This month of May will be quite atypical for Europeans.
The ongoing health crisis regarding COVID-19 has already shaped this spring as the strangest one for many generations worldwide. But amidst the routine changes, many of us have overlooked the interruption of an annual event. One that, for 64 years, has been a mainstay in European TVs during springtime, without fail.
For the first time in 64 years, the Eurovision Song Contest has been suspended.
But rest assured. While you may miss your yearly dose of singing divas, ethnic ballads, and fierce voting rounds, this time, we bring you a historical look at Georgia’s rollercoaster journey in the contest.
Okay but, what’s the Eurovision Song Contest?
If you’re European, odds are you don’t need to be told this. But for those of you unfamiliar with the contest, I only have one advice—buckle up.
Created in 1956 by the European Broadcasting Union, the Eurovision Song Contest gathers representatives of each member country who compete with one another for victory. Every country taking place in the contest performs an original song in front of an audience and transmitted live through television and radio. Afterward, their citizens cast votes on the other countries’ performances to decide the winner, whose homeland will then host the contest the next year.
Going from seven participating countries during 1956, nowadays, the Eurovision Song Contests boast of an average of over forty countries taking place during each competition. This large number has forced the format to include two semifinals before the grand finale.
Ranging from mainstream pop to ethnic songs in native languages, Eurovision has become a platform to broadcast a country’s culture and talent to a vast audience that surpasses 180 million viewers.
Georgia has taken advantage of this stage. With, uh, varying results.
Georgia takes the Eurovision stage
Compared to the contest’s extensive history, the time of Georgia in Eurovision seems relatively short. We joined Europe’s most prominent stage during the 2007 competition, hosted by Finland in its capital city, Helsinki.
From then on, Georgia has selected a song for each year—fourteen in total—although particular circumstances kept the country from participating two times.
Georgia’s participation in the contest remains all over the place. In essence, two entries have made it to the top 10, and two entries have made it to the bottom of the list, with everything else sprinkled in-between.
Far more successful has been our role in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Since the competition’s start in 2003, Georgia has won a grand total of three times, making it the most successful country to date. Additionally, two entries have achieved 2nd place, so we can only hope this massive success reflects soon enough in the grown-up version of the contest.
Ethnic music, power pop, psychedelic rock, and many other genres have represented Georgians in front of Europe, with varying results. But regardless of that, it remains clear that Georgia is one of the most diverse, innovative, and exciting countries to watch on stage.
And if you don’t believe me—well, just take a look.
Helsinki 2007—“Visionary Dream” by Sopho Khalvashi
Georgia started its journey on the Eurovision Song Contest stage with a bang—and a banger.
Originally titled My Story, Visionary Dream is a song performed by singer Sopho Khalvashi, a Batumi artist with Laz heritage. In her performance, Sopho highlights the power of her voice alongside male backing dancers donning traditional clothing and performing typical Georgian dances. The song itself is up-tempo and modern, yet still displays traces of classical Georgian music.
Visionary Dream is a perfect tribute to Georgia as a country, and an invitation to discover and accept Georgia in this international stage. It’s not a surprise, then, that audiences welcomed the performance with open arms, and received a very respectable 12th position in the Grand Final.
Belgrade 2008—“Peace Will Come” by Diana Gurtskaya.
As you may know, 2008 was a hard year in Georgia.
For months, the relations between Georgia and Russia had soured, and conflict loomed on the horizon. Inevitably, the ambient was tense, and it seemed the perfect moment for blind Russian-Georgian artist Diana Gurtskaya to perform the meaningful Peace Will Come. On March 1st, she won the national selection and was chosen to represent Georgia on Eurovision that year.
The song, moody and powerful in its ambiance, was a substantial and strong call for peace as it questioned the motifs behind war. Undoubtedly, it answered to the Georgian-Russian tensions and appealed to compassion amidst the dark circumstances.
The song was well-received in Europe and ranked 5th in its semi-final, achieving a ticket to the Grand Final and positioning just outside the top 10. Sadly, only three months later, the Russo-Georgian war would begin.
Moscow 2009—“We Don’t Wanna Put In” by Stephane & 3G.
If 2008 was a complicated year for Georgia, Eurovision in 2009 was the perfect storm. Russia’s Dima Bilan won the contest the previous year, so Moscow was hosting, as Georgia dealt with the catastrophic aftermath of 2008’s war.
