Germany: Unser Song 2017… how did we get here? (Part 2)

Welcome to the second and final part of our look back at Germany’s Eurovision history and how their selection formats have changed over the years. The perfect warm-up ahead of Unser Song 2017 taking place tomorrow. If you haven’t read the first part of this article, you can do so by clicking here!

1989: An unsuccessful move to televoting

In 1989, ARD changed their national final format for the first time in a while. Perhaps this was in response to their 14th place finish the previous year, their lowest placing since 1976, or perhaps it was just due to advancing technologies. Ten songs competed in their 1989 national final and the winner was determined by public televoting for the first time in German national final history. The 10-song, televoting format remained for just one further year and neither their 1989 or 1990 entries were particularly successful.

1990s: A return to inconsistency

Eager to reclaim past success, ARD decided to revert back to the previous system for 1991. 1000 people, representing the demographics of the German public, chose the winner from a field of 10. Nevertheless, Atlantis 2000 was unable to match the success of the entries chosen by the sampling format before. They finished 18th at Eurovision in a field of 22. Unable to find the successful Eurovision formula, ARD began to be inconsistent in their national final formats which varied year after year in the 1990s. National finals decided by jury voting were used on one occasion and televoting returned on multiple occasions too. In the mid-1990s Germany internally selected three entries which did provide the country with one moment of success.
Girl group Mekado finished 3rd in 1994 with Wir geben ‘ne Party. Nevertheless, Germany finished last with the following year’s internally selected entry. In the ultimate downturn of events, Germany didn’t even appear in the 1996 contest as Leon, selected by televoting via a national final, was unable to make it past the pre-qualification round. With Germany being the contest’s biggest financial contributor, this arguably led to the introduction of the big 4/big 5 rule in 2000 so that none of the contest’s biggest contributors could be relegated or, in future years, fail to qualify from the semi-finals.

Turn of the millennium: The Countdown Grand Prix

1998 was the year that the officially named Countdown Grand Prix selected Germany’s Eurovision entry. As with the previous couple of years, the winner of Countdown Grand Prix 1998 was selected by televoting alone. However the re-branding seemed to pay off. Guildo Horn won the national final in a landslide with more than 60% of the vote in a field of 10. His success continued onto Eurovision, giving Germany a 7th place finish. After Michelle’s 8th place in 2001, Germany were on a run of 4 consecutive top 10 finishes. This was the country’s best run of results since their “golden era” in the early 1980s.
Countdown Grand Prix continued for a few more years. There was drama in the 1999 edition of the national selection. Corinna May was voted as the winner. However, it was later revealed that her song had been previously released in 1997 by another act. This broke the rules of the contest and she was subsequently disqualified. Nevertheless, Corinna would go on to represent Germany in 2002. Her replacement in 1999 were runners-up in the selection, Sürpriz. The German-Turkish group went on to claim 3rd place in Jerusalem with their entry Reise nach Jerusalem – Kudüs’e seyahat.
Nevertheless, as Germany’s form began to deteriorate again in the mid-2000s, ARD began to switch up their national selection formats once again. Unable to find success, by 2009 the German broadcaster had reverted back to an internal selection. However, this wasn’t a successful move either with Alex Swings Oscar Sings finishing a lowly 20th in Moscow. ARD needed to do something drastic. Hallo, Stefan Raab!

Early 2010s: Proving anything is possible in Eurovision

As we moved into the 2010s, a significant number of people believed a so-called big 4/5 country would never win the contest again. Despite this, the United Kingdom and France had achieved their best results in a while in the previous year, scoring top 10 finishes. ARD no doubt took belief from this and announced a brand new selection format for 2010. The aim was to find a young, inexperienced singer, Unser Star für Oslo (A star for Oslo). They would then pair them with a specially made “song for Eurovision”. The selection took part in an X Factor style format, with weekly eliminations as each participant performed various cover versions. Eventually, in the final Jennifer Braun and Lena Meyer-Landrut performed various potential Eurovision entries. Ultimately, Lena was chosen to represent Germany with Satellite.
Interest in Eurovision in Germany was high with all three of Lena’s potential Eurovision entries taking the top three positions on the German iTunes chart following the final. Jennifer also had her three songs place inside the top 15. As Eurovision 2010 approached, Germany were amongst the favourites. Although, many doubted whether Lena could really go all the way. Nevertheless, all the way she did go and her charming performance of a contemporary pop song brought Eurovision kicking and screaming into the 2010s. More importantly for Germany, she gave them their second Eurovision victory.
Lena quickly revealed her desire to defend her title the following year and ARD accepted the offer. She performed 12 songs for the German public in a national selection and Taken By A Stranger was chosen to represent Germany in Düsseldorf. Lena secured Germany another top 10 finish and the country had finally found their formula for success once again!

