As the dust settles on another Eurovision Language (ahem) Song Contest, how did non-English entries actually perform on the night? There’s no better time than Eurovision Boxing Day to take stock (not least to try and distract ourselves from the post-contest blues).
The initial signs were good. The 2023 contest had already beaten 2022 in terms of language diversity, with fourteen languages on offer amongst the usual sea of English. And the semifinals didn’t deprive us of too much, either. All the non-English entries from the Tuesday show made it through, with only Romania falling at the first hurdle on Thursday. That was no issue for the Romanian language in any case, which had made it through on the back of the Moldovan entry.
So how did all that lovely non-English fare in the final?
A High Bar, Évidement
The bar was high. Of the twelve languages that made it alongside English in the 2022 final, seven ended up in the top ten – and four of those in the top five. Notably, the winner – Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra – won the whole contest with a song in Ukrainian.
This year’s grand final saw five languages other than English land a prestige top ten spot. That sounds comparably decent, although one country, Czechia, added two extra languages thanks to its polyglot lyrics, and the winner, Tattoo by Loreen, was in English. Incidentally, Swedish has been absent from contest entries since 2012, when Finland sang in svenska – and Loreen won for the first time, in English.
It’s not all gloom for non-English songs, though. Finland, sending Finnish for the first time since 2015, achieved with its runner-up spot the highest placing in Eurovision history for the language (but not the country, which won in English in 2007). And of course, there is that remarkable multilingual entry from Czechia to celebrate.
Why sing in one language when you can sing in four?
English = Eurovision Success?
It’s worth remembering, though, that we needn’t consider English lyrics to be a path to wider success. Five out of the ten most recent winning Eurovision songs have been either completely, or partially, in other languages. That compares to just one non-English song from the decade before that, so we live in an age where language diversity is no barrier to victory.
Bearing that in mind, there’s perhaps a lesson here for some struggling countries. 2023 German representations Lord of the Lost took their last place for Blood and Glitter with great grace, passing on the baton to future German representatives to “break the curse”. But the last time Germany sent German was in 2007, with a string of notably anglophone songs behind its four-contest run of rock-bottom placings.
Maybe it’s time to give Deutsch a chance again?