Malta made its debut at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1971. Having come last twice in a row, Malta withdrew in 1973 for two years, before returning in 1975 to do slightly better. Afterwards Malta withdrew from the contest, not making their return until 16 years later in 1991, when Georgina & Paul Giordimaina came sixth, their best place at that point. There have been a total of 21 Maltese entries at Eurovision, with the 2009 entry marking the 23rd. There has since been no gap in its participation at the contest since the 1991 contest, and one of only six to compete in every contest since the introduction of relegation in 1993.
Malta is one of Eurovision's most successful countries not to have won, having come second and third twice. Their most successful entries at the contest were "Angel" by Chiara and "7th Wonder" by Ira Losco, which came second in 2005 and 2002 respectively. Chiara came third in 1998 with her song The One That I Love, after one of Eurovision's most exciting voting sessions. Malta's worst result has been last, which they have achieved on three occasions, in 1971, 1972 and 2006.
PBS decided on a new format for its national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2009. Maltese songwriters would be allowed to submit up to two songs per singer, though only one singer will be allowed on stage. Submissions were accepted on from 13 October to 14 October 2008 at the PBS offices in G’Mangia. From 23 October to 26 October and 1 November to 2 November, 80 songs were chosen internally for the second phase. In the second phase, the 80 songs would be presented in ten weekly televised shows, titled "Euro Showbox" to be held on 8, 15, 29 November, 6, 13, 20 December and 10 January 2009. A jury will choose 15 entries to move on to the national final, while another five entries will be given a wildcard through televoting. The national final on 7 February will contain 20 songs and a jury will choose three of them to go on to the "super-final", where televoting will determine the winner. The votes given by the juries in the previous round, however, will be kept and tallied along with the televotes. The eventual winner will represent Malta in Moscow. 182 songs were received by PBS, 43 less than last year.
However PBS later changed the format for the show and instead of 80 songs taking part, only 56 out of the 182 songs submitted would be featured in the heats, now reduced from ten to eight. Each of the eight heats will include 7 songs, with the top 20 still going to the final of the contest. After discussions with the Union of Maltese Singers and Songwriters (UKAM), only one song per artist will be allowed in the final of the contest.
15 entries from the 56 have been selected by another jury, which will qualify for the final. Five more songs will be selected by televoting, and all 20 songs that qualify for the final will be announced on the final heat.
Many former Malta Song for Europe contestants entered a song to PBS. The 56 songs that were chosen were revealed on 27 October, with many known names to both Eurovision and The Malta Song for Europe being present once again. Former Maltese entrant Chiara Siracusa, who came second and third for Malta in 2005 and 1998 respectively, entered the contest again. 2008's second and third place artist Claudia Faniello had re-entered, singing as well as writing for other competing artists. Famous German Eurovision composers Ralph Siegel and Bernd Meinunger (under the pseudonym "John O'Flynn") submitted entries to PBS, which made it through to the semi-finals,the refrain of one of the songs written by them "Innocent Heart" sung by a new face in the festival Ruth Portelli was used in the song Just Get Out of My Life. Famous Maltese songwriting duo Philip Vella and Gerard James Borg,wrote songs together, apart and with other songwriters.
After the initial line-up of Euro Showbox was confirmed, changes occurred in its line-up. In the first heat, Klinsmann, instead of singing the initial "Butterfly Sky", sang "Rock and Rise", which had been planned to be performed in the last heat. Chiara was then moved to perform in the seventh heat of Euro Showbox on 3 January 2009, switching places with Maria Mallia, due to Chiara encountering some problems.
The first heat of Euro Showbox was held on 8 November 2008, and featured a total of seven songs. The first song was the operatic ballad "Lament", performed by Ludwig Galea along with Fidela tal-Bambinu. Galea had previously represented Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest 2004. The second song was "I'm In Heaven", performed by Dominic Cini. It began as a ballad, but transformed into a swing song. The third song, "Tonight at the Opera" by the Classic Rebels, was a schlager song, written by the past Eurovision composers Ralph Siegel and Bernd Meinunger (as "John O'Flynn"). The fourth song was Klinsmann with the pop-rock song "Rock and Rise". The fifth song was Talitha Dimech's "Earth and Sky", which begins as a ballad before becoming more up-tempo. The sixth song was the mid-tempo ballad "One Million Ways" by Rosman Pace, and the final song was "Falling in Love" by Francesca Borg, a ballad which features Borg alone in a black dress.
The Classic Rebels and Rosman Pace qualified to the final, with the other acts being eliminated from the competition.
