Widely considered by fans to be a turning point for the contest, Loreen’s performance of Euphoria seemingly went against everything Eurovision has come to be known for over the years.
Rather than leaning into the contest’s peppy, hyper-colourful and occasionally downright cheesy sensibilities, the Swedish singer did things her own way, keeping her staging dark and minimal, allowing her song to really shine.
“Is this going to work?” she remembers being asked by producers in the lead-up to the contest. “‘You’re barefoot and we can hardly see your face. Like are you fucking kidding me, man?’. Everybody was afraid.”
It was a risk that most definitely paid off, though, with Loreen now considered an icon of the Eurovision community – not bad going for someone who admits she “didn’t know anything about Eurovision” before she was invited to try out for Sweden’s national selection show, Melodifestivalen.
Almost a decade on from her victorious performance in 2012, HuffPost UK spoke to Loreen about overcoming her original Eurovision reservations, and how following her intuition set her on the road to becoming one of the contest’s most loved winners ever...
Were you always a fan of Eurovision, and has your opinion of it changed over time?
Honestly, I didn’t know anything about Eurovision. People don’t know, I’m a hippie. I was hanging around these hippie communities, I was somewhere else, working on myself. And so by coincidence this platform came into my life, and obviously, I believe that things come into your life for a reason.
And so no, I did not know about the competition, I didn’t know about the Eurovision community, at all. It was Christer Björkman [producer of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen], he introduced me to the whole thing. He came to the studio where I was working... he heard me sing my first song, and he was like, ‘she needs to be in our competition’. And everybody was so hyped, like, ‘oh my god you need to do this’, and I was like, ‘...is it the right way to go? Is this where I’m supposed to go?’.
I was a little bit confused at first, because I’d been on [Swedish] Idol back in the day, and I was a little bit against competing in music… but I just intuitively felt that I needed to do this. I think it was Christer’s enthusiasm around my music, and he really believed in my vision.
What’s your first memory of watching Eurovision?
Well, after that was when I then did my homework, to be like, ‘who’s been here? Oh, ABBA’s been here, oh! And Celine Dion, oh my god!’. So I did my research when Christer came into my life, basically.
But to be honest, it was the connection between me and Christer, that was when I thought, ‘OK, I trust you’. And to be honest, it’s always been like this, I’ve always felt the most connection to – and this is going to sound crazy – the gay community. Like, without the gay community, I wouldn’t be sitting here, to be honest. Because everybody else was like ‘no, no, no, no no’, wherever I went, ‘no’.
Do you have a favourite memory of being a part of Eurovision?
The thing is with Euphoria, I was a bit scared when I created the performance. I followed my intuition, and I knew that it was going to be completely different. And when things are different, people get afraid. They’re like, ‘this is not going to work’.
And so I was a bit afraid, because everybody was afraid. When I introduced the whole idea to the team, I didn’t have the lighting, I was just in a gymnastics studio. I was standing there, in my regular clothes, looking like shit, and there was no podium, no lights, no fan, no costume. No show! There was nothing. And I was like, ‘OK guys, this is what we’re going to do’. And you should have seen their faces, when I was dancing around. The director was like, ‘are you going to be barefoot? Not even any shoes? Not a pair of high heels?’. I could see his anxiety, he was so stressed out and frustrated.
The reason why I tell this story is that because everyone was so afraid, but I went on following my intuition. And when I won, I was standing there, waiting to do the performance again, and there was just something speaking to me in that moment. And what it said was ‘my god, when you follow your intuition, everything flows’. I was standing there, and I was overwhelmed. Everything was connected.
It was just such an awakening moment, realising that every time I’ve compromised, it didn’t flow, but the moment you tell the truth, about yourself, things just flow.
Who are you rooting for at Eurovision this year?
I am not a patriot, I don’t give a fuck about borders. But I think Tusse, the Swedish entrant, plays an important role. When I was in Eurovision, there were a lot of discussions around people of colour, and whether it affects you winning or not. And now we have Tusse representing Sweden, but also representing the world.
I really want him to win, because that’s like taking it to the next level again. I have met [Tusse] a lot, and I told him, ‘you have an important role, darling. It’s not only about the music, it’s about uniting.’ And I hope for that reason that he wins.
What are your three all-time favourite Eurovision songs?
And if I had heard Heroes before Måns Zelmerlöw, I would have taken that song! Honestly. Because I love that. My friend Linnea Deb wrote it, and she always writes these epic fucking chrouses, where you use your whole voice.
Måns and I, we have a very special connection, we’ve known each other for a long time. He was one of the guys that supported me when I was starting – and he was a kid, which is the crazy thing. So he has a very special place in my heart – he’s a Gemini, so of course, he has – and when he did Heroes, everything was perfect.
Why is Eurovision so important?
Because it’s a community of love – look at Conchita. Eurovision unites people, regardless of colour, sexuality, whatever. It’s a creative community of love. And we need that, we need that today.
We need to be in a borderless [world] – there’s so much segregation going on in the world. We need to find a common ground, you know what I mean? And Eurovision is that common ground, in a way.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
We’ll be publishing an interview with a new Eurovision legend every day leading up to this year’s live final. Come back on Friday when we’ll be speaking to the singer hoping to bring the win home for the UK this year, James Newman.