The top five iconic Hungarian Eurovision entries
Today is October 23, one of Hungary’s three National Days. The October 23rd National Day commemorates the 1956 anti-Soviet Revolution and the War of Independence. It is also the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Republic of Hungary. To celebrate, I’ll be presenting my top five most iconic Hungarian entries.
Hungary made its debut in the 1994 contest, placing 4th. That 4th place remains Hungary’s best placing to date. Their early participation was bumpy and included many breaks from the contest, but Hungary has become a permanent feature every May since 2011. Since their return, Hungary has made every grand final except for this year’s – Joci Papai’s “Az én apám” finished 12th in semi-final 1 at the contest in Tel Aviv last May.
Their non-qualification in 2019, a surprise to some, ended an eight-year streak of successful qualification and was their first since 2008 and 2009. Their semi-final success this decade rivals that of Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Australia. Unlike those countries; however, their success hasn’t translated into wins or podium placings. Hungary is either in the top ten (2013, 14, and 17), or in the bottom eight (2011, 12, 15, 16, and 18). Personally, I’m a big fan of Hungary at Eurovision. Their quality is unquestionable, even if their results are unspectacular. Their variety and willingness to mix it up makes watching them (and their solid 30-song national final – A Dal) an absolute pleasure. Recently, Hungary has sent post-hardcore rock, Romani folk-rap, pop, and even a few ballads for good measure. Their variety is one of their strengths, but it makes picking a top five a tough ask. Each Hungarian song has different strengths and made an impact in their own way; but we’ve narrowed it down to a final five.
Notable mentions before we begin: 2011 (Kati Wolf – “What About My Dreams?” for delivering a solid Euroclub banger), 2013 (ByeAlex – “Kedvesem” for being endearingly cute), 2014 (Andras Kallay-Saunders – “Running” for delivering Hungary’s second best ever result of 5th), & 2015 (Boggie – “Wars For Nothing” for delivering a potent anti-war plea to the world)
1994 - Friderika – Kinek mondjam el vétkeimet (4th – 122 points)
This song was born before I was, but thanks to the internet I’ve been able to enjoy this song endlessly. Friderika’s delicate voice combines nicely with the acoustic guitar to create a beautiful song. The peaceful melody gives way, though, to tormented lyrics. Friderika despairs over struggles with the past, the title literally translating to “To whom can I tell my sins?” In a surely exciting start for Hungarian viewers, the first three sets of 12 points were given to Hungary. Unfortunately, the remaining voting juries favoured Ireland, Poland and Germany - relegating Hungary to a distant 4th. Nonetheless, as a starting point for a country’s Eurovision journey, few other countries can boast better debut efforts.
2005 - NOX – Forogj, Világ! (12th – 97 points)
As an opening song, this is one of the very best. Forogj, Világ! or Spin, World! opened the 2005 contest with an energetic, captivating performance and an exciting, rock-y instrumental. A lot of people cite Montenegro’s 2015 performance for its spinning dancing, and this is the song that I cite as both its predecessor and superior. Case in point, there are ninjas. To this day, I don’t know what discipline of martial arts these ninjas practice, but I’m sold. As one of Hungary’s entries, it’s one of the most iconic and memorable to watch and to listen to and it deserves its place in my top five.
2007 – Magdi Rusza – Unsubstantial Blues (9th – 128 points)
Magdi Rusza, barefoot and on her way out of town, sings passionately about a relationship suddenly broken apart. Magdi’s emotional performance delivered Hungary their second top ten result, a 9th place in Helsinki. Substantially, Unsubstantial Blues was Hungary’s first entry to be written entirely in English. It remains once of my favourite Eurovision songs to play at random, and on loop. Magdi’s passionate voice and the song’s progressive blues melody combine for an excellent three-minute experience.
2017 – Joci Papai – Origo (8th – 200 points)
Eurovision needs more entries like this. Origo is a modern Romani folk-rap fusion, with a little bit of violin thrown in for good measure. Joci’s performance in Kyiv successfully fused the song’s and his own influences with an excellent instrumental arrangement (the karaoke version highlights this) to bring Hungary its fourth top-ten result. Eighth, however, feels distinctly inadequate for a song that delivered so much to the contest in Kyiv. Not to yodel about it, but I can’t go on. *cough*
2018 – AWS – Viszlát nyár (21st – 93 points)
Any top five I put together for Hungary’s time at Eurovision will always include their 2018 entry, Viszlát nyár by AWS. Full-blooded rock songs are increasingly rare at Eurovision so a band like AWS being selected with a song like this - in a 30-song national final - gave me immense hope for rock’s future in the contest. The song touches on the lead singer’s emotions in dealing with his father’s passing and channels it all into a hectic, cathartic, pyrotechnic performance. Their performance was everything I could have wanted from a rock performance at Eurovision. Understandably, however, the song followed the path of many other rock songs at the contest and fell away in the results placing 21st overall in the final (after qualifying by only four points over Romania’s softer rock entry).
If Hungary do compete in 2020 (they have yet to confirm), they have a trajectory to set right. Their non-qualification in Tel Aviv signals a need to rediscover the dynamism that both Hungary’s qualification streak and reputation have been built upon. Hopefully, they can find their way back into the grand final and keep their fans as excited about their participation as in previous years. I’ll be watching!
Boldog Október 23., Magyarország!