Eurovision Song Contest 2002 Review

We’re in Estonia this year, which starts our huge streak of first-time winners and first-time hosts! It’s going to be so exciting to finally start visiting all of the different countries, get new debutants and just see ESC progress. We’re also about to enter the era I’ve actually watched on the night, live, so I’ll be talking about what I remember and how I remember it. But first, let’s continue with a couple more shows that I haven’t watched live yet. This year, the EBU went back to relegating based on one show, which is mildly less bad. At first, only 22 countries were going to be allowed to take part, but then it was increased to 24 to allow Israel and Portugal to enter. In the end, Portugal decided to skip this year, so the EBU was going to allow the 18th place in 2021 to enter, but the problem was that there were two: Latvia and the Netherlands. So the EBU used the tiebreak that was in effect at the time (number of 12s, then 10s and so on) and allowed Latvia to enter. In a way, it mirrors 1999, when Latvia withdrew, which allowed Portugal to enter instead, so perhaps this was them giving back. In any case, this was definitely the most important withdrawal in all of ESC history.


“We want to leave our mark on the contest,” said Estonia, “but how? We know! Let’s give it a coherent theme and have a slogan.” And so they did, which means that 2002 is the first ever contest to have a slogan. This time, it was “A Modern Fairytale” and the year was themed around fairytales. In the opening film, a little girl opens a book as if it were a fairytale book and then we get the actual film, which is just a showcase of Estonia. As I intend to continue doing, I’m watching this with the Russian commentary, and this time, we have people from the same radio station as in 2000 commentating, and they actually have the same kind of positive and upbeat energy. They’re really excited about Russia’s entry, hyping them up a bit, but that’s not unexpected, most commentators tend to do that.

We then transition to Dave and Tanel performing Everybody on the new stage, which is quite different from the stage we had in the previous year - it’s smaller, but that’s a good thing, with just 6 performers, it’s very hard to make a large stage feel full. Plus it has a nice layout, with a walkway (that’s going to go mostly unused, sadly) and a pretty cool shape in general. The hosts - Annely Peebo and Marko Matvere, we’re in the age of two hosts after all - welcome us all, in English and (pretty poor) French, although I don’t actually mind it that much, they have a lot more charm than the Danish hosts. Plus they really don’t overstay their welcome and finish in just slightly over 5 minutes - not just the shortest intro sequence of the 21st century, but also the shortest one since 1973. As I don’t have a lot to add, I’ll proceed to the songs as well.


Cyprus - Gimme

Performed by

The verses here are rather mediocre and forgettable, and the lead singer sounds a bit too unconfident, but when the chorus starts, they actually harmonise really well, as boybands should. Also, they look pretty good, as boybands should. It’s definitely a good opener - nice and upbeat, energetic and gets the crowd all pumped up, even if it isn’t exactly competitive on its own. But I definitely think this still would’ve opened even if the year had a producer-made running order.

United Kingdom - Come Back

Performed by
Jessica Garlick

Here we have one of the best-placing entry that was performed second. Just like Turkey in 1997 and Ukraine in 2024, the UK scored 3rd place - only outdone by their own entry all the way back in 1965.

And it makes perfect sense that it scored so well. First of all, the recap order was reversed this year, with the last entry being shown first and the first entry being shown last (because the previous year was too “skewed towards the second half” - I’m sure the first half being really terrible had nothing to do with the results), which really helps songs performed late and it makes me mildly annoyed that the EBU did away with it after 2003 and only brought it back in 2024, since it very obviously helps.

But it’s also just the kind of entry that does well earlier on. Just like Cookiefonster said, this entry really stood out after the dance bop from Cyprus by, first of all, having a really strong vocal performance, but also by being a pretty classy ballad. Sometimes, an obviously chanceless ballad by an unimportant country will be put into second to free up better positions for more important entries, but sometimes (like in 2024), an actually good and appealing ballad will get performed in second position only to sweep the results (ok, there were some other factors in 2024, but still). To me, this would’ve been the obvious choice to put in second position and I actually enjoy it performed this early on way more than I would’ve had it been performed later. So year, so far so good, definitely better than 2001 (which isn’t a high bar to clear).

