From grandma bands to stage-crashing gorillas, here’s some of the contest’s most bizarre moments
If you have plans this Saturday, cancel them. Don’t tell us you’ve forgotten that this weekend marks the 67th annual Eurovision Song Contest – especially exciting, because this year it’s on home turf? (No, we didn’t win…) With rising pop star Mae Muller flying the flag for the UK and Graham Norton finally appearing on camera rather than chuckling sardonically away behind it, it’s going to be one for the books.
In preparation for this weekend’s festivities, we’ve been looking back. Eurovision is a weird and wonderful place, usually both at the same time. Here are fifteen of the weirdest ever moments to grace the Eurovision stage – with hopes that Saturday will provide a few more.
Lordi sport the best costumes of all time
The gnarly costumes and stage make up worn by Finnish group Lordi in 2006 for their performance of ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ will never be forgotten. The moment when lead singer Mr Lordi slowly and dramatically unfolds his bat-like wings is even more incredible given that, at the start of the performance, he’s wearing a cheerful little Finnish flag hat. The group ended up winning, by the way.
Lithuania enter a song called ‘We Are The Winners’, and come in sixth
The casting call for Lithuanian band LT United was apparently very specific to middle aged men who work in data processing. The group employed a bold, never-since-repeated strategy back in 2006, entering a song with a chorus that declared “We are the winners of Eurovision” over and over again. Despite a very spirited few seconds of activity from one member of the group (dancing? perhaps) and a cheerful shout of ‘Vote!’ to end the performance, they were not in fact the winners of Eurovision.
Russia send their grandmothers
Only at Eurovision would you witness something this spectacular: a group of Russian grandmas very politely but insistently inviting you to dance over a euro-techno beat. A fake-out with a folk song and an oven full of cookies lead into one of the most popular Eurovision entries of all time back in 2012 (‘Party For Everybody’). Later in the performance, one of the grandmas reaches into the oven to remove the oven tray with only her bare hands. What can’t they do?
Verka Serduchka wears an incredibly versatile outfit
It seems to be designed for business wear, the basketball court, the military and Christmas all at once. Ukraine’s ‘Dancing Lasha Tumnai’ back in 2007 has remained another Eurovision favourite, neatly walking the line between pleasantly baffling and absolutely incomprehensible.
Vampires might be real
In 2013, Romania sent Cezar (‘It’s My Life’). He had a wailing falsetto so tremulous it was hard to make out what language he was singing in and midway through his performance he began to levitate above the stage. Speculation that Romania had entered an actual vampire quickly grew.
Vampires are real
Back in 2007, Switzerland’s DJ Bobo confirmed that in fact, ‘Vampires Are Alive’. Or, as he put it: “I am a vampire, I’m a slave/A slave to the daylight, hence my grave.” Self-explanatory? The choreography looks like they made it up together in one of their living rooms though.
Luxembourg finds a human penguin
Sophie & Magaly’s ‘Papa Pingouin’ in 1980 was an interesting number even without the presence of Papa Pingouin himself waddling around onstage. He’s distractingly creepy, but not quite enough to divert attention from Sophie and Magaly’s electric blue and salmon satin suits.
Dustin The Turkey begs for votes
In 2008, Ireland entered a puppet (Dustin the Turkey, a kind of Irish Gordon the Gopher who began life as Zig and Zag’s Christmas dinner) and wrote him a song in which he quite uncomfortably pleads with the rest of Europe to vote for him. Unpacking Ireland’s sorry history with Eurovision, ‘Irlande Douze Pointe’ features dancers wearing turkey feathers and is an all-around embarrassing, fascinating watch.
Germany sings a tribute to Genghis Khan
In 1979, Germany entered this brass-heavy ode to the bloodthirsty conqueror, sung by group Dschingis Khan. The performance features a live appearance from Genghis, who doesn’t sing or play any instruments, but instead struts around looking jollier than Father Christmas. Why did this happen? The answer to that question remains lost in time. At least they’re having fun.
Poland’s ‘We Are Slavic’ divides the UK
Poland’s tongue-in-cheek entry, in which Donaton & Cleo wax lyrical about Slavic beauty whilst the dancers around them seductively churn butter, is honestly pretty funny. Apparently the UK jury didn’t agree, awarding Poland zero points. Naturally, the UK public voted it first.
Sébastian Tellier does helium onstage
The high point of France’s 2008 entry, ‘Divine’, isn’t Tellier’s entry on a golf cart or the fact that his backing singers were dressed as him, complete with fake facial hair. It was the moment he grabs a helium balloon, inhales, and continues to sing. The funniest part of it all is how underwhelming the effect is on his voice.
A gorilla crashes Italy’s performance
Francesco Gabbani’s ‘Occidentali’s Karma’, entered in 2017, is fairly typical fare for Eurovision – a colourful, high-energy pop song that only takes a turn for the strange when someone in a gorilla suit runs onto the stage to join in. Is it a stage crasher? Gabbani doesn’t seem to notice. It’s only when he shares a brief, cool moment of mutual recognition with the gorilla that we realise it’s all part of it. Still doesn’t explain why.
Ilinca brings Alex Florea onstage with him for Romania’s 2017 entry, ‘Yodel It!’, apparently to do all the good singing for him. The yodelling is definitely weird, but also a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the whole performance gives the impression that Ilinca is hitting on Florea in a club, and she’s uninterested but being polite to him out of awkwardness. At the end of it, we’re treated to the most uncomfortable kiss ever captured on camera.
Greece insist that ‘Alcohol Is Free’
2013 gave us a Eurovision story we could get behind: a ragtag group of musicians do their best to convince the nation of Sweden to let them drink for free. As far as we know, it didn’t work.
Switzerland’s terrifying clown
In 1976, Peter, Sue & Marc sang ‘Djambo, Djambo’, a song about the downturn of a circus clown’s career, delivered with jarring cheer. The clown is actually onstage with them the entire time and is – and we can’t stress this enough – horrifying. “Sometimes you can see him on the sidewalk, with little boys and girls around his feet,” trills Sue. Dear God.
Jim and Keith
Norway’s 2022 entry was truly the stuff Eurovision dreams are made of.