Photo credit: Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU
Romania is a country with a relatively good history in Eurovision since they debuted nearly 30 years ago, but after their first Non-Qualification from the semi-finals in 2018, they’ve struggled to find their feet in the contest again. After another non-qualification in 2023, we look back at what went well this year, what Romania can improve on for next year, and why the nation shouldn’t give up.
A Brief History Of Romania At Eurovision
Romania had a shaky start to their Eurovision history as they initially tried to make their debut in 1993, but failed to make it past the pre-qualifying round. They officially debuted in 1994 but ended up being relegated in 1995 due to a low score. They once again failed to qualify in the pre-qualifying round in 1996 and didn’t return until 1998 as they were relegated again for 1997.
Their fortunes began to change in the early 2000s when they achieved their first Top 10 result in 2002. They scored well throughout the decade and had consecutive Top 5 finishes in 2005 and 2006. Romania were regular competitors throughout the 2000s and 2010s and between 2002 and 2015, they didn’t miss a single final. Romania became one of the most successful and popular Eurovision countries despite not winning at the time. However, in 2018 they failed to make the final for the first time ever. This also happened in 2019 and 2021. Despite a decent result in 2022 in the final, for the first time ever, in 2023, Romania finished joint last in the semi-final with 0 points. But how did this happen and what went wrong?
Selecția Naționala 2023
For almost all of Romania’s participations in Eurovision, the song and artist are decided by a TV programme called Selecția Naționala, and 2023 was no different. In most years, the program has auditions, a semi-final, and a final, but this year there was just a final featuring 12 acts. There were 85 submissions but only these 12 were the ones that made it to the final. In recent years of SN, there have been semi finals and heats, therefore fans will have heard a lot more songs than they did this year. The only rule change for 2023 was that the winner would be decided by 100% televote, rather than having a jury involved as well.
Amongst the names that were taking part, there were some newcomers and some contestants who had had success on reality shows before.
You can find out more about them in this article I wrote about the 12 artists from Selecția Naționala 2023:
While there wasn’t a hot favourite to win the contest, fans thought that Andreea D Folchor Orchestra or Andrei Duţu were the main contenders, but in the end, Theodor Andrei put on a show and he became a dark horse. He did enough to win the right to represent Romania at Eurovision, although it was a close result.
Image credit: TVR
Not many fans expected Theodor to win the national selection so his victory took some fans by surprise. The overall reaction to the song was mixed. Although the song had its fans, there were others who weren’t sure about the song and whether it would be enough to qualify. Once the running order was revealed, this theory intensified as it was revealed he would be singing in 3rd position out of 16 – which was early on.
The bookmakers were also in agreement. According to Eurovision World, when the semi-final odds were released back on March 20th, they had a 24% chance of qualifying but as the weeks went on, this dropped and by the night of the Semi-Final, there was only a 4% chance of him qualifying with some bookies offering odds of 51/1.
The performance was unusual for Eurovision standards as Theodor sang the first verse and chorus almost in an acapella style. The song then builds into the second verse. It was just him alone on the stage for almost the entire performance until a dancer ran on the stage and rubbed black paint on him. In Eurovision, it can be a daunting task to fill the stage when you’re mostly on your own but Theodor tried his best.
Speaking from personal experience, when I saw this in the arena and in the Eurovillage, people around me were confused at the staging. Although Theodor was passionate about this project, the execution of it may not have been right for people at home to understand and just didn’t have the mass appeal like other songs had.
Going back to running order, Romania was also performing early in the semi-final meaning they were more likely to be forgotten by fans after all of the songs performed. They were also straight after Armenia who were becoming a fan favourite after Brunette’s great rehearsal and now she had added a dance break which made her stand out amongst her competition. Having to follow her performance was in itself a tough task.
It was revealed that Romania was not one of the 10 qualifiers during the Semi-Final 2 results. Once the Eurovision final had finished, the full semi-final results were published and it was revealed that Romania (as well as San Marino) scored 0 points. This was the first time a country had scored 0 points overall in a semi-final since 2009. It is worth noting that their voting ally Moldova was performing in the first semi-final and therefore couldn’t vote for them.
When you look at the full Semi-final 2 results, the televote were actually in agreement with the 10 countries that they wanted to send through to the final.
Semi Final 2 Results
- Australia 🇦🇺 149
- Austria 🇦🇹 137
- Poland 🇵🇱 124
- Lithuania 🇱🇹 110
- Slovenia 🇸🇮 103
- Armenia 🇦🇲 99
- Cyprus 🇨🇾 94
- Belgium 🇧🇪 90
- Albania 🇦🇱 83
- Estonia 🇪🇪 74
- Iceland 🇮🇸 44
- Georgia 🇬🇪 33
- Greece 🇬🇷 14
- Denmark 🇩🇰 6
- Romania 🇷🇴 0
- San Marino 🇸🇲 0
What Went Right?
Despite the result, there were some things that did go well for Romania. Theodor Andrei did send a style of song that Romania hadn’t really sent before and this song definitely had its fans. As of right now, D.G.T has over 2 million streams on Spotify which has easily become Theodor’s most popular song. Unfortunately, the song didn’t connect with the wider audience overall to make the Top 10 of any of the countries voting. However, at the time of writing, the full semi-final votes of every country haven’t been released yet, only those who finished in the Top 10. Therefore we don’t know if Romania finished 11th with a couple of countries and just missed out on scoring points.
