Welkom in Brussel – Bienvenue à Bruxelles – Welcome to Brussels! In one of the most dynamic introductions up to this point, with a bit of thanks to Hergé and Co, viewers all over Europe finally get to see there’s more to Belgium than Manneken Pis, chocolate and beer. There’s no mistake here: Belgium has taken the opportunity to market itself seriously and is pulling out all stops. Hopefully the rest of Europe will hold up their end of the bargain by filling the show with decent songs!
When presenter Viktor Lazlo walks on to the set to give a rendition of her fantastic new single ‘Breathless‘ you realise that songtitle can’t have been a coincidence. We really went full out, didn’t we? I love the geometric shapes, the variation in colour and size and still it provides enough room for the artists to do as they please – a point that is being underlined by La Lazlo who struts her stuff to every single corner. As if we’re not enough in awe she treats us to a fabulous fashion statement with that raspberry dress and earrings the size of Monaco. It’s the ’80s alright! Pity the song wasn’t in the competition, might have been the best of the night – which obviously can’t have been the purpose. Silly.
Musically it was a very diverse year with people experimenting all over the place – for the good and the bad. Bubblegum pop took Europe by storm and a couple of countries thought they had found the receipe for succes but clearly had to eat a bit more of Eurovision spinache before they could Popeye their way to the top. Sweden for example with their schlager interpretation of Culture Club were just ridiculous. Turkey (whipped cream extravaganza in an Israel like rendition), Denmark (Standard Schlager Shit) and Cyprus (instantly forgettable) all forgot that Eurovision was meant to sprout international hits and France just went full on pageant – wrong!
Then there’s the middle field where some took risks on some levels but failed to enthrall when it comes to the toal package. Norway gave us a lame version of Sandra Kim, Spain went for a drama queen (the make-up! the stool! the sjawl! the bracelets! the leather!) with a strange musical composition, Israel gave us the Blues Brothers on acid, Austria went for the priest version of Johnny Logan (still perfectly coiffed, mister Lux) and the UK clearly did not want to win with that weak copy of ‘When the rain begins to fall‘. And of course there’s our own Plastic Bertrand for Luxembourg, the grasshopper who can’t stand still for more than three seconds. The man’s not a singer and his song’s a bit bald musically but I found the interaction with the backings entertaining enough. Moche!
But let’s see who managed to captivate me enough to award them some points – here’s the result of the Dimivision jury:
1 point: Italy – Gente di mare
That’s a lot of ginger. I’m not quite getting their rendition of this lullaby, they’re dipping it in rock’n roll and I feel that’s the wrong direction to take. I hate their outfits, which make Umberto Tozzi look like an Australian sheep farmer and Raf like a really gay poster boy. Could have been great, and in fact should have been when you look at their curriculum.
2 points: Germany – Lass die Sonne in dein Herz
Another Siegel & Meinunger attempt and this time they as well are going for a sultry reggae vibe. A much better attempt than what the Swedes gave us with enough understatement to make it a bit believable. The use of the colours and the soft sway, I’ve rarely seen a Siegel song in such a demure rendition. Still a bit too forced as a concept to really grab me.
3 points: Greece – Stop!
The Greeks have been paying attention and give us a happy pop song that’s quite relevant in the European scene, though it is a weaker version of Wham! Even Bang‘s singer Thanos Kalliris reminds me of the one that’s not George Michael, but he should have gone for an outfit that’s much more fun than a tuxedo. But a pleasant little ditty.
4 points: Netherlands – Rechtop in de wind
The ’80s version of Barbarella with that white outfit with the BIG shoulders and the slightly spacey effects in the song. The ginger backing, named Marjolein Keuning, is simply hilarious in giving it her all – you could park a car in that mouth. This entire package is very representative for what’s wrong and still so right with the ’80s and I adore it though it could have done with a bit more musical content.
5 points: Yugoslavia – Ja zam za ples
Bubbles from AbFab hickups her way through this cute little song to which you’d expect Baby & Johnny doing a hapy dance at Kellerman’s. The Balkan interpretation of Stock, Aitken and Waterman and Novi Fosili makes it a happy 2.5 minutes. Not exceptional but lovely nonetheless.
6 points: Belgium – Soldiers of love
Now this is a real classic in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium and that’s all due to the class act that’s Liliane St.-Pierre. Her sound can be somewhat hoarse but suits this anthem perfectly and the tempo is being kept up brilliantly all the way through. I think the English bits are a bit clumsy sadly, too much of a gimmick almost, and the music sounds a bit too empty compared to the original studio version – perhaps the acoustics in the Palais de Centenaire is not all that?
7 points: Finland – Sata salamaa
I should slap her ginger face. Or rather her songwriters, because the start of this song is brilliant with a modern moody verse and then you get that flat chorus that almost gives me a migraine. Such a pity!! This could have walked with it if only it had something interesting to say in that 50% of the song the chorus occupies. The 7 points are for that other 50% in moody atmosphere and to the fantastic Vicky Rosti. Mmmm, rösti… Now I’m hungry!
8 points: Ireland – Hold me now
Eum, what’s with the licking of the lips? France ’85 wasn’t that good of an example you know! Much like his first attempt this is again a very touching song but it’s got a more bombastic (and catchy) chorus and the music is taking away a bit of the attention from the sad, sad lyrics – which is a good tactic as it really isn’t the happiest song in the field. Johnny Logan is a class act and sings this beautifully and it really does have winner written all over it. It’s just not Dimi enough.
10 points: Portugal – Neste barco a’vela
This on the other hand is very Dimi. It’s a bit retarded but just so endearing! I even manage to ignore those very contemporary outfits and the male lead singer’s José Mendes colour of voice because I just LOVE the musical construction and above all those harmonies. A bit too repetitive perhaps, but the clumsiness is adorable.
12 points: Iceland – Hægt og hljótt
Halla Margrét Árnadóttir looks as if she’s just wondered out of a magical forest with this little song in her pocket. Such a peculiar atmosphere, it gives me chills up and down my spine. Love her sound, love the concept, love everything about it – even the anus in the air some claim to hear does not bother me at all. Enchanting.
Two attempts and already bagging a douze, Iceland’s on a roll!
The wooden spoon for the last place goes to the hyperkinetic dwarf from Switzerland whose attempt was far worse than moitié-moitié (which means half and half). Awful.
Let’s take a look at the all time leaderboard then where Portugal and Finland are busy climbing up the ladder to the disadvantage of the UK and Spain. But more importantly we’ve got a new number one and much to my own surprise it’s my homeland – I suspect that will not last very long…:
1 Belgium 142 (1968 – 1983 – 1986)
2 Netherlands 141 (1970 – 1971)
3 France 137 (1960 – 1977)
4 Italy 117 (1958 – 1964 – 1978)
5 Germany 116 (1959 – 1975)
6 Finland 113 (1962 – 1979 – 1985)
7 United Kingdom 107 (1961 – 1965)
8 Portugal 104 (1972)
9 Spain 99 (1973)
10 Luxembourg 91 (1956 – 1967)
Right, off to Dublin then!