The Eurovision Song Contest
Songs I Liked
Here are some of the songs that I liked (currently not including 2004-2010 which are reviewed here).
I will try to find pictures for the songs without pictures - I've found some stuff lurking in my vast collection of unmarked VHS tapes, but I have a horrible suspicion that some things are on ßetamax. If you can help, please contact me.
Fångad Av En Størmvind, Carola for Sweden, winner (1992)
Sometimes you watch a performance and you can just tell
that it'll be a winner, and this one was! A nice sounding song (I don't speak Swedish so it made no sense to me until the bi-ligual reprisal), a good strong rhythm, and an energetic performance combine to make an all-round good song.
The title is supposed to translate to "Captured By A Lovestorm
", but the Swedish word for love (älska
) is not present, so this is likely to be more poetic than literal, or a phrase known to Swedes (i.e. "raining cats and dogs" in England).
The win was a first for Eurovision as both Carola (for Sweden) and Amina (for France) scored 146 points. Both were given the maximum 12 points four times. The technicality, and why Sweden won over France, is that Sweden received five '10' points to France's two. Talk about a close competition!
If I remember correctly, the PA feedback failed at some stage during the performance; though Carola declined to perform it again.
The original performance, if memory serves me, was in Swedish. The repeat at the end was in both Swedish and English.
This competition was hosted in Rome
, back in the days when the Italians took part; the Belgians taught us that "Geef Het Op" is said like "shave it off"; the Germans took Eurovision seriously with an entry by Atlantis 2000 that scored really
badly - the song wasn't that
bad but it had strong competition from the likes of Duo Datz (Israel) pictured right
, Kim Jackson (Ireland), the amusing Iki Dakika (Turkey), the weird and amusing Mrs. Thompson by Just 4 Fun (Norway) ... in short, plenty of memorable songs - Samantha Janus (UK) tried to give "A Message To Your Heart" but was a little bit too sexy and waiflike for the message to really work (joint 10th
, a mere 47 points)...
Don't Ever Cry, Put for Croatia (1993)
Quirky and interesting!
This song from Put (I think that is Croat for 'road') sadly only earned their country 31 points to put them in 15th place. Their highest awarded score, perhaps ironically, was an eight from the UK. I can't thank myself (I'd have voted for it) as we didn't have televoting back then.
This was Croatia's first entry into the Eurovision song contest, and wow - what a beginning. It is perhaps ironic that Put narrowly beat Maja Blagdan for representing their country, Maja would come to Eurovision three years later...
This year's competition came from Ireland, and was hosted by Fionnula Sweeney - who you can now see most days on CNN (SkyDigital #506, or Astra 19.2°E 11.778V, etc). The UK's entry was Sonia's "Better The Devil You Know" which came second, beaten by a considerable margin by Niamh Kavanagh for Ireland.
As you can see from the second image in the sequence, this was the 'good old days' when songs were performed to an actual orchestra.
Sveta Ljubavi, Maja Blagdan for Croatia (1996)
Well... What can you say? Maja performs seductively, emotionally, and screams a few times (at one point Wogan cuts in saying "Steady, woman, steady" - doesn't he realise that talking over a performance is appreciated as much as airport security would appreciate you saying you have bombs in your backpack 'for a joke'?). Nice dress, too...
Maja puts everything into this performance, and certainly packs a lot of drama into her three minute slot! Or, as Wogan said afterwards, "She played on us ... like some kind of stringed instrument".
When I first heard it, I wondered if Maja was singing about somebody - 'Sveta' is a pet form of the name Svetlana; but it turns out that the song means "Sacred Love", which certainly explains the drama!
And this is what I think of when I think of the Croatian entries, this and "Don't Ever Cry". Artistic, kooky, and actually pretty good in an offbeat kind of way. Considering this came fourth with 98 points, I know I'm not alone in thinking this!
In comparison, some of the more recent Croatian entries have been a bit of a let down. Let's have Maja back!
