*The opinions made in this article only reflect those of the writer; it is not representative of the views of the entire EuroBuzz team, the EBU, Eurovision or NDR*
When Bar Refaeli delivered the line: ‘Germany you received from the public votes, I’m sorry … 0 Points’ in 2019, it didn’t come as a shock to many. Neither did it come as a shock in 2021 when Chantal Janzen had to announce the same. Germany selected entries that were not favoured amongst fans or the public, receiving ‘nul points’ because of it.
How exactly did Germany find itself in this position? Before 2019, Michael Schulte took them to 4th place with ‘You Let Me Walk Alone’, and 2020’s entry ‘Violent Thing’ by Ben Dolić was tipped to be a potential winner. What’s their formula? Do they even have one? Where do they go from here? Let’s take a closer look into Germany’s rise and fall over the last decade.
2010 – 2012: Signs of Success
After a series of poor placings in the late 2000s, Germany was looking for a more positive result. 2009’s entry ‘Miss Kiss Kiss Bang’, which saw globally famous burlesque star Dita von Teese perform in the background for around 30 seconds to attract votes, came bottom 5. Based on the reintroduction of a national final in 2010, it seemed as if Germany were abandoning the use of gimmicks as an attempt to improve future results.
Unser Star für Oslo saw singers compete in 8 shows to get the opportunity to represent Germany in Norway. Lena’s song ‘Satellite’ was selected, and 2 months later she was crowned the winner of Eurovision. They became the first member of the “Big 4” (also consisting of France, Spain and the UK, before Italy joined upon their return in 2011) to win the contest since its creation in 1999, and remained the only member to do so until Italy took the trophy in 2021.
Düsseldorf hosted Eurovision 2011, and Lena returned to defend her title in her home country. ‘Taken By a Stranger’ was different to ‘Satellite’ – it was darker in style and more low-key, but still impactful. It reached 10th place and is still regarded as one of their best entries. Lena had made Germany successful again in Eurovision, and it seemed like they were becoming the new country to beat.
Roman Lob won Unser Star für Baku, whose ballad ‘Standing Still’ continued Germany’s streak of top 10 results, placing 8th. Aside from the host country Azerbaijan, it was the highest placing Big 5 entry that year. It was also the final German entry to reach the top 10 until 2018. The new selection shows had given new life to the nation at Eurovision, and going into 2013 expectations were high.
2013 – 2017: Not so ‘Glorious’
Cascada was chosen to fly the flag for Germany in 2013. An incredibly successful dance music act behind worldwide hits such as ‘Everytime We Touch’ and ‘Evacuate The Dancefloor’, there was a buzz surrounding their participation. It was accused of plagiarising 2012 winner ‘Euphoria’ by Loreen but ultimately cleared of this. Despite Cascada’s recognisable name, they scored just 18 points, placing a disappointing 21st. Germany was back in the bottom 5 and struggled to get out of it in the years to come.
2014 could’ve been the year to recover from a poor result in 2013 and come back strong. They didn’t, as Elaiza’s song ‘Is It Right?’ only managed 18th place. However, they did have potentially one of the worst running order draws, performing between eventual winner Austria and ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’, and ‘Undo’ from Sweden, which placed 3rd.
Speaking of Austria, they found themselves in last place in 2015 along with Germany, both scoring 0 points. This result for ‘Black Smoke’ by Ann Sophie has been criticised, as many believe that there were some songs that deserved to do worse. Whilst the saying ‘the only way is up’ can usually apply to countries who place last, Germany learnt that it isn’t always the case. In 2016, the bottom of the scoreboard called for the German’s again, this time for ‘Ghost’ by Jamie-Lee.
The accusations of plagiarism presented themselves once again in 2017, with their chosen entry ‘Perfect Life’ by Levina sounding almost identical to David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’. Despite no ‘official’ claim being made about this, it’s still debated amongst fans today. They managed to avoid last place again by one point, with Spain finding themselves in this unfortunate position.
For 5 years, Germany had tried and failed to pick themselves up and climb the scoreboard again. The days of Lena and Roman Lob were long gone, and it seemed as if nothing was working.
Then, we were introduced to Michael Schulte.
2018 – present: Where is the consistency?
Michael Schulte won Unser Lied für Lissabon with ‘You Let Me Walk Alone’, and it seemed as if Germany had finally found the answer to their problems. The song was a simple piano ballad, telling Michaels own story of losing his father as a child. The performance managed to convey this story, from the staging to the emotional delivery, and clearly connected with the juries and viewers. By the end of the voting, Germany had placed 4th, their best result since their 2010 win, and the second-best German result since the start of the 21st century.
This result should’ve been the moment Germany had been waiting for. A positive result that encouraged them to prove to Europe that they were able to do well in Eurovision – so why didn’t it?
