The Eurovision Song Contest is the ultimate way to track down the brightest, best pop in Europe, and it’s set to take place on Saturday 14th May!
Widely considered to be the spiritual home of the Eurovision Song Contest, Sweden – and Stockholm in particular – is the location of the 2016 edition of the event following Swedish pop icon Måns Zelmerlöw‘s victory in Vienna in 2015.
So why do we consider Sweden to be the competition’s spiritual home? Well, 2016 will mark the 6th edition of the event to be held in Sweden, meaning that the Swedes have taken home the trophy a grand total of 6 times. Only Ireland have more wins under their belt, with 7 titles won in the 60 years of competition.
But it’s not just the Swedes that fare well at the Eurovision, both Norway and Denmark have won the competition multiple times in recent years – in fact, the Nordic region combined has clocked up 13 wins so far! 6 belonging to Sweden, 3 to both Denmark and Norway, and who can forget that resonating Finnish win of 2006, when heavy metal demons Lordi took the winning title back to Suomi for the first time ever?
Måns Zelmerlöw in 2015
Since its humble beginnings in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest has become a hugely anticipated cultural event, bringing not just music to the forefront of people’s minds, but in recent years, strong encouragement of diversity and acceptance too. It’s a time of year when Europe’s borders become more elastic than ever (we’re not entirely sure how Australia qualifies as ‘Europe’, but hey – we’re glad they’re there and getting involved!) and countries unite to celebrate the range of pop music being produced throughout the continent.
In certain parts of Europe, the event is seen as a kitsch celebration of all things colourful and pop, whereas throughout the Nordics, the competition is taken far more seriously. Rigorous auditions take place in order to find the worthy representative of the country for each event, with these contests becoming almost as popular as the Grand Finale itself!
To celebrate the fantastically vibrant and successful history of the Nordics at the Eurovision Song Contest, we here at the Nordic Playlist have a taken a closer look at all of the Nordic winners, this year’s entrants and some ‘honourable mentions’ too. Tune in to a playlist full of all of the highlighted acts by clicking the Speaker Button above, and read on to find out how exactly the Nordic countries have become masters of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Eurovision’s Nordic Winners!
1963 – Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann [DEN]
1963 was the groundbreaking year when the first ever Nordic Eurovision winner emerged victorious from the recently established song contest! And the worthy winners? Danish husband and wife duo Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann, with their sultry, string-laden song ‘Dansevise‘ (‘Dancing tune’), which more than struck a chord with the audiences in London, where the competition was held that year.
1974 – ABBA [SWE]
No conversation about Eurovision will go very far without mentioning 1974’s resonating win for Swedish quartet ABBA. When Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid took to the stage of The Dome in Brighton to perform their song ‘Waterloo’, no one could have predicted that the outfit would go on to become one of the most celebrated and successful pop acts of all time, but they most certainly did – racking up an estimated 500 million record sales around the world, and creating eight studio albums, two live albums, seven compilation albums and more than seventy singles.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing ahead of their Eurovision win, as Benny and Bjorn actually had two songs rejected for Sweden’s pre-selection event Melodifestivalen in 1971, and their now cult classic ‘Ring Ring’ came third in the competition in 1973. Fortunately, ‘Waterloo’ broke through in 1974 – propelling the band to international success. And it’s a good job too – can you imagine what pop music would have sounded like without ABBA? We dread to think…
1984 – Herreys [SWE]
The next Nordic Eurovision success came in 1984, a cool 10 years after ABBA’s resounding win, and it was another Swedish act that walked home with the trophy. ‘Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley’ was performed by clean-cut Swedish brothers Herreys, and told the story of finding golden shoes that when worn, made you want to dance all day. Pretty much how the brothers would have been feeling in the days after winning the contest, we’d imagine…
1985 – Bobbysocks! [NOR]
Taking place in Gothenburg in the Spring of 1985, the second consecutive Eurovision win for the Nordics came courtesy of Norwegians Bobbysocks! The first Norwegians to win the competition, Hanne Krogh and Elisabeth Andreassen unleashed their up-tempo track ‘La Det Swinge’ (Let It Swing) upon a crowd in their neighbouring country, bewitching everyone who fell into its catchy path. Andreassen went on to appear in the competition another three times, finishing in second place in 1996.
1991 – Carola [SWE]
It wasn’t until 1991 that the Nordics tasted sweet success again at the Eurovision Song Content, and it was another Swedish star that would lead the way to the trophy. Carola hinted towards the temperamental Nordic climate in her track ‘Fångad av en stormvind’ (“Captured by a storm wind”) at the contest in Rome, and the song was actually tied in first position with France’s entry, but went on to win after receiving the most ’10 point scores’ in the voting process. A third win for Sweden, in the bag!