Controversy arose after the heat had been broadcast, after it was revealed that the incorrect SMS numbers had been displayed on screen. As such, a 20-minute voting window was opened at the beginning of the second heat the following week for a re-vote.
Euro Showbox's second heat was held on 15 November 2008, featuring seven songs.
The first song of the night was the Pop song "Live for Today" performed by quintet Q. The song was composed by Fleur Balzan and Paul Giordimaina, who represented Malta in the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest. They were followed by Josmar, performing "Circus". Jessica Muscat sang "Smoke-screen", a pop-rock ballad, composed by Eurovision veterans Philip Vella and Gerard James Borg. The fourth song was the ballad "To Be Myself", sung by Georgina. She represented Malta in 1991 alongside Paul Giordimaina.
Laura Bruno, a newcomer to Maltese Eurovision selection, performed her song, "Something About You", composed by Vella and Borg. The penultimate song was "Castaway", performed by Marija Galdes. The final song of the second heat was Vittorio & Dorothy's ballad "Promises".
Only Vittorio & Dorothy were able to qualify to the final, with all other entries leaving the competition.
Euro Showbox held its third heat on 29 November. PBS paused between the second and third heats in order to broadcast Malta's participation in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2008.
Trilogy performed first with a schlager ballad, "The Song in Your Heart". This was followed by a classically inspired Pop song, "Mozart Revives" interpreted by Dorothy Bezzina. She was followed by Derrick Schembri and Yanika Fava with "For A Moment", composed by Philip Vella and Rita Pace. The song begins as a ballad, developing into an up-tempo dance number. Jo Zette, a Maltese drag act, performed the fourth song of the evening, "I'm Me". It was composed by Steve Compagno and Noel Zammit and is an anthemic Pop song about being true to yourself. Philip Vella then performed his second song of the evening, Evita Magri's "Sexy Girls". Trevor Fenech and Claudia Faniello composed the penultimate song, "This Ain't a Love Song" performed by Christian Arding. The final contestant was Gloriana Arpa Belli, performing "Love Was Made of Clay", composed by Renato Briffa and Doris Chetcuti.
Trilogy were the only act from this semi-final to qualify for the final, with all others leaving the contest.
The final of GO Malta EuroSong 2009 was held on 7 February. The 20 finalists from the semi-finals were revealed at the last semi-final of Euro ShowBox on 10 January, along with the order they will perform in.
The rules for the final were revealed at a press conference held by PBS on 12 January. The show will be held by Pablo Micallef and Valerie Vella, to be held in Ta' Qali. From the final, three songs were selected by a jury to compete to a Super Final, where 100% televoting will select the winner, who will represent Malta at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Russia.
A number of local Maltese artists and bands performed during the interval, namely Niki Gravino, Airport Impressions, the Yada Dance Company, Crisitina Casolani & Toby, The Riffs and Morena, last year's Maltese Eurovision entry. Two international entries also performed during the show: this year's Turkish entry Hadise performed her Eurovision entry "Düm Tek Tek" during the show, and the United Kingdom's entry, Jade Ewen also performed "My Time", the UK entry, during the show. An interview with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer of the UK song, was also shown.
After the first performances, five international juries ranked all 20 songs in order of preference, giving 22 points to their favourite entry, 20 points their second favourite, followed by 18 etc. until 1 point was gioven to their least favourite entry. A sixth set of votes was also added to the votes, which were based upon the televoting figures from the semi-finals.
Amongst the international juries was Linda Martin, who won the 1992 Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland with the song "Why Me?", and Nicki French, who represented the United Kingdom in 2000 with "Don't Play That Song Again".
Chiara, Q and Eleanor Cassar were selected by the jury to qualify to the Super Final.
At the super final, the three remaining acts performed again, with the public choosing the winner who would represent Malta at Eurovision. Chiara was the winner, with her song "What If We". Eleanor Cassar placed second, and Q finished third.
After winning Eurosong, Chiara promoted her entry in other countries before performing at Eurovision. Her first stop was at the Greek national final, held on 18 February, where she performed her Eurovision entry "What If We" alongside acts from six other countries. She later performed at the Bosnia and Herzegovina song presentation on 1 March.
Since Malta is not one of the "Big Four" nor the host of the 2009 contest, it had to compete in the first semi-final of the contest on 12 May 2009. Malta performed 17th in the running order, following Portugal and preceding Bosnia and Herzegovina. It won a place in the final but eventually finished in 22nd place.
TVM had revealed that the Maltese votes would be announced at the final of the contest by TV presenter and producer Pauline Agius.