Austria - Say a Word

Performed by
Manuel Ortega

This has a very nice flow after the UK. It starts out quite ballady, continuing the feel of the previous song, but then builds up to be more upbeat, which is why it’s exactly the right entry to follow Come Back. If I didn’t know better, I would say that this really was producer-made, except not in a malicious “let’s push the favourites” way, but in a more “let’s make the entries flow really well” kind of way.

The song itself is nothing special, just a standard pop song, although Manuel has a pretty good and energetic performance, but the chorus is just too repetitive for me to enjoy, even if it’s a bit of an earworm. Plus this actually has a bit of staging - the fake wall hiding the backing singers gets lifted after the first verse. I know, it isn’t that impressive by modern standards, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, we’re taking small steps for now.

Greece - S.A.G.A.P.O.

Performed by
Michalis Rakintzis

Of all ESC entries, this is definitely one of them. No, seriously, I have no idea how to describe it. It certainly has a concept behind it, though I’m not sure anyone knew what it was (perhaps including Michalis himself), but surely the robot outfits signify something? Because it really doesn’t seem like a joke entry to me, more like an entry by someone who just couldn’t realise their vision. But everything here is utterly bizarre, the way of singing, the pronunciation of Sagapo as an English initialism - it’s just all so weird and bizarre and not in a good way. Greece won’t send anything as weird for quite a while from now on, so let’s enjoy it, I guess (even if it isn’t particularly enjoyable).

Spain - Europe’s Living a Celebration

Performed by

I have to admit, I’ve always really liked this. I’ve always been a huge sucker for upbeat and slightly cheesy pop like it, but only when performed well and Rosa is just the personification of fun and she isn’t afraid to share it with us. The performance just brims with energy and positivity and it’s hard not to feel it. Plus she’s pretty good vocally and harmonises well with her backing singers.

Croatia - Everything I Want

Performed by
Vesna Pisarović

This is one of many entries that got worse because of a revamp. The original version performed at Dora is better in every single way. First of all, this is one of those songs that’s definitely enchanced by an orchestra, the live strings add some necessary oomph, but also soften the backing track a bit and make it more palatable. Secondly, the mixing is much better as well. At Eurovision, the backing singers were turned up way too much, completely drowning Vesna during the chorus, to the point where they might as well be lead singers instead of her. She’s also styled much worse on the actual night, in an ugly black costume instead of an elegant white dress like at Dora (Croatia and women in white dresses, name a more iconic duo).

That said, I actually don’t have any issues with the song being translated into English. I think it was done very well and she definitely sings in English well enough for it not to bother me at all. And I actually do still like the song, despite all of its faults (because it probably came off as if I hate it). It’s still performed really well, Vesna still has a really good vocal performance (when she’s allowed to showcase it and isn’t being drowned out) and there’s another attempt at staging here: we have the first performer that uses the walkway. She walks and that might seem very basic, but again, most entries until now were still performed with all performers being mostly static, so we should still celebrate every step we take.

Russia - Northern Girl

Performed by
Prime Minister

This is a resounding meh, it’s a very average boyband song. It isn’t like, awful or anything, I don’t hate it, but it’s also impressively uninteresting and unsticky. I really can’t come up with anything to say here, except for the Russian version being a bit better - though not by much, I think it was adapted into English pretty well, even if the singer has a bit of an accent (but I might not be the best person to judge as I work with a lot of people with strong accents from all over the world).

Of course, the commentators were super excited about this and showered it with praise, but it’s understandable, most commentators are biased towards their country’s entries, it’s very normal and I never get annoyed at that.

Estonia - Runaway

Performed by

Now here’s a true crowdpleaser. Just like last year (and two years ago), Estonia decided to go with a fairly uncomplicated song that’s just simply pure fun and sent a very Swedish-feeling schlager sung by a Swedish artist. But here’s the thing, I actually don’t mind it when countries aren’t represented by their citizens, but only if they were selected through a national final. It still means that the people of a particular country (Estonia in this case) have decided that this particular person is the best choice to showcase their country, imaginary lines on a map be damned.

