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How to win the Eurovision Song Contest

Based on the evidence to date (65 years of competition!), winning the contest rarely comes down to talent.

Italian winners Måneskin of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2021.
Victory for Måneskin and Italy in 2021.

For some, the Eurovision Song Contest is an extravaganza and a celebration of song, dance and soft nationalism. For others, it is a drawn-out and tedious camp nightmare.

For many, it is an irrelevance, just a TV show.

But for a dedicated group of Eurovision fans around the world, the Song Contest is also a fascinating model of how politics, soft culture and political gaming come together in the ultimate cultural puzzle box, at the heart of which is a fascination with how to win Eurovision. Over the years, this question has been debated, obsessed over, argued about and even (oh no!) modelled, to varying degrees of success, to which we now add our own contribution to this heated (and in no way trivial) debate.

As such, to follow is the AOD guide on how to win the Eurovision Song Contest and which we ask you, the lovely reader, to also contribute to, in terms of your opinions, strategy to win the contest, and favourite winners from Eurovision's rich and varied history.

Have we got it wrong in our speculation on how to take the Eurosong prize? And, while we are at it, whatever happened to the attempt to relaunch the contest as Eurosong in the mid-90s? Perhaps most importantly, have we focused on the wrong elements in the debate, and ended up with the dreaded nul points in this sensitive cultural matter?

And you thought Brexit was complicated.

So, what are the popular pathways to Eurovision victory?

Let us start at the beginning.

Option 1: Have a great song and performer against a so-so field:

As an innocent to the realities of the world's biggest television show, you would think that this was the obvious and natural way to win Eurovision.

How wrong you would be, but also, in the right circumstances, occasionally, how right.

Eurovision is (in)famous for failing to deliver songs that are popular and critically acclaimed as the winner. Take Spain in 1973, for example, with the exquisite Eres tú (which came third), or the UK in 1996 with the energetic Oohh Ah, Just a little bit (a UK chart-topper and Grammy nominee), or indeed Italy in 2019, with the electrifying Soldi, a song closely pipped at the post, with fans post-contest speculating on whether singer Mahmood (who was emotionally devastated at not winning) would have been better coming out as a homosexual before the contest rather than after it.

But what happens when the musical planets align and the competition is er, less than competitive as a country enters an ear-catching song, performed by an engaging performer? Over the years, out of a middling pack, a stand-out entry coupled with a winning performance has gone on to take the crown on many an occasion.

In 1972, Luxembourg won Eurovision, with the gothic and majestic Vicky Leandros belting out what would quickly become one of the Eurovision standards with Après toi, in the process knocking the not particularly harmonious New Seekers into second place with fan and bookies favourite, Beg, Steal or Borrow.

Two years later, Abba would win for Sweden, with its Glam Rock pastiche Waterloo, though Italy's Gigliola Cinquetti would also give the poptastic foursome a run for its krona with the grand and theatrical runner-up Si.

Or how about 1980, pouty, when white-suited Johnny Logan, representing Ireland and crooning what would become a UK chart-topper with What's Another Year, would mark his first appearance as a performer and Eurovision winner (Logan's second winning entry coming in 1987, when he also wore white, and took the prize with Hold Me Now).