Eurovision 2016: The Definitive(-ish) Ranking of Non-Qualifiers

Oh yeah, I’m going the whole hog this year. Let’s do this.

16. Switzerland (Rykka: ‘The Last Of Our Kind’ – Semi Final 2, 18th place)

Rykka

This year’s Eurovision Wooden Spoon goes to the Swiss, who decided to send Tatiana Maslany in one of her less-convincing wigs from Orphan Black with a deeply drippy ballad. There were numerous problems with this entry: the song was boring, Rykka kept doing this weird little half-curtsey over and over again like she’d forgotten her pre-performance toilet break, and perhaps most importantly, she was hopelessly out of tune about 98 per cent of the time. After watching the first semi-final I didn’t think anyone would fare worse than Finland this year but congratulations, Switzerland, you proved me wrong.

15. Finland (Sandhja: ‘Sing It Away’ – Semi Final 1, 15th place)

Sandhja

Perhaps we should have sensed the impending Scandi semi-final bloodbath this year when the whole competition opened with Finland’s decision to send this. Never has the hashtag “#fin” seemed so much like a cry for release from the entire audience. The song itself wasn’t terrible, but it was marred by Sandhja not being able to sing in tune, her tendency to go BRAP BRAP BRAP every so often and frankly by that unsightly powder-blue jumpsuit as well. Still, if there was any solace to be taken from this entry, it’s that each nation on this Earth apparently has its own Jessie J to endure. Perhaps we should just round them all up and drop them on an island somewhere. A soundproofed island.

14. FYR Macedonia (Kaliopi: ‘Dona’ – Semi Final 2, 11th place)

Kaliopi

I had to fight the urge to rank this one higher because it was completely hilarious – a Macedonian hen night singalong in tribute to their mate Donna – and it might have even cracked the top 10 if Kaliopi hadn’t made that disastrous attempt at the whistle register right at the end. My ears are still recovering.

13. Ireland (Nicky Byrne: ‘Sunlight’ – Semi Final 2, 15th place)

Nicky Byrne

Ireland have struggled at Eurovision in the last couple of years and when this song was first released, I thought it might be the one to break their run of poor form in the semi-finals – it was bright and catchy and sung by a former member of Westlife, which showed at least a little increase in effort on their part. Unfortunately, that initial promise from the radio edit didn’t translate into the performance on the night, which was not so much sunny as it was soporific, and Nicky’s terrible diction robbed the chorus of whatever impact it could have had. Maybe it’s time for Ireland to just accept that they need to make Eurovision Jedward’s full-time job.

12. Montenegro (Highway: ‘The Real Thing’ – Semi Final 1, 13th place)

Highway

Imagine if, somewhere between the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, Bucky Barnes joined a boyband in order to work through some of his complicated emotions, this is very close to what that might look and sound like.

11. Greece (Argo: ‘Utopian Land’ – Semi Final 1, 16th place)

Argo

Argo fuck yourself! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) This was the first time since the introduction of the semi-final system that Greece failed to qualify for Saturday’s final, so I guess “Greek rapping” is Europe’s breaking point. I had quite the complicated emotional journey with this one, in that I hated it for the first minute or so but then it just became so gleefully insane that by the end I loved it. Think of this as Stockholm Syndrome: The Musical, I guess.

10. Albania (Eneda Tarifa: ‘Fairytale’ – Semi Final 2, 16th place)

Eneda Tarifa

There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with this one – it was a well-constructed ballad, sung competently – but for my money by the time it came around (in the penultimate performance slot in the second semi-final) it just wasn’t offering enough that was exciting or different to really motivate people who’d probably already chosen their allegiances. That said, one of the most heartbreaking images for me on Thursday night was the shot in the green room right before the last qualifying country was announced, of Eneda with her fingers crossed, desperately hoping she’d get through but clearly knowing she wouldn’t. With our flahsay-dah attitude to Eurovision in this country, it’s easy to forget how much it means to a lot of the other competing nations.

09. Bosnia & Herzegovina (Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner and Jala: ‘Ljubav je’ – Semi-Final 1, 11th place)

Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner and Jala

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I took against this entry straight away for forcing me to readjust the width of both the “country” and “artist” columns of my Eurovision spreadsheet. Also, guys, I know you’re busy emoting your struggle here, but if you look to the side a bit you’ll see that you can actually just walk around that barbed wire fence and then you can be together? Ha, bet they feel foolish now.