North Macedonia - Od nas zavisi

Performed by

Oh my god, North Macedonia delivering a good staging? Impossible, but also true. Doing that while also delivering a good song? Absolutely unheard of, but I’m glad it happened. Because it’s actually really good and mysterious, performed really well and there’s even a costume change. But, just like Cookiefonster said, it has one fatal flaw: it’s sadly very uncatchy, which prevents me from fully embracing it, which is sad since the title “Od nas zavisi” sounds exactly like the Russian phrase “от нас зависит” (ot nas zavisit), with the same meaning, so I always feel like I should be able to sing along, but I just can’t. It’s one of those songs that was probably one more pass away from greatness.

Israel - Light a Candle

Performed by
Sarit Hadad
Hebrew, English

And here we have it: a song that executes the minor verses/major key trope pretty well. It’s not perfect, I still think that the chorus is less interesting than the verses, but it’s actually still pretty good. Maybe since it’s combined with a language change, I don’t mind it as much I probably would’ve otherwise. Overall, well done, Israel, it’s pleasant, though perhaps not very standout.

Switzerland - Dans le jardin de mon âme

Performed by
Francine Jordi

Volume control, lady, volume control. You don’t need to belt out the whole song at the top of your lungs, that’s why microphones exist. It’s bad enough that she sometimes peaks and destroys my ears just a little bit more. Apart from standing out in that way, it’s actually pretty boring, not much happens during the song and then it ends. It feels super formulaic and derivative, though it probably could’ve been way more enjoyable with a quieter singer.

Sweden - Never Let It Go

Performed by

2002 is right around the point at which countries began to realise that Eurovision is a TV show and TV audiences love it when people stage a show for them (there’s a reason why “overall impression of the act” is one of the jury criteria to this day).

And, obviously, Sweden were the ones that adapted very quickly to the new reality (and also allowed songs in English to be entered into Melodifestivalen, as well as introduced heats) and sent something that was obviously meant to do well in the new reality. And, success! Eighth place is really nothing to sneeze at, a lot of the countries could only dream to come eighth. Even if you don’t like it, you gotta give Sweden props for never being satisfied with the status quo.

Though song-wise it’s quite meh, isn’t it? I mean, I love their energy, they really know how to work the crowd, which is the big selling point of this, but I just never vibed with the song as much as I wish I could. Even with my enjoyment of schlager, it’s just too hectic for me. But still, I think its placement was well-deserved based on the performance alone.

Finland - Addicted to You

Performed by

Another Nordic pop song, though slightly different from Sweden: while Never Let It Go felt more schlagery, this just feels more straightforwardly poppy and, controversially, has a more likeable, if a bit less flashy, performance. I also think it has a very nice hook and composition, it’s definitely sounds more like a song I would (and do) listen to regularly. But the running order really hurt it, it’s still similar enough to Never Let It Go to get overshadowed by it and it’s less flashy, which means the viewers are more likely to forget it, which they did and only gave this song 24 points, which put it at 20th place and got Finland relegated (again). Honestly, you just have to feel bad for them at this point (or at most points of their participation).

Also, the Russian commentators were very positive about this and said that it has “all the chances to win”, which honestly kinda makes sense if you think about it. It’s a very nice catchy pop song and pop has always done well at Eurovision (and will always continue doing well). They also mentioned that Laura told everyone at the press conference that everyone who wants to become a singer has to watch Eurovision.

Denmark - Tell Me Who You Are

Performed by

The third Nordic this year, nicely drawn to perform after the two other Nordics in the decreasing order of results, which is a very funny coincidence. This was performed by Malene, who, according to the Russian commentators, had exams at her university the day after this show.

