Empowering Eurovision

In 2018 Israel won with a song that was about empowerment, so we want to hear from members what from Eurovision has empowered you. We asked our members to tell us about the song, lyric, artist or performance from Eurovision that they personally found empowering or inspiring. Below are some of the entries we have received.

Evan - I discovered Eurovision in the late 2000s but it wasn’t until 2011 that I started listening to the songs ahead of time and anticipating the live shows. That year, one of my favorites was the Norwegian selection, “Haba Haba,” by Stella Mwangi.  It was a plucky little earworm preaching a sweet message about working hard to achieve one’s goals but not forgetting to appreciate life's small joys. When the semifinals rolled around, I eagerly tuned in and saw Stella hopping around the stage, some tufts of fabric bouncing behind her as though she were a little happy bird. It made me love the song even more, so you can imagine my surprise when she didn’t qualify for the final. Perhaps it was just a little too earnest for some. Later that summer, I took a road trip with some friends. Each morning, we’d listen to upbeat music to pump us up for the next stage of our journey. Naturally, I introduced them to “Haba Haba.” They loved it. One friend, who was working as a teacher in a rural part of Arkansas, even returned home to introduce it to her students to motivate them to get their work done. The students were so enamored that they found the "Haba Haba" performance on YouTube, learned Stella’s dance, and played the song periodically in class throughout the entire school year. To me, Eurovision is one of the “little things in life that's gonna make me happy" as it regularly brings us tunes like “Haba Haba” that inspire folks from Amsterdam to Australia to Arkansas.

Chris Z - Flashback to the mid 1990’s.  The setting is a quiet cul-de-sac in a sprawling Adelaide suburb in quaint South Australia (sounds a bit Neighbours right?).   It’s a Saturday night in May and my entire family is huddled in the lounge room, which was only ever used on special occasions for “classy” guests or visiting relatives from Germany.  The normally dormant television is on.  Guests are chomping on snacks in a space that rarely saw food or, heaven forbid, drinks consumed.  But on this Saturday night things are different.   It’s Eurovision night.   There’s quite the hubbub in the room as my extended family of aunts, cousins and grandparents all chat excitedly.  And then that music starts.   It has the desired impact sending a little shot of thrill through the room. There’s a “shhh” from my Nanna and excited applause from my sister and then the room is silent.   Suddenly bursting from the box comes Terry Wogan’s distinctive voice.  My Mum titters in excitement.  The Eurovision Song Contest had begun. Eurovision had the magic of uniting my family.  It empowered and allowed us to be proud and celebrate our German migrant heritage.   It provided us a glimpse of the Europe my parents and grandparents had left, not of their choosing, years earlier.  It connected us in a way I still cannot quite explain in words.  And it continues to do this decades on.

Alan N - Eurovision empowers me by making me more of a Global Citizen. In the last three years since discovering the Song Contest I’ve re-learned some European basics (flags, geography), but also find myself continuing to look up other facts and details about country and culture. The moment that I became hooked was seeing Norway 2015 and “A Monster Like Me.” While other songs from that year took longer to steal my heart, this one was love at first sight. It made me want to dig deeper, and discover more songs from this crazy song contest that my friends had just introduced me to. I am SO glad I did. 

Roy - As a 21 year old I was invited in 1983 to attend the Eurovision song contest in Munich after Nicole won in 1982 for Germany with EIN BISSCHIEN FRIEDEN, composed by Ralph Siegel and Bernd Meinunger. I was invited as I was the only NON GERMAN speaking person who was a member of Nicole's fanclub and so knew of her prior to her victory. I was very much into German schlager music (and still is). It changed my life completely - a wonderful competition where you can hear songs in many languages by artists from so many countries - that is what I wanted to hear - after all in South Africa we just got to hear UK and US songs in English. In 1993 when the political situation changed in South African I was able to attend it personally each year and Lisbon was my 26th in a row. Eurovision also ended my working life and career in 2000 as my boss insisted I go on leave in March when I had applied for leave for May (when Eurovision is) and he signed it on 26 January that year. I went to court, won the case and went on early retirement and since 2000 never worked again and Eurovision and music became my 9 to 5 job. So really Eurovision has empowered me in a way it did very few people especially someone from a non participating country.

Jose - Eurovision has impacted my life in more ways than one. Aside from the exposure to various genres of European music, it allowed me to meet different people (some of whom I consider good friends), understand the continent’s culture and history, and experience what it feels like to be united by music. Little did I know that Eurovision can empower me at my work. Alright, a little background. I am an international school elementary teacher. Being an expat teacher, I get to travel to different countries for work and I also get to teach students from different countries. It was in 2016 when I had the chance to have a Swedish student for the very first time (I was teaching in the Middle East at that time). For international schools, it is quite common to have new students with little to no English. He had difficulties expressing himself and communicating to everyone, especially on his first few weeks in school. There were even days that he just preferred to be by himself. Then one day, while I was working alone in my classroom and Måns Zelmerlow’s Heroes was being played, he entered my room to get his water bottle that he forgot to bring. With a surprised look on his face, he told me that he knew that song and that song is from his country. That ‘incident’ made us connect and that became a way for us to become close. We talked further about the other Swedish songs that we both knew (thank God for Melodifestivalen!!). I found out that he also loves Dolly Style and FO&O. Every time I play our songs in class, he gives me a smile and we dance along in front of everyone. My experience is another testimony of music’s… and Eurovision’s power to bind us together and empower us to be our best, in my case, to be the loving and caring teacher that I am!