1995 – Secret Garden [NOR]
Everything seemed to go a bit ‘Irish’ in the early 90s, with acts from the country winning the contest three years consecutively. “Who can put a stop to this?” whispered the Nordics to each other, as the Irish won again and again. And the answer? Norway! Although to be fair, Secret Garden are in fact… half Irish. With a dark a moody tune entitled ‘Nocture’, Norwegian composer Rolf Løvland and Irish violinist Fionnuala Sherry leapt to success at the 1995 edition of the event held in Dublin.
1999 – Charlotte Nilsson [SWE]
Charlotte Nilsson was tipped to win the 1999 edition of Eurovision early on, as her track ‘Take Me To Your Heaven’ captivated audiences in Jersusalem. The song took advantage of a newly introduced rule, meaning that songs could be sung in English rather than the country’s native language, but it was in fact the Swedish version of the track – ‘Tusen och en natt’ – that caught the hearts of the Swedes, staying in the Swedish national chart for 6 months after the competition win.
1999’s runner up came from Iceland, where singer Selma registered the first big success for the country in the competition with her song ‘All Out of Luck’!
2000 – Olsen Brothers [DEN]
The wait for the trophy to return to the Nordics didn’t last long at all, as Danish duo the Olsen Brothers (no relation to the Olsen sisters, as far as we’re aware) brought the house down with their old-school ballad ‘Fly On The Wings of Love’, a song about how beauty only grows more exquisite with age. How romantic. The Stockholm crowd certainly fell under the song’s spell, and the Danes became the second act to take the Eurovision title back to Denmark.
2006 – Lordi [FIN]
And then it happened. No-one expected it (apart from the Finns), no-one could’ve predicted it (again, apart from the Finns) but 2006 was the year in which demonic heavy metal outfit Lordi would take the Eurovision Song Contest winner’s title back to Finland for the very first time!
Athens was completely floored by the darkly theatrical performance from one of Finland’s most prized heavy rock bands, as the group unleashed their hellish hymn ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ upon a crowd much better acquainted with glossy pop songs and flashing colours, rather than guttural growls and balls of flames.
Not only did Lordi win the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, but they became the highest scoring winners… Ever. Scoring 292 points, Finland celebrated this triumph by breaking another record, this time for karaoke songs as around 80,000 people gathered to sing ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ in Helsinki.
Find out more about Lordi’s experience at Eurovision, as well as delving into their favourite Nordic tracks by checking out their own Nordic Playlist!
2009 – Alexander Rybak [NOR]
Lordi’s record-breaking score wouldn’t last for too long however, as the next Nordic artist to win the contest – Norwegian vocalist/violinist Alexander Rybak and his troupe of energetic dancers – would set new standards for high scores, gathering an incredible 387 points for the song ‘Fairytale’! The song was a landslide success at the grand Finale in Moscow, and became the third win in Norway’s Eurovision history.
And a special mention goes to Icelander Yohanna who captured second place in 2009 with her song, ‘Is it True?’
2012 – Loreen [SWE]
Having suffered through a few years with no big wins, Sweden returned with full force in 2012 when pop singer Loreen appeared with a suitably titled track, called ‘Euphoria’. Filling the arena in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku with lights, power-pop and pulsating electronic beats, there was no doubt as to who held the most pop prowess in the contest that year, and Loreen became the fifth Swedish winner of the Eurovision Song Contest!
2013 – Emmelie de Forrest [DEN]
Hailing from just over the water from the location of the 2013 contest, Malmö, Denmark’s Emmelie de Forrest was a sure fire winner with her song ‘Only Teardrops’. A track filled with driving drum beats, Emmelie’s powerful voice and even a few whistles for good measure, her victory secured Denmark’s third win in Eurovision’s history – so will their success be repeated when the contest takes place in Sweden again this year? That remains to be seen…
2015 – Måns Zelmerlöw [SWE]
2015 was no ordinary year in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest, as the event celebrated its 60th anniversary with a lavish ceremony in Vienna! As the show grew to be bigger than ever, with more countries participating than ever before, all eyes were on the prize as the competition got underway.
After a toughly fought fight, and some stiff competition from Russia, Swedish singer Måns Zelmerlöw and his animated buddy were crowned victors of the 60th edition of Eurovision for their song ‘Heroes’, making Måns the sixth Swedish winner and edging the country ever closer to matching Ireland’s title as the country with the most Eurovision wins so far.
As a result of Måns’s success, the Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Stockholm on the 4th May 2016 – so will Sweden be able to win again, to push them closer to being the grand victors in the event’s history? We’ll have to wait and see!
2016’s Nordic Hopefuls!