Which does explain her nervous and unconfident performance, at least a little bit. Though honestly, people overstate just how nervous it was. Sure, she was far from being at her best (her DMGP performance is actually really good, though she still has that vulnerable feel to her - and I think it flows better in Danish), but she still hit most notes. She also had better styling at DMGP, the long dress just fits her more and would’ve hidden her bouncing her leg out of nervousness.

So, do I like it or not? Because it seems like I haven’t been very explicit about it. And yes, I actually do like it. In fact, the best comparison I can draw to this is City Lights from 2017. Both feature a vulnerable and nervous performer that, at least in my opinion, enhances the song. In this case, the them in the lyrics helps that. Since this song is about her being nervous and anxious about her relationship, a nervous and anxious performance fits this really well, though it was obviously unintentional and I’m sure the general public would’ve liked it more with a more confident performance. Still, I’m not the general public (as I’m sure everyone who’s read this blog knows) and think last place for this was incredibly undeserved, even with her doing some vocal flexing at the end (I don’t like when artists do that), because the song is actually good.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Na jastuku za dvoje

Performed by
Serbian, English

Yay, rock in Eurovision. Very subdued and poppy rock, but rock nonetheless. We’re still just a few years away from rock becoming a lot more common in the contest, so let’s enjoy this while it’s here. Though it really is too subdued for me to properly embrace. But still, Maja has a very nice and professional performance, I really like how she harmonises with her backing singers and I actually really like the “ooh-ooh"s in the middle - they’re accompanied by an instrumental flourish that reminds me of Bosnia’s 1997 entry a lot, though this is a lot more rocky while that was a lot more minimalistic. And while I’m not a huge fan of a language change that just takes one half of the song in English, one half of the song in another language and smashes them together, I think it actually works decently well here.

Belgium - Sister

Performed by
Sergio and the Ladies

We follow a very poppy rock entry with a very American-sounding rock entry and I know, it’s hypocritical of me to like it after saying that Never Ever Let You Go was too American-sounding for me to embrace, but my bias for rock overrides my bias against American-sounding music enough for me to really like it. It’s definitely a fun time, mostly thanks to Sergio having a lot of time up there on stage and, once again, knowing how to work the crowd. Plus it’s still composed really well, it’s very faithful to its style, which is 80s-sounding rock. I also find it funny that both rock entries this year performed one right after the other and came joint 13th (though if tiebreak rules had been used, Bosnia would’ve actually finished 14th as Belgium received 10p from Turkey and Bosnia only got 7p from Austria and Croatia).

France - Il faut du temps

Performed by
Sandrine François

France saw the success of Je n’ai que mon âme and decided to send something along its lines, but honestly, I prefer this song, especially from a compositional standpoint. It just has a better feeling of progression, especially with that nice guitar solo. But she does oversing it at times, which is a huge pet peeve for me, so I can’t like it as much as I could otherwise. Still, it’s an A+ for effort, it clearly paid off as France scored fifth place this year, and I have to say, it was deserved, even if I don’t like it as much as a lot of other people do.

Germany - I Can’t Live Without Music

Performed by
Corinna May

Corinna May actually tried to represent Germany before, in 1999, and even won the national final with the song Hör Den Kindern Einfach Zu, but got disqualified because the song has already been released in 1997. Not deterred, she teamed up with the ever-present Ralph Siegel and won the German national final in 2002. But the thing is, this song doesn’t hold a candle to her entry from 1999. That one sounded anthemic and powerful, but this just sounds cheap and stilted, it’s easily one of Ralph Siegel’s worst songs ever so far. The backing singers doing some dancing only highlights that Corinna is standing still because she can’t really dance as well. All in all, I’m not a fan at all and its result was quite deserved.

Turkey - Leylaklar Soldu Kalbinde

Performed by
Buket Bengisu and Group Safir
Turkish, English

Turkey is almost there with perfecting the ethnic formula, but it’s still just too lowkey and toned down in my opinion. There just isn’t anything for me to grip on, it lacks a hook and a catchy melody. But it’s still pretty nice, I definitely enjoyed it more than some of the songs that came before. But I would’ve enjoyed it without the language change, it’s very inelegant.