Rodrigo - I always thought that my Eurovision journey was a rather unusual one, being from a non-participating country really far away from Europe where, I assumed, no one would really know what the contest was even about, or even that it existed in the first place. The magnet of Eurovision for me was, at the beginning, competition between countries. I found it fascinating that countries in Europe would be so keen to fight each other with good spirits in a singing competition. I finally managed to travel to the contest in Oslo, and that unleashed my inner internationalist more than ever. Meeting people from so many places, with so many stories and all walks of life was really empowering. It made me realise that was the world I wanted to be a part of, where national barriers come down and everyone gets together to celebrate music in a friendly way. The journey has been great so far, and I continue to meet wonderful people and travel to every corner of Europe be it for a party, a national final, or the contest itself. I have now attended every year since 2010 and plan to continue to make this my yearly tradition.

Luis - My story is not about a certain or specific song or performance from the Eurovision, it's about the Eurovision itself  which as inspired me since 1998 when i started watching the contest. Because of the Eurovision i started to travel abroad and meeting a lot of new people and friends; leaving behind fears and shy. Now I  can say that Eurovision has changed my life and not in the fact that has changed my lifestyle but has changed me, now  i am an outgoing person and as many of the other Eurofans full of hope for the ESC season begin. That's how the Eutovision has inspired and changed me.

Osmar - There are several ESC songs that have a special meaning for me. In the last edition, the one that have a larger impact for me was “We Got Love” by Jessica Mauboy. I have had a few problematic years personally and a lot of the times I’ve felt tired of fighting and continue. And when you turn on the news or read a newspaper, it seems like everything is on a downward spiral. So, everytime I was like that in the past months, I listened to that song and felt better almost immediately. Jessica does a great job lifting us up, both in the studio version and it her Eurovision presentation. “I won't throw my hands up to surrender, ‘cause love is stronger than fire, so don’t give up.” It might be singing out loud or dancing alone like crazy, this song helps me to feel better and keep hoping for a better future.

Belinda – In Vienna in 2015 I was lucky enough to be in the elevator in my hotel with one of that year’s acts, Guy Sebastian from Australia. We struck up a conversation that for me summed up Eurovision and has stuck with me ever since. Guy was talking about the many conversations he had had during the contest with fans and artists that had opened his eyes to what Eurovision means to people. We talked about the underlying culture of the contest – that of tolerance and understanding and how for many, coming to Eurovision was an opportunity to be yourself without judgement. This is what makes Eurovision so special to so many people – and seeing people happy in their own skin and proud of who they are is inspiring to me.

Andrew - The most obvious choice in my mind is 'Rise Like A Phoenix' from Eurovision 2014. However, despite the apparent obvious nature of the choice, it remains an important inspirational theme that too few have had an opportunity to embody. Conchita's message is one of strength and perseverance, and while I am fortunate to live in a region that has largely accepted a broad range of lifestyles, I am acutely aware of the many in this world that fight each day to overcome fear and remain strong in the face of adversity. It is important to continue celebrating the song and the sentiment that believing in one's strength is more powerful than any of us realize. What made the song even more inspirational, was standing in the stadium hearing representatives from an entire continent singing along. It made me feel connected to people across the globe, and allowed me to believe that the message would be pervasive, not matter how long it took.

Tony - I always thought that Israel’s Hovi Star was a pretty inspiring Eurovision performer, especially for the LGBT community. He was an openly gay man who just did his own thing during the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, and it was very empowering to see him do it.  Every interview I saw he came across as someone who was very comfortable in his own skin and had no problems showing off his left of centre attitude and appearance. I just thought wow, that’s really going to inspire some queer kids who are watching out there.  This must have been especially the case when they saw Hovi’s performance being well received and scoring highly in the Grand Final.  Hovi was always very reverent to past LGBT greats such as Dana International. How he addressed and forgave the homophobic behaviour he experienced from Russian border police was pretty amazing too. I think he’s a great role model, very inspiring indeed.

Shirley - Monika Kuszynska of Poland is a true inspiration.   She has an absolutely beautiful voice and is a strong, talented woman whose story reminds me to look beyond whatever issue I am dealing with at the moment, appreciate the wonderful life I have and continue moving forward no matter what obstacles arise.  She has said that it was a very difficult road for her to return to singing and performing – and she had doubts that she would be accepted.  That honesty and the bravery she exhibited in continuing to strive for her dreams and get back onto the stage is an empowering reminder that life may not turn out exactly the way you had planned, but there’s another path to be taken to reach whatever you aspire to.  She’s my hero!

Jack - A few years ago, I moved to Israel, which was a huge adjustment for me both culturally and intrapersonally.  I loved the country as soon as I arrived and while I often felt welcomed and accepted, there were plenty of times when I felt like an outsider in a strange new land.  It was during my first few months in Israel that I was introduced to Eurovision and while I've come to discover many songs that have empowered me (Rise Like A Phoenix, Grab The Moment, Monsters, Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente, etc.), Israel's 2016 entry, Made Of Stars proved to be especially relevant my feelings at the time.  In the song, Hovi Star urges the listener to accept themselves and realize the cosmic essence within them that makes them beautiful.  He does this most prominently through the repeated chorus, which states, "We are made of stars, silver fragments falling, we are made of stars."  This took on a double meaning for me, as I associated the star with the Star of David, a symbol of Judaism and Israel.  Just as the song begins, "A language I don't understand, you speak, I listen. I'm your friend", I often felt an innate sense of familiarity and closeness with the Israelis I met, even though I hadn't learned Hebrew very well yet.  It was through my Jewishness and connection to Israel (represented by the star) however, that helped reaffirm my connection to my new home and its people.  The line, "We are made of stars, searching for that secret promise" reminded me of the Jews' centuries-old longing to return their promised land, and empowered me to take pride in how lucky I was to be able to live out that secret promise, which my ancestors had yearned for.  And whenever I felt helpless or in over my head, Hovi's song would remind me: "Don't escape, no more, no more, no more, no more, because we are all made of stars."

