Return of the Jedi, Return of the King… we do like a returner don’t we?
Well we certainly do at Eurovision! Of course for some people, once is most definitely not enough and so they have returned to grace the Eurovision stage more than once – for some it’s worked out well, for others, yeah, not so much! With 2016 looking like it might turn into a year for returners at ESC, here’s a look at those from the past who returned for another shot at Eurovision glory and how that turned out for them…
I should probably start with the Godfather of Eurovision, not only returning twice, but winning twice, and then returning again as the writer of another winning song, and just throw in a 2nd place as a composer too; of course you know who I am talking about, none other than Mr. Johnny Logan from Ireland. Win number one in 1980 with ‘What’s Another Year?’ (Is it wrong to confess I don’t really like that song very much? – no probably shouldn’t admit that!) Johnny then decided to have another go at Eurovision in 1987.
So off he went to Belgium with ‘Hold Me Now’, and 172 points later, another Eurovision trophy for the shelf. In between these two wins, Johnny Logan also penned another song for Eurovision in 1984, his song ‘Terminal 3’, performed by Linda Martin hit the 2nd place spot for Ireland, so when the Logan/Martin combination entered again in Malmo in 1992, the stakes were high. However the result was a record-breaking third win for Johnny Logan another successful return for Linda Martin and a song that kicked off the Irish domination of Eurovision in the 1990’s.
Of course returning to the contest as a former winner is always a bit of a risk and sometimes it’s a risk that doesn’t pay off. Take one of my all-time FAVOURITE winners, Dana International. When she burst on to my television screen in 1998 with catchy pop song ‘Diva’ whilst wearing a multi-coloured feather outfit by Jean Paul Gaultier, there was nothing I could do by fall completely in love with her, she stood for tolerance, acceptance and equality long before it was seen as the right thing to do and the Eurovision Song Contest, which for the most part is well ahead of the curve in this kind of thing, rewarded her justly.
She returned in 2011 performing ‘Ding Dong’ at the Espirit Arena in Dusseldorf and unfortunately didn’t make it out of the semi-finals, she headed back to Israel with just 38 points. Dana, ESC will always love you and I was so honoured to have been in the front row to see you live at Eurovision’s Greatest Hits concert in London last year.
Another successful returner to Eurovision was Carola. You should know that 1991 was the first Eurovision that I ever saw and it was Carola’s winning song that I recorded off the telly with an old tape recorded perched by the speaker of the TV that I played continually throughout the summer and probably drove everyone mad around me. I also had a Swedish pen-pal and was completely into all things Swedish, so in my little head if the UK weren’t going to win, then it had better be Sweden!
It was a nail-bitingly close win for Carola with ‘Fångad av en stormvind’ (Captured by a love storm) winning by a whisker after a tie-break with France. In 2006 we saw Carola take to the stage again, and with her song ‘Invincible’ she achieved a very respectable 5th place, but didn’t come close to snatching the title from that year’s run away winners, the monsters of rock that are Lordi!
Let’s take it way back in time to the early years of Eurovision, back to the dim and distant, black and white past of the contest. The Netherlands had entered the first ever show (and the only show where countries entered two songs) Corry Brokken was one of the Dutch singers that year and the Netherlands finished in 2nd place and went back to Amsterdam with their heads held high.
The following year when the EBU decided to repeat the contest The Netherlands sent Corry again with a song called ‘Net als toen’ (Just like then) a wonderfully performed song with what appears to be a slightly slimmer Ronnie Barker on violin. So when the contest was announced again for 1958 the Dutch decided Corry was still their woman and so off she went again with the weight of the nation on her shoulders and another catchy little tune called ‘Heel de wereld’ (The Whole World) and this time…disaster! 1 point, 9th place and the end of Corry’s run representing The Netherlands at Eurovision, although she did grace the stage of ESC again in 1976, but this time as the host of the show held in The Hague.