Malta - 7th Wonder

Performed by
Ira Losco

Yep, Malta was still absolutely hellbent on winning. This definitely feels like a song designed to score well: strong vocals, easy-to-understand lyrics in English, confident performance and a couple gimmicks to make the viewers remember it better (spreading glitter, fakeout ending). Plus it’s just a very contemporary song, which always scores well in Eurovision. I definitely like it, it’s very catchy and memorable and I could hum you the chorus at any point. So yeah, well done to Malta for achieving their best ever result at the time (though they’d outdo themselves in 2005 as this is 2nd out of 24, but they’d place 2nd out of 39 the other year).

Romania - Tell Me Why

Performed by
Monica Anghel and Marcel Pavel

You know what, I actually think this is pretty good. It’s a very strong performance and got a really good draw after a bunch of upbeat songs, which made it stand out quite a lot. It has a lovely piano intro and a very Italian sound (it especially reminds me of Non È Un Addio by Pupo and Petra Magoni, though not as good, of course). This also marked Romania’s turn of fortunes as they actually made it to the top 10 by a pretty safe margin, so this was obviously the correct choice to send to Eurovision and will give Romania some necessary boost of confident to start sending songs that are more “out there”.

Slovenia - Samo ljubezen

Performed by

So, a little backstory on this: there was a scandal when this won the national final and some people were very annoyed by it enough for the European Parliament to waste some taxpayer money to discuss if those idiots from Eastern Europe deserved to breathe the same air as Western Europeans (they deicded that yes, they did). Of course, when Austrians had the same temper tantrum over Conchita Wurst representing them in 2014, nobody batted an eye because Western Europeans are simply more enlightened.

As for the song, it’s a proper disco banger. Just like with a lot of songs performed by drag artists, the vocals are a bit rough at times, but that really only adds to the charm for me (or I’m just used to that, but both of these things can be true). Though they’re still good enough for me to make out the gist of what they’re singing about, which is pretty much just about sharing their love with other people, which is a very sweet topic.

This also shows that ESC was continuing to become more and more LGBT-friendly, inching closer and closer to its modern inclusive image and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Latvia - I Wanna

Performed by
Marie N

Just like with 2001, I think that people hate on this too much because it’s a really innovative song. Like I said in my review of the Swedish entries, countries finally started to realise that the performance mattered as much as the song itself, and most of them even tried to elevate their entries with staging. But no country put on a show as elaborate and memorable as Latvia. It starts out with a very elaborate dance routine and Marie doing her best to, and I feel like I’ve repeated this phrase too often, work the crowd.

She starts out dressed in male clothes, with two male dancers beside her and the three female dancers/singers in the back. I think this is meant to show her masculine side, since she dances with the men and the women are mostly ignored. But as the song goes on, she begins to interact with the women more (embracing her feminine side? I’m probably reading into this way too much) and then finally, her male clothes are removed right at the end of the song, revealing a short pink dress that’s lowered right at the end to cover her legs. Honestly, tell me this isn’t memorable and well-thought-out.

And the song itself is a banger too. Sure, her pronunciation is far from the best, but I can understand most of it just fine. The instrumental has a nice jazzy vibe (which makes perfect sense, seeing how she’s a pop and jazz singer - not exclusively, but predominantly), starting with a nice brassy opening and then never transitioning into full-out pop. Despite her diction, she also has a good vocal performance - she never sounds tired or out-of-breath, always having perfect control over her singing. And, of course, there’s a lot of chemistry between her and her backing dancers, which is incredibly important in every song, but especially in a song like this. It truly is a complete package and the best performance of the night which won completely fairly and deservedly.

Lithuania - Happy You

Performed by

Ok, you know what, this is hilarious. The lyrics make no sense and he’s a pretty poor singer, but there’s something absolutely hysterical about this and the lyrics sometimes randomly pop up in my mind. The outfits are really garish and terrible, he’s wearing a beret and I don’t know, it’s just so unconventional. I feel like I should dislike this, but I just don’t, it’s a lot of fun and a great closer.

