susanne’s chagrin. The song finished 17th from 18 entries on the night.
François Deguelt – ‘Ce soir-là’ (Monaco 1960)
Another unloved top 3 finisher, the Monegasque entry ‘Ce soir-là’ (‘That night’) is a James Bondian threnody to a previous night of passion with a lover who has since moved on. The performer, François Deguelt, is an equally tragic Eurovision figure: after finishing third from 13 entrants in 1960, he later entered the 1962 contest with ‘Dis rien’, and finished one place higher on the podium, second from a more contested field of 16 entrants. As a result, he is one of five Eurovision entrants in the rare and unfortunate club of having finished second and third with no win, alongside Cliff Richard, Katja Ebstein, Chiara Siracusa and Željko Joksimović.
Beathoven – ‘Þú og þeir (Sókrates)’ (Iceland 1988)
A refreshing lovesong to someone the singer isn’t actually in love with, this Icelandic ditty pays homage to lead singer Stefán Hilmarsson’s idols – the likes of classical composers Debussy and Tchaikovsky, with special praise reserved for hemlock enthusiast and Greek philosopher Socrates. Taking place on the Tron-like chessboard stage of Dublin 1988, the questionable pun-titled band was formed for the Contest alone, and ‘Þú og þeir’ (‘You and They’) finished 16th on the night from a field of 21.
Piero Esteriore & The Music Stars – ‘Celebrate!’ (Switzerland 2004)
Piero and the so-called MusicStars hold a unique place in Eurovision infamy – ‘Celebrate!’ is the first song to ever receive ‘nul points’ in a semi final, and one of the first batch of songs ever to not qualify for the Grand Final (or ‘NQ’). That’s not to say the performance isn’t instantly memorable: Esteriore hits himself in the face with the microphone 40 seconds in.
Jahn Teigen – ‘Do re mi’ (Norway 1983)
Esteriore is nothing, however, compared to nul points pioneer and Eurovision hero Jahn Teigen (no relation to Chrissy) – his 1978 entry ‘Mil etter mil’ (‘Mile After Mile’) was the first to achieve the no-score feat under the current scoring system. However, as a result, Teigen became a celebrated figure in his native Norway, later releasing an album with the brilliantly tongue-in-cheek title ‘This Year’s Loser’. This 1983 entry earned him a much more respectable ninth place finish, on his third attempt at the Contest. Teigen is also notable for his record run of national final attempts: fourteen Melodi Grand Prix entries in total between 1974 and 2005. He was knighted as a legend of Norwegian music in 2011 and passed away in 2020. Rest in peace, king.
The Swarbriggs Plus Two – ‘It's Nice to Be in Love Again’ (Ireland 1977)
Often cited as the inspiration for Father Ted’s celebrated Eurovision parody number ‘My Lovely Horse’, brothers Jimmy and Tommy Swarbrigg had two cracks at Eurovision in the ‘70s, with this charming ditty alongside Nicola Kerr and Alma Carroll (hence the “Plus Two”) finishing in third place. Clad in fetching navy jackets and flared trousers that almost had this writer rushing to Asos to buy his own pair, this number tells of the joy of “that old familiar feeling” - finding romance for the first time in a long time.
Matt Monro – ‘I Love the Little Things’ (United Kingdom 1964)
Known at the time as “the Man with the Golden Voice” and probably more well-known for being one of the first singers to perform a Bond theme (over the closing credits of ‘From Russia with Love’), cabaret singer Monro also performed this peppy tune at the 1964 contest in Copenhagen, one of two Contests whose footage is lost to history. The only English song performed on the night, Monro finished in second place. He later recorded an English cover of fellow 1964 competitor Udo Jürgens’ song ‘Warum nur, warum?’ entitled ‘Walk Away’. Monro later performed the Academy Award winning theme to the film ‘Born Free’.
My full list of the "Great Unloved" is in the below tweet. Dive in, have a listen to something new - maybe this year, one of these songs will earn your vote, and the place in your heart that comes with it.