I sometimes get asked, ‘What kind of song wins Eurovision?’ In recent years, plenty of different styles of song have won the contest, and there is no definitive answer to this question. There is some more general advice one can give on the topic, however.
Among the UK public, there is a set idea of what a typical Eurovision song sounds like. It is Abba-esque, usually upbeat and may have a key change. The style is called ‘schlager’ in Europe. Ironically, it’s the one type of song I would advise you to avoid.
Take Sweden’s Charlotte Perelli. She won the contest in 1999 with the oh-so Abba-esque ‘Take Me To Your Heaven’. Fast forward to 2008, and she flopped with another schlager, ‘Hero’. The contest had moved on.
This does not bode well for the most schlager songs of 2010, principally the UK and Denmark – one of the pre-contest favourites. I would add Iceland to that category, who took a schlager song and have added a 90s dance beat to it.
One reason for the move away from this type of song was the success of Turkey’s ‘Every Way That I Can’ in 2003 and the growth in countries from eastern Europe joining the contest from 2004. This led to the rise of another now popular Eurovision style that can be termed ‘ethnopop’.
The ‘ethno’ elements of ‘ethnopop’ can be highly superficial, such as the middle eight of 2005 Greek winner ‘My Number One’, but the hint of the ‘exotic’ with the familiarity of pop can attract voters from all over Europe. There has been at least one such song in the Top 4 in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Song structure is another important thing to note. Pop songs tend to follow a pattern that goes like this: intro; first verse; first chorus; second verse; second chorus; middle eight with a change of pace; and final chorus with something a bit extra.
Eurovision winners tend to follow this formula, with only a few small deviations – in 2008, Serbia’s ‘Molitva’ had an instrumental second verse, for example. I would never back a song to do well that deviated significantly from this structure, and for this reason don’t expect great things from the likes of Bulgaria and Slovakia in 2010, even though the latter had plenty of early support.
This all sounds a little scientific, and I should emphasise that only being seen once by most voters, an immediate, cheap, catchy pop song can be a winner with all the right elements. One of these, the visual look of the performance, will be the subject of the next article.
Charlotte Perelli’s ‘Hero’ is not the only highly-regarded schlager to drop like a stone on the big night. One of the pre-contest favourites, Latvia’s ‘Hello From Mars’, collected only 5 points in total for 24th place in 2003.
Azerbaijan’s third and Turkey’s fourth in 2009, alongside Armenia’s fourth in 2008 showed how well catchy ethnopop can do, even when the song has little depth and is not brilliantly sung.
General Eurovision Advice
DO seriously consider any song that strikes you as memorable and entertaining – especially if it’s ethnopop – even if it also sounds cheap
DON’T be fooled into thinking that anything sounding Abba-esque is going to win. The ‘schlager’ style of song has had its day – even in Eurovision