Matt M - Eurovision has empowered and inspired me in general. No single song, lyric, artist or performance did it, but if I must pick one, I'd have to say Emmelie de Forest and "Only Teardrops" since that was what introduced me to Eurovision and what ended up changing my life.  I have enjoyed the performing arts for quite a while, but I had always had sports as my first passion, partly because I really enjoy the competitive nature of sports. However, that competitive nature can cause it to be quite a toxic environment at times, not only amongst the competitors but, much more so, amongst those who support their teams and athletes. I really do love competition, but it shouldn't be the only thing. Then I discovered Eurovision in 2013. Here was something that combined my love of art with competition. Of course, Eurovision can get toxic at times as it relates to spreading hate about other songs and performances, especially amongst the fan base (much less so amongst the participants, from what I can tell), but, compared to the sports fandom, the Eurovision fandom is so much more supportive of each other.  Simply put, I just love this combination of music and competition in an environment that isn't over-the-top, annoyingly competitive, and I am so happy (and inspired) that Emmelie helped introduce this world to me. 

William - My life with Eurovision began with Ruslana in 2004.  It was the first ever time that I had watched Eurovision, but it was an amazing time because it was the first time that Ukraine had won the contest.  Being of Ukrainian background, I was especially proud of her energetic performance and even more grateful and humble that she was brought up in Western Ukraine where most of my family originated. That moment I saw her on stage with the blaring of the Trembita horns and the Hutsul inspired outfits, I knew we were in it to win.  I also found a close affinity to what I was taught and brought up with from my family and wanted to go to Ukraine myself and experience the culture. What made this first time even more special was that it was also my very first Eurovision party. Eurovision is an event that I attribute to making new friends and reuniting with old ones.  The energy that you would find in a performance of ‘Wild Dances’ is the same energy one would find with my friends and with the many people who attend a Eurovision show or party.  They are there to share your passion and love for anything with the energy that Ruslana portrayed. I’ve had the opportunity to go to Ukraine and to visit the area that influenced the style of ‘Wild Dances’. I immersed myself in the music and culture and enjoyed the moment that my partner and friends have enjoyed since.  Ruslana is an amazing person who loves her country and is not afraid to entertain and educate people about Ukraine and of the fun in participating in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Alper - I find Sweden and their Eurovision entries inspiring. It is a country with a never-ending optimistic passion for Eurovision. They win but never lose their passion for another win. The songs they send always bring an entertaining show. They are always a product of hard and meticulous work. For example, “Euphoria” is one of the most outstanding and inspiring entries of the recent years, because of not only its upbeat music and Loreen’s strong voice but also its stimulating choreography. The one-woman show (except a male dancer that joins Loreen on stage towards the end of the song) is relatively simple yet well-thought and powerful. Those striking moves reminiscent of a modern dance performance merge with the music and the lyrics and become one single unified message. It is seldom that we see such a coherent union of music, lyrics and choreography on the Eurovision stage.

Dimitri - At the moment I would say I’m inspired by Israel’s 2015 entry: Golden Boy by Nadav Guedj.  It is, after all, summer time, and Golden Boy is a perfect summer party song.  It’s the musical equivalent of a convertible or a cocktail in the heat. And this year it provides extra inspiration to plan a trip to Israel for May 2019!

Alex - The song which has inspired me the most over my years of watching the Eurovision Song Contest is Conchita Wurst’s “Rise like a Phoenix” performance from the 2014 Eurovision Grand Final. This performance may be a popular one for many but I was personally inspired because Conchita showed that someone can express themselves fully on the grandest stage while still being accepted by the masses. Conchita was long viewed as a gimmick artist with many disrespecting her or dismissing her as a contender even in the days leading up to Eurovision 2014. However, once the majesty of her performance was shown to the world, the idea of her “gimmick” fell away to her overwhelming sense of power and overall magnificence. Her victory outshined the negative politics surrounding some of the other contenders that year and showed why Eurovision is a force for togetherness and goodness. As a member of the LGBT community myself, I was also moved to see someone who belongs to that community shine on one of the biggest stages in the world. Her beard was of course part of her act but her voice and the brilliant song became the bigger story as people got to know her performance. I honestly believe that Conchita’s victory provides a significant dose of inspiration to LGBT people all over the world that no achievement is too big and that true acceptance is possible. 

Dennis - Without any hesitation the Eurovision song that makes me feel empowered is also the same song that got me hooked to Eurovision. Upon my first encounter with the song I was captivated not only what I was hearing, but also what I was seeing. A perfect balance of all elements to make me focus only on one song and its message. That song is Loreen’s “Euphoria.” At an in-between period of my life, I stumbled across the Eurovision 2012 preview videos, I came to Euphoria and was mesmerized. The mysterious presentation paired with Loreen’s vocals came across as uplifting. I became unaware to the outside world and the things troubling me, and I was left with hopeful and positive feelings that were uplifting. These feelings continued throughout the Eurovision preview season, the contest, and beyond. Although a simple song, I find that “Euphoria” is so accessible to all people and able to provide an overall feeling of happiness and positivity.

Ruben - I didn’t really see the connection between Malta’s entry and the video.  To me there was a disconnect of what the song was about.  The performance in Lisbon was amazing and powerful!  It was then I saw and felt the words of the song, and how breaking the glass was to break the taboo of mental illness.