08. Estonia (Jüri Pootsman: ‘Play’ – Semi Final 1, 18th place)

Jüri Pootsman

The song itself was fine, but the performance was just so creepy. There wasn’t exactly a shortage of creepy dudes at Eurovision this year (I see you Netherlands, San Marino, let’s throw Poland in there as well), but Jüri took it up to 11 by throwing a card trick into the middle of his performance and really coming across like that guy who corners your friend in the pub and is never exactly aggressive but also just won’t leave her the fuck alone. (“Pootsman”, though. Tee hee hee.)

07. Slovenia (ManuElla: ‘Blue and Red’ – Semi Final 2, 14th place)

ManuElla

I saw a lot of people saying “Slovenian Taylor Swift” here and there is more than a passing physical resemblance, but as she yodelled her way through a pleasant but forgettable pop song, she put me more in mind of Jennifer Paige. And yes, of course she got a few bonus points for the entirely gratuitous shirtless man flying around on a pole, with me if not the voters of Europe.

06. Denmark (Lighthouse X: ‘Soldiers Of Love – Semi Final 2, 17th place)

Lighthouse X

Look at them. It’s like an entire issue of Non-Threatening Boys magazine came to life and formed a boyband, isn’t it? The entire thing was cheesy as hell and about 20 years out of date, but they were so sincere and SUCH dorks that I loved them all the same. And then I found out that they were all ambassadors for non-profit organisations and that they would be donating the profits from their earnings to charity, and I basically wanted to adopt them all and carry them around in my pocket.

05. San Marino (Serhat: ‘I Didn’t Know’ – Semi Final 1, 12th place)

Serhat

Eurovision masochist that I am, there will always be a part of me that will stan for San Marino and their Little Engine That Could angle in the competition, though I thought this might be the year that would break me. When I first saw that they were sending Lounge Lizard Jeremy Corbyn with a frankly unnerving love song, I thought I might have to admit that even I have my limits where San Marino is concerned, but then completely unexpectedly Serhat turned up on the night and gave a performance that was vastly better than a lot of the people who actually qualified for the final and I felt slightly cheated that he didn’t make it. Oh, San Marino. I wish I knew how to quit you.

04. Moldova (Lidia Isac: ‘Falling Stars’ – Semi Final 1, 17th place)

Lidia Isac

That Tim Peake just gets everywhere, doesn’t he? I’m surprised they didn’t get him to read out our jury results on Saturday, but I suppose you just can’t say no to an offer like Richard Osman. Anyway, this was a so-so effort until the spaceman appeared and then it became 100 per cent amazing, well done Moldova.

03. Belarus (Ivan: ‘Help You Fly’ – Semi Final 2, 12th place)

Ivan

He wanted to perform naked with live wolves, but had to settle for appearing naked on the VT screen with a CGI wolf and then doing the rest of it with his clobber on. Despite that setback, Ivan absolutely delivered the insanity that he promised and should be commended. (He really couldn’t sing, bless him, but that was so far from ever being the point of this performance it didn’t matter.)

02. Iceland (Greta Salóme: ‘Hear Them Calling – Semi Final 1, 14th place)

Greta Salóme

If great staging can lift a mediocre song to success (and I think that’s true – if it hadn’t been for that little CGI gonk scratching his head and looking up at Måns Zelmerlöw last year we’d probably have been in Moscow or Rome rather than Stockholm this year), then arguably bad staging can sink a contender too. I think that’s what happened here: if you listen to Greta’s song in isolation it’s an absolute banger, but someone in her creative team made the terrible decision to have low-budget finger puppetry going on behind her that made it look like she was fighting the Master Hand from Super Smash Bros. I hope someone got fired for that blunder.

01. Norway (Agnete: ‘Icebreaker’ – Semi Final 2, 13th place)

Agnete

Whatever other accusations you might level at Norway this year, you can’t say they didn’t try to break new boundaries – it just seems as though they committed commercial suicide in the process. I suspect the problem was that this didn’t feel like one song so much as two separate songs bolted together, and while that’s not necessarily a dealbreaker (Girls Aloud did it successfully with ‘Biology’), here I think it was a step too far when the chorus slowed down the tempo instead of speeding it up, and people found it just too jarring. Oh well, I liked it, and that’s what matters, right?

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