Eurovision 2016: Can Justin Timberlake Match These 10 Best Ever Interval Acts?

The American superstar has a lot to live up to.

11/05/2016 17:32 | Updated 11 May 2016

It was the Eurovision Song Contest 1994, and time for the interval. We'd all piled into the kitchen to plough into an enormous Chinese takeaway that we'd timed especially to be hot between the good bits of Eurovision, the acts that came before (I can remember a fantastic triangular guitar that year) and the interminable voting still to come. 

Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP
Justin Timberlake may be one of the world's biggest showmen, but he's got a lot to live up to

One girl stayed behind to watch the interval, while the rest of us filled our bellies - until, over the sound of pouring glasses, chinking plates, we heard her shouting, over and over again. We ran back into the living room, expecting some sort of accident. Instead, she was on her feet, pointing at the screen, wide-eyed as though in the grip of some otherworldly visitation. Which was kind of true. And thus did we have our first sighting of Riverdance

More than two decades later, we've come to expect much from the interval act - it has to showcase the home nation's musical talents, be memorable in its own right, but without distracting from or overshadowing the acts that have come before. It's no small order, and perfectly understandable why ABBA have (so far!) resisted all offers to revisit the arena of their initial triumph. In the meantime, we've had these to console us, and distract us from the voting that is to come... 

  • 10 Wombles, UK, 1974
    ABBA were about to win, but in the meantime… we give you Orinoco and a children’s choir. There is nothing not to love. 
  • 9 Boyzone, Ireland, 1997
    If ever there was a clue that the blond frontman had his eye on a solo career, this was it, as he belted out ‘Let The Message Run Free’ and his bandmates climbed a ladder. Oh, and in case he didn’t have enough to do, he also co-hosted the Contest. 
  • 8 Hothouse Flowers, Ireland, 1988
    "Don’t Go," they sang. And they didn’t. It went on and on and on. 
  • 7 Aqua, Denmark, 2001
    With so many hits behind them, this poptastic group were a safe booking for Danish hosts, and they delivered in spades, with a medley including their song that could have been born for Eurovision, ‘Barbie Girl’.
  • 6 Petra Mede, Sweden, 2013
    If ever you’re thinking of studying a Swedish GCSE, save time and make notes from this performance. All the Swedes hold dear is mentioned, from Ikea to Abba, via Volvo. Cap must be doffed to the Muppets’ Swedish chef. 
  • 5 Emellie De Forrest, Denmark, 2014
    The country’s winner from the previous year, with an ethereal ‘Rainmaker’ which emerged from the stage like the strange but true lovechild of The Lion King and Avatar. Epic.
  • 4 Jupiter and co, UK, 1998
    This isn’t a partisan entry, this was a truly spectacular montage kicked off by the BBC Concert Orchestra, with contribution by violinist Vanessa Mae, culminating in a chandelier-smashing aria from Lesley Garrett. Anybody still convinced the Brits do understatement needs to sit through these 7 minutes and 59 trembling seconds.
  • 3 Prague Theatre of Illuminated Drawings, Czechoslovakia, 1984
    THIS is how you participate in Eurovision, without actually competing. You don’t try to sing like the contestants who’ve come before, you just do something completely different, and beautiful. 
  • 2 Madcon, Norway, 2010
    An incredibly talented rap duo who got the whole of Europe dancing to their song . 
  • 1 Riverdance, Ireland, 1994
    There will never be anything this stunning in any part of the Eurovision Song Contest, interval or otherwise. Michael Flatley may have become significantly more tanned in the intervening years, but in 1994, we saw the arrival of a tapping god, and it was glorious. 

The Eurovision Song Contest continues this week in Stockholm with the second semi-final on Thursday evening. The Grand Final takes place on Saturday evening at 8pm. 


Suggest a correction