Michaela - When I think Eurovision, I think songs that I like, songs to listen to, singers to research and new music to discover, so writing about an inspirational song or singer is somewhat difficult, as I really need to do a deep inner search. However, when I thought about it, I thought the one person who really was inspirational was Thomas Neuwirth. Who you say, well Austria's entrant better known as Conchita Wurst. Thom came second in Starmania, Nadine Beiler won and interestingly Eric Papilaya came 6th in Starmania Series 3. So three entrants from that season went on to participate in Eurovision, but one went on to win, not as Thom but as Conchita. I think the inspirational part really is the look, ok bearded singers have been done before but not at a competition. When you think about it , music should be about the song and the voice, not about a look and in this day and age, the record companies are more about a look. ( ok my other song would have been Boom boom Boomerang , a very brave satirical look at the music industry by Schmetterlinge in 1977). There is something fascinating about a singer who can , despite not really fitting into what the industry deems normal, still do well. When I saw the images of Conchitas homecoming in Vienna, I was amazed by the turn out, Austria is a conservative country. She filled up the Sydney  opera house. The song itself also helped me through a very sad time. So there you have it, Conchita is my inspiration, because when all is said and done, it's the music that counts, not the look. In a way it should flow on to life, meaning we should accept others for who they are. I think that is what I get from Conchita, acceptance.

Steve - By early love of music was formed by going to concerts in the late 1960's and throughout the 1970's and this music was what I consider to be a more traditional type of pop and rock music that was available at the time.  Then along came Eurovision and it opened up a whole new music experience...in fact a whole new life for me. I loved the new sounds and different genres it offers each year and also the costumes, dancing and staging that continues to surprise me. Over time this has empowered me by helping me to express my desire to dance often and at each opportunity. This has brought me to a deep sense of understanding myself and what I need to do to make my world a happy place and tap into an inner happiness, to dance, sing, understand others and be authentic. It also connects me to a large and vibrant community that reinforces a positive world view...contrary to the constant barrage of negative energy in so much of what is seen and heard around the world today.

Michelle - Empowered by Eurovision - the journey from then till now...
1967 - Puppet on a String- Empowered to sing whatever and whenever I feel the need. This song reminds me of the young teenage girl I was in 1969, and singing and dancing freely and openly at "Record Hops" where my passion for pop music was first apparent to me.
1987- Hold me Now- Empowered to express my love of all things Eurovision. As Johnny Logan was born in Australia, it was kind of acceptable to talk about the song competition cos Logan was a household name. And who doesn't love a power ballad!
2001- Everybody - Empowered to discover a wider world of people, culture and music. I had never heard of Estonia and so I commenced my search for this country and so many other places, so far from my small rural community in western Queensland. Now I have spent so many wonderful holidays at unusual destinations.
2003- Everyway that I can and 2007- Molitva - Empowered as a woman. Strange but true. These two vastly different performances set me on a path of discovery about the importance of expressing your deeper feelings.
2013- Only Teardrops - coming full circle and returning to where it all started. A life loving and enjoying pop music. Empowered to continue to dance and sing, at whatever age I may be.

Sevket - This will sound like a little out of the box thinking for sure.It is not a song, lyric or an artist, but it is the fans I find quite inspiring. They put their full heart into ESC. They follow ESC year around, they sort of speak a common language with each other. Every year they hope to have tickets, they travel miles to be part of the party. Sometimes they feel heartbroken when they don’t get their well deserved appreciation but they still are present with passion. At the end,fans make every song and artist inspiring with their endless love for each of them.

Wayne - So it's not secret that I have a thing for Pastora Soler's "Quédate Conmigo” for Spain at Eurovision 2012. But honestly if you want to talk about empowerment, there's no better demonstration of it with Pastora's performance of this song.  It was someone owning the stage, having full command of their craft and delivering one of the most outstanding performances I've ever seen on the Eurovision stage.  That key change still gives me chills.  If someone ever tries to say to me that Eurovision is just all kitsch I point them to "Quédate Conmigo” straight away.  Case closed!  It shows that sometimes you need forget about all the bells and whistles and just sing. To learn about her subsequent battles with stage fright and retiring from performance for a period of time just makes it even more of an empowering performance to me.  So yeah, that one is going to 'stay with me" until my own setting sun, for sure (ps. she was robbed!).

Aaron - Hello! My name is Aaron and the entry I find highly inspirational is ’Beauty Never Lies’ by Bojana Stanenov. This is inspirational to me on all four different levels. First of all, the melody reflects the story very well as it starts out with a slow and sad undertone, yet manages to overcome this in the end with a powerful chorus. The lyrics of the song also carry a valuable message. The song is about inner and true beauty, which comes in all shapes and sizes. I believe she is also trying to convey the message that you should not care what others think. The artist herself is also inspirational. She is not what the stereotypical ideal of beauty is in our society, yet she knows that and embraces that fact. She loves who she is and does not try to change to fit in and be someone else, she loves being herself. It almost feels like she lives the message in the song. Finally, her performance was amazing and very powerful. She went out there on stage and gave it her all. I would like to add that this was my first live Eurovision attended in almost 10 years at that time. She was definitely one of the crowd favourites that year, I think that many others can relate to her story. Just hearing the song brings back my very fond memories of Vienna:) Thank you!

Niall - For me, one of the most empowered Eurovision performances is Iceland’s entry in the 2011 contest in Dusseldorf.  The group representing Iceland were called Sjonni’s friends and the song was “Coming Home”. The story is quite bittersweet as just days before the Icelandic national final, the singer, Sjonni Brink, died suddenly of natural causes.  Even though his family had to deal with the grief of losing a loved one so suddenly, his wife had to make a decision about what to do.  She brought all of Sonni’s musician friends together and between them they came to the conclusion that Sjonni would have wanted his song to remain in the competition so it was agreed that Coming Home would be performed in Sjonni’s memory. Sjonni’s musician friends started to rehearse the song immediately with no expectation that they would be doing anything more than performing Coming Home in Sjonni’s memory in the semi-final.  The song clearly resonated with the Icelandic public as they made it into the national final and were eventually chosen to represent Iceland at the 2011 contest.   At the contest in Dusseldorf, it must have been a very emotional time for Sjonni’s family and the band as they sang Coming Home on the Eurovision stage, particularly as the lyrics were so poignant;

 “Cause I can’t wait until tomorrow

To say the things I wanna say

Your smile will always lead my way

I can’t wait, I’m coming soon

I just wanna see your face again”

The performance was a powerful tribute to their dear friend and I’m sure that Sjonni was looking down at them with much pride.

