It’s been a hot minute since we’ve seen the host country top the tables and win the contest again as the host nation. It was 1994 to be exact, with Ireland (aka the nation with the most wins in Eurovision history) hosting the contest in Dublin, only to win the contest again and host in 1995. Today we’ve decided to look at the defending entries, the entries the host nations send to the contest. With the expense and effort needed to host the contest in our modern context, perhaps it’s a strategic move to not send two winning songs in a row, but speculation aside, we’ve picked our Top 5 defending entries! It would be a difficult decision to go back through all Eurovision history, so we’re limiting this post between 2005 and 2017 – from Kyiv to Kyiv.
5. The Makemakes – I Am Yours
Austria demonstrated the most unfortunate situation for a defending nation, with that being a last place finish. What was even more devastating for the host nation was that the Makemakes finished with zero points. This is not a post about why this didn’t deserve zero points (that would need to be reserved for a completely different post), but not only did this song not deserve zero points, this song was impressive enough to reach our Top 5. Sure, the burning piano was a bit gimmicky, but at its core, it was a well performed song. The song itself is still one I still listen to and enjoy – it’s a good song, and in any other year, perhaps it would have been a lot higher up the results table.
4. Basim – Cliché Love Song
Denmark won Eurovision 2013 with Emmelie de Forest, and as a host nation, they send Basim with the upbeat tune Cliché Love Song. This is a perfect example of what a defending song has become over the last few years. It’s a strong entry, an entry which probably would have qualified to the final if it had to go through the semi-final, but yet it’s not strong enough to give the host nation another win. Basim and his backing singers and dancers are energetic on stage, which gives this infectious song another level of catchiness. It was like Eurovision’s answer to Bruno Mars, and fans responded to the feel good vibe of the overall performance.
3. Sabina Babayeva – When the Music Dies
Some of the best defending entries are the ones that break away from the generic music genres and completely embrace their cultural roots, because if there’s a time to express culture, it’s when the home crowd is backing you up. Azerbaijan often does that even when not the defending entry, but Sabina’s performance blends beautiful ballad with elements of unique cultural identity. The song featured the balaban, a traditional Azerbaijani instrument, as well as elements of the folk Mugham genre, which gave what would otherwise be a fairly standard ballad its uniqueness. Of course we have to mention the beautiful performance from Sabina, which ultimately took this to 4th place. A true defending success story!
2. Robin Stjernberg – You
Robin Stjernberg is one of our favourite artists here at Eurovision Union, and it all started when the talented Robin won Melodifestivalen, hence winning him the opportunity to represent Sweden as the host nation. Watching his performance at the grand final still induces goosebumps. It’s an incredible song, up to the standard of all of the recent Swedish entries, and it featured a simple but effective stage performance. Again, in any other year, this would have reached the top 10, if not the top 5 like every one of the song’s predecessors and successors post 2011. Although he didn’t reach the same heights as many of the other Swedish acts in recent years, the success has come from what Robin has done since his Eurovision participation!
1. Jelena Tomašević feat. Bora Dugić – Oro
When Serbia won the contest with Marija Šerifović, it would have been hard to believe that they would come out with a defending song as the host nation just as good as the masterpiece that Molitva was in 2007. Yet, they did it. Oro is an incredible Balkan ballad which has the fingerprints of Željko Joksimović as composer, and that in itself is a recipe for success. Like all of the previous Željko songs, it features incredible instrumentation which builds in intensity over the three minutes. The song fits with Jelena’s beautiful voice which really impresses as she hits the final minute of the song. The song finished in 6th place, which is a success, but yet still feels too low for an incredible tune like this.