What began as a technical experiment in Switzerland television broadcasting in 1956, is now an extravagant internationally televised songwriting contest. The idea for the song contest, however, was from RAI, an Italian broadcasting organization, that also held the radio International Song Festival in Venice.
The first Eurovision Song Contest included artists from The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Italy, with each country submitting two songs. The winner of the first-ever Eurovision Song Contest was Lys Assia from Switzerland for the song, “Refrain.” Sung in French, “Refrain,” mourns past lovers and was co-written by Émile Gardaz and Géo Voumard.
Present Day Eurovision
Eurovision has only gotten more popular and lavish over the years, now internationally televised and featuring energetic performers. Typically the participating countries have until mid-March to choose a song and an artist to perform it. The actual contest begins in May, with three live shows: First Semi-Final (Tuesday night) Second Sem-Final (Thursday night) and the Grand Final (Saturday night.)
The rules are simple: the songs must be original, no more than three minutes long, have live lead vocals, and no more than six performers on the stage.
Voting is split between a jury of music industry professionals and the viewing audience – neither of whom is allowed to vote for a contestant from their home country.
Eurovision 2023 Winner
Loreen “Tattoo” (583 points)
This year, Sweden’s Loreen won Eurovision for the song, “Tattoo.” Written by Jimmy “Joker’ Thörnfeldt, Jimmy Jansson, Lorine Talhaoui, Moa Carlebecker, Peter Boström, and Thomas G: son, Loreen sings about separating ways from someone she cares about, that is until they meet again.
Loreen is a pop singer and music producer, active in the industry since she was twenty-one, releasing her first single, “The Snake,” in 2005. She’s been a television presenter, a runner-up in the 2004 Idol television competition, and has made the Sweden Top 10 and Top 20 hits for “My Heart is Refusing Me,” and “Crying Out Your Name.”
This was Sweden’s seventh Eurovision win, tying with Ireland for the most wins of all time. Loreen won two of those for Sweden, becoming the second artist in history to win twice, now tied with Ireland’s Johnny Logan for “What’s Another Year?” (1980) and “Hold Me Now,” (1987.)
Loreen’s Eurovision performance was powerful and passionate, starting small as she is sandwiched between a ceiling and floor, but quickly expanding her body and energy, standing up, gaining power, and opening herself up to the audience.
Eurovision 2023 Runners Up
Käärijä “Cha Cha Cha” (526 points)
Finnish rapper, singer, and songwriter Käärijä placed second with 526 points for “Cha Cha Cha,” a dance-anthem about freedom and fun following a rough week of working. The music was written by Aleksi Nurmi and Johannes Naukkarinen, and the lyrics were written by Nurmi, Jere Pöyhönen, and Naukkarinen.
Käärijä’s performance is energetic and chaotic, as he wears a neon green bolero jacket, surrounded by dancers in all pink, and pulls the lengthy ribbons they are attached to. He came in first for the public’s vote, but ultimately came in second overall.
Noa Kirel – “Unicorn” (362 points)
Placing third in the semi and grand finals, Israeli singer Noa Kirel received 362 points for her performance of “Unicorn.” The lyrics and music were written by Doron Medalie, May Sfadia, Kirel, and Yinon Yahel.
Kirel has had an established and successful career thus far, judging contests “Music School,” and “Israel’s Got Talent.” In 2017 she signed with Atlantic Records at the age of 18 and has won Best Israeli Act five times from 2017-2022 via the MTV Europe Music Awards.
In 2022 she performed in Tel Aviv-Yafo in front of 35,000, the first for any young Israeli artist.
In an interview with I24News, Kirel explained that the inspiration for “Unicorn,” came from her experiences as a thirteen-year-old in the music industry, receiving hate for the way she presented herself. She also said the song promoted “coexistence and togetherness,” which has been said to be about Israel’s image to other communities. It is speculated that Kirel may have used the term “unicorn” as a reference to the “re’em,” an animal referenced in the Hebrew Bible, that signifies strength. “Unicorn,” then, is a statement of feminine power and fortitude.
In her Eurovision performance, the stage lights echo the music, the camera zoning in on Kirel as she stands in a lighted square lined hallway. She’s small on the large stage, before she joins her dancers as they approach the stage. Kirel is powerful and dynamic, ending her performance with a backup dance-assisted flip and pyrotechnics.
Marco Mengoni “Due Vite” (350 points)
Marco Mengoni represented Italy with the song “Due Vite,” which translates to “two lives.” The breakup song about two individuals drifting apart was written by Davide Petrella and Mengoni, and the music was written by Petrella and Davide Simonetta.
With seven albums released, Mengoni has gone platinum 69 times, has sold over 2.8 million records in Italy, and has made it onto the Top 10 Italian Singles Chart 15 times. In 2009 Mengoni won the Italian X Factor, and came in seventh place for the 2013 Eurovision that took place in Malmo, Sweden, for the song “L’essenziale.” He also won the Sanremo Music Festival in 2013 and 2023.
Mengoni’s performance is vulnerable, with strong vocals, and lack of overproduction. He stands alone centerstage, nothing but him and the emotion he feels present.
Alessandra “Queen of Kings” (268 points)
The youngest of the five, twenty-year-old Alessandra represented Norway with the song, “Queen of Kings,” a bisexual self-empowerment anthem.
In an interview with BBC, Alessandra describes the scene she saw when her producer played a piano melody for her, saying, “I got this image in my mind of a goddess running in the darkness through the woods, through the trees in a winter storm. She’s a strong woman, coming out of a bad period, and you get that running type of energy from the song.”
Her performance reflects this, a fan of pink and blue light illuminates her and her black royal-inspired outfit. Her deep voice represents strength and power, and as her dancers come out, strobe lights and light rods ensue, creating a dynamic atmosphere.
Eurovision is a competition, but it is clear that each musician brings something unique to the contest, and every artist deserves a spot on this list.
You can view previous Eurovision winners here.