Mike - Despite Australian entries having dropped in quality in the last couple of years, the people who have been sent to the contest from Aus have brought a sense of empowerment and success with them, regardless of where they have placed. From Malaysian-Australian Guy Sebastian and Korean-Australian Dami Im, to the most recent Indigenous Australians in Isaiah Firebrace and Jess Mauboy, our representation provides a lens into the reality of Australia as a nation in 2018. These folks have all succeeded in their own lives, often from less than privileged beginnings, and at Eurovision represent their country at the highest musical level. The feeling of pride I got in the arena from all them (except Isaiah - I was in the US - but I was proud there too) was immense - and I'm not even an Aussie (yet). I think the what they demonstrated shows a lot about the ability of music and performance to empower all of us to go after what we want and dream for. Plus I totally want to be Dami on that skyscraper...

Sascha - When contemplating the words empowering and inspirational, I don’t think I need to look much further than this year’s contest in Lisbon.  Italy sent their San Remo champions Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro with their entry “Non mi avete fatto niente”, a song which was written as a response to the bombing of the Manchester Arena shortly after an Ariana Grande concert and deals with the numerous terrorist attacks which cities across Europe and the World have been dealing with.Whilst these acts are designed to cause intimidation and fear in the lives of ordinary people, they actually have been having the opposite effect, bringing people and communities closer together in defiance against these senseless acts and has been beautifully captured in the lyrics to this song….translated to English, the chorus says it perfectly….

“You haven't done anything to me

You've taken nothing from me

This is my life, and it keeps going

Beyond everything, beyond people

You haven't done anything to me

You haven't won anything

Because there's more than your pointless wars”

Although sung in Italian, the lyrics where translated into languages from around the world when they performed on the Eurovision stage as this is a matter that affects us all equally.  Italy really captured the mood of Europe of late, evidenced by the fact that they came 3rd with the public in this year’s contest and 5th overall.  Their message spoke to many.

Edward - To paraphrase Petra Mede, sometimes things just come together!  In the first week of May 1997, there was a mammoth change of government in the UK as Labour swept back to power after 18 years.  It brought a fresh outlook and a whole new young generation of leaders keen to make a difference.  Just one day later, the UK won the Eurovision Song Contest with Love Shine A Light, sung by Katrina and the Waves.  The Brit Pop movement provided New Labour’s soundtrack to power.  Like much British music, its lyrics were pointed and often ironic.  Love Shine a Light was different.  This was a simple and uplifting song of hope and love.  For once though, it seemed to capture the mood of that heady time.  This was truly a new start; the song captured that mood; and juries around Europe responded. The UK had been the constant Eurovision bridesmaid, second to Ireland year after year.  Finally, it was our year. I was living abroad at the time but came back for the election.  It turned into a weekend like no other.  Everything suddenly seemed possible and in those sunny spring days the country felt different. Maybe I knew already that it couldn’t last, but for a short time we were on top of the world.  In these arguably much darker times for our country and certainly our Eurovision chances, I can always quote the words of the song, that “we’re all gonna shine a light together; all shine a light to light the way”.

Kyle - For me, one of the more empowering songs in Eurovision was the Hungarian entry from 2011: What About My Dreams.  In my life, I find I tend to put the needs of others before my own.  This has, unfortunately, led to scenarios where some individuals have taken advantage of me.  In 2011, I found myself in a one-sided, toxic relationship with just such a person (who, ironically, happened to be Hungarian).  I remember clearly a day when I was driving in my car one day while contemplating yet another sacrifice this person wanted of me, and this song came on.  I was singing along when the Hungarian bridge came up.  My Hungarian had gotten to the point where I could understand those words, especially the statement "ten steps, 100 steps, I just need distance ... I look in your eyes; where did the light vanish to?"  I stopped and let the rest of the song resonate with me.  Just as the speaker in the song, the light in this relationship had vanished, and the almost angry refrain took on new meaning for me.  Kati's powerful encouragement to think about my life, my needs, and my dreams empowered me to put distance between me and this person and think about what would be best for me. 

Ilya - A Eurovision song that has resonated with me on a personal level is Poli Genova’s “If Love Was a Crime” (Bulgaria 2016). The song encourages people to love who they love, even when others say it’s wrong. As a gay man, I found a special connection to the lyrics. “If love was a crime, then we would be criminals.” At a time when being gay is still considered a crime in many countries, this song is an LGBT anthem we desperately needed. It breaks my heart to read stories of gay persecutions and discrimination still happening all over the world in this day and age, including in my native county of Russia. Poli Genova reminds us that we will find light and persevere even in the darkest of times: “Unafraid… Never fade… When it’s dark we illuminate…”. While the song’s positive message is similar to Jessica Mauboy’s “We Got Love” – another one of my favorites J – Poli Genova’s playful and energizing performance delivers an instant dose of happiness! Dancing to this song at the many Eurovision parties, I felt happy and empowered, knowing that no matter what happens in life everything will be just fine because “You and me against the world… Together we’re invincible”.

