Yesterday L’Observateur de Monaco, a Monégasque publication, announced that the principality’s government has set aside €100,000 in its budget to “initiate the application of the Principality to the Eurovision 2023 competition”. This is exciting news indeed! Especially considering Monaco last entered the contest 15 years ago. However, many will wonder: where have they been? Why now? Just how likely is a successful return after so long?
Monaco in Eurovision: The Early Years
Monaco made its Eurovision Song Contest debut in 1959 with Jacques Pills singing ‘Mon ami Pierrot’. It was far from a flying start, with the entry finishing in last place and only receiving one point.
Despite a disappointing start, Monaco were not to be deterred and in 1960 they placed third with ‘Ce soir-la’ by Francois Deguelt. Pills’ daughter, Jacqueline Boyer, would fare much better than her father had, representing France with ‘Tom Pillibi’ and winning the contest. This would not be the first time Monaco were pipped to the post by France. In 1962, Deguelt represented Monaco again with ‘Dis Rien’ but his charming croon was no match for ‘Un Premier Amour’ by Isabelle Aubret. Monaco came second with 13 points while France won the contest with 26 points, eclipsing Monaco’s score!
Monaco would continue to produce a number of respectable top 5 results throughout the 1960s, as well as a nul points result in 1966 when Croatian singer Téréza entered with ‘Bien plus fort’. However, this would all change in 1971…
1971 saw Monaco’s first and only win with Séverine singing ‘Un banc, un arbre, une rue’. Watching the performance back, it’s easy to see why: Séverine has a big, beautiful voice and there was a big band to go with it. However, the lyrics are simple and sweet, focusing on a loss of childhood innocence that all audiences could relate to: “we all have a bench, a tree, a street/Where we cherished our dreams […] a childhood that has been too short.”
Monaco’s victory was notable as neither the singer, songwriter nor the director were actually from the principality. Indeed, Monaco has never sent an entrant from inside the principality and are the only country to have internally selected all their entrants. This is likely due to the country’s very small size: with a population of just 37,308, Monaco remains the only microstate to have ever won ESC to this day.
Monaco also remains the only country in ESC history to have won the contest but never organised it. They wanted the subsequent 1972 contest to be an open-air show in early summer but had neither the funds nor the materials to make this happen. Monégasque broadcaster Télé Monte Carlo (TMC) sought support from French broadcaster ORTF but this led to disputes between the two countries as to who should be allowed to host the contest. It was eventually hosted in Edinburgh.
Following Séverine’s 1971 victory, Monaco would continue to do well in the competition. Half of their entries placed in the top 5. However, 1979’s entry – ‘Notre vie c’est la musique’ by Laurent Vaguener – placed 16 out of 19 entries and Monaco did not return in 1980, citing financial reasons and a lack of interest.
From 2004, the ESC hosted semi-finals for the first time, meaning more countries could participate and possibly increase their chances for success. Along with a televoting-only system, allowing viewers at home to vote for their favourite artists, could this be Monaco’s chance to relive their glory days?
The answer was no: from 2004-2006, Monaco did not progress to a grand final and in 2006, they withdrew from the contest for a second time. Phillipe Boscagli, Monégasque head of delegation, blamed “geopolitical voting”, saying that it effectively gave Monaco no chance of ever winning again. He also accused the public of voting for performances rather than the best song.
A 2023 Return?
It remains to be seen why Monaco have chosen now to hint at a return to the ESC. However, Ryan Cobb for ESCXtra has theorised that the recent successes of San Marino (the only remaining microstate participant) and neighbouring France could have “encouraged the Monégasque government to fund a return and restore Monaco’s rich history at the contest.”
Regardless of motivation, it is still not guaranteed that Monaco definitely will return in 2023. For starters, how far can €100,000 really go? Will a lack of substantial funding mean Monaco continues to struggle, never making it to a grand final and having to bow out again in a few short years? Additionally, the budget itself has not been approved yet and even if it is, Monaco’s participation in ESC would require co-operation between the government and TMC. The broadcaster is now owned by TF1, the leading private broadcaster in France, meaning that TMC programs no longer revolve around Monaco itself. Therefore, do TMC have any incentive to agree to broadcast ESC anymore? On the other hand, ownership by TF1 could mean more money for TMC if they did get on board…
While all we can do now is watch this space, many would welcome a return from Monaco. What about you? Do you want to see Monaco make a comeback? If so, what do you hope they bring to the table? How do you think they will do? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments.