Following Jamala’s victory at the Ukrainian selection event on Sunday, the international press were quick to jump on the song’s political content, as 1944 is believed to be about the Stalinist expulsion of Crimean Tatars during the Second World War.
Despite the hype, it’s worth noting that songs with political messages are nothing new at Eurovision. Check out our list of other songs that have been suspected of having political agendas or have inspired political movements – some of them may surprise you!
Gigliola Cinquetti brought Italy their first ever Eurovision victory in 1964, cementing her position as a musical icon in the country. A decade later, she returned to the contest and brought Italy a very respectable 2nd place finish, but no one in Italy saw her perform that night – why? She was censored by the Italian broadcaster. The 1974 edition of the contest coincided with a referendum on divorce in Italy, and RAI were concerned that Gigliola’s constant repetition of ‘sí’ or ‘yes’ would be considered as trying to influence the public’s vote. Just as well the Italian public couldn’t vote for their own entry anyway!
Made up of Armenian singers from every continent, the group Genealogy caused a stir in 2015 with their song ‘Don’t Deny’. The Armenian Genocide marked its centenary that same year and it was believed that the song was both a tribute to the victims and a call for the events to be officially recognised as several countries, including other Eurovision participants, deny it happened. While the music video Genealogy produced to accompany the song seemed to support this idea, Armenia dismissed the song had any political themes and even changed the song’s title to ‘Face The Shadow. In the end, the song placed 16th in Vienna, receiving points from 8 countries including one set of 12 from neighbouring Georgia.
Georgia originally stated they wouldn’t participate in Eurovision 2009 as relations between them and the host nation Russia were already tense. However, they changed their mind and selected the band Stefane & 3G and ‘We Don’t Wanna Put In’ through a national selection. The song immediately received international attention as an attack on the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The EBU said the song was in breach of the contest’s rules and its lyrics needed to be changed. Georgia refused and withdrew from Eurovision for a second time that year. A few months later, the band admitted that the song was political and they just wanted to embarrass Putin in Moscow… whoops…
Hosting their first ever Eurovision in 2005, Ukraine also held their first ever National Selection to choose who would represent them on home soil. The selection was won by Greenjolly and ‘Razom Nas Bahato’, an entry that had been entered as a wildcard at the last minute. Accusations of government interference in the selection were rife, especially as the song had been the unofficial anthem of the Orange Revolution. Furthermore, the original song both contained lyrics about presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko and was heavily inspired by an older revolutionary song – falling foul of 2 different EBU rules. After substantial edits were made, the EBU deemed the song was eligible to compete but it only brought Ukraine 30 points.
We all know that poor Portugal have never won Eurovision after almost half a century of trying. But what you might not know is that their 1974 entry ‘E Depois Do Adeus’ by Paulo de Cavalho started a revolution back home! When the song was played on the radio on the evening of April 24th, it was the first of two signals for the military to start a coup against the Portuguese government. This coup quickly (and unexpectedly) turned into a mass campaign of civil resistance across Portugal that became known as the Carnation Revolution. Portugal may have shared last place on Eurovision night along with Norway, Germany and Switzerland, but how many Eurovision songs have a story like that attached to them!?
What do you think? Are there any other songs with political messages that we missed? Are political songs becoming more common at Eurovision?
Let us know what you think!
Author: James Scanlan
Source: Eurovision Ireland