Eurovision Song Contest: 10 star-making performances, from Abba to Celine Dion

After a toned-down event last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the annual contest returns this week

Abba and Celine Dion are both former winners of the Eurovision Song Contest. AP, Rex Features
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The coronavirus pandemic put a dampener on the longest-running international TV music competition last year. And this year, despite the Ukraine war looming over proceedings at the annual Eurovision Song Contest, the beats, kitsch and glitz are back.

Set to be held in Turin, Italy, the 66th annual contest, which was cancelled in 2020, will begin with two semi-finals on Tuesday and Thursday, followed by the grand final on Saturday, May 14.

A total of 40 countries will compete this year, with Russia barred from the competition following President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Italian host broadcaster Rai announced that the trio of singer Laura Pausini, presenter Alessandro Cattelan and pop star Mika will share presenting duties.

Italian rock band Maneskin, who triumphed at the 2021 contest, will perform during the ceremony, delivering a live premiere of their new single Supermodel.

Ukrainian folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra, have been tipped by bookmakers to win, with their rousing song Stefania, while Italian acts Mahmood and Blanco, who will be performing the song Brividi, are second favourites.

Originally created to promote tourism, the contest features industry experts, as well as viewers from each participating country casting a number of votes for contestants. The song that receives the most points after every country has voted is named the winner.

The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the spectacle, says the event draws a television audience of about 200 million each year.

Here are 10 memorable performances over the years, from Abba to Celine Dion.

Cliff Richard: 'Congratulations' (1968)

Richard was already an established pop star when he was chosen to represent the UK at the contest, held at London's Royal Albert Hall. Although he didn't win, coming in second place to Spain's victorious entry, Richard's song became a massive hit. He represented the UK again in 1973 in Luxembourg, performing the song Power to All Our Friends, which also became an international hit. Richard, now 81 and one of the biggest-selling artists of all time, finished third that year.

Lulu: 'Boom Bang-a-Bang' (1969)

Like Richard, Scottish singer and actress Lulu already had a Billboard hit when she was chosen to represent the UK at the contest in Madrid. But Boom Bang-a-Bang, which won the contest that year – although it was tied with entries from Spain, the Netherlands and France – would become one of the most memorable songs of her career.

Lulu, who was once married to Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, went on to have a successful career in both music and television in the 1970s, and famously made a comeback in the 1990s with Take That's No 1 hit Relight My Fire.

Lulu, now 73, last toured along with Take That in 2019 on their Greatest Hits tour.

Julio Iglesias: 'Gwendolyne' (1970)

A former professional footballer, Iglesias released his first album in 1968 before he represented Spain in the 1970 contest, held in Amsterdam that year. Although he finished only fourth with his performance of Gwendolyne, Iglesias would soon see his fame spread across Europe, with No 1 hits in Germany, Italy and Spain following soon after.

Iglesias, now 78, moved to the US in Florida in 1979 and released his first English-language hit that year. The father of pop star Enrique Iglesias is still one of the biggest-selling Latin singers in history.

Abba: 'Waterloo' (1974)

Undoubtedly one of the most successful music acts to come out of the Eurovision Song Contest, the foursome didn't even qualify for the national competition in 1973. But the upbeat Waterloo, from their second album of the same name released the following year, proved to be hit, going on to bring home the prize for Sweden, the country's first win.

One of the most commercially successful pop acts of all time, Abba had many chart-topping hits from 1974 to 1983. In 2005, a poll to mark the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest named Waterloo the best song ever in the competition.

Celine Dion: 'Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi' (1988)

One of the best-selling music stars to come out of Canada, Dion had already won a number of awards before she represented Switzerland in the competition.

Dion, who had been singing since the age of 12, exclusively sang only in French then, performing the winning song Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (Don't Leave Without Me).

She became an international star overnight and released her first English language album Unison – her ninth studio album – in 1990.

At 54, Dion now has 27 studio albums to her name. The My Heart Will Go On singer's 12th English album, Courage, was released in 2019.

Gina G: 'Ooh Aah ... Just a Little Bit' (1996)

A massive hit in the 1990s, Australian singer Gina G's single propelled her only to eighth position in the competition, during which she represented the UK, but turned her into an international star overnight.

Ooh Aah ... Just a Little Bit hit No 1 in the UK following the competition and charted for many weeks in the US. It also spawned her hit debut album, Fresh!, which was released in 1997.

A lawsuit with a former manager reportedly stalled Gina G's career soon after, and she released her second album Get Up & Dance in 2005. She hasn't released any new material since her 2011 single Next 2 You.

Katrina and the Waves: 'Love Shine a Light' (1997)

Known for the 1985 classic Walking on Sunshine, this British-American band made a surprise comeback when they performed at the competition in Dublin, representing the UK.

Love Shine a Light would go on to win the contest, marking a resurgence of sorts for the band. They were, however, unable to capitalise on their newfound fame, eventually disbanding the following year.

Katrina and the Waves' win marks the last time the UK won the Eurovision Song Contest.

Lordi: 'Hard Rock Hallelujah' (2006)

Finland's masked heavy metal rockers won their country's first victory with their soaring Hard Rock Hallelujah, which became an instant international hit. The song was also the first heavy metal entry to win the contest, which was held in Athens that year.

The band, which has gone through a number of changes in their line-up, released their 10th studio album, Killection, in 2020, with a follow-up released in November 2021. This was a box set called Lordiversity, which consists of the band's 11th to 17th studio albums.

Loreen: 'Euphoria' (2012)

Although already a known face in Sweden, Loreen earned international fame following her win, with her song going on to top international charts after the contest.

Her debut album, Heal, released the same year, was a commercial and critical success in Europe and led to a global tour.

Loreen, the daughter of Moroccan immigrants, released her second album, Ride, in 2017.

Daoi Freyr: 'Think About Things' (2020)

Following his win of the national competition in Iceland, Freyr, known popularly as Daoi, was a favourite to bring home Eurovision glory. But after the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of the May contest in 2020, all hopes of a win began to fade.

That is until Twitter users began to upload "quarantine videos" of themselves featuring Think About Things, helping the song go viral. The music video has been viewed more than 27 million times on YouTube.

Daoi came fourth at last year's Eurovision Song Contest with a new song called 10 Years.

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