Absolutely everyone knows that Eurovision propelled Sweden’s finest export, ABBA – who recently delighted fans by announcing the release of a new studio album (their first in 40 years!) and series of ABBAtar concerts – into the global stratosphere (and our hearts) via Waterloo.
But we can almost guarantee (unless you’re a Eurovision tragic!) that you didn’t realise at least half of these half-dozen global superstars competed in this annual song contest/craptacular glitzfest.
Julio Iglesias (1970)
Host city: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Enrique’s dad, Julio, represented Spain before he was a household name. A singer-songwriter and former professional footballer – you can check out some of his sick ball tricks during the cheesy package that precedes his Eurovision performance – Julio is an absolute dreamboat, and his pathos-drenched vocals add extra swoon factor.
Sporting a monochrome look of vivid turquoise – matching suit, shirt and tie combo – the Latin crooner performed Gwendolyne on the Eurovision stage, accompanied by three beauties on BVs (clad in matchy-matchy powder pink). Be sure to watch this clip right through ‘til the end, ‘cause Old Mate almost stacks it while walking upstage, backwards, before taking a final bow.
Shortly after his glorious Eurovision appearance, Julio had a #1 hit in many European countries with Un Canto A Galicia (sung in Galician), then went on to sell 100 million records – in 14 different languages – worldwide.
Olivia Newton-John (1974)
Host city: Brighton, England
Someone must’ve told ‘Our Livvie’ to be a bit flouncier and bouncier with her (daggy) dancing, and these moves don’t really suit the song, Long Live Love (the beginning of which, instrumentally, calls to mind Ravel’s Boléro). And check out these bizarre lyrics: “On a wet day, dry day, great to be alive day/ Brother takes the stand/ Cymbals ringing, everybody singing/ With the Sally Annie Band…”
Representing the UK (where she was born), Olivia’s frilly, baby-blue dress evokes a zhoozed-up priest’s robe and she’s backed by five ladies – all dressed in darker-blue hued maxi dresses – on BVs. ONJ has the voice of an angel, but this particular song – which the UK public voted for her to sing – kinda sucks, and doesn’t really do her justice.
Even Olivia admitted during an interview that Long Live Love wasn’t her preference: “I wanted this other song called Angel Eyes to win, that I loved. It was such a beautiful song. Anyway, it didn’t win. So then I had to go sing [Long Live Love] for the country, not liking it, which wasn’t easy.”
ONJ was up against probably the toughest competition in Eurovision history: ABBA. But, let’s face it, Australia’s sweetheart went on to become a huge star in her own right about four years later when Grease-mania dominated the world over.
Celine Dion (1988)
Host city: Dublin, Ireland
For some reason, this one doesn’t surprise us one iota. The then-unknown French-Canadian future-My Heart Will Go On singer represented Switzerland (HUH!?) and took the crown by just one point with her stirring rendition of the song Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi. Celine told a reporter she actually knew she would win, because people kept telling her so. Check out her bizarro all-white ensemble, which teams a double-breasted blazer with foofy skirt (that appears to be falling down) and pointy kitten heels – so ‘80s!
The following year, Celine opened the 1989 Eurovision Song Contest in Lausanne with her song Where Does My Heart Beat Now, which became a global top 5 hit.
Katrina & the Waves (1997)
Host city: Dublin, Ireland
All together now: “I’m walking on sunshine/ WOO-Oooh!” Katrina & the Waves released this poptastic earworm in 1985, but didn’t hit the Eurovision stage ‘til 1997 when they snatched the crown (by a then-record margin of 70 points!). Dunno about you, but we reckon Katrina sounds real nervous during the first verse – while representing the UK, singing Love Shine a Light – with only a coupla tambas punctuating occasional beats by way of accompaniment. But it truly is a winning song that ever-so gradually sneaks up on you such that you barely even notice until you’re 100% invested and singing along, feeling the love, in full voice: “Let our love shine a light, in every corner of the world…”
Also the lead single from Katrina & the Waves’ ninth studio album Walk on Water, Love Shine a Light was the group’s biggest success since Walking on Sunshine 12 years earlier.
Engelbert Humperdinck (2012)
Host city: Bazu, Azerbaijan
Man, this dude looks the spitting image of Neil Diamond at the beginning of this Eurovision performance! Engelbert’s every gesture is obviously carefully choreographed, because he looks uncomfortable, and you can actually see the cogs turning in his brain trying to remember his counts: ‘Point into crowd, head left, then right.’ Even the explosive pyros to close couldn’t save this stinker. “I did my best for my country and the rest was out of my hands,” Englebert commented following his Eurovision experience.
To be fair to Engelbert, he does have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has sold in excess of 140 million records worldwide across his storied career, which spans five-plus decades.
Bonnie Tyler (2013)
Host city: Malmo, Sweden
Another bland AF ESC entry representing the UK! Most will know this raspy-voiced Welsh icon for her hit singles including 1983’s Total Eclipse of the Heart and 1984’s Holding Out for a Hero (from Footloose). But this vanilla number, Believe in Me, does nothing to showcase her enviable, soaring vocal range and feisty spirit.
The judges obviously agreed with us, but Bonnie clearly had a blast taking part. “Of course I would have liked to bring [the crystal mic trophy] back to the UK but it’s been a night to remember,” Tyler said following the event, before adding, “I’m so glad and so happy that I did it because it was an incredible experience. It was like the Grammy Awards all over again.”