Mid-2010s: Too much success leads to Germany’s downfall

ARD chose to re-use their national selection format from 2010 to select their entry for Baku in 2012. The show memorably, for me, included live voting results on screen throughout each show. Personally, this made Unser Star für Baku one of my favourite ever selection processes. Despite myself not understanding German, the show was incredibly tense and exciting and it’s a shame it never happened again! In the final, Roman Lob and Ornella de Santis each sung their three potential Eurovision entries each and Roman was victorious with Standing Still. The format produced yet another Eurovision success. Roman finished in a fantastic 8th place in Baku, considered by many as one of the strongest contests ever.
For 2013, ARD and NDR terminated their partnership with ProSieben who, along with Stefan Raab, were instrumental in the success of the national selections in the previous three years. Nevertheless, Germany no doubt felt they had momentum and organised a national final that contained some of Germany’s biggest music acts and most exciting breakthrough stars. This differed to the use of inexperienced newcomers in the previous three years. One of the most successful European dance acts from the previous decade, Cascada, were victorious in their revamped selection format Unser Song für Malmö. Once again, Germany found themselves near the top of the odds. What happened next?

Introducing the wildcard round

Unfortunately for Cascada, they could only muster up a 21st place finish to the surprise of many fans. Nevertheless, Germany still attracted popular acts to take part in the 2014 national final which included a couple of new elements. The first change was the introduction of a wildcard round for “young talents”. Perhaps this was a nod back to the success of the 2010-12 format which focused on finding new talents.
The second change was a baffling change for many Eurovision fans. Each artist entered two songs into the national final. However, only four of the eight artists would be able to perform both of their songs. This resulted in the unfortunate event of one of the favourites, Madeline Juno, not qualifying for the second round of performances. Her second song, Error, was more popular with fans, Error. Eventually the winners of the national final were Elaiza. They qualified via the wildcard round and subsequently beat all of the more experienced acts to win Unser Song für Dänemark with Is It Right?. Nevertheless, the girl group were only able to better Cascada’s finish by three places.

Two consecutive last places leads to Unser Song 2017

Germany stuck with the wildcard round and two songs per artist format for 2015. After a dramatic final result when winner Andreas Kümmert declined to represent Germany in Vienna, runner-up Ann Sophie won the ticket. Like Elaiza, she was the winner of the wildcard round. Following this, many people believed that the wildcard round winner beating more established acts for two years in a row would see established acts become less interested in the German selection. Unfortunately for Ann Sophie, she finished in last place in Vienna scoring nul points!.

Another drama in the 2016 pre-season saw Germany internally select popular soul star Xavier Naidoo to represent the country in Stockholm. However due to comments he had made in the past, he was swiftly withdrawn. Instead, a national final was held. ARD and NDR reverted to a simpler format of a 10-act, 10-song final. Jamie-Lee, the most recent winner of The Voice of Germany at the time, was victorious. Nevertheless, yet again Germany found themselves at the foot of the table at Eurovision.
The German broadcaster knew they had to make substantial changes for 2017. To do so, they have reverted to a format reminiscent of the one that discovered Lena and Roman Lob at the beginning of the decade. However, the multi-round, single show format of 2014 and 2015 has also influenced the 2017 format. For full details, check out our Unser Song 2017 article here!

It’s nearly time for Unser Song 2017

Do you think the modifications made for Unser Song 2017 will be a success for Germany. They will be hoping that the lean back towards the 2010 and 2012 format will bring the same success as it did for Lena and Roman Lob. The show takes place on 9th February so remember to tune in!
Editor’s Note: Please do let us know if you know of any further information regarding the German selection processes that we were unable to mention. As mentioned, information is scarce so we would appreciate any assistance to help fill in the missing pieces! Feel free to comment below or get in touch via the contact form.

Ryan Cobb

My first memory of watching the Eurovision Song Contest was back in 2001 and, over the years, my passion and enthusiasm for the contest has very much turned into an obsession. I adore music and I love geography, so this contest is a natural fit for me. If la la loving Eurovision was a crime, I'd certainly be a criminal!

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