Kate - There are so many empowering songs in Eurovision that it is hard to choose just one moment. Every year there is at least one song that empowers people to be who they are. However, one song has become a reoccurring “Ohrwurm” (German noun for a song that is stuck in your head) for me. In 2014 Iceland sent Pollapönk to ESC and their song “No Prejudice”. This song is about tolerance and against discrimination. It reminds people in a very fun way that ”everybody looks the same on the inside and it pays to wear a smile”… No matter how different we think, feel, look or act, we are essentially the same. And we should treat everyone with respect. However, for me this song is also about not hiding your true self. It enabled me to accept that I can be who I want to be (my personal favourite line is a pretty bad rhyme but still brilliant: “Or perhaps you’re thinner or one who loves his dinner”). Everyone has their own problems, be it a disorder (“I may stutter when I speak (but) you don’t need to call me freak) or a physical challenge (“even if you’re smaller or someone who is taller”) or just the way you dress that does not conform with “normal” standards. To me, this song reminds people that it is okay to be different. It empowers people to be who they want to be but also to accept the diversity that exists in this world.

Marcus - My story about being empowered by Eurovision isn’t specifically due to an individual performance, artist or lyric but more so the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. My best friend and I had always loved Eurovision and in 2011 we decided to watch it together.  He lived in another state of Australia so, after work one Friday I travelled to see him.  We had planned to watch each of the shows and then head out to celebrate. The contest was held in Dusseldorf in 2011 and we loved every moment of it.  We had even had our own “home voting”.  Had I have known now what I knew then probably my voting would have been completely different.  We had both vowed to go to the competition the next year (no matter where it was...). After Azerbaijan was announced we kind looked at each other and said “Azerbi-where”.  As it turned out our situations changed, and we weren’t able to go to Baku (sadly).  I was still empowered, inspired and determined and in May 2013 I attended my first ever live contest in Malmo, Sweden.  It was amazing and is still one of the most exciting Eurovision moments in my life so far.  I often think back to watching that contest in 2011 with fond memories and am glad that watching the show empowered me to actually go to the contest in person.  This year was my 6th and I love it even more than I did all those many years ago.

Richard - Israel has always played an important role in my life. I spent a year in Jerusalem (where I watched Johnny Logan notch his second win), learned Hebrew and then Arabic, and have friends there. I fill with hope when the peace process progresses and despair when prospects dim. It’s probably no coincidence that Israel’s Eurovision first three victories came in politically optimistic eras. (This year’s win stands in contrast, however.) It’s against this background that I found Israel’s 2009 Eurovision entry in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, “There Must Be Another Way,” so inspiring. Achinoam Nini (aka Noa), a longtime peace activist, was selected just a day after war broke out with Gaza in December 2008, during a decade of bloodshed. She immediately suggested pairing up with her friend and artistic collaborator, the Israeli Christian Arab singer/actor Mira Awad, who would be the first Arab to represent Israel in Eurovision. As Noa said, “If she had not [agreed to come along], I would not have gone.” This drew quick opposition from both sides of the conflict. A group of Israeli Arab and Palestinian artists sent Mira an open letter calling on her to withdraw so as to not be a “part of the propaganda machine that is trying to create the appearance of Jewish-Arab coexistence.” Mira replied that Jews and Arabs had no choice but to find a way to live together. “I do not think that a song can bring peace to the Middle East, but I do think [it] can resonate in people’s hearts, and maybe give them hope to believe again in a better life… It’s very important for me not to go back to the corner and just disappear.”

“Everyone is responsible to put in his or her two cents for peace and coexistence,” Noa said. “Our two cents is music…Of course we argue. But the beauty is that we offer an example of what coexistence could look like…Mira and I want to convey a message of peace and dialogue during these difficult times, to show that co-existence is STILL an option, our only one!” There was also support for the duo from the public and internationally; Noa said they even received enthusiastic emails from fans in some Arab countries. Mira said, “We are getting both support and criticism, but we are together in this journey, and that gives us strength.” In the end, the song came in 16th, but for me, it’s douze points for its inspiring and hopeful message of peaceful coexistence in the midst of raging conflict—and for having even happened at all.

Kevin - I thought about this essay for a while. Obviously, I have favorite songs or moments in my Eurovision history that might have a bigger emotional charge or where I can recall the melody more quickly, but I have to say Pollapönk’s song, No Prejudice, written for the 2014 ESC empowers me the most. First, the band: 4 bearded guys in monochrome suits, one pink, one yellow, etc. It’s not quite a Pride flag rainbow, but almost. Second, the English lyrics were a translation by John Grant--a singer with serious gay bear credentials. Third, the song itself. It’s terrifically fun and has a message at the same time. It’s not too preachy, it doesn’t seem like a chant at a protest march, but the lyrics tell us clearly what we should be doing: “let’s do away with prejudice, don’t discriminate, tolerance is bliss…”. Fourth, the delivery of the song. Lyrics like the following:
“Listen to what I say

cause every-buh buh buh buh buh buh

body looks the same on the inside

And it puh puh puh puh puh puh puh puh

Pays: to wear a smile”

Delivered with a bit of a rock two-step thing. So how does this empower me? First, the messaging is inspiring. You could tattoo some of that if you were so inclined. The band seems to be having so much fun singing about a serious subject that it’s infectious. And the video is pure campy fun with cardboard props and a “villain” with an eye patch. I’m inspired to dance, to spread the message, and to stand up for tolerance.

Joe - I can really identify with the lyrics to “All Out Of Luck” by Selma from Iceland performed in 1999, as it recently helped me get through a bad break up. “You’re all out of luck and you want to give up, you’ve got to let go of all your bad memories….” This is a song that I have often played on Spotify. I just love the tune, always have. I was feeling depressed after a few weeks of dealing with a bad break up, feeling utterly lost and shattered when I decided to bring back some normalcy to my life. So I played this track and it really hit me how true those words meant to me. I knew all along that I had to let go of all these current bad memories. I just had to if I wanted to move on. Weeks before this I definitely felt that I wanted to give up and that I was all out of luck. When a relationship ends and it comes as a complete shock to you especially as it is for a reason that is beyond your control you can really feel like that you just want to give up on love. Hearing this song gave me a lightning moment where I knew I had to put the  hurt behind me. It took me a while and many, many listens to this song but along the way I’ve always believed that Selma’s tune from 1999 helped med a broken heart and soul back in 2017.