And now off to Russia for another successful returner to Eurovision, Dima Bilan. Since their début in 1994 Russia have always done pretty well at Eurovision, you can make up your own minds why you think that is. In 2006 Dima Bilan’s song ‘Never Let You Go’ garnered a colossal 248 points place them a very respectable second place, but still more than 50 points away from winners Lordi. Dima had proved a popular contestant for Russia and so two years later in 2008 he travelled to Belgrade to represent his country again with the song ‘Believe’, and believe is exactly what Europe did; 272 points later Dima gave Russia their first (and to date only) win at Eurovision.
Back to the less successful: Lena from Germany, who you should note I am a big fan of and if you’ve not found her on Instagram check out her account, it’s totally gorgeous. Lena gave Germany their second (and some might say a surprising) win at the contest when she represented them in 2010 with the song ‘Satellite’, bringing the contest to Düsseldorf. The following year the German public decided that they wanted Lena again to fly the flag for Germany which she did with the super sexy and brilliant song that is ‘Taken by a Stranger’. Unfortunately this time did not pay off, and although 10th place is still not a bad spot to be on the leader board, it’s definitely not a successful return either. On a side note if you’ve not got Lena’s 2015 Album ‘Crystal Sky’ go and buy it now, it’s stunning!
Reaching back again into Eurovision’s of yesteryear we encounter Britain’s longest serving pop star and his two attempts at Eurovision glory. Of course I am talking about none other than Sir Cliff Richard. 1968 was the first time Cliff took to the stage with ‘Congratulations’ and finished in 2nd place, just one point away from winning Spain however it’s fair to say that this is probably one of the best know Eurovision songs ever recorded. ‘Power to All Our Friends’ was Cliff’s second attempt to win Eurovision in 1973, the voting at this contest became a three-horse race between the UK, Spain and Luxembourg and Cliff had to settle for 3rd place finishing just 6 points behind winner Luxembourg. Well done Cliff, the UK salutes you!
Another less than successful return to Eurovision comes again from one of my favourite winners Niamh Kavanagh from Ireland. We all know that the Eurovision gods were smiling on the Irish in the 1990’s giving them 4 wins in one decade, the second of those wins and Ireland’s 5th overall was Niamh’s fabulous power ballad ‘In Your Eyes’. Niamh returned to Eurovision in 2010 with ‘It’s For You’, however the luck of the Irish had well and truly deserted them that year and Niamh finished a disappointing 23rd out of 25.
My last successful returner to Eurovision is Chiara from Malta. Now I’ll never understand how it is that Malta have never won the contest, they’ve sent some really brilliant songs over the years but have never quite managed to hit the top spot (and I do quite fancy the idea of ESC being in Valetta so will always give a little cheer for Malta!) Malta have come close though and twice with the same artist. Chiara first performed on the Eurovision stage in Birmingham in 1998 with the song ‘The One That I Love’ she achieved 3rd place just one point behind the UK and only 7 points behind winners Israel.
Chiara came back in 2005 with ‘Angel’ and this time coming 2nd, so if the number are anything to go by, you’d say a third attempt should produce a 1st – this was not to be and a third appearance at Eurovision for Chiara with the song ‘What Are We’ unfortunately didn’t trouble the scoreboard much finishing in 22nd with just 31 points. However Chiara is the third most successful participant who has never won the contest.
Now, if you thought that the #fabulous Conchita Wurst was the first Conchita to appear at Eurovision you’d be wrong. For my final unsuccessful returning singer we travel back again to the kindergarten years of Eurovision and we find another Conchita, this time it’s Conchita Bautista from Spain. She debuted Spain’s participation in 1961 with the song ‘Estando contigo’ (Being with you) where she achieved 9th place, which is not exactly brilliant, but not a complete disaster.
She returned, with Spanish hope on her shoulders, in 1965 and the song ‘¡Qué Bueno, qué beuno’ (How good, how good!) and it was good, she brought something of the sassy Spanish flamenco to the contest. The evening’s result was very disappointing and she had to settle (along with Finland and Germany) with joint last place and 0 points.
So there you go, as you can see sometime if pays to return to Eurovision and sometimes it’s better to stay away, unfortunately it is only history and hindsight that can tell you which was the right decision. Personally I’d like Nadine Beiler, Nina Sublatti and Ruth Lorenzo to return to Eurovision, which Eurovision alumni would you like to see return again?
Author : Lisa-Jayne Lewis