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Eurovision's Got Talent

11 December 2016 at 18:00 CET
Polina Gagarina represented Russia in 2015 and finished second with the song 'A Million Voices' EBU / Andres Putting
This weekend saw Finnish singer Saara Aalto compete in the final of the UK’s X Factor. The singer previously participated in Finland’s national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011 and 2016, placing second both times. Over the years there have been many crossover acts that have participated in both reality television music competitions and the Eurovision Song Contest. Let’s look back at just some of the dozens of acts that have graced our screens over the years.

The rise of reality television in the late 1990s transformed the way we watched television and world of entertainment, creating stars out of ordinary people overnight. In particular, these reality formats had a huge impact on the music industry. Shows such as Idols, Star Academy, X Factor and The Voice, to name just a few, launched the careers of dozens, perhaps even hundreds of artists, many of which went on to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest.

In 2001 Friends represented Sweden with the song Listen To Your Heartbeat, which finished fifth in Copenhagen. The group were originally formed in 1999 after participating in a reality television show. Portuguese group Nonstop were formed after participating in Popstars in 2001 and went on to represent Portugal in the Eurovision Song Contest in Athens in 2006 with the song Coisas de nada, unfortunately the girls failed to make the final.

The last time the UK finished in the top three in the Eurovision Song Contest was in 2002 when Jessica Garlick, who previously participated in Pop Idol, performed her ballad Come Back. That same year, Spain’s artist, Rosa, was selected using a brand-new television format, Operación Triunfo, which aimed to find the country’s next singing sensation. In the first three seasons the top prize was the chance to represent Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest. The show was known worldwide as Star Academy (Fame Academy in the UK) and although the link to the Eurovision Song Contest was not a fixed part of the format in other countries, many Eurovision stars of the future took part. Notable names include Polina Gagarina (Russia 2015), Vânia Fernandes (Portugal 2008), James Fox (UK 2004), Fame (Sweden 2003) and Kalomira (Greece 2008).

Måns Zelmerlöw, winner of the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, participated in the 2005 edition of Idols in Sweden with Sweden’s other recent winner, Loreen, participating in the competition the previous year. More recently, Australia's Dami Im rose to prominence after winning the fifth season of X Factor Australia. However, the transition from reality show to Eurovision star hasn’t always been successful as the UK’s Javine (Popstars: The Rivals) and Andy Abraham (X Factor) found out when they both finished in the bottom five in 2005 and 2008 respectively. 

Over a quarter of the artists in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest came from musical reality TV shows, either as a participant or in the case of Sergey Lazarev and Donny Montell, coaches on The Voice. Earlier this year Aminata, who represented Latvia in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015, managed to convince Polina Gagarina and Dima Bilan to turn around during the blind auditions. She joined Polina’s team but was knocked out of the competition in the next round. Jamala, winner of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest has also been announced as one of the coaches on the forthcoming season of The Voice of Ukraine. 

The music industry is changing as is the way we watch television. People are moving from physical CDs to downloads and streaming. The Latvian national selection, Supernova 2017, will include streaming from Spotify as part of the results. Whilst there is a move from live television towards on-demand, musical talent shows and the Eurovision Song Contest appear to have bucked this trend. As the various countries select their respective entries for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, there is a chance that you may have already seen the potential winner participating in a previous television format.