Luc - In truth, there are a lot of Eurovision songs that are about empowerment or inspiration… Peace and love and shining… and all those millions of voices singing about being heroes, about being the change we want to see.  These are in abundance.  However, for me, one song that was truly empowering and validating was Norway’s 2014 entry, Silent Storm.  Carl Espen’s beautiful vocal, solemn lyric and enchanting melancholy perfectly captured the heart of his struggle with an inner demon.  Call it depression, unaddressed trauma, mental health sturggles… whatever… Carl was able to convey his tumult with truth, and that truth rang right through me too. Struggling with inner demons of my own, this song really felt like it was written for me, exposing the honest melee in my mind, wishing for that calm to come.  The difficulty to express the feeling of brawling within oneself is infuriating to say the least… at the worst, being left with a pat on the head, an eye-roll or a dismissive “you’ll be fine”.  This song encapsulated this inner turmoil, and the seemingly endless chase for peace.  The lyric “Someday I’ll be calm” is the light at the end of the tunnel, the light that we know is there but is just around the next bend, or the one after that. With simple staging, impeccable lyrics and a powerhouse voice, Carl Espen delivered one of the most moving acknowledgments of this internal fight.  This acknowledgment showed that people facing this were not alone despite feeling as such, and that in itself is empowering.

Ronny - I’m not sure there is a more empowering or inspiring Eurovision song than Beauty never lies by Bojana Stamenov (Serbia 2015) for me. This song is literally the story of my life from my teenage years. I was the closeted unattractive gay guy right through my teen years in suburban Melbourne. I struggled living in my own skin and was forced, albeit by my own self, to live my life as someone I am not. It wasn’t until I finished high school, cut my hideous long hair and started to live my life as my true self, and came out. While Bojana’s song isn’t exclusively about coming out, it’s a song about accepting who you are, loving who you are, and staying true to the inner you. It’s almost like, the first half of the song is her telling you, ‘look love, you’re beautiful just as you are’ and the second half becomes the realisation and celebration of who you are, and that is such a joyous and empowering moment that basically sends the listener/viewer jumping with inner joy. I feel this song is basically my coming out story, which is why it resonated so strongly for me. This song is still a song I listen to regularly to give me a bit of a jolt when I am feeling down and sorry for myself. I would recommend playing this song to anyone who feels outcast, it’s truly inspiring, self-empowering and joyous.

Alan T - For me a special song is Nous les amoureux" ("We, the Lovers") which was the winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest 1961, performed in French for Luxembourg by French singer Jean-Claude Pascal.  It was my 1st Connection to Eurovision. The song is about 2 lovers tormented by the world's prejudices.  Pascal was gay and liked men.  The song was :

We, the lovers – they want to separate us

They would like to prevent us from being happy

We, the lovers – it seems that it’s hell

That watches us or else the iron and the fire

It’s true, the idiots and the evil ones

Harm us, do bad things to us

However nothing is more obvious than love

We, the lovers, we can do nothing against them

They are a thousand and we are two, the lovers

But the hour is going to ring on the least difficult nights

And I could love you without them talking about it downtown

It’s promised, it’s written down

The song stucked in my memory , probably already knowing that one day it will be meaning something more. In 1981, at the beginning of Ronald Reagan's presidency, Luxembourg's entry was a song in French called "Maybe It Isn't America (Because America Isn't the Be-All)", performed again by Jean-Claude Pascal and clearly lashing out at a Reagan-era USA. However, the tune didn't dazzle the juries, only finishing in 11th place. 

Guillaume - I was 13 years old in May 2002 when the 47th Eurovision Song Contest took place in Tallinn, Estonia. Slovenia was represented by a trio of drag queens in red sparkling mock flight attendant uniforms, Sestre (“Sisters”), performing the song Samo Ljubezen (“Only Love”). I thought they were absolutely fabulous. In late 2008, for reasons I have yet to identify, I reconnected with my passion for the ESC after a hiatus. My obsession was fuelled by the build-up of excitement leading up to the 2009 edition in Moscow, helped by the emergence of Alexander Rybak and encouraged by the discovery that a recently made friend was also a moderate fan of the competition. I was not alone. But what was that song I remembered from my youth? I probably typed “Eurovision Slovenia drag queens” in a search engine and, lo and behold, there they were. The regrettably now inactive website diggiloo.net provided me with the lyrics. I learned them off by heart phonetically. This triggered in me a keen interest for the Slovenian language and the history of the former Yugoslavia. I bought the Assimil method for learning Slovenian and a Petit Futé guide book on Slovenia to plan a family trip which never happened. Among the books recommended by the guide book were Paul Garde’s Life and Death of Yugoslavia which I read in the summer of 2011 after dropping out of a prestigious school without knowing what I was going to do with my life. This inspired me to learn Serbo-Croatian at university and do a Master’s degree in International Relations with a focus on the former Yugoslavia. My passion for Eurovision and the Balkans has not abated since.

Phill - One of the biggest empowerment hits of the past few years has to be Poli Genova's "If Love was a Crime". It was perfectly timed for when LGBT rights across the world were polarising, violent attacks against girls and LBGT people were escalating and religious extremes were rearing their heads. It was vague enough to be applicable to everyone but hit its most enthusiastic audience in the very gay arena. Such a fun and powerful song!

