How to win the Eurovision Song Contest

Former Eurovision winners Lordi (Copyright Rex)
It's just a couple of weeks until Engelbert Humperdinck attempts to end the UK's Eurovision winning drought and while we may not have a secret formula for producing the perfect Eurovision winner – we’ve got a good idea what it takes. Engelbert, Jedward and other would-be winners, listen up as we take a look at how to win the Eurovision Song Contest…

Have a gimmick

There are often 25 or 26 nations in the final – and another 20 get eliminated in the semis – so it’s important to have something that makes you stand out from the crowd.

Whether it’s a skirt that can be pulled off mid-performance (Bucks Fizz) or being identical twins with oversized quiffs (Jedward), anything that differentiates you and makes you memorable to the judges could help – and this includes the song as well as your costume and appearance.

But don’t be too gimmicky

Alternatively, keep it simple stupid! A massive, overblown production can harm your chances – especially if it’s out of keeping with your song.

John Kennedy O’Connor – author of 'The Eurovision Song Contest – The Official History' explains: “Avoid over-the-top presentations that don’t fit the song or the style of music. If you’re singing a ballad, leave the circus act at home.”

Don’t try to be funny

Considering that many viewers tune in for the laughs, it’s very rare for a comedy song to actually win Eurovision.

While Finnish panto-rock act Lordi’s ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ from 2006 could be seen as a comedy entry – it also happened to be a great song, which brings us to our next tip...

Winning UK entry Bucks Fizz (Copyright Rex)
Have the best song

Easier said than done, but if there’s one thing that everyone seems to agree on, it’s the fact that the song is critical to success. It’s not called the Eurovision Singer Contest after all.

John Kennedy O’Connor said: “The song is vitally important. You can’t sell a bad song, no matter who you are. Isn’t that right Lord Lloyd Webber? Actually, clearly you can. See Bucks Fizz. But it’s rare.” Controversial!

Sing it in English

It used to be that the rules of the contest specified that countries had to sing in their own languages, but this restriction was lifted in 1999 and since then contestants have been allowed to sing in whichever language they wish.

But this doesn’t mean that you should head straight out to buy a Flemish dictionary, because it really helps if the potential voters can understand what you are singing – and English is the most widely understood language in the contest.

John Kennedy O’Connor elaborated: “It’s no coincidence that neither Ireland nor the UK has won since the language rule was removed - and countries that had impenetrable, unfamiliar languages and who regularly propped up the bottom of the scoreboard have scored wins singing in English.”

Keep the tempo up

Ballads might do best on ‘The X Factor’, but the opposite appears to be true at Eurovision – where the song is being judged just as much (or more) than the singer.

Superfan John Thompson, who runs, says: “Stop-start-stop changes in tempo are a definite no-no. Modern Eurovision tends to favour the big arena anthem.”

And John Kennedy O’Connor agreed, saying: “A ballad takes longer to appreciate, whereas something with an instant catch or highly memorable (indeed, even irritating) hook will lodge in the viewers’ minds far quicker.”

Leave the fishnets at home

“Overtly sexual performances won’t win favour,” says John Kennedy O’Connor - which might be another reason (apart from the scalded cat vocals) why Katie Price didn’t get to represent the UK in 2005.

Have a large ex-pat audience

With phone votes making up a large proportion of the scoring, it will boost your country’s chances immensely if you have a significant number of first, second or third generation immigrants scattered around the voting nations.

Greece, Turkey, Russia and some of the Baltic states cottoned onto this decades before the contest even existed – sending migrants off to live and work across the continent in readiness for the advent of Eurovision phone voting (possibly).

John Thompson explains properly: “In modern Eurovision, despite the resurrection of the juries, the phone vote still accounts for 50 per cent of the result.  This means that ex-pats vote for their homeland to an annoying degree, so the likes of Turkey and Serbia have a huge head start.”

Don’t worry about having a “story”

It may be a big advantage to have a moving background story in TV talent shows, but it’s simply not a factor in Eurovision.

John Thompson said: “The contestant’s life story has no effect at all. People are having a loo break between songs as the contest is so long! “

So in summary

We will leave this bit to our pair of experts...

John Thompson: “Have an immediately catchy song, a charismatic performer, decent choreography and maybe some ex-pats!”

John Kennedy O’Connor: “Essentially, you just need a song that’s going to hit the broadest common denominator across the audience and stands out in comparison to the other entries. It’s that easy!”


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