DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Never before has a Eurovision Song Contest winner claimed back-to-back titles but a perky German teen who gave her long-suffering nation cause to celebrate a year ago is on a risky mission to repeat.
Lena-Meyer Landrut said in an interview with Reuters that she knows history and the odds are against her -- the last winner of the world’s biggest musical contest who tried to defend her title ended up last, a humiliating fall from grace.
“Of course it would be bad if I were to come in last place and everyone wrote that they knew beforehand that would be the case -- that would be a total flop,” Lena said ahead of Saturday’s contest that 36,000 will watch in a converted football arena and 125 million will watch on television.
“I don’t think I’ll end up in last place,” the high school student said, fully aware of the fate of Corry Brokken, who won the contest for the Netherlands in 1957 but was last in 1958.
“I think we have a great performance. I have great dancers and background singers. I think the song is super and I think it will be lots of fun.”
It has been a roller-coaster ride for the singer known simply as Lena after her win a year ago in Oslo, which ended Germany’s long and anguished drought in the contest that can be as popular as the World Cup soccer tournament in some countries even though it is mercilessly mocked in others.
A refreshingly straight-talking 19-year-old, Lena was little known even at home before she managed to enthrall Germany and all of Europe with a magical performance in Oslo. Her fearless spirit and infectious smile made her an instant celebrity.
Her upbeat British-style pop song “Satellite” soared to the top of the charts in Germany and six countries and was top 10 in another seven -- a phenomenal achievement for a German act.
Before she won, Germans had fretted for years over dreadful song contest results and the more ominous question of why they seemed to be so disliked in the rest of Europe.
Yet after the initial euphoria over Lena faded, a myriad of naysayers, doubters and media critics began searching for flaws in their newfound heroine. Some latched onto the fact that her concert tour did not sell out as evidence of waning appeal while others complained about “Lena fatigue” and that her direct style of speaking made her seem arrogant.
“It’s so typically German -- we like to see our stars fall after they rise,” said Peter Urban, a music expert for German public network NDR and Eurovision Song Contest commentator.
“It’s always been like that. Germans aren’t really able to stay happy for long about someone else’s success. Americans are different. They take care of their stars and are proud of them.”
Lena has tried to ignore the negative backlash at home. She said she understands that it is all part of the German DNA, a yearning to see the glass as half empty rather than half full.
“It’s a German phenomenon that things first have to be negative before you can find the good things,” she said. “That’s just how it is. I‘m happy that I‘m intelligent enough to see this and deal with it so that it doesn’t get to me,” referring to the negative German media reports.
She said that, all in all, there have been far more positive experiences than negative in the year of her sudden celebrity, although she has dropped hints that she is looking forward to a more normal life after Saturday -- perhaps living abroad.
“All the people in this business are made to look bad and pushed up again, kicked back down and pushed back up. This is just the job. That’s the way it is. I‘m dealing with it, and much prefer dealing with it than sitting in front of a computer for 10 hours a day.”
Lena understands unpredictable voting patterns in the various nations and the dynamics of the Eurovision Song Contest mean that any of the 25 finalists could end up winning -- which is a big part of the competition’s charm.
“The best thing would be to come first,” she said, adding her goal is the top 10. “But that doesn’t mean if I don’t win then my life is over. It will carry on. So everything is cool.”
Additional reporting by Anna McIntosh and Victoria Bryan, editing by Paul Casciato