The competition was held in Norway, and hosted by Morten Harket (from 'a-ha'). Norway were very proud and confident of their real-time image manipulation facilities. So confident and proud that little effects turned up from time to time during the contest - live across Europe!
The UK's entry this year was Gina G's "Ooh Aah ... Just A Little Bit", which perhaps started a trend for visible panties and, well, not wearing an awful lot else!
Who won? That's easy - keep reading...
The Voice, Eimear Quinn for Ireland, winner (1996)
Eimear sang a typical Irish ballad with a very high pitched voice. I think it says all that needs to be said if I mention that Eimear was part of Anúna...
Ireland won with 162 points, second place was only 114 points so it was a considerable win - and with seven top scores.
Love Shine A Light, Katrina and the Waves for the UK winner (1997)
It was obvious that this was going to be a winner - it was a generally pleasing and uplifting song. Perhaps Eurovision needs more of these instead of songs with titles like 'Wolves Die Alone' (Croatia, 2005).
To use a Lenny Henryism, it is fair to say that Katrina had a stonking win - 227 points, as opposed to a mere 157 for the second place. That's thanks to ten douze-pwahs from voting countries!
The contest in 1997 came from The Point Theatre in Dublin (Ireland), and was presented by Ronan Keating. I quite liked the interval song - a Boyzone number backed up by mostly-attractive female dancers wearing what looked like tin foil!
[I know this recording is on a ßetamax tape somewhere...]
Also of interest in 1997 was "Sentiments songes" by Fanny for France (7th with 95 points); and the low secoring (18 points!) but eternally memorable "Minn Hinsti Dans" by Paul Oscar for Iceland.
Dis Oui, Mélanie Cohl for Belgium (1998)
This was just a nice song, in my opinion. It came in a respectable 6th place with 122 points (this is the corrected score, due to the Spanish televoting error, you might see it listed elsewhere as receiving 123 points).
The title? It translates to "Say Yes". With her, of course! :-)
The contest in 1998 was held in Birmingham (UK), after Katrina And The Waves won for the UK the previous year. The UK's entry this time was Imaani's "Where Are You?" which came second, after Dana International's "Diva" won it for Israel.
Diamond of Night, Evelin Samuel & Camille for Estonia (1999)
Such a gentle little (religious?) song, with a nice arrangement.
This song was possibly a smidgen on the religious side as the contest was held in Jerusalum - who can forget Dana International acting like a tad too much alcohol was consumed, and falling over during the final presentation?
"Diamond Of Night" earned Estonia 6th place, with 90 points.
The winner in 1999, with 163 points, was Sweden - Charlotte Nilsson performing "Take Me To Your Leader"... sorry... "Take Me To Your Heaven" :-)
The UK's was Precious singing "Say It Again", which got a joint 12th place (shared with Belgium) with 38 points.
Tha Nai Erotas, Marlain Aggelidou for Cyprus (1999)
I think this song deserved better than the palty two points that it got! I guess Greece would have given them 12, but they flunked the previous year so were not in the contest to help Cyprus. Their two points came from the UK instead...
"Tha Nai Erotas" (It Will Be Love) is a song that starts quietly and built into a dancey-number, sung in Greek so there're lots of bits that sound like "a-bou-ri-doulounou"!
Il Faut Du Temps, Sandrine Françoise for France (2002)
No two ways about it, this should have been the winning song in 2002!
The title translates to "It Needs Time" (yuck - subjuctive verbs), and if you look up the words you'll see it is a rather interesting song.
The version sung on the night was edited strangely (in my opinion!) to fit into the three minute restriction. The full length version is better, and obviously longer, running in at four minutes and a second. You can sing a lot in a minute (and a second!).
Terry Wogan's comment about Sandrine was to call her a "sultry temptress" - mmm, what could he have had in mind!? :-)
A special mention should go to Nikki French who represented the UK in 2000 with a song entitled "Don't Play That Song Again". It came 16th with 28 points so I guess Europe didn't want to hear that song again!
