Yes, Eurovision Has Affected America in a Way. No, You Cannot Convince Me Otherwise.
I love Eurovision- so much that it’s pretty nothing but my life other than writing, and I’ve written two articles about the contest (both the adult one and the one for kids). I first got into the song contest in 2014 right after Conchita Wurst won for Austria. I was casually browsing on Tumblr one day (back when Tumblr was a thing), and I noticed someone had reblogged someone else discussing how awful the comments Conchita Wurst was getting right after winning. That piqued my interest, and, over the next couple of years, I slowly got into the contest more and more. My first time watching Junior Eurovision live was in 2016 while I didn’t watch the adult contest live until 2018. And as an American, it’s really hard to find a website that’ll let you watch all the shows live. And, well… the rest is history.
“But Emily, you’re American. Why are you so interested in Eurovision? It doesn’t even really affect America all that much.” First of all, I’ll get into whatever I want to be interested in. Second of all, Eurovision has had its affect on America to this very day, and this article is gonna be me explaining how. So, in a very long and detailed explanation of how Eurovision affected the United States of America and how you cannot convince me otherwise.
Famous Singers Who Have Participated in Eurovision Before Becoming Super Famous
What do ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, Celine Dion, and Lara Fabian all have in common? That was literally my first speech for my Public Speaking class during community college, but let’s get back to the question. What do ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, Celine Dion, and Lara Fabian all have in common?
They all performed in the Eurovision Song Contest before becoming worldwide stars.
Let’s start with Olivia Newton-John. You might know her as Sandra “Sandy” Olsson in the hit movie Grease or in her song “Physical”, which was a number one hit in 1981. But did you know that, once upon a time, she performed in Eurovision back in 1974? Yep, in that year, this Aussie singer and actress represented the United Kingdom with the song “Long Live Love” and placed 4th place out of seventeen countries. Had it not been for this song, who know who would’ve been Danny Zuko’s girlfriend in Grease or sung about getting physical!
So, who won Eurovision that year if Olivia didn’t? I’ll give you a hint- the winner wasn’t in Grease. In fact, none of the singer who won were in that movie, but they did have an awful lot of songs that became worldwide hits later on their careers, including their winning song for Eurovision.
If you guessed ABBA, then you’re correct! While Olivia was representing the UK with “Long Live Long”, this group was representing their home country Sweden with their song “Waterloo”. The song won first place with just twenty-four points, but that’s not the only great thing that happened to this song. “Waterloo” was a number-one hit in several countries (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, UK, and West Germany) and even peaked at number six on the Billboard 100 Charts, landing at the 49th spot on the year-end chart later in 1974. And, well… the rest is history.
Fourteen years later, we’ll also have a legendary winner become a huge star in the United States and all around the world, and this one was born right above our country! At just twenty years old, Canadian singer Celine Dion represented Switzerland with her song “Ne partez pas sans moi” in Dublin in 1988. She ended up winning the whole contest that year, but believe it or not, she only won with one more point than runner-up Scott Fitzgerald, who was representing the United Kingdom with his song “Go”.
“Ne partez pas sans moi” didn’t enter the Billboard charts in the United States, but wasn’t going to stop Celine Dion’s stardom from emerging! She got huge in the 1990s with hit songs such as “The Power of Love”, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”, “That’s the Way It Is”, “All By Myself”, and, who can forget, the Titanic song “My Heart Will Go On”. Had it been Scott Fitzgerald winning Eurovision back in 1988 instead of Celine, maybe we would’ve been hearing him singing “My Heart Will Go On” for Titanic. …Nah! I just can’t hear him singing that song. “My Heart Will Go On” is so obviously for Celine Dion; giving it to someone else would be blasphemy if anything!
Meanwhile, in the same year, a young Belgian singer named Lara Fabian placed 4th out of twenty-one countries with her song “Croire”. No, she didn’t represent Belgium; she represented Luxembourg. And despite Luxembourg being a tiny country, Lara Fabian had a huge voice- a beautiful voice while I’m at it! Despite not having anywhere as many hits as her fellow competitor Celine Dion, she did peak at number thirty-two on Billboard with the song “I Will Love Again” in 2000, so that’s something. Still, let’s give props to these amazing singers! Had it not been for Eurovision, we Americans would’ve never heard of them or their amazing songs.
Two More Eurovision Stars Who Have Recently Become Famous Thanks to Eurovision
Though Eurovision hasn’t produced as many famous singers for America as it did back in the good old days, we can thank both 2019 and 2021 for giving us two winners who have charted on the American Billboard charts. So, let me show you Tel Aviv and open up to Rotterdam.
Ever since the semi-finals were introduced to Eurovision in 2004, the Netherlands has had back luck qualifying. As a matter of fact, they only qualified once from their semi-final- the first one in 2004. That all changed in 2013 when Anouk represented the country with her song “Birds” and not only qualified for the grand final, but placed 9th out of twenty-six countries. Nowadays, they always seem to qualify for the final (only missing out once in 2015).
But did it ever seem like they were going to win again? They came close in 2014, but the last time the Netherlands had won Eurovision was way back in 1975. That, of course, all changed when Duncan Laurence represented the country in 2019 with his song “Arcade” and won with 498 points. Now, that didn’t mean “Arcade” was gonna immediately become successful in America (though it did pretty much become successful immediately in Europe). No, it would only take until the second half of 2020 for this song to become a big hit in America thanks to TikTok. “Arcade” peaked at number thirty on Billboard Hot 100 but has since left the chart, spending twenty-four weeks on the charts.