It was also good for Romania to send a song with Romanian lyrics for the first time since 2015. Ever since the language rule was relaxed in 1999, Romania had only sent songs in Romanian three times. Many fans praise songs and artists who sing in their native language rather than just singing in English and it also shows some of the country’s cultural identity. Theodor also co-wrote this song himself so it was good to see another artist have a major input on their song and it was personal to him.
Another thing that was great was seeing just how passionate Theodor was in the contest. Ever since he was young, Eurovision was always his dream, and being able to perform in front of millions of people. In the lead-up to the event, he posted covers of him singing every Eurovision 2023 song which showed his voice and his talent for music. He also posted a video of him singing a medley of some of The Beatles’ greatest hits in honour of Liverpool hosting the contest. While simply being a fan of the contest isn’t going to get you the good results, it’s always nice to see an artist who’s really excited to be in the contest and give Eurovision fans, even more, to listen to.
The Impact Of These Results Over Time
Over recent years, interest in Eurovision in Romania has declined, and one of these factors is because of them not making the final. This year, the final was watched by only 117,000 people which was a 2.7% market share, which is their lowest ever. Compared to last year, where 369,000 viewers watched Eurovision which at the time was the highest number of viewers since 2017. It is good to note that Romania qualified for the final in 2022 and like any country if they qualify for the final, there is a lot more interest as the public will want to cheer their entrant on and see how well they do.
After 2022, there were some fears that Romania would withdraw from the contest and now Romania has achieved their worst ever result in history, these fears will be back on fans minds.
Why Romania Shouldn’t Give Up
Every country has had at least one bad result at Eurovision, it’s just the way things go sometimes but that shouldn’t mean countries should give up. There are many countries that had numerous bad results such as the UK which went from 0 points in 2021 but then the year after, they had a 2nd place finish. The Netherlands is another example of a country that turned its luck around. Between 2005-2012, The Netherlands failed to qualify every year, but in 2013 they secured a Top 10 result, a 2nd place in 2014, and a victory in 2019. Therefore, if the UK and The Netherlands can turn things around after bad results, then there’s no reason why Romania can’t as well.
Despite the lack of interest in the country, there are still plenty of singers who see Eurovision as a great opportunity to promote themselves and further their careers. Although 85 submissions this year may seem low, there have been countries like Moldova for example who’ve had even fewer submissions and they still get good results.
Artists like wrs have had a lot of success in Romania thanks to Eurovision. His song ‘Llámame‘ became his first number 1 single in the country in the Summer of 2022 further proving the misconception that Eurovision can ruin careers.
What Could Romania Do Next Year?
While we’re not sure what Romania will do for Eurovision next year, in order to achieve a good result and bring the viewers back into the contest, they need a great song from a talented artist or group to help them return to the final.
One thing Romania has done in recent years is they’ve had artists from a leading record label represent them.
In 2020, Romania internally selected their artist through Global Records. This strategy has been tried by other countries before such as Cyprus working with one of Greece and Cyprus’s biggest record labels, Panik Records to help decide and promote their artist.
Roxen, who was a rising star, was selected to represent Romania in 2020, but the song was decided in a National Final. ‘Alcohol You’ was the winning song but ultimately the contest was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The year after, Romania went internal for the first time to bring back Roxen in 2021 with the song ‘Amnesia’. It was a good pop ballad with a powerful message, but it ultimately failed to qualify for the final finishing in 12th place, despite being a qualifier with the juries.
In 2022, Selecția Nationala returned with 46 artists and one of them was also a member of Global Records, this was wrs. As mentioned previously, he sang ‘Llámame‘ and won the national final, and in turn, he became the first Romanian act to qualify for the final since 2017. He finished in 18th place overall.
While we’re not sure whether there will be a Global Records artist in Romania’s national selection next year, there are many well-established artists on that record label such as INNA, Alexandra Stan, and Olivia Addams so it could be a good move to have one of those artists involved in the contest, if they wish to compete. Also, if a famous artist is taking part, it will create more interest in the country and get more people watching.
If they don’t internally select anyone, bringing the national selection back could also be a good move. All of Romania’s Top 10 results at Eurovision had Selecția Naționala as the selection process to decide the song and artist so this national selection does bring them good results, they just need to find great songs and also a good quantity of them.
While some fans may argue it’s better to have a small national final, sometimes it can be good for the public to see more options and hear these songs. Some of these could even become successes on their own. The best example of this was back in 2018. One of the competing entries that year was ‘Safari‘ sung by Serena. The song was a favourite amongst fans due to its catchy nature and being very contemporary. Unfortunately, the juries placed her in 9th place in her Semi-Final and she didn’t qualify. Over the months and years since, ‘Safari‘ has been a viral sensation in not just Europe, but the whole world, especially in India. At the time of writing, the song currently has around 120 million streams on Spotify and the video has 275 million views on YouTube.
Romania does have a great music industry and it’s diverse as well. European radio stations were always playing Romanian artists such as INNA, Alexandra Stan, and Edward Maya in the early 2010s. If they can show off that side of their current music industry in their national selection, then I’m sure they’ll have lots of great songs to choose from. As we know with other National Finals like UMK for Finland and more recently Benidorm Fest for Spain, having selections that have a lot of different genres are successful, and often a great song goes to Eurovision.
No matter who’s the artist or group next year, whether it’s someone from Global Records or is a complete newcomer, it’s important that the artist is given as much creative control as possible so they can share their vision and song with Europe the way they intended to. Romania has a lot of talented artists in their country and they have the potential to give them a great result.
We wish Romania the best of luck in 2024 and hope to see them back in the final!
Who do you want to see represent Romania next year? Let us know in the comments!
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