More information and descriptions to follow...
The ability to sing in a non-native (and non-English) language
I think it would be useful to allow a performer to choose what language to sing in. While it is unlikely that the UK song will be in anything other than English (or possibly a Gallic language), allowing other countries to sing in English (or French?) could give them a greater audience, and thus more points.
This isn't to say that all songs should be in English - if you look at my selection above, you'll see that six out of the nine choices were not originally performed in English. Indeed an Andorran entry (for example) could sing in Russian if they so wish!
It is just a useful flexibility.
The ability to sing against a backing track
I think this was possibly one of the worst decisions.
No... That is that is vague and ambiguous...
I'll state clearly that it is, in my opinion, the single worst decision in the entire half-century history of Eurovision.
I can understand why backing tracks are preferred; cost, convenience... but in taking away the orchestra, part of the essence of Eurovision was taken away. If I was ever in charge of organising a Eurovision, I'd bring the orchestra right back!
J King reckons he helped bring about this change. For that crime (not to mention others!) he should be excommunicated from the living. If we all really wanted to watch people sing to a pre-recorded track, TOTP would have much higher ratings. Man, you've really done live music (emphasis on the 'live') an injustice.
Israel, Lebanon, Syria...
Israel has been part of Eurovision for quite a while. Lebanon was almost in this year. I've heard a rumour that Syria was considered for next year.
While I have nothing against these countries, and indeed Shiri Maimon put in a great performance for Israel in 2005, I do have to ask why these countries are part of Eurovision? How far could this go? Kuwait? Morocco? Mauritius? Australia?
The sheer number of countries (including lots of former-and-sort-of-related-to Yugoslavia and former bits of Russia) is becoming hard to manage, leading to there being two competitions - the semi final and the usual final.
Boring technical answer - the countries allowed to take part are those which are Active members of the EBU; this includes Italy (who apparently are not interested (that's a polite way to say "still sulking")) and Morocco and Syria (etc) all of whom could choose to enter if they so wanted.
A large number of non-European countries are Passive members of the EBU (such as Australia) which will not be able to enter a song unless the rules change. Yes, the EBU really is that big!
I'm not sure exactly what logic goes into selecting the songs that will perform on the night; but I feel that to reserve ten spaces and give all of the other countries a shot at performing, by a mini-contest, is a good idea. And, perhaps, more fair than a panel of judges or whatever.
The Big Four - France, Germany, Spain, UK - are the largest contributors (some complicated calculation based upon country population and GNP, so likely Germany (ARD) gives the most) and as a 'perk' for doing this, they are always guaranteed a place in the final; even though in 2005 these are the countries that would otherwise have been relegated to the recycling point. While this is slightly biased, people don't want to rock the boat as these countries give to the EBU and EBU gives to Eurovision (and the hosting country) and... you get the idea!
Political and tactical voting
No comment really.
The best song doesn't always win. Certain countries always vote for each other. It is a bit like those tasteless spams you receive for enhancement surgery - it happens, deal with it.
It has been suggested that a country should not be allowed to give 12 points to the same country it gave 12 points the previous year. This really causes a number of problems when you consider that most of the countries use a televoting system and, assuming the televoting is fair, the population of the country themselves are behind this. To 'diddle' the votes for a rule such as that would effectively mean altering the results of the televote, which could bring into question the legitimacy of bothering to televote in the first place.
To be honest, while I'd like my favourite country to win (don't we all?) so I can maybe learn a little bit more about the country (I was amazed at how much The Ukraine looked like around here in France, lots of farmland and stuff - though I'm not certain what I was expecting, perhaps a grey industrialised place with snow?), what really matters is that there is a contest next year, wherever it may be.
Only the countries in the final should be allowed to vote
Terry Wogan passed this comment during the lengthy voting in 2005. Yes, there are 39 countries so it will take a while. However to restrict the voting to those that qualify is grossly unfair on the other countries, who may decide not to even bother showing the final on a main TV station (after all, not only are they not in it, but their opinion isn't wanted, why bother?).