Speaking of Eurovision stars becoming huge thanks to TikTok, did you hear about Italian rock band Måneskin winning Eurovision in 2021 with their song “Zitti e buoni”? What’s that? You haven’t heard of the song “Zitti e buoni”, but you have heard of Måneskin? Oh, that’s right. You’ve heard of their cover of “Beggin’” by the Four Seasons. Well… they have won Eurovision this year with the song “Zitti e buoni” (my favorite one in 2021), but it’s nice to see the band hitting the Billboard charts and peaking at number sixteen so far and possibly climbing higher and higher on the charts. I guess, in the immortal words of lead singer Damiano David’s words, rock and roll never dies.
A Little Honorable Mention
You’ve probably never heard of this guy before, but this is Julio Iglesias. He represented the country of Spain in Eurovision way back in 1970 with his song “Gwendolyne” and placed 4th out of twelve countries. Despite only having two hits in 1984 (“All of You” and “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”), that’s not why I’m bringing him up. I’m only bringing him up because he’s the father of famous singer Enrique Iglesias. Yes, that Enrique Iglesias.
Eurovision Songs on the Billboard Hot 100
I’ve already talked about “Arcade” and “Waterloo” peaking at number thirty and number six respectively, but there have also been plenty of Eurovision songs that have become hits on the Billboard Hot 100 over the years- even if you’ve never known or realized it before.
The 1970s was a pretty decent time for Eurovision songs to enter the Billboard Hot 100, and no, it’s not just because of ABBA’s “Waterloo” being on the charts back in 1974. In 1976, Brotherhood of Man represented the United Kingdom with their song “Save Your Kisses for Me” and beat seventeen other countries. The song peaked at number twenty-seven on the charts, which would make a song a moderate hit, but it topped the Easy Listening charts in the United States. Two other cover versions of this song charted on Billboard, too- Bobby Vinton’s (peaked at seventy-five) and Margo Smith’s (peaked at ten on Country chart). I’m honestly kind of glad this song charted on Billboard because I swear to God I’ve heard this song before when I was a little kid. Who knows… maybe this song was just in a fever dream I had. Oh, well. The song is great to listen to!
A little over twenty years over, another singer represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest, but she didn’t win like Brotherhood of Man did. She did, however, fare better on the Billboard Hot 100 than the seventies band. For those of you who may remember this song, I’m, of course, talking about Gina G and her song “Ooh Aah… Just a Bit” (Yes, that’s the actual title of the song.). This song may have only placed eighth out of twenty-three countries, but it peaked at number twelve on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent a whopping thirty weeks there, landing at number forty-one on the 1997 Year-End Chart. Quite impressive, isn’t it?
But of course, it doesn’t have to be just the United Kingdom’s entries filling up the Billboard charts, and the songs don’t even have to be in English. In 1973, the band Mocedades represented their country Spain with the song “Eres tú” and placed second out of seventeen countries. But that’s not the end of this song’s journey. “Eres tú” had a surprising impact in the United States, peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 and landing at number sixty-two on the 1974 Year-End Chart- the same year-end chart as “Waterloo” of all songs. This song has been so impactful, in fact, that even Riverdale- yes, that Riverdale- has covered the song. Imagine that!
I’ve been saving the big one for last. This song topped the charts for five weeks and was the number-one song for 1958. This song is also the first Grammy winner for both “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year” and is currently the only Eurovision song and the only song not in English to achieve this honor. Yes, I’m talking about Domenico Modugno’s “Nel blu, dipinto di blu”, more commonly known as “Volare”.
This song was everywhere in the late 1950s and is still around to this very day. And really, can you really blame anyone? So many famous singers have covered this song (Bobby Rydell, Dean Martin, Al Martino, The McGuire Sisters, and so many more), and you wanna know the funniest part of this? “Nel blu, dipinto di blu” didn’t even win Eurovision that year; it placed third out of ten countries. France won in 1958, and really, who even remembers that song? I don’t remember “Dors, mon amour” being in any commercials in the United States ever.
Of course, I can mention Eurovision songs that have charted via covers- “L’amour est bleu” by Vicky Leandros (Luxembourg 1967) and “Al di lá” by Betty Curtis (Italy 1961), and I can mention other Eurovision that have charted on Billboard but weren’t big hits- “Congratulations” by Cliff Richards (United Kingdom 1968), “Knock, Knock Who’s There” by Mary Hopkin (United Kingdom 1970), and “Piove (Ciao, ciao banbina)” by Domenico Modugno (Italy 1959), and I can also mention Eurovision stars who didn’t have their competing songs on the charts, but they had other songs (Lulu and Mouth and McNeal), and I could even mention Epic Sax Guy (Moldova 2010), but that would take a long, long time, and I’ve already typed quite enough already.
I love Eurovision- as you can tell by how much I’ve written about both here and in two previous articles, and it’s obviously had a big impact on me. But it hasn’t had a big impact just on me, but on the American music scene as well, and so many people don’t seem to realize it. From Celine Dion and ABBA to “Volare”, it’s clear to see exactly how much of a huge impact the Eurovision Song Contest has had on the American public. And I couldn’t be any prouder of it. And I seriously hope Eurovision continues impacting America for a good, long time.