Since Eurovision adopted its current voting system, where dozens of countries assign between one and 12 points to the competition’s entries via telephone voting, only 14 songs out of thousands have received the most dreaded rating of all: “Nul points.”
It’s the phrase every Eurovision entry has nightmares about, and it hasn’t happened in the competition’s finals since 2003. Its rarity is partly because of the competition’s scale: with so many countries voting, and so many geographical allegiances at play, your song has to be truly putrid to fail to collect one point from anyone. Here’s some members of that hallowed hall of fame:
“Mil Etter Mil,” Norway (1978)
This perfectly ordinary ditty (“Mile After Mile” in English) was probably doomed by the very unenthusiastic delivery from singer Jahn Teigen, whose red pants were so velvety they appear as two shapeless blurs on camera. Teigen's delivery is unenthusiastic, we should say, until he goes CRAZY 2 minutes and 40 seconds in, and then the whole thing shifts into a new gear of embarrassing. Apparently Teigen hated the arrangement and re-recorded it as a rock song, and it was a huge hit in Norway, but we have no way of proving that.
“Nuku Pommiin”, Finland (1982)
Without knowing anything about what Finnish star Kojo is singing about here, it’s not too hard to figure out why his raspy, shouted, off-key performance got zero points. But some investigation into his lyrics reveals even more distressing information. “Nuku Pommiin,” literally “Sleep to the bomb,” advises listeners to sleep through a nuclear attack to avoid its effects. At one point he supposes that someone will “soon throw a nuclear poop here on our Europe.”
“¿Quien Maneja Mi Barca?” Spain (1983)
Fine, BBC announcer Terry Wogan’s dry commentary (“this is very, very ethnic”) doesn’t help. But this is a new level of bad. The bigger Eurovision got, the harder it was to get “nul points.” Flamenco singer Remedios Amaya forgets to hold her microphone near her mouth at one point, and that’s the highlight of this synthy, atonal masterpiece. The lyrics have a lot of questions: “Who sails my boat? It’s drifting away from me. Tell me, who sails my boat?” Later, she asks “Your mother’s braids, tell me, who braids them?” (Wogan’s thoughts: “I don’t think she should have taken it so badly, it’s only an old boat.”)
“Lisa Mona Lisa,” Austria (1988)
Poor Wilfred was probably very nervous on Eurovision night, because he forgot to sing his song, instead mumbling very quietly into his microphone. Then he throws to an extra from Dynasty who breathes the word “Mona Lisa” at everyone, which seems to jazz up his confidence. Wilfred looks like he’s shrinking into his giant suit jacket over the whole song, but it’s an optical illusion created by the horrifying quality of his singing.
“Lopšinė mylimai,” Lithuania (1994)
This is the typical “nul points” entry. They tend to be ignored not because they’re uniquely terrible, but because they’re so boring. Everyone watching Eurovision is hoping for a trainwreck; no one really wants to make fun of some perfectly nice man from Lithuania singing a “lullaby for my beloved.” Especially since this was Lithuania’s first entry to the contest. Poor guys, they’ve been through enough as it is.
“San Francisco,” Norway (1997)
Oh, now this has some kick to it! There’s some actual instruments being played! This thing is, frankly, adorable. The lovely Tor Endresen and what is probably a bunch of friends from his bridge game had just heard about San Francisco and wanted to tell us all about it. There’s references to putting a man on the moon, Jimi Hendrix, and “California Dreamin.’” If anyone ever asks you why people watch Eurovision, show them this, and when they reply that this is awful, just stare at them blankly and call them heartless monsters.
“Lass’ihn,” Switzerland (1998)
Also known as “Leave Him Alone.” For some reason, Gunvor’s introductory video is focused on the Loch Ness Monster, which as far as I’m aware is said to reside in Scotland, not Switzerland, but that’s the energy Gunvor wanted to channel before she shouts at us about dumping a man. The lyrics are an ultimatum, telling him to leave for good. It’s unclear whether the man she’s addressing is that electric violinist who keeps eyeing the camera. “That dress sort of promised more than it delivered, didn’t it?” Wogan sighs at the end.
“Cry Baby,” United Kingdom (2003)
The most recent “nul points” flop is one of the most notorious and simply has to be seen to be believed. There’s no other way to put this: UK pop duo Jemini are singing out of tune. Like, badly, badly off-key. More than 100,000 Brits voted to send this song to the competition, which means the other options must have been various sounds of animals being butchered. Jemini admitted they could not hear the backing track, and Terry Wogan warned them that Britain’s unpopular participation in the Iraq War that year would count against them. But even if Britain had just released a global cancer cure into the air for free that year, “Cry Baby” would have gotten nul points. “Cry Baby” gets nul points forever and ever.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.