When Big Names Go To Eurovision
When you think about which big named artists have competed at Eurovision, many would immediately say ABBA or even Céline Dion. However, these artists became household names after they competed and won the Eurovision Song Contest, ABBA in 1974 and Céline Dion in 1988.
At Eurovision there have been plenty of performers who have represented their country after they have already establishing themselves as performers and recording artists.
In this piece will take a look at just nine of these artists (we know there are many many artists we could include in this article) who are household names in their country of origin and abroad.
Guy Sebastian – Australia 2015
Our very own Guy Sebastian was Australia’s first ever entrant at Eurovision 2015 held in Vienna, Austria. Guy rose to fame after winning season 1 of Australian Idol in 2003, and since then has become a household name.
His first single, ‘Angels Brought Me Here’ was the highest selling song of the decade 2000-2009, and his debut album reached 6 times platinum certification. Prior to 2015, all seven of Guy’s albums reached the top 6 on the charts, including two No. 1 albums. He also accumulated twelve top ten singles, including six at No. 1 hits!
Additionally, he has received 6 ARIA awards and has served as a judge on X Factor and The Voice. So, it is fair to say that Guy was certainly a big coup for SBS to represent Australia at Eurovision. He performed admirably and gave a flawless vocal, garnering a 5th place finish on the night, and won fans all over Europe.
Sergey Lazarev – Russia 2016 and 2019
Sergey Lazarev, the king of being in third place, has represented Russia twice at Eurovision, back in 2016 in Stockholm and in 2019 in Tel Aviv.
After initially being a part of the group Smash!!, he went solo in 2004 and has had a stellar career. Before competing at Eurovision, Sergey released four solo albums, all receiving at least a gold certification, and eleven of his singles reached the top 20 in the Russian music charts.
Over Sergey's two appearances at Eurovision he has performed two different styled songs. His 2016 entry, ‘You Are The Only One’ is a well-produced pop hit, which helped him win the televote, and in 2019, he delivered an emotional power ballad entitled ‘Scream’. As was alluded to earlier, he finished in third place on both occasions, with both tracks having eye-catching staging.
Bonnie Tyler – United Kingdom 2013
Welsh-born Bonnie Tyler represented the United Kingdom at Eurovision 2013 in Malmö, Sweden, after having an illustrious career beforehand.
Bonnie has released an astonishing seventeen studio albums, and garnered success all around the world, including in Australia, Sweden, Norway, America, Germany and more.
She gained success with the release of her 1977 single, ‘It’s A Heartache’, which reached the top 5 in twelve different countries, landing in the No. 1spot in five of those countries. Perhaps her most famous song though is, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, which peaked at No. 1 on the charts in seven countries.
She has had an array of other successful singles, but this article isn’t long enough to mention all of them! Bonnie's husky singing style is unmistakable, as displayed in her Eurovision 2013 song, ‘Believe In Me’. Despite a real anthemic feel about it, Bonnie only managed 19th place, which was a disappointing result given the calibre of performer she is.
t.A.T.u – Russia 2003
Russian duo t.A.T.u, made up of singers Lena Katina and Julia Volkova, created controversy when they represented Russia at Eurovision 2003, held in Riga, Latvia. The name of the group comes from a Russian phrase which means “this [girl] loves that [girl]”, which was a sign of things to come.
In 2000, their most polarising single was released, ‘All The Things She Said’, which describes a female same-sex relationship, and how it was viewed by society. This was pertinent in Russia, who have always been against same-sex relationships. The music video portrays this also, creating a real discussion in Russia and around the world, reaching the top three in eight countries, including No.1 in six of them, including Australia.
So by the time they went to Eurovision, they had created a significant buzz in the music world, for their faux-lesbian act. Their entry, ‘Ne ver’, ne boysia’ (in English: ‘Don’t Believe, Don’t Fear’), finished in third place at the contest, but the week was filled with stories, among which were medical mishaps, missed rehearsals, and fear from producers of a live on stage kiss. Despite some shaky vocals and some handholding, the performance was completed successfully and gained a great result for them and Russia.
Sir Cliff Richard – United Kingdom 1968 and 1973
Sir Cliff Richard is truly a massive name; he is the third top-selling artist in UK singles chart history, behind the Beatles and Elvis Presley. He has released forty-five, yes that's forty-five!, studio albums and 146 singles, which is an astonishing feat.
Before his first Eurovision participation in 1968, he had released twelve albums, five of which reached the top 3 on the UK charts. Out of his singles released before 1968, he reached No. 1 on the charts 39 times from nine songs, across eleven countries.
