Although it doesn’t have the reputation for being a flashy, kitschy place you might associate with the modern Eurovision Song Contest, Switzerland has a special place in Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) history.
In 1956, it hosted the very first ESC in Lugano – and won it, when Swiss singer Lys Assia took home the trophy with her French-language “Refrain.”
Since then, the Alpine nation has competed almost every year – missing out on the contest only four times.
In 1988, Switzerland famously won again with another French-language song – Ne partez pas sans moi or “Don’t go without me” – sung by none other than a young Celine Dion at the beginning of her career (the French-Canadian singer was invited to represent the country by Swiss officials).
The country hasn’t turned in an ESC win since then. What’s more, Switzerland’s performance in the last 20 years has also been largely disappointing – with the Swiss act failing to qualify for Saturday’s Grand Final more than half the time. They’ve instead been eliminated during semi-finals.
That might account a bit for Swiss Eurovision viewership figures that are quite a bit lower than places like the UK, Germany, and Spain – where at least a full 10 percent of the population in all three places watched last year. By contrast, about 330,000 people in Switzerland watched Eurovision in 2022.
That said, those Swiss fans have had a bit more to cheer for in recent years – with Swiss acts once again making a clear impression on both contest judges and the general public in televoting.
In 2019, singer Luca Hänni finished fourth with his English-language dance bop “She Got Me.” After the 2020 contest was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Swiss act Gjon’s Tears finished third with his French-language “Tout l’univers.” 2022’s entry Marius Bear didn’t crack the top ten, but made the Grand Final with his English-language “Boys Do Cry.”
Switzerland at Eurovision – a rich linguistic history
As you might expect from a country with four official languages, listening to Switzerland’s Eurovision entries over the years is a real treat for language lovers.
Swiss competitors have sung in English 17 times – with most of those being recent Swiss entries.
Swiss singers have sung in French at Eurovision 24 times, with French-language songs accounting for both of the country’s two Eurovision wins.
Switzerland has also sung in German and Italian at Eurovision eleven times apiece. The vocal group Furbaz has the distinction of performing Switzerland’s only ever Eurovision entry in Romansh, with 1989’s Viver senza tei.
How might Switzerland do this year?
Remo Forrer from Hemburg in the St. Gallen canton is representing Switzerland at Eurovision this year. At 21, he’s already won The Voice of Switzerland reality singing show.
He describes his English-language song for the contest, “Watergun,” as a power ballad that laments the powerlessness of his generation in the world’s current wars.
Bookmakers give Forrer an outside chance at cracking the top 10, now that he’s qualified to compete in the Grand Final on Saturday May 13th. So while it may not necessarily be a winning song, it signals how Switzerland is once again becoming more competitive on the Eurovision stage.