It is then that Georgia selected Stephane & 3G’s We Don’t Wanna Put In to represent the country in the contest. The fun, disco, groovy song was deemed politically controversial, as some believed the pronunciation of “Put In” sounded similar to a certain famous Russian politician.
Georgia refused to change the lyrics and denied any reference to said politician. However, the EBU insisted the song broke the contest’s rules against political topics or references. Georgia eventually chose to withdraw from the competition instead of changing the lyrics, affirming this pressure against its entry came straight from Russia.
Oslo 2010—“Shine” by Sopho Nizharadze.
Regarded as one of the best Georgian entries to date, Shine remains a fan-favorite of Eurofans everywhere. It was performed on stage by Tbilisi native Sopho Nizharadze, a young performer with an extensive curriculum and artistic journey in both Georgia and Russia.
Her entry is memorable. A powerful ballad with strong vocals and hauntingly beautiful melodies that pick up as the song progresses, Shine became one of the most beloved Georgian entries in the contest. This success was not in small part thanks to Nizharadze’s impressive mastery of vocals while performing a graceful dance routine.
Shine became the first Georgian entry to position itself in the Top 10, ranking 9th.
Dusseldorf 2011—“One More Day” by Eldrine.
Georgia never stops innovating on the Eurovision stage. During 2011, the national selection process gave the victory to Eldrine, a progressive rock band. Their song, titled One More Day, featured a powerful rock composition and intense guitars, alongside the introduction of hip-hop elements and the ever-presence influence of Georgian folk sounds.
The lead singer of the band, Sophio Toroshelidze, had been one of the backing vocalists for Sopho Nizharadze’s Shine in the previous year. Naturally, this meant she had already collected Eurovision experience on stage.
It turned out to be a winning combination. The song ranked 6th in its semi-final, and just like its predecessor, it ranked within the Top 10 in 9th position. Sadly, Europe did see a flaw in Eldrine’s memorable performance—they voted the band as the Worst Dressed of the contest.
Baku 2012—“I’m a Joker” by Anri Jokhadze.
Anri Jokhadze was not new to the Eurovision stage when he was chosen to represent Georgia in 2012. He had been the most prominent backing vocalist of the previously described 20080s entry Peace Will Come. However, he took the central stage when the contest arrived in Baku.
His song, I’m a Joker, seemed to make a pun on his surname’s similar pronunciation. Despite the singer’s experience on stage, his song and performance failed to impress Europe. Georgia was unable to qualify to the Grand Final for the first time in its history, as I’m a Joker ranked 14th in its semi-final.
However, this wouldn’t be the last time Anri Jokhadze got involved with Georgia’s Eurovision entries.
Malmo 2013—“Waterfall” by Sopho Gelovani & Nodiko Tatishvili.
For Eurovision in 2013, Georgia brought together two accomplished singers with extensive experience in pop and classical music. Sopho Gelovani and Nodiko Tatishvili brought to Malmö the song Waterfall—a delicate and elegant ballad dedicated to love.
Refusing a large and imposing stage, the song was performed in a quiet and romantic atmosphere, letting their voices do magic. And magic they did—the song classified to the Grand Final, ranking Georgia in 15th place.
Despite positioning outside of the Top 10, the vocal prowess of Waterfall was enough to impress the accredited media and press of the contest. Subsequently, they awarded the song the Marcel Bezeçon Press Award as the best song of Malmö 2013, according to their criteria.
Copenhagen 2014—“Three Minutes to Earth” by The Shin & Mariko.
In 2014, Georgia’s Eurovision journey changed a bit. Instead of having artists compete for the right to represent the country, Georgia decided to select the winning entry internally, without the votes of the audience or juries.
As such, they selected the song Three Minutes to Earth, performed by fusion jazz band The Shin in collaboration with singer Mariko Ebralidze. The song’s name, shin, is Georgian for “home”—the word is repeated many times through the song, which is a tribute to Earth. Thus, the meaning of the lyrics is clear; it’s an invitation to return back home to Earth.
Hippie-like in its vibe and fusing folk with pop, it’s a relaxed song that seemed fit for a countryside café rather than the Eurovision stage, which may explain the results. Three Minutes to Earth failed to qualify to the Grand Final and placed last in its semi-final.
