There’s a lot of legitimate reasons to hate the meme “Epic Sax Guy.” I feel like your list can start and end at “it’s a fucking meme,” and you’d be morally in the right. I’ve got the worst reason, though, and I’m sorry. Epic Sax Guy wasn’t funny because it wasn’t even the most absurd Eurovision performance from that year. I’m giving that honor to Spain’s clown nightmare, for the record, though Turkey’s offbrand Linkin Park comes close.
This is the first year I can say “Eurovision” around other Americans without them saying, “God bless you.” It’s being aired on TV in the US for the first time ever—appropriately, on Logo, home of RuPauls’ Drag Race. Finally, the rest of the world will know what I’ve been saying for years. Eurovision is the pinnacle of human achievement, the worst thing I’ve ever seen, the best comedy on TV and a really good excuse to get day drunk for at least five hours. Here’s your primer for Saturday, y’all. Buckle the fuck up.
1. “Wild Dances”—Ruslana, Ukraine 2004
This feels like cheating because it is actually a good song. No, I’m not joking. This song was good, and I’ll fucking fight you on it. If it ends up on a Grand Theft Auto soundtrack that means it’s at the very least listenable, okay?
But it’s also indicative of what makes Eurovision so special. It’s the tackiest performance I’ve ever seen. There’s fire, she’s covered in fur, sweaty men are grinding on her—if Ruslana hasn’t made a killing at Pride events by now I’d be hugely surprised.
2. “Vampires Are Alive”—DJ BoBo, Switzerland 2007
This one is also cheating because it didn’t even make it to the semi-final, but that it was even considered, for a second, to be Eurovision material says enough. This is the worst of early ‘90s technotrance except it was written in 2007. I just simply cannot believe this song exists. And just—his fake face tattoo! The faux hawks! The man with the Insane Clown Posse face painted on the back of his head! He’s probably singing the flavor text from the Vampires: The Masquerade rulebook and it’s both the absolute worst and the best thing I’ve ever seen.
3. “The Social Network Song”—Valentina Monetta, San Marino 2012
San Marino sent this woman twice. They try real hard, y’all, they really do. Fun fact: this was initially entered as “The Facebook Song,” until good old Zuckerberg threatened a lawsuit. I’m pretty sure the song is better with all the serial numbers filed off, but my favorite part is that it’s low key about friending randos to fuck. Click me with your mouse indeed.
4. “Woki Mit Deim Popo”—Trackshittaz, Austria 2012
2012 was a hell of a year, huh? Bad European rap has become more and more popular at Eurovision and it’s always a treat. This one is special because while I am very much aware that the title of this song roughly translates to “shake your ass,” it just, well—it sounds like they’re saying poo poo. And every time they say it, there’s a close up on a woman’s ass. It could not be funnier if this was on purpose.
I’d also like to point out that these women that the delightfully named Trackshittaz want to shake their asses have basically negative ass space. They have to paint asslines on their catsuits to indicate where the ass is supposed to be. Come on. Have some standards.
5. “Who See”—Igranka, Montenegro 2013
This didn’t make it to the final and I was actually kind of surprised. Maybe it was too on the nose. Maybe it was one of those years where everyone sent a really boring ballad. Maybe the weird dudes in masks just freaked everyone out. For whatever reason, Europe didn’t deem this one a contender, even though Montenegro seems to truly understand what Eurovision is all about: the nightmarish fever dream of candy flipping in a seedy club.
6. “Lost and Forgotten”—Peter Nalicth and Friends, Russia 2010
On the surface this song is almost good. I knew a couple of people who were rooting for it, even. Then you get to a minute and 14 seconds into the track.
Everything about that moment reveals this song as the schlocky, cliché farce it really is. The weird, disembodied “what are you doing man”; the melodramatic, awful belting that comes after; the hand drawn, crude illustration of what I assume is a woman. I could live in that moment. It’s like peeling back the skin of the universe and seeing its true face.
7. Moldova, Just in General
This list could have easily been populated with songs from Moldova. Yes, this is the country that birthed that Epic Sax Guy, but it’s also the home of these guys above with the hats and the unicycle, a Ren Faire from 2009, and a sexy Ren Faire from 2012. There isn’t a year in which Moldova doesn’t enter something kind of hilarious, and I love them for it. Even this year’s pretty boring ballad suddenly turns into a weird Evanescence-meets-Eurotrance thing halfway through. Never stop, Moldova. You keep me awake through these things.
8. “Walk on Water”—Ira Losco, Malta 2016
This song is also good, fuck you. This is some old school Mariah Carey-ass diva shit. This is what Eurovision is all about—bombast, belting and spectacle— and it’s legitimately a bop to boot. It is for this reason that this song will not only lose, but lose horribly. I’m predicting sub-10th place. Welcome to Eurovision!
9. “My Slowianie—We Are Slavic”—Donatan & Cleo, Poland 2014
A lot of Eurovision is centered on cultural heritage, trying to make the histories of these countries interesting and sexy. Donatan & Cleo took the sexy part pretty literally. I guess there’s nothing more Slavic than cumming while churning butter? Look, I’m not Polish. It was either that or being a Witcher.
10. “Congratulations”—Silvia Night, Iceland 2006
Legend has it that this is the only Eurovision song ever to be booed and while I’m not sure that’s true, let’s all live in that world for a minute. This song was not only made for Eurovision, namechecking it in the lyrics and everything—it’s made for Eurovision. It treats the show with the exact amount of respect it deserves, which is to say, none. So people booed it, booed it while Silvia Night is thanking her adoring audience. Why? It’s too tacky for fucking Eurovision? As far as I’m concerned this song is Eurovision. You asked for this world, the world of Silvia Night phoning up God to say, “what’s up dog?” and now you get to live in it. Congratulations.
Gita Jackson is Paste’s assistant comedy editor.