Enrique - Eurovision Song Contest in Stockhölm 2016 wasn’t only the first one for me, but it was a turning point after a period of three years in a row full of difficulties. When, in late December 2015, the preselection proposals to represent Spain were published, I immediately fell in love with Barei's entry, not only for its special and modern sound but also for the message of her song. I felt identified with the lyrics, wich encourage us to persevere and never give up despite the problems. Barei reflected failure by falling down on stage and in her own words: “You need to go for your dreams. Failure can come any time, you don't know when, and this fall on stage is a symbol, that it could happen right there” Apart from an economical issue and an assault at my domicile I had to face some different health problems, specially the consequences of a serious crash in 2014. The message of overcoming in the song encouraged me to try to fulfill one of my dreams: to attend an edition of the Eurovision Song Contest live. The whole experience will remain in my mind for life: the effort to get the tickets, the excitement to arrange the journey and, above all, the time in Stockhölm meeting new people and enjoying each of the show. If, before the experience, ESC was a very special annual date for me, since then it is an important part of my life. Furthermore, I will dare to say that, to some extent, it has changed my life. ESC has given me a lot of joy but the most important thing is that I learned we are capable of resisting the blows of fate and even emerge from them strengthened.

May - My chosen song is probably “Rise like a Phoenix”. To me, growing up as someone with a different personality and interests that were considered ‘weird’ made me the one subjected to bullying and made me believe that I was not supposed to be loved or cared for, just disposed of. Rise, however, is speaking in the names of the hurt, the bullied, those who vowed to never feel again with their hearts, us who were violated and betrayed and thrown away like they were nothing. This song talks about getting burnt to a crisp yet reborning out of your own ashes, something that many of us who were mistreated by others are used to do. Unlike the phoenix, we’re not flaunting beautiful feathers but are sporting a scaly armor that we learned to equip. This song is about getting up after getting hurt, and it’s a reminder to all of us that we too can get a happy ending, it’s about staying true to yourself and being you until the end. These are the main reasons why I adore this song.

Scott - In modern times, the song I most found inspiring was Conchita’s “Rise Like a Phoenix.” When the song was initially released, I didn’t think too much of it. Yes, it had great lyrics, but it was otherwise another ballad and didn’t really stand out for me much. However, after its first performance in the semi-finals and getting to see finally Conchita perform it, I was mesmerized. The song quickly bubbled up near the top at that point, as I will still rooting for Sanna Nielsen to win. The booing of the Tolmachevy Sisters (Russia) was a swift reminder of the struggles facing millions in the fight for equality – something fresh on the mind of Eurovision fans everywhere. Yet with all the excitement of 5+ months of national selections finally coming to a head at an epic grand finale, the crowd was energized. With what felt like the crescendo of Eurovision, Freaky Fortune (Greece) performed “Rise Up,” igniting the crowd on fire. The blood was pumping, the crowd was cheering, and then what happened next could only be described as sheer perfection. Standing alone on a stage big enough to swallow San Marino, Conchita appeared in a set of spotlights. She began soft, peaked at the spine-tingling “you threw me down, but I’m going to fly” with the crowd going ballistic, finally culminating with the apocalyptic “cause you’re my flame.” The emotion Conchita delivered propelled the performance to a win, both in the hearts of Eurovision fans and those struggling for equality. It inspired me to have hope and to get up when I’ve been thrown down. Messaging we need to hear as words of encouragement to keep fighting. Conchita’s follow up, “Unstoppable” continued that messaging and I sing both to myself when I need a moment of comforting.

Darren - When a singer overcomes major obstacles to pursue their dreams, that is what I find the most inspirational. While many people will (rightly) point out that Netta was an inspiration by "going for it" even though she didn't fit the expected look of a Eurovision winner, I'm actually going to point to Yuliya Samoylova as my great inspiration for Eurovision 2018. Yes, her song was awful. Yes, she was not a great singer and the choreography was awkward. But what inspires me is the person behind the song - the person who had a dream to represent Russia at Eurovision despite her disability. When there are so few role models of disabled entertainers - not only singers but actors as well - and so many people who dismiss someone's chances of success because of their disabilities, it was great to see Yuliya charge forwards to represent Russia at Eurovision. She is an inspiration to people worldwide, with her unspoken message not to let disabilities hold them back and that they should see themselves as having the same equal opportunities for success as any other candidate. I can only hope that in the future, we'll see some great Eurovision entries that feature disabled entertainers who put themselves in the competition for Eurovision having been inspired by people like Yuliya who came before them.

David - Eurovision empowered me to do something very different that was well out of my comfort zone. I had enjoyed the music for years and told my wife several times that I would like to go to it. But when she encouraged me to go, then I got cold feet. I live in Colorado so it’s a 10 hour flight, and then a week with no one I know, and totally away from work. And the giant question – would I even enjoy it? The show yes, but the rest of the time? So with my wife’s encouragement I decided to go – to Malmo. And it was wonderful. I met a ton of people (I am usually lousy at meeting new people), I was on a constant high from the vibe, and the music was even more thrilling in person than I expected. It turned out to be one of the most wonderous events of my life. It has encouraged me to once again (I used to do this decades ago) go try new things, big things, far away things – by myself.

Nikki - The Eurovision song that has really empowered me is "Sti Fotia" by Alex Panayi. There is a line in it that says "I am the Greek who fights" and Nikke is a Greek name, meaning Victory, so I have always identified with it.   It's the sense of determination in the song that I love, about following your own path in life and not listening to the naysayers and people who think they know better than you about who you should be and what path in life you should take. Whenever I have been faced with something difficult to overcome, or simply feeling down, "I am the Greek who fights" becomes my mantra and it gets me through the hard times! The song means a lot to me, and is also my favourite ESC song of all time!