Vienna 2015—“Warrior” by Nina Sublatti.
Singer and model, Nina Sublatti conceived her song “Warrior” as a tribute to Georgian women and their role in her country’s history.
“The song is by me and generally I wrote on Georgian women,” She told Wiwibloggs. “If we look at the history of Georgia, we see that women have always been important figures (…) the Georgian woman has to be able to control her temper and raise her child as a warrior. So, she became a warrior.”
Her official music video for the song conveyed this message. It highlighted the different faces of women warriors through history, including Georgian hunting goddess Dali, and most importantly, King Tamar in all her glory.
On stage, her dark and strong energy allowed her to classify to the Grand Final, achieving 11th place. It’s worth mentioning that during her performance, the smoke machine had a malfunction, which many believe contributed to a lower positioning, as it reduced visibility on stage.
Stockholm 2016—“Midnight Gold” by Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz.
Always ready to innovate and change, Georgia’s Eurovision entry for 2016 shook things up. Georgia selected the artist internally, decanting for Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz, an indie-rock band popular in the country’s music festivals and indie circle.
Then, through a national final with open voting, the country would decide the song to perform. Eventually, popular vote and international juries chose Midnight Gold.
Faithful to their indie-rock style, Midnight Gold had strong Britpop vibes that wouldn’t seem out of place with Oasis or Blur. The lyrics, loyal to the style, describe the morning after a party.
For their stage performance, Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz upped up the psychedelic and funky energy, with a kaleidoscope of visual effects that seemed almost hallucinogenic. Their originality took them to the Grand Final, where they positioned 20th.
Kiev 2017—“Keep the Faith” by Tamara Gachechiladze.
For their 2017 Eurovision entry, Georgia decided to ditch the previous year’s format and returned to the regular competition. Amidst the many entries, televoting results and jury choices converged and selected Tamara Gachechiladze.
Her song, Keep the Faith, was written and composed by herself and 2012’s contestant Anri Jokhadze. It is a power ballad that relies on Tamara’s powerful vocals, alongside string instruments to build momentum into an explosion of harmonies and energy.
Despite her perfect execution on stage, Tamara Gachechiladze failed to qualify for the Grand Final, ranking barely outside of the top 10 in her semi-final.
Lisbon 2018—“Sheni Gulistvis” by Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao.
During Eurovision 2018, Georgia changed things up and, once again, recurred to internal selection, choosing Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao. As their name describes, the group style focuses on a mixture of jazz sounds with traditional ethnic Georgian music, particularly the iconic polyphonic singing that distinguishes us.
Their entry, Sheni Gulistvis, means “For You”, and it’s an adult contemporary world music piece, bringing Georgian polyphonic singing and twisting by adding bold modern touches.
Sheni Gulistvis was the first Georgian entry to be performed entirely in Georgian. It failed to qualify for the Grand Final, despite the overwhelming beauty and harmonies of the band members’ vocals. It is, undoubtedly, my favorite Georgian entry to date.
Tel Aviv 2019—“Sul Tsin Iare” by Oto Nemsadze.
You must know by now that our country does not like to take the same approach twice. So Georgia, for Eurovision 2019, decided to merge their selection process with the talent show Georgian Idol.
After six weeks of competitions, Oto Nemsadze emerged victorious with his song Sul Tsun Iare, which translates as “Keep On Going”. He had won the competition years before, and his repeated victory cemented his role.
Keep on Going is a patriotic song calling for the cease of barbed wires, particularly within Georgia. “This is a true story,” he told Wiwibloggs, “That’s not political because the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are my brothers and sisters, and I want to see them.” His grandmother lives in South Ossetia, and cannot see her.
The stage performance was powerful and moody, with ice and fire aesthetics. It failed to qualify to the Grand Final.
Rotterdam 2020—“Take Me As I Am” by Tornike Kipiani.
By the time the EBU announced the cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest 2020, we had already selected our entry.
It was Tornike Kipiani, the winner of this year’s edition of Georgian Idol. The brilliant song, Take Me as I Am, was selected internally amidst a plethora of other choices for Kipiani.
Despite the cancellation of the contest, the Georgian Public Broadcaster announced that Georgia would send Tornike Kipiani as our country’s performer next year, with a brand-new song.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a lot more 12 points.