Another big big problem is that certain countries (including the United Kingdom) will always be in the final due to the amount they contribute to the EBU. Thus, they will always have a vote. This could be seen as little more than a cheat.
With more and more countries joining, there is no solution other than to just accept that half of Eurovision is the performance, and half of it is the voting. The voting can be exciting to watch - in 2005 Latvia was soooo close, but ended up a few places behind the Bookie's favourite (which I didn't think much of). It is also an educational experience seeing what the different regions of Europe (the Baltics, old Europe, east-Med, dark-shadowy-places-with-vampires) consider to be good songs (once you strip out the blatant favouritism). It seems the Baltics - Estonia, Latvia, etc are closest in thoughts to the sort of songs I picked!
Songs should be fresh
If you look at my comments for 2004, you'll see that I pick holes in Germany's song (by Max) for it being played on Germany's MTV prior to the show. I also made similar comments here with respect to Javine performing on TOTP prior to the show (though such remarks didn't make it to the final writeup because, well, her pathetic score says it all... at least Max got a healthy 8th place!).
Songs should be performed publically exactly once prior to Eurovision night; that should be the programme to choose which song to represent the country.
Songs should be 'fresh'.
I don't have a problem with this.
While Johnny Logan might have won for Ireland several billion times, the use of known 'stars' does not guarantee a win - look at the Are-They-Really-Aren't-They-Really pop sensation that was tATu - their performance on the night did not win it for Russia, and in fact not much has been heard from the twosome since then, and I was recently told that one of them had had a baby (so I guess they Weren't-After-All!).
Actually, I'd rather like to see how Robbie Williams plays the crowd... not that he'd ever do something like that!
On several Eurovision sites it is clear that anybody from any country can sing a competing song (how Switzerland got in some Estonians!), but there is some confusion regarding the rules for the song writer - who has to be either a native of the country in question, or a resident of the country in question. Sadly the two can differ - I'm French resident but I'm not French. I'm British, but I'm not resident in Britain. It's a moot point though, I'm not that good at writing songs!
Eurovision in America
Somebody asked me if I think the song contest should be broadcast in America. Given the proliferation of cable and localised channels, I'm surprised somebody can't spare six hours in a year!
I think the simplest thing to mention is the difficulty some people in America are having with getting Eurovision media. You see, lots of people tape the contest. Some can make copies of those tapes. The more advanced can make DVD-Rs of the contest.
However - it seems practically no video recorder in America understands PAL. And it seems a disturbing number of DVD players claim to understand PAL media but actually expect the TV to lock into a 50Hz signal (or a really screwed up 60Hz signal). Accordingly, most don't.
The situation in Europe is very much the opposite. My inexpensive Daewoo VCR claims to play back NTSC tapes on a 50Hz TV, but I have not tried. All of my DVD players play back NTSC. The old expensive player does a good job. The 30 euro player suffers from motion hiccups due to a basic pulldown algorithm - but it works.
This technical babble suggests that America is surprisingly insular for a country that pretends to be the world leader; it is like they want to be in charge without really accepting that the rest of the world exists - and, well, you simply cannot fit Eurovision into a political scheme such as that - if for no reason other than the fact that there is a very good chance that the songs will be in 'weird' languages (i.e. anything that isn't American English/Canadian French/Mexican Spanish!).
Oh well, their loss!
Actually, they might not appreciate a Russian chick reminding them of what seems to be blatantly obvious to everybody that isn't an American - that they have a serious problem with guns. But, watching the aftermath of Katrina (appalling on many levels), it must be evident to most sane people that America is really really ....ed up.
But enough of the politics...
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts and comments - heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot- uk.
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Copyright © 2006 Rick Murray
Images copyright many sources over the course of nearly a decade; I'd imagine the EBU hold the overall rights?
Composite images taken from videotape and artistically merged (I hope!)