Meant to unify a fractured Europe after World War 2, Eurovision showcases each participating country’s notions of nationality, entertainment, and musicality. It has become one of the continents top events drawing in millions of viewers every year.
Eurovision is much more than just a singing competition and its impact has stretched across different elements of pop culture from film to online gaming. On the big screen, there are several films that pay homage to the contest with the most recent one being the musical comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The film pays reverence to the more fantastical elements of the competition which have come to characterize Eurovision. Online, gaming platforms have also embraced Eurovision’s highly camp brand into their games. As seen on Gala Casino, the titles TikiPop and Cherry Pop pay tribute to not only the look of the competition but also its diverse range of music. The films and games surrounding the competition have allowed it to reach wider audiences across the world and have helped it become a global event.
With that in mind, it’s certainly no surprise that Eurovision has also hosted some of the most iconic (and sometimes eccentric) performances to be performed in front of millions of audiences. From sweet Russian grandmas baking cookies to a glittering Ukrainian drag queen flaunting her campy glory onstage, here are some of the most iconic Eurovision performances to see:
Buranovskiye Babushki – “Party for Everybody”
Known affectionately as “the grannies,” Russia’s Buranovskiye Babushki is an ethno-pop band consisting of eight elderly women from the countryside of Buranovo, Udmurtia. They first came into fame in 2008, by covering pop songs from Western artists like The Beatles, Queen, and Aquarium. In 2012, the group took to an international stage, jetting off to Azerbaijan to represent Russia. They won the hearts of the audience with their performance, “Party for Everybody”, earning second place after Sweden. One of their main motivations was to earn enough money to rebuild a church in their village that the Nazis tore down during the war. This revelation adds a touch of poignancy to their iconic and adorable Eurovision performance in 2012.
Netta – “Toy”
With an eccentric performance that just screams ‘Eurovision,’ Israeli singer Netta Barzilia bested other contestants in 2018, taking home the grand prize for her song, “Toy.” It’s one of the campier entries of the year, incorporating strange chicken noises, and name checking Wonder Woman, Pikachu, and Donald Trump in its lyrics. But more than just a weird spectacle, Barzilia explained that “Toy” is about empowerment, and a way to reframe the bullying she experienced as a child. Because of its catchy tune, the song became one of the most viewed videos of all time on Eurovision’s YouTube channel.
ABBA – “Waterloo”
ABBA is arguably among the most famous artists catapulted to fame through Eurovision. It all began in Eurovision’s 1974 contest, when the foursome blew away the crowd with their hit song “Waterloo,” heralding their beginning as international pop stars. And while the group has long since disbanded, fans are in for a treat as ABBA is reportedly set to release new songs this year.
Lordi – “Hard Rock Hallelujah”
In a show that’s typically known for bubble-gum and electro pop performances, Finnish rock band Lordi’s Eurovision victory in 2006 came as a surprise to the audience. With that said, their performance wasn’t lacking in camp at all, with their latex monster costumes and over-the-top pyrotechnics punctuating the song’s catchy beat. And though the band has created some controversy, perhaps due to their use of faux demonic imagery, many also saw it as a win for the heavy metal genre.
Verka Serduchka – “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”
Ukrainian drag queen Verka Serduchka’s performance of “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” is the very picture of Eurovision. Dressed as a silver disco ball with the number ‘69’ painted suggestively on her back, Verka took to the stage, dancing to the song’s catchy accordion hook and earning second place in 2007. Despite the good results, the song would later on become the subject of Russia’s ire, with Russian officials claiming the lyrics “lasha tumbai” really meant “Russia goodbye.” This resulted in Verka being banned from entering Russia a year after the performance.