Host country: Ukraine
Won by: Greece - My Number One by Helena Paparizou
UK entry: Touch My Fire by Javine
It was perhaps no surprise that following the recent wins of Sertab and Ruslana, Eurovision 2005 would contain a proliferation of similar big performance/big drums/Eastern-flavoured songs. But anyone hoping for a change from this kind of thing was to be sorely disappointed with the result which saw Helena Paparizou take Greece to their first ever win, 31 years after their debut, with yet another Eastern-flavoured big performance.
That's not to say there wasn't a variety of musical styles in this year's contest. Rock made a comeback, most notably with Wig Wam, Norway's answer to The Darkness, who provided us with some unashamed Glam Rock. "He'll have to be buried in those trousers"; quipped Wogan.
Rock also came from the likes of Russia's equivalent of Avril Lavigne, Natalia Podolskaya, Germany's Gracia and Switzerland's Vanilla Ninja. In a shrewd move, given the dominance of Eastern Europe in recent years, the Swiss took the option of importing their group from Estonia - and this gave them their best result in years. Estonia itself, meanwhile, was knocked out of the semi-final for the second year running.
Moldova, with their debut entry, brought us probably the most bizarre entry of the night, Zdob Si Zdub with their song 'Grandma Beats the Drum', in which the aforementioned Grandma sat in her rocking chair throughout the performance before rising up at the end to, um, beat a drum. They finished second in the semi, sixth in the final, and at one point early on seemed in danger of winning.
Some traditional Abbatastic Eurovision pop was provided by Bosnia-Herzegovin's Feminnem - it was as if the last twenty years had never happened. Hungary's NOX demonstrated that well known Hungarian riverdance, while Spain entered Son de Sol with a pale imitation of 'The Ketchup Song'.
One of the biggest shocks of this year was Ireland's failure to make it past the semi-final. Kings of Eurovision in the 1990s, Ireland tried a different tack this year by eschewing the usual male singer/ballad approach and instead tried something more upbeat with brother/sister duo Joseph and Donna McCall. But it still didn't bring them any luck. The Netherlands also failed to make it though to the final - the country is now said to be reconsidering its future in the contest.
Another notable absence in the final was the lack of an accordion - unfortunately this year's accordion entry by Austria, which went the whole hog and also threw in trumpets, trombones and even yodelling, was also knocked out. The highest scorer in the semi, incidentally, was Romania's Ruby Wax look-a-like Luminita Anghel who performed with some blokes with angle grinders and oil drum lids on their feet.
2005 turned out to be another dismal year for the UK. Not helped by choosing to go down the same big performance/Eastern-flavoured route as half the other countries, and by singing second, a position from which no one has ever won in fifty years of Eurovision, Javine could muster no better than third from bottom.
Away from the songs, no Eurovision is complete with an appearance from some of the host country's biggest stars, and so Ukraine 2005 feeatured some spontaneous and totally unrehearsed, honest, comedy moments brought to us by Ukraine's boxing duo, the Klitchsko brothers, and last year's victor, Ruslana. The presenters were styled 'Masha and Pasha', and Masha proved that she didn't need a microphone.
With 39 countries eligible to vote, the scoring seemed to go on for as long as the songs. The most notable aspect of the final result was that the bottom four was also the 'Big Four' - the UK, France, Germany and Spain, who are the biggest contributors to the EBU and are therefore guaranteed a place in the final. Was the result a sign of resentment from the other countries who see this as unfair? Or is it all down to Eastern block voting, which has produced a winner from the Eastern half of Europe for the fifth year in succession and seen many Western European countries sidelined? Or are we taking our priviledged position for granted and just not trying any more?
Eurovision Song Contest 2006
Host country: Greece
Won by: Finland - Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi
UK entry: Teenage Life by Daz Simpson
Small children were sent scurrying behind the sofa one Saturday night in May 2006 - and it wasn't due to the latest episode of Doctor Who. No, it was Eurovision's first ever death metal entrants, Lordi, who performed their song wearing monstrous prosthetic masks.
Every year you think you've seen it all - and then comes along another Eurovision Song Contest. It's long been regarded as a joke in the UK, and in 2006, at long last, the rest of Europe finally saw the funny side as well and voted the Finnish metallers into a convincing first place. Just as bizarre, but in a completely different way, was Lithuania's LT United, a bunch of besuited men singing a song that was more like a football chant - 'We are the winners of Eurovision...vote, vote, vote for the winners', admist booing from the audience. They finished a ridiculous sixth.
And Iceland's Silvia Night, already a controversial figure in her homeland, sung 'Congratulations' (no relation to Cliff Richard's 1968 runner-up) in a squeaky voice, on a stage adorned with giant candy sticks, and made Aqua's 'Barbie Girl' seem quite highbrow in comparison. Silvia, in reality actress Agusta Eva Erlendsdotti, failed to endear herself to the audience by earlier derogatory comments regarding Greek organisation, and her appearance on stage, was also greeted by booing. Unlike the other two, she failed to make it to Saturday's Grand Final, for which we must be thankful.
In comparison, sandwiched between Finland's metal and Lithuania's suits, the shy and retiring Daz Sampson seemed somewhat tame. Backed by his trusty band of St Trinian's schoolgirls, he represented the UK with his novelty rap song 'Teenage Life'. Daz, for whom quite a considerable number of years had obviously passed since he experienced teenage life, only managed 19th place. Rap invariably flops at Eurovision, but nowadays it seems the UK flops regardless of what we enter.
