|The Tolmachevy Sisters, representing Russia, perform the song “Shine” during the first semifinal of the Eurovision Song Contest at B&W Halls, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday. (AP-Yonhap)|
“I had too much to think about. You have so much to think about when you win Eurovision,” said de Forest, who this year will perform the official Eurovision theme, her latest single “Rainmaker,” at Saturday’s final in Copenhagen.
As fans from around the world descend on the Danish capital, the city has converted its main shopping street into a buzzing “Eurovision Fan Mile” and several top hotels have already said they are fully booked for the event.
But 40 years after Swedish disco group Abba used the annual glitz-fest to launch one of the most lucrative careers in the history of pop music, commercial success for the competition’s winners remains the exception rather than the rule.
And like many of her predecessors, the elfin 21-year-old singer ― set to once again perform barefoot before an audience of 125 million television viewers ― has struggled to convert her maximum 12-point score into album sales.
While her winning number “Only Teardrops” went on to become a top 20 hit in several European countries, a follow-up single failed to make the charts and last year she had to cancel a tour of Denmark and Germany.
Flagging ticket sales “were part of the reason,” she admitted.
“There were some people around me who maybe should have handled things a little bit better, but they didn’t, so I had to cancel,” she said.
“Sometimes you have to let other people take over and I can’t manage everything, so I have to trust my manager and my bookers,” she added.
One Danish tabloid even said she would stage “a comeback” at this year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, the competition that each year determines the country’s Eurovision entry, begging the question: Where had she been?
“I have traveled so much since Eurovision. The three months after we’re fully booked and I’ve been to 25 different countries over the past year,” she said.
Most of that time was spent in Germany and Sweden, where the competition is taken relatively seriously, especially compared with countries like France and Britain, which tend to enter performers who are unknown or past their prime.
“It doesn’t surprise me that she’s been unable to sell tickets. The only song you know by Emmelie is the winning song,” Danish disk jockey and TV personality Dan Rachlin told tabloid Ekstra-Bladet last year.
“She sings really well, but she just hasn’t made any music that came close to the winning track,” he added.
Branding her critic “an old washed-up DJ who isn’t particularly successful himself,” de Forest said she doesn’t “listen to what other people say.”
The past year has seen her come of age, she said.
“I think I’ve become much better at handling stress, more independent and better at making big decisions about my career,” she said.
The chairman of Eurovision fan club OGAE Denmark, Johann Soerensen, said he thought de Forest was a fantastic performer and that he hoped her new single would kick-start her career.
Parlaying a Eurovision win into commercial success is difficult because for most contestants, the final is the first time their song is heard by the vast majority of the audience, making it easy to forget.
“The Eurovision stage is virtually their only platform. Other than that, all that remains is hard work afterwards,” Soerensen said. “And that can be extremely difficult because there are so many people vying for a spot in the limelight.”
The Danish artist said that after this year’s final, she would continue working on her new album, which will see her collaborating with American songwriter MoZella, who cowrote Miley Cyrus’ hit “Wrecking Ball.”
After downing only one White Russian at last year’s hectic event, this time ― like much of the rest of Europe ― she plans to party.
“After the final I have one week’s holiday. I haven’t had a holiday in almost one and a half years, so I can party after I’ve sung,” she said.