Final thoughts

This was such a crazy improvement on 2001, both hosting-wise and song-wise. I really liked the postcards too, they carried on with the fairytale theme and some of the choices (like puttin the Snow White postcard with the caption “so many beautiful women” before Slovenia) were absolutely inspired. They were also short and didn’t feel forced or annoying, unlike the postcards in some other years. Estonia really wanted to show themselves in a good light and actually succeeded. This was also the year that introduced a reverse-order recap, which really helped the results, seeing how a lot of high scorers came from the first half (although having actually good songs in the first half helped a lot too).

The interval act was pretty good, a children’s choir and a dance group. It kept me fairly engaged while the voted were being cast and counted, so it served its purpose well. It’s definitely a huge improvement on the 2001 intrerval act. I like that it wasn’t exclusively focused on traditional music, but also mixed in some modern sounds as well. After that, we get the traditional greeting from the Executive Supervisor (the last one from Christine Marchal-Ortiz, whom I’ve forgotten to mention up to this point, but yes, she was the Frank Naef replacement for the past 6 contests). She confirms that everthing is normal and the voting can go along and we, indeed, go along.

The voting was, sadly, nowhere near as interesting. Malta took an early lead with Latvia being second, but the votes from Israel flipped that around for the rest of the voting. But still, they were close enough that Malta could still win until the last set of votes (from Lithuania, which gave Latvia 12 points).

Since Latvia won, I’ll see you all in Riga for the best Eurovision year ever with 24 great songs (and 2 not-so-great ones).


  1. Croatia - Everything I Want (+10)
  2. Latvia - I Wanna (-1)
  3. Slovenia - Samo ljubezen (+10)
  4. Estonia - Runaway (-1)
  5. Spain - Europe’s Living a Celebration (+2)
  6. Malta - 7th Wonder (-4)
  7. Denmark - Tell Me Who You Are (+17)
  8. North Macedonia - Od nas zavisi (+11)
  9. Finland - Addicted to You (+11)
  10. Bosnia and Herzegovina - Na jastuku za dvoje (+3)
  11. Romania - Tell Me Why (-2)
  12. Belgium - Sister (+1)
  13. France - Il faut du temps (-8)
  14. United Kingdom - Come Back (-11)
  15. Sweden - Never Let It Go (-7)
  16. Turkey - Leylaklar Soldu Kalbinde (=)
  17. Cyprus - Gimme (-11)
  18. Israel - Light a Candle (-6)
  19. Lithuania - Happy You (+4)
  20. Austria - Say a Word (-2)
  21. Greece - S.A.G.A.P.O. (-4)
  22. Russia - Northern Girl (-12)
  23. Switzerland - Dans le jardin de mon âme (-1)
  24. Germany - I Can’t Live Without Music (-3)


  • Austria - 1 (1965)
  • Belgium - 1 (1961)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina - 1 (1999)
  • Croatia - 1 (2002)
  • Cyprus - 2 (1992, 1995)
  • Denmark - 2 (1963, 1989)
  • Estonia - 1 (2001)
  • Finland - 2 (1974, 1985)
  • France - 4 (1969, 1976, 1977, 1979)
  • Germany - 3 (1957, 1972, 1978)
  • Iceland - 1 (2000)
  • Israel - 1 (1988)
  • Italy - 3 (1958, 1983, 1990)
  • Luxembourg - 3 (1956, 1964, 1973)
  • Malta - 1 (1991)
  • Monaco - 2 (1968, 1970)
  • Netherlands - 1 (1959)
  • Norway - 2 (1966, 1996)
  • Poland - 1 (1997)
  • Portugal - 2 (1967, 1984)
  • Russia - 1 (1994)
  • Slovenia - 1 (1993)
  • Spain - 2 (1971, 1982)
  • Sweden - 2 (1962, 1980)
  • Switzerland - 2 (1981, 1986)
  • Turkey - 1 (1975)
  • United Kingdom - 2 (1960, 1998)
  • Yugoslavia - 1 (1987)