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10 Best Eurovision Winners

20 May 2016

From flash in the pan divas to enduring pop icons, here are the best Eurovision winners  

Eurovision, that yearly battle for European* musical supremacy and the chance to win the right to spend copious amounts of money hosting the following year. Since humble beginnings in Switzerland 1956 with just a handful of countries, Eurovision has expanded to the furthest corners of the continent and beyond. Yet there are five countries who are guaranteed into the final just because they’re the major funders of the event – Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the UK (along with the hosting country).

Australia’s steady entry into Eurovision began innocently enough – in 2014 Jessica Mauboy performed as an interval act the year it was held in Denmark. The gesture sort of made sense, the future Queen consort of that country is, after all, a native of Tasmania and it honoured the cult following of Eurovision by antipodeans. Regardless, it still came as a surprise when it was announced that none other than Australian Idol alum Guy Sebastian would compete in the 2015 event in Vienna – partly because he isn’t the first performer one may think of to represent Australia at such a flamboyant event. Sure, Kylie is probably a little too A-list to do it, and those Bardot and Rogue Traders reunions we are all hoping for are yet to happen, but come on, Guy? Of ‘Angels Brought Me Here’ fame? Europe agreed, and Guy finished a dismal fifth..

It was an even greater shock then, when Australia received another invitation to this year’s event. And this time we took no chances – we sent X Factor alum Dami Im. The results spoke for themselves – a close second place to Ukraine – and whilst we didn’t win, we showed Europe that years of observing via SBS had turned us into a Eurovision force despite our geographical location. As we celebrate almost beating Europe at its own game, here are the top 10 most memorable Eurovision winners, from those who parlayed their victory into sustained careers or simply made their moment on Europe’s stage unforgettable.

*Europe apparently includes Turkey, Israel, Azerbaijan and now Australia.

10. LuLu – Boom Bang-a-Bang (1969), United Kingdom

A catchy but simple tune, Lulu took out the competition and continued a relatively successful career, later singing the theme song to the Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. Watch for Lulu’s flower dress and pity the backing singers who got about five seconds of screen time.

9. Dana International – Diva (1998), Israel

Israeli transgender woman Dana International achieved fame and brought much needed attention to the plight of the trans community through her 1998 win for the song ‘Diva’.

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Through the sheer energy and hype of the win, one almost forgot Israel is by no stretch of the imagination in Europe or even bordering Europe. Watch for the feathers and the backing singers desperate to become Israel’s answer to All Saints.

8. Elena Paparizou – My Number One (2005), Greece

Elena Paparizou was a young Swedish-Greek singer just beginning her career when she won Eurovision in 2005 with ‘My Number One ‘and became one of Greece’s biggest stars. The track topped charts across Europe and even became a dance hit in the United States. Touring every nation which granted her the maximum 12 points in the competition, she remains one of the most prominent breakout stars of Eurovision. Watch for the sheer creativity of 2:18.

7. Ruslana – Wild Dances (2004), Ukraine

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Flames! Navels! Viking outfits! Ukrainian pop star Ruslana took Eurovision quiet literally and gave Ukraine their first victory. Watch for the early ’00s MTV choreography and because power lifts are underrated.

6. Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix (2014), Austria

Wurst’s 2014 win for ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ gave Austria their first win since 1966 and made her an overnight star. The drag persona of Thomas Neuwirth, Conchita soon entered the pop cultural lexicon and even walked the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris Fashion Week. Watch for the impeccably maintained lady beard and the power note that starts at approx. 2:22.

5. Buck’s Fizz – Making Your Mind Up (1981), United Kingdom

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’80s pop band Buck’s Fizz had a string of hits, although their start lies in coming together to represent the United Kingdom at Eurovision 1981. With their Velcro-friendly costumes and amazing hair, Buck’s Fizz enjoyed continued success following their victory. Watch for the overly energetic performance and slightly out of sync choreography.

4. Lys Assia – Refrain (1956), Switzerland

The inaugural Eurovision winner, Assia would compete for Switzerland for the second and third editions as well. Watch to see the evolution of the competition, back when a modest neckline and a stage of flowers were all you needed to win Eurovision.

3. Johnny Logan – What’s Another Year (1980) // Hold Me Now (1987), Ireland

Sometimes, in the ’80s, you can win Eurovision twice. That was the case for Johnny Logan, an Australian-born who won for Ireland in both 1980 and 1987. This reflects one of the odd loop holes you would think would be important – you don’t have to hail from the country you represent. Watch mainly because you’re patriotic.

2. Céline Dion – Ne partez pas sans moi (1988), Switzerland

Before Vegas, before her heart went on, the French Canadian Céline was an up and coming singer who won Europe’s heart representing Switzerland at Eurovision.

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She brought Eurovision back home and go on to sell 200 million records. Watch for the shoulder pads, Marcia Clark hair, and a skirt somewhere between a Sunday school teacher and Carrie Bradshaw ala Sex & the City opening credits.

1. ABBA – Waterloo (1974), Sweden

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Oh yes, Australia’s favourite Swedish foursome had humble beginnings at the 1974 Eurovision contest in Brighton England. Debuting the first of a long long line of hits, and their affinity for nylon and statement pants, they jived off the stage and into our hearts. Watch for Agnetha’s blue pants and because it’s ABBA.

Honourable Mention:

Olivia Newton John – Long Live Love (1974) United Kingdom

The same year ABBA faced their waterloo, another burgeoning Aussie icon represented the United Kingdom at Eurovision with a god awful preacher song about love. A whole four years before Sandy met Danny, it was a favourite to win, although the loss hardly affected John’s career. We know it makes no sense considering John only placed fourth, but because it is Eurovision after all, rules and logic go out the window.  Watch mainly because it looks like Sandy singing in a gospel choir.