At Eurovision he represented the United Kingdom with ‘Congratulations’ in 1968 which came second by a solitary point to winner Spain, and he came 3rd in 1973 with the entry ‘Power to All Our Friends’. A global star in every sense of the word, and Sir Cliff is still making music to this day, at age 80.
Darude – Finland 2019
Yes. Darude Sandstorm. Same guy. Finnish DJ Darude rose to international stardom in 1999 with his hit track ‘Sandstorm’ (if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve probably been living under a rock). The song reached the charts in ten countries, including six in the top 10. Darude subsequently had four No.1 singles in Finland between 2000-2007. He didn’t release another album until 2015, which placed modestly on the Finnish charts.
The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest was his way back into the limelight in Europe, after being chosen by broadcaster Finnish broadcaster, Yleisradio Oy (YLE) to represent Finland along with vocalist Sebastian Rejman. Darude competed with the song ‘Look Away’, but viewers may have taken the words too literally, as the entry failed to qualify to the Grand Final, coming in last place in Semi-Final 1. Nevertheless, he grabbed a significant amount of attention during his Eurovision appearance.
Katrina and the Waves – United Kingdom 1997
Initially known as The Waves, the American-British pop/rock band sang for the United Kingdom at Eurovision 1997, held in Dublin. Katrina and the Waves were well known beforehand, largely because of their smash hit ‘Walking on Sunshine’ (whoaaa), which was a worldwide hit, reaching the top 10 in five different countries.
Other albums of theirs pre-1997 had moderate success, with particular achievement in Sweden. They were a well-known act when they went to Eurovision, and their song ‘Love Shine a Light’ took out the win for the UK, its last win to date, and proved truly an anthemic hit. Its seminal legacy was displayed last year, with all competing artists from 2020 (minus Belgium, but we won’t talk about that) who did a cover of the song to unite Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was a touching moment; lead singer Katrina even made a guest appearance at the end of the song.
Cascada – Germany 2013
Cascada, is made up of DJ Manian, DJ Yanou and singer Natalie Horler. They took to the Eurovision stage in Malmö in 2013 representing Germany with the song 'Glorious'.
Cascada had considerable success globally, particularly in the United States. Their most successful singles that achieved great chart positions are ‘Everytime We Touch’, which reached the top 5 in six countries, ‘What Hurts the Most’, which garnered six top 10 music chart positions, and finally ‘Evacuate the Dancefloor’, peaking inside the top 10 in seven countries.
Their Eurovision song, ‘Glorious’, brings the same electronic dance feel, however it only placed 21st in the contest. Nevertheless, Cascada was a great pull for Eurovision and Natalie delivered fantastic vocals on the night.
Olivia Newton-John – United Kingdom 1974
British-Australian megastar Olivia Newton-John was the hometown representative for the United Kingdom in Eurovision 1974, held in Brighton. Everyone knows Olivia for her work in 'Grease', but she had already released four albums before she competed at Eurovision and was an established name. The albums themselves achieved moderate success across Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.
‘If Not for You’ reached the top 10 in four countries, as did ‘Let Me Be There’, including gaining platinum certification in Canada. Her Eurovision entry was ‘Long Live Love’, which is in true upbeat style filled with brass, and finished 4th in the contest which was won by a certain Swedish group (cough cough ABBA). It was a fantastic result from an established name who would go on to achieve more than anyone could imagine after Eurovision.
So here you have it, many big names have graced the Eurovision stage, with varying degrees of success. Back in the day, the British artists were generally the most popular, likely due to that fact that they had more international appeal, and also that they were willing to do Eurovision as the United Kingdom was a powerhouse.
Since then, however, not many massive British stars compete in Eurovision, as the British music scene has moved away from Eurovision and more towards the US market. For other European countries, they still send big names, as Eurovision is a platform to gain international recognition.
Many singing TV shows are also used to find Eurovision acts, which makes room for a lot of 'unknown’ artists. Additionally, a massive name is unlikely to enter a national selection show; they would rather be internally selected. For example, in Australia, a huge name like Sia or Delta Goodrem is unlikely to do Eurovision, as their careers don’t really need it, and they would now have to go through a national selection process.
Sending big names has also shown that whilst the singer may be popular, it is ultimately a song contest, and no amount of notoriety will give you a good result if the song is not quality. Eurovision nowadays attracts a good range of unknown artists with well-established domestic artists ready to take the next big step in their careers.