The Eurovision Song Contest is a cultural extravaganza, designed to draw the people of Europe together through light entertainment and healthy competition. But ultimately, it’s all about the songs.

Since the first competition in 1956 there have been 67 winners (due to an infamous four-way tie in 1969). Those contestants have ranged from the good (Conchita) to the bad (most of the early 2000s), to the downright ugly (Lordi), but it’s worth exploring the list for some of the gems hidden among the decades.

Eurovision can also be viewed as a kind of cultural history of our evolving – and sometimes dubious – musical tastes. If you thought Brexit was a disaster, let this be your reminder that European votes have been throwing up some very questionable results for more than half a century. Let us begin…

  1. “Satellite” – Lena (Germany, 2010)


  1. “Un premier amour” – Isabelle Aubret (France, 1962)


  1. “Everybody” – Tanel Padar, Dave Benton and 2XL (Estonia, 2001)


  1. “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” – France Gall (Luxembourg, 1965)

Serge Gainsbourg wrote this dreary song about a rag doll, performed at Eurovision in 1965 by Gall, a much beloved Sienna Miller lookalike.


  1. “I Wanna” – Marie N (Latvia, 2002)


  1. “Net als toen” – Corry Brokken (Netherlands, 1957)


  1. “Nocturne” – Secret Garden (Norway, 1995)


  1. “Nous les amoureux” – Jean-Claude Pascal (Luxembourg, 1961)


  1. “De troubadour” – Lenny Kuhr (Netherlands, 1969)


This 1969 entry from the Netherlands sounds like the 16th century entry from Ye Olde Englande.


  1. “Een Beetje” – Teddy Scholten (Netherlands, 1959)


  1. “Merci, Chérie” – Udo Jürgens (Luxembourg, 1966)


  1. “Dansevise” – Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann (Denmark, 1963)


  1. “Dors, mon amour” – André Claveau (France, 1958)


  1. “Wild Dances” – Ruslana (Ukraine, 2004)


  1. “L’oiseau et l’enfant” – Marie Myriam (France, 1977)


  1. “Non ho l’età” – Gigliola Cinquetti (Italy, 1964)


  1. “Tom Pillibi” – Jacqueline Boyer (France, 1960)


  1. “The Voice” – Eimear Quinn (Ireland, 1996)


  1. “Un jour, un enfant” – Frida Boccara (France, 1969)


A rousing chorus features in an otherwise dull affair – Boccara’s voice is the best thing here.


  1. “Ein bißchen Frieden” – Nicole (Germany, 1982)



  1. “Ding-a-dong” – Teach-In (Netherlands, 1975)


  1. “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” – Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta (Israel, 1978)


  1. “Un banc, un arbre, une rue” – Séverine (Monaco, 1971)


  1. “La, la, la” – Massiel (Spain, 1968)


  1. “Rock Me” – Riva (Yugoslavia, 1989)


  1. “Vivo cantando” – Salomé (Spain, 1969)


  1. “Insieme: 1992” – Toto Cutugno (Italy, 1990)


  1. “Hallelujah” – Gali Atari and Milk and Honey (Israel 1979)


  1. “La det swinge” – Bobbysocks! (Norway, 1985)


  1. “Toy” – Netta (Israel, 2018)


  1. “Refrain” – Lys Assia (Switzerland, 1956)


  1. “Believe” – Dima Bilan (Russia, 2008)


  1. “Heroes” – Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden, 2015)


  1. “Fairytale” – Alexander Rybak (Norway, 2009)


  1. “Running Scared” – Ell & Nikki (Azerbaijan, 2011)


  1. “Après toi” – Vicky Leandros (Luxembourg, 1972)


  1. “All Kinds of Everything” – Dana (Ireland, 1970)


  1. “Tu te reconnaîtras” – Anne-Marie David (Luxembourg, 1973)


  1. “Arcade” – Duncan Laurence (The Netherlands, 2019)


  1. “My Number One” – Helena Paparizou (Greece, 2005)


  1. “Fly on the Wings of Love” – Olsen Brothers (Denmark, 2000)


  1. “Take Me to Your Heaven” – Charlotte Nilsson (Sweden, 1999)


  1. “J’aime la Vie” – Sandra Kim (Belgium, 1986)


  1. “Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley” – Herreys (Sweden, 1984)


  1. “Save Your Kisses for Me” – Brotherhood of Man (United Kingdom, 1976)


  1. “Why Me?” – Linda Martin (Ireland, 1992)


  1. “Si la vie est cadeau” – Corinne Hermès (Luxembourg, 1983)


  1. “What’s Another Year” – Johnny Logan (Ireland, 1980)


The first win for the King of Eurovision, who looked like one of The Osmonds as he stole hearts with this lament of heartbreak.


