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Nul points at Eurovision - the best of the "worst"

15 January 2017 at 10:30 CET
Every year the excitement and speculation around the Eurovision Song Contest usually centres on the winner and the more successful acts and those at the bottom of the scoreboard often miss out on much of the attention. However there are a select group of 'losers' that have scored zero putting them in a league of their own and today we pay tribute to these acts.

Over the years 36 entries have scored zero points in the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Such a fate was more common in the 1960s when the national juries could only award points to a handful of songs rather than the current ten. Austria and Norway hold the record for scoring zero more times than any other country, four times in total. Whilst for many artists, the result can be humiliating, others have embraced it. 

From zero to hero

Norway's Jahn Teigen had a big hit with his Eurovision flop, Mil Etter Mil, in 1978 and used the attention to his advantage. He returned to the contest in 1982 and 1983. "After five or six countries gave us no points, I felt a little embarrassed then someone in the green room shouted "I hope Norway gets zero points" and there was a big laugh, after this moment everyone was cheering for me", said Jahn in an interview with author Tim Moore. "I had so much love, I could feel the vibrations of people from age five to ninety", he added. 

Clash of cultures 

In recent decades entries that have showcased elements of national culture and musical styles have scored well. Turkey's eastern-influenced entry, Dinle, finished third in 1997 and Ruslana's winning song in 2004, Wild Dances, was influenced by the music and traditions of the Carpathian mountains. However there was a time that ethnicity didn't fare so well with the judges and Spain's entry in 1983 stands as an example of this. ¿Quién maneja mi barca? was performed by Remedios Amaya and scored zero on the night. The song can be described as flamenco-rock and whilst it didn't impress the national juries, many fans have an appreciation of the unusual entry including its somewhat forceful delivery by the singer. Remedios Amaya is still performing today and released a new album in 2016. 

One step out of time

Norway's entry in 1997, San Francisco, was performed by Tor Endresen but scored zero on the night, the fourth time that this had happened, setting a new record for Norway and the Eurovision Song Contest. Until 2015, no other country had scored zero as many times. Tor's placing did not deter him though and he continued to participate in the Norwegian national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, Melodi Grand Prix. In 2015 he teamed up with Elisabeth Andreassen who won the contest for Norway as part of Bobbysocks in 1985, finishing fourth.  

Facing the music

Until 2003 the United Kingdom had a strong record in the Eurovision Song Contest and had only been outside the top ten on five occasions. That all changed when Chris and Gemma, otherwise known as Jemini, took to the stage to perform Cry Baby. The 2003 Eurovision Song Contest featured a new scoreboard where the countries were no longer fixed and changed order depending on the scores. As the voting progressed the UK slipped further and further to the bottom and by the end of the evening had failed to score a single point. In an interview with author Tim Moore the duo recalled how they coped with the tension; "Every time we didn't get a vote, we had a drink. By the end of the voting we were absolutely hammered!"

UK commentator Terry Wogan initially put the result down to a so-called "post-Iraq backlash" before later admitting that the duo were out of tune. The result was headline news in the UK, theories abounded as to why the country had failed so spectacularly and Jemini faced a media storm when they arrived home. The duo put a brave face on the result and told the press that it was better than scoring six or seven points. Perhaps they were right, the duo are still remembered to this day. 

The zeros of our time

In 2015 not one country but two failed to score in the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Germany's Black Smoke performed by Ann Sophie and the home team Austria, represented by The Makemakes both failed to impress the juries and public alike. Whilst inevitably disappointing, following the show, The Makemakes made light of the situation and parodied the chorus of Sweden's winning song Heroes. Check out their Instagram post below.

Nul points never again?

Scoring zero can be demoralising and even embarrassing however it does not necessarily mean that the entry finished last in each national jury and televote. Technically a song which finishes outside each national top ten could still receive zero since it is only the top ten countries that receive points (1-8, 10, 12). The 2016 Eurovision Song Contest saw the public and jury votes presented separately for the first time. With double the amount of points available the chances of scoring zero are greatly reduced, although in theory it is still possible. Watch this space.