Eurovision pre-selection gems: the '00s edition28 September 2023 at 11:00 CEST
Behind every Eurovision Song Contest entry is a process through which to select it. A participating broadcaster can choose the song and its artist internally, or it can leave the decision in the hands of its audience.
A Eurovision pre-selection is a national final which presents a selection of songs as potential entries and gives the public the right to vote on their winner; sometimes in conjunction with a professional jury, sometimes not.
Invariably, pre-selection season across Europe - typically between December and March - ends up being a treasure trove of pop gems and diverse musical highlights to unearth and enjoy. And it was arguably during the 2000s that this treasure trove really exploded open, spilling out more dazzling riches than ever before.
Throughout this decade, more countries competing in the Eurovision Song Contest meant more national finals taking place. And it was in the '00s when some participating broadcasters - spurred on by the commercial success of a lot of the competing entries - expanded their existing pre-selections from a one-night affair to a multi-week extravaganza of Saturday night primetime entertainment.
It was a time when three wins in succession of one another - by Sertab Erener (Turkey), Ruslana (Ukraine) and Helena Paparizou (Greece) - sent national finals across Europe into a female-fronted dance-number frenzy, and when a subsequent win by Lordi (Finland) threw a Eurovision curve ball like never before, causing broadcasters to pump their pre-selections with more out-of-the-box show stoppers.
Over a thousand songs competed in Eurovision Song Contest pre-selections between 2000 and 2009 - here’s a small handful to showcase just some of what you might have missed.
La Casa Azul - La Revolución Sexual (2008, Spain 🇪🇸)
With a sound that incorporated both disco and funk, and with visuals that simultaneously took us back to the ‘60s and forward to the space age, La Casa Azul’s dizzying ditty earned itself a third-place finish in 2008’s Salvemos Eurovisión.
Nevertheless, its hit status at the time and its cult status since has lodged the song’s memorable melody in many a head - and it has gone on to become the band’s most streamed song of all time on Spotify - with more than double the tally of plays of their next most-popular song.
Hera Björk - Someday (2009, Denmark 🇩🇰)
The pre-selections of the ‘00s were peppered with non-winning songs by artists who would eventually go on to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest. The likes of Ani Lorak, Dima Bilan, Wig Wam and Ira Losco all went through at least one loss before achieving that big win.
Hera Björk, however, had tried to represent another country before repping her native Iceland at the 2010 Contest with Je Ne Sais Quoi. A year earlier in 2009, Hera competed in Demark’s Melodi Grand Prix with Someday - a song that blends schlager with something you’d be likely to find on the soundtrack to a particularly wholesome Disney film. Thankfully, Hera’s first runner-up result left her thirsty to come back for more the following year; albeit closer to home, in Iceland.
Scooter - Jigga Jigga! (2004, Germany 🇩🇪)
Coming off the back of a decade’s worth of pan-European hit singles, German rave and techno band Scooter were a big name in contention to make the journey to Istanbul in 2004.
Jigga Jigga! finished in second place in their country's national final Germany 12 Points!. And while it didn't quite make it as far as Turkey, it did go on to hit the official singles charts of many countries around Europe, from Finland to the United Kingdom.
Saša Lendero - Mandoline (2006, Slovenia 🇸🇮)
The 11th edition of Slovenia’s Eurovision pre-selection - Evrovizijska Melodija (EMA) - was a hotly contested one. A tale as old as time (a wide discrepancy between televote points and jury points) unfolded, which saw Saša’s folk-fuelled pop tune finish in second place, missing out on the ticket to Athens by just two points.
The party-starter was written with Andrej Babić who has since gone on to co-write Eurovision Song Contest entries for Portugal (in 2008 and 2012) and Slovenia (in 2007 and 2009), as well as for Croatia (2003) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (2005).
Nightwish - Sleepwalker (2000, Finland 🇫🇮)
Taking part in Finland’s national final Euroviisut in 2000, popular symphonic metal band Nightwish - recently inducted into the Finnish Music Hall of Fame - scored favourably with the public vote, with Finns awarding them almost three times the amount of televotes as their second-favourite song. A low jury score, however, meant that Sleepwalker had to settle for a bronze-medal finish.
The song’s parent album Wishmaster went on to become their first of 10 number 1 albums when it was released a couple of months after Euroviisut, and succeeded in launching Nightwish as one of Finland’s biggest music exports of all time.
69 danguje - Meilės Simfonija (2009, Lithuania 🇱🇹)
36 competing entries took part in Lithuania’s national final in 2009, Lietuvos Dainų Daina. Vocal ensemble 69 danguje made a big impression on the competition; enough to finish third out of a packed starting lineup.
The melodic, string-laden Meilės Simfonija has become something of a signature hit for the band, with fond memories of the song resulting in the girls having been invited back to perform it on Lithuanian television plenty of times since it took part in Lietuvos Dainų Daina over a decade ago.
Helena Paparizou - Το Φως Στην Ψυχή / The Light In Our Soul (2005, Greece 🇬🇷)
We’re all familiar with My Number One, the song that Helena Paparizou performed to give Greece its very first (and to date only) Eurovision Song Contest win in 2005.
But Paparizou's journey to Kyiv started with a very special national final in Greece - a pre-selection which saw the artist perform all songs in the selection, with both a jury vote and a public vote deciding the winner.
The show, Eurovision Party, was supposed to have 4 songs compete on the night. But shortly before the broadcast, it was announced that The Light In Our Soul would have to be disqualified from the contest due to it having been made public prior to the cut-off date. Might it have prevented Contest winner My Number One from representing Greece?... Thankfully for the country's Eurovision history, we never got to find out.
Claudia Faniello - Caravaggio (2008, Malta 🇲🇹)
"Paint me like one of your Maltese pop divas". Television viewers watched as a work of art unfolded on stage - and we aren't referring to the live pop-art painting that was being created in the background...
This Caravaggio, much like the famous Italian painter, relied heavily on drama to convey its message. And it's a song that perhaps best represents that period of national finals in the late '00s; when the camp, the kitsch and the chorus reigned supreme.
Carravagio finished in second place at The GO Malta Song for Europe 2008, and was Claudia's third of 10 attempts to represent Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest. On her 11th attempt - in 2017 with the song Breathlessly - the artist was finally awarded the opportunity.
The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Malmö, Sweden on Tuesday 7 May (First Semi-Final), Thursday 9 May (Second Semi-Final) and Saturday 11 May (Grand Final) 2024.
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