  1. “Everyway That I Can” – Sertab Erener (Turkey, 2003)


  1. “1944” – Jamala (Ukraine, 2016)


  1. “Diva” – Dana International (Israel, 1998)


  1. “Puppet on a String” – Sandie Shaw (United Kingdom, 1967)


  1. “Amar pelos dois” – Salvador Sobral (Portugal, 2017)


  1. “In Your Eyes” – Niamh Kavanagh (Ireland, 1993)


  1. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids” – Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan (Ireland, 1994)


  1. “Only Teardrops” – Emmelie de Forest (Denmark, 2013)


  1. “Boom Bang-a-Bang” – Lulu (United Kingdom, 1969)

Lulu was one of four winners in 1969


  1. “Molitva” – Marija Šerifović (Serbia, 2007)


  1. “Hard Rock Hallelujah” – Lordi (Finland, 2006)


  1. “Hold Me Now” – Johnny Logan (Ireland, 1987)


  1. “Fångad av en stormvind” – Carola (Sweden, 1991)


  1. “Making Your Mind Up” – Bucks Fizz (United Kingdom, 1981)


A high energy pop song with colourful young performers and fun choreography – “Making Your Mind Up” is the stuff that Eurovision is made of. The famous moment when the boys ripped off the girls’ skirts only to reveal shorter skirts beneath them is one of the competition’s most famous moments. A number one hit record across Europe that year, the song remains as infectious today as ever.


  1. “Ne partez pas sans moi” – Céline Dion (Switzerland, 1988)


Celine Dion was just 20 years old when she came to international attention with this performance. The song itself is excellent – a French chanson worthy of Edith Piaf, with a slightly twee drum machine stepping up the beat for a bop of a chorus. This all took place before Celine was transformed into an ageless power ballad queen (see the pageant-esque hair and outfit), but it’s thrilling to hear how her vocals were sheer perfection even then. Oh, and the arm choreography was well on its way too.


  1. “Love Shine a Light” – Katrina and the Waves (United Kingdom, 1997)


The beautiful fusion of hammond organ, tambourines, hand clapping and the quasi-spiritual lyrics themselves make this feel like a glorious hymn – and Katrina really takes it to church. One of the highest scorers in modern times, this was the last time the UK won the competition, and it came the day after Labour’s landslide 1997 election victory. What a time to be alive.


  1. “Rise Like a Phoenix” – Conchita Wurst (Austria, 2014)


Conchita’s performance had everything you could want in a Eurovision performance. Elegant and fierce all at once, “Rise Like a Phoenix” could match the finest Bond theme, and is easily one of the most timeless of all the winners. The big band adds to the glamour of it all, and brings the goosebumps on that dramatic orchestral rise towards the final chorus. It was a powerful moment for LGBT+ visibility, too; the song’s theme of triumph over adversity secured it as an anthem for life’s survivors.


  1. “Euphoria” – Loreen (Sweden, 2012)


It’s hard to pick any other recent winner that comes as close to contemporary chart toppers as “Euphoria” – a dance hit that many contemporary pop stars would kill for. Written by Sweden’s Thomas G:son – who has produced more than 90 songs for Eurovision competitors across multiple countries – ”Euphoria” is built on clever pop formulas. The chorus itself is anthemic perfection, but when Loreen tacks on: “We’re going up, up, up…” it strikes gold. The Kate Bush-esque performance was an added bonus.


  1. “Waterloo” – ABBA (Sweden, 1974)


ABBA burst onto the stage at the 1974 competition, kickstarting Sweden’s international reputation as masters of pop. Early adopters of the kind of kitsch which would come to typify the show, ABBA used their platform to offer a taste of the cultural phenomenon they would go on to become. From the opening piano build to the switch between a minor bridge and major chorus, to the catchy hooks littered throughout, “Waterloo” is a masterclass in how to write a hit, and the song rightly went on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time. ABBA continue to influence Eurovision contestants to this day, and while you may have another favourite, ”Waterloo” is a song on which most people can agree is a solid gold classic. We promise to love you forever more.