Despite hopes that 2019 would prove to be another good year for Germany, by the end of Unser Lied für Israel it was clear another bottom 5 result was on the cards. S!sters beat fan favourites Aly Ryan and Lilly Among Clouds to first place. Their win proved controversial across the fanbase, who criticised multiple elements of their song “Sister”, including the lyrical content and staging choice in Tel Aviv. Unsurprisingly, they only placed 25th, and as referenced at the start of this article, the televote were not fans – they received no points.
It was clear Germany hadn’t found itself in the best position again, but unlike previous years they didn’t seem to be defeated by the result. Although the 2020 contest didn’t go ahead, it seemed as if a top 10 result could’ve been possible. Their chosen entry, ‘Violent Thing’ by Ben Dolić, was met with instant praise and gained a large backing from fans. It was produced by Borislav Milanov, who has become known to Eurovision fans as one of the contest’s most well-respected producers. Ben didn’t return to the contest in 2021, but we hope he gets his moment on the Eurovision stage soon.
Hopes were high in 2021, Ben’s participation had excited fans and all eyes were on Germany as they prepared to reveal their next effort. On February 25th, ‘I Don’t Feel Hate’ was released, and it did not receive a good reception. It was an entirely different sound to anything we’d heard from Germany before, but one that fans might not exactly be begging to hear again. You can’t deny that ‘I Don’t Feel Hate’ is catchy, but depending on your feelings towards the song, it may not be in the way where you’re likely to keep replaying it. Jendrik did his best to sell the song, but in what may be considered one of the best Eurovision finals ever, it was never going to do well. Performing before Finland invited us to the ‘Dark Side’ with their explosive performance, Germany had been forgotten. Finishing with just 3 points, all from the Austrian and Romanian jury, it was another disappointing result. They became the first country to receive two sets of 0 points consecutively in 56 years, the first instance of this being in 1964 and 1965 – also achieved by Germany.
What’s going on?
Germany clearly knows how to do well at Eurovision, yet continue to send middle of the road entries or ones that fall on the more negative side of being ones you either love or hate. Someone does have to finish last, but when those bottom placements consistently go to the same countries – namely Germany, Spain and the UK (which you can read more about here) – you do have to question what exactly their strategy is. Germany at least have achieved a top 5 result in the last decade, but one good result cannot erase the multiple bottom 5 placements that came before and after. Unlike the UK, which seems to send consistently bland and inoffensive songs with a complete disconnect and disregard for any song that will do well, Germany has shown that they understand Eurovision – so why don’t they prove it?
Well, maybe NDR’s programming director could have something to do with it. In an interview with DWDL.de, he said:
“Since I know how much money a victory costs, I say with a view to the coming year: The main thing is not first place”Frank Beckmann, NDR Programming Director // Quote provided by ESC Bubble
Despite further mentioning his aim to see Germany become competitive again in the contest, it does raise the question – if your main aim isn’t winning, why enter at all? In a year where we saw San Marino aim for first place despite the implications that would come with it, why would a country that can afford to host and has options to do so decide not to try? Hosting is expensive and takes a lot of effort, but we’ve seen multiple countries in recent years that aren’t in the same position financially or even culturally pull off a great show. Considering it has been 11 years since Germany last won, they’d be in a better position than most to navigate finances and scaling of the shows. If a victory is a burden to the broadcaster instead of something that can be seen as a way to promote the country on the worlds biggest stage, allowing people to learn about your culture, simply reassess why you’re entering. That of course doesn’t apply to countries we know would struggle to host, but Germany is not in that category.
The BBC went for a similar model of trying to come left hand side but not win in recent years, leaving them with two last places, one in which they scored no points with either the jury or televote. You have to feel for the German fans. On a personal note, I understand how it feels to be frustrated with results. Whilst we look at and blame the song or act taking part for the placements, ultimately the broadcaster has to take responsibility. You cannot turn up to a contest that year on year is only getting stronger and more difficult to win, and say you don’t want to do exactly that. It’s lazy. Germany has such a rich and diverse music industry full of talent who would do exceptionally well at Eurovision. Ignoring that to send a song like ‘I Don’t Feel Hate’ or ‘Sister’ to represent your country’s musical market on the worlds biggest platform for European (and Australian) music is simply not good enough.
Is 2022 going to change anything?
We’d like to hope so. Whilst Beckmanns comments are concerning, Germany does seem to be allowing the public to have their say again on who represents the country in Turin. Despite that providing results we can’t really fondly look back on, we may potentially see another 2009-2010 upgrade to the German entry. We’ll be seeing the return of their national final, this time named Lied für Turin, and can only hope it provides another result on the same level as Lena, Roman Lob or Michael Schulte.
What are your opinions on Germany in the contest? Do you think the national final returning will make a difference? Be sure to let us know in the comments below, and follow our socials for breaking news and updates!