Eurovision 2003 Gave Us Controversy, Pitchy Vocals And Nul Points For The UK

It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is almost here – and for the first time in 25 years, the competition is back on UK soil.

This year’s event is taking place in Liverpool, on behalf of Ukraine who triumphed in 2022 with Kalush Orchestra’s rousing entry Stefania.

From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like we’re in for a night of spectacle, theatrics and camp fun – but, of course, that’s nothing new for Eurovision.

If ever you need proof, check out our nostalgic look back at what Eurovision looked like 20 years ago...

First of all, clay-mation was apparently a big thing in Latvia in 2003, as evidenced by this opening sequence

Unfortunately, they did keep returning to one motif that – when seen through a 2023 lens – doesn’t look unlike the Covid virus…

The Latvian hosts kept the colourful fun going with their entrance looks...

...which somehow slithered away from the stage when they took them off

And to anyone who ever doubted that fashion was circular, tell us you couldn’t imagine Harry Styles wearing this to the Brits

Onto the music now! Iceland opened the show with some pretty standard Europop

Austria caused a bit of a stir with their entrant Alf Poier – whose performance was a deliberate parody of Eurovision’s over the top sensibilities

Alf performed flanked by cardboard cut-outs of musicians with animal heads, starting with a somewhat plodding piece of pop which then descended into head-banging thrash metal

Shout-out to Alf’s mum, too, who provided back-up on the night

Despite him essentially poking fun at the competition, Alf was well-received on the night and finished in a respectable sixth place

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate Lou, representing Germany who served up this unapologetically cheesy little bop

Seriously, what a hun

And so were her backing singers, for that matter

tATu (yes, of All The Things She Said fame)  were the Russian representatives in 2023

They caused quite a bit of havoc over in Riga – thanks to allegations of diva behaviour, missing rehearsals due to a sore throat and shady comments about their fellow acts (most notably the aforementioned Lou from Germany!)

Despite – it has to be said – a pretty shaky performance overall, they ended up in third place which… yeah…

Spain sent what we can only describe as an absolute tune

Meanwhile, 2003 marked the first time Ukraine competed at Eurovision

Admittedly, it wasn’t Ukraine’s strongest ever showing, but it got the ball rolling for what would go on to become one of Eurovision’s strongest competing countries, with three wins in 20 years 

Romania’s Nicola deserved better for this massive banger, which clearly took heavy inspiration from  the UK garage scene

Greece certainly made an impact with this ensemble

Greece
Greece

Greece

And Estonia were genuinely ahead of their time with this entry, that wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place on some of the landfill indie albums that would come out of the UK not long after this

Regrettably, Latvia didn’t too well on their home turf with Welcome To Mars, with only Estonia giving them any points on the night (five, if you’re wondering)

Still, that’s nothing compared to Jemini’s performance for the UK, which earned us our first ever nul points

Jemini have taken a lot of heat over the years for their vocals in Riga. Of course, it’s not the best live singing we’ve ever heard, but we’re going to be honest, it actually wasn’t a great night vocally for quite a few of the acts at Eurovision in 2003 (including the eventual winners)

Cry Baby would kickstart an era of not-exactly-glowing success for the UK at Eurovision... but there’s no denying it’s still a little bit of a tune in its studio version

Adding insult to injury was the fact that a few short songs later, Sweden came out with a very, very similar number that went down a whole lot better

Fame’s catchy ditty Give Me Your Love pushed them into the top five in 2003, continuing Sweden’s long-held tradition of Eurovision success

Belgium came close to the win, which came as a shock to many as the song – although nice enough – wasn’t exactly a core-shaker

But it was Turkey who triumphed for the first – and so far only – time (they haven’t actually been part of Eurovision since 2012, either)

As you can see, it was a very close race between the top acts 

Listen, we don’t wish to be unkind but there was something going on with the sound that night 

Still, although Sertrab’s performance might have been on the pitchy side, she made up for it in enthusiasm, and the song is such an unequivocal banger that Eurovision voters clearly didn’t mind

Lorraine Kelly reading out the UK’s Eurovision points was new levels of camp

(Especially with her glass of fizz)

Later that night, she also hosted the BBC Three companion show Liquid Eurovision (in which her guests absolutely tore into poor Jemini, all while Lorraine did her best to put a positive spin on the events of the evening)

Let’s end on a high, though, with this unequivocal (and extremely underrated) winning entry from Turkey’s Sertrab

The 2023 Eurovision Song Contest final will air live on BBC One on Saturday night.

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