Lighthouse X – Soldiers of Love [DEN]
Denmark will send Lighthouse X to Stockholm to represent the country in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The three piece will offer up their heartfelt, upbeat balled ‘Soldiers of Love’ at the contest, a song which offers a message of peace and acceptance that’s sure to resonate well with the crowd in Stockholm. Will it be enough to help Denmark win a fourth Eurovision title? We’ll have to wait and see!
Greta Salóme – Hear Them Calling [ICE]
Greta Salóme was selected to represent Iceland at the Eurovision in 2016, having already entered the competition with ‘Never Forget’ back in 2012 together with Icelandic vocalist Jónsi. This year’s song was called ‘Hear Them Calling’, but unfortunately didn’t get through to the Grand Finale of the contest. But next year is just around the corner, so will 2017 be the year that Iceland finally bags that elusive win?! Fingers crossed!
Agnete – Icebreaker [NOR]
Norway’s Agnete brings her song ‘Icebreaker’ to the Eurovision this year, and it’s certainly the most dramatic song on offer from the Nordics in the 2016 edition. It remains to be seen if the majestic chorus will translate to the live show at Globen, but we’ve got a strong suspicion that the voters are going to fall for this young singer’s stunning voice which soars over the immensely catchy tune. Eurovision win #4 for Norway? Let’s see!
Sandhja – Sing it Away [FIN]
Sandhja was selected to represent Finland in 2016 with the track ‘Sing it Away’, which sadly failed to make it through the semi-final rounds to be performed in the Grand Finale on the 14th May. It’s a crying shame as it’s by far and away the most upbeat Eurovision track coming out of the Nordics this year – but there’s always next year, right?!
Frans – If I Were Sorry [SWE]
Here he is! Sweden’s hopeful for 2016! Will Frans be the guy to bring Sweden that much sought after 7th win, to bring them level with Ireland on the leaderboard? ‘If I Were Sorry’ is already a hit in Sweden, riding the waves of modern pop with a striking vocal. Whether Frans wins or not, it’s sure to be a huge party when the singer takes to the stage, so make sure to tune in on the 14th May!
Honourable Nordic Mentions…
Daniel Águst – Það sem enginn sér [ICE]
Daniel Águst! That’s right, THE Daniel Águst of GusGus fame represented Iceland in the Eurovision in 1989 with ‘Það sem enginn sér’ – how could he not have won?! Could the voters not SEE the star quality there?! Oh well – if he decides to enter the contest again in the future, we’ll definitely call in a “douze points” – but until that day, check out our exclusive interview with the artist himself right here!
Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät – Aina Mun Pitää [FIN]
”The members of our band are four middle-aged, mentally handicapped men. The music is, of course, Finnish punk,” explained PKN’s Sami Helle ahead of their Eurovision journey in 2015 – but even if Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät didn’t make it to the finals, the Finnish punk band managed to make a milestone in Eurovision history with their power-packed song ‘Aina Mun Pitaää’ – the shortest entry ever at one minute and 26 seconds.
Jónsi – Heaven [ICE]
Icelandic singer Jónsi participated in the Eurovision with the track ‘Heaven’ in 2004 and again with ‘Never Forget’ in 2012, together with Greta Salome. With so much experience behind him, could Jónsi be the guy to bag that Eurovision win in the future? Watch this space – and disclaimer, this particular singer has nothing to do with the other Jónsi, of Sigur Rós fame. Although we’re sure that he’d make a fantastic Eurovision entrant too…
Monica Aspelund – Lapponia [FIN]
Monica Aspelund‘s 1977 effort ‘Lapponia’ was the first Finnish entry to receive 12 points in the competition (thanks Ireland!). The track became a hit, peaking at #5 in both Finland and Sweden and was translated to several languages in the months and years that followed.
Yohanna – Is it True? [ICE]
Yohanna‘s track ‘Is It True?’ came close to the first position in 2009, but landed in second place when losing to Alexander Rybak and ‘Fairytale’ from Norway and all of his record-breaking 387 points. The track was a hit though, and was translated into several languages – the closest that Iceland have come to winning the grand prize yet!
Selma – All Out of Luck [ICE]
One of the more upbeat (and we might add, brilliantly choreographed) Icelandic entries in the competition’s history comes in the shape of ‘All Out of Luck’ by Selma, who represented Iceland in 1999. The song landed in second place, with Iceland once again losing to another Nordic country, this time Sweden’s Charlotte Nilsson.
Tommy Seebach – Disco Tango [DEN]
Tommy Seebach is a Danish schlager legend who has represented Denmark several times in the competition. After his death the musical legacy of Tommy was carried on by his son, Rasmus Seebach.