What of the other members of the 'Big Four'? Low placings all round, once again. Germany decided to go all country 'n' western on us, while Spain, after a poor result last year with an imitation of Las Ketchup's 'Ketchup Song', this year drafted in the real thing. And France - well, they just don't really care, do they?
Meanwhile Latvia entered an acapella group who came with a little robot friend, while Portugal's Nonstop brought us our annual 'Waterloo' revival. But Eurovision 2006 wasn't all novelty songs and gimmicks, as other countries took a different tack in their bid for glory. After a run of poor results, Ireland employed the popular Belfast-born singer Brian Kennedy to boost their chances with a traditional Irish ballad. Things looked good as Brian progressed from the semi-final (where his performance was the 1000th at Eurovision) to the final, and he eventually finished tenth.
Sweden, meanwhile, brought back one-time winner Carola, who sung to victory in 1991, and came third in 1983. Not surprising then that following a successful progression from semi-final to final, Carola was installed as the favourite, but this year had to made do with fifth place.
Another Eurovision veteran sung for Greece - Anna Vissi, who first represented the country no fewer than 26 years earlier, then again for Cyprus in 1982. Unfortunately Greece's hopes for two wins on the trot were dealt a blow when this year's entry from Cyprus failed to make it to the final, and they only made ninth place.
The show hosts this year were former Greek entrant Sakis Rouvas, and American presenter Maria Menounos, who seemed to find everything 'amazing'. Worse, however, was the nitwit who came on to announce the Dutch votes, which had Wogan and most of the audience burying their heads in their hands. Talking of the voting, in order to hurry things along a bit, for the first time this year the spokespeople only announced 8, 10 and 12, with 1-7 points put onto the scoreboard while they went on about 'what a great show'.
And at the end of it all, 45 years after their debut entry, Finland won Eurovision for the first time. But it was sad to see how gimmickry triumphed over the music. I thought this was supposed to be a song contest...
Eurovision Song Contest 2007
Host country: Finland
Won by: Serbia - Molitva by Marija Serifovic
UK entry: Flying the Flag (For You) by Scooch
It has quickly become a rule at Eurovision that whatever type of music wins the contest one year becomes the dominant musical style the following year. So it was inevitable that following Lordi's win in 2006 for Finland with 'Hard Rock Hallelujah', the 2007 show would have its fair share of Def Leppard, McFly and T-Rex wannabes. And yet all of the rock-based entries that took part in Thursday's semi-final failed to make Saturday's Grand Final, while those that were straight through to the final failed to impress Europe's voting public either.
There were other musical styles that one would not normally associate with the contest, albeit appearing in diluted Eurovision form - Hungary collected plenty of votes for its 'Unsubstantial Blues'; not proving so popular were the Krazy Mess Groovers who brought us some Belgian jazz-funk, Roger Cicero's swing from Germany, and Dervish's traditional Celtic folk from Ireland, the latter which helped Eurovision's most successful ever country sink right to the bottom of the scoreboard for the first time.
TV critic Garry Bushell appeared to be representing Turkey (actually, it was Kenan Dogulu). Meanwhile Israel's Teapacks controversially brought the subject of nuclear war to Eurovision, but failed to make it past the semi-final. In contrast, Ireland tried returning to their Celtic roots with Dervish, but it didn't help their cause, finishing bottom of the pile. The UK also flopped badly, with Scooch's tacky pop finishing only one place higher, having only Ireland and Malta to thank for any votes.
At the other end of the scoreboard, however, it was all change from the last few years. For once 'song' triumphed over 'show', with Serbia's Marija Serifovic singing the first ballad to win the contest for many years; not only that, but also the first winning song not sung in English since the free language rule was introduced. Thankfully beaten into second place was the cross-dressing comedian Verka Serduchka, the Christopher Biggins of the Ukraine. (The other cross-dresser in the contest, Denmark's DQ, failed to even make the final).
Away from the serious business of the contest, and I don't know how it manages it, but Eurovision somehow manages to get more bizarre every year - this time none other than Santa Claus himself made a special guest appearance! This year's most cringeworthy moments, however, were brought to us by roving reporter and 'fan of Eurovision' Krisse Salminen, dressed in pink, who appeared in Helsinki's Senate Square with what appeared to be the entire population of Finland gathered behind her. She was also on hand in the green room to cheer up Scooch when they appeared to be heading for the UK's second 'nul points'.
The most commonly phrase about Eurovision these days is 'it's all political'. And it's difficult to argue with this when you look at the results of this year's contest. Eurovision 2007 was the most eastern-dominated yet, with only 8 out of the 24 competitors in the Grand Final hailing from the western side of Europe. There was booing from the audience in the Hartwall Areena at the close of Thursday's semi-final (which contained 28 entries - the greatest number yet seen at a Eurovision contest) as Denmark, Belgium, Iceland, Portugal, Austria, the Netherlands, Malta and Austria all found themselves knocked out in favour of the ever-increasing number of countries from the former Communist Bloc.
Then in the final, of the 'traditional' Eurovision countries, only Greece and Turkey could manage a placing in the top half of the table. We now faced the very real possibility that, other than the 'Big Four' of UK, France, Germany and Spain, the 2008 final could have been made up entirely of entries from the Eastern side of Europe. Eurovision has gone East - and the West are going to find it very difficult to get it back again.
Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © the respective broadcasters