Eurovision Review – 1996: A dim lit path ahead

Posted: 03/01/2012 in Eurovision Song Contest Reviews

As host Morten Harket so cleverly puts it in his fantastic opening song, the only one to give Viktor Lazlo a run for her money, and it can be interpreted in Eurovision context as well as it is a difficult time for the Contest – never has the appeal been less interesting, never has the relevance been discussed more. Recent winners didn’t manage to conquer the European charts and the juries seem determined to stay on the same track. What is right and what is wrong? Somebody grab a flashlight and get us out of the darkness!

Steady on the drama there! True, never has the Contest stood further from everything happening in the ever evolving musical universe but it does manage to deliver some exciting sounds. But before turning to the music, let’s see how Norway did on their second time hosting the event.

The petroleum industry has got quite the footprint in the nordic country and NRK managed to translate that influence well in the stage design gracing the venue. Very modern all in all – I like the concept of having a big stage composed of 3 smaller ones – and the effect with the blue-key scoreboard only adds to the high-tech feeling surrounding the production. Too bad Ingvild Bryn manages to ruin the effect with her wannabe quirky interjections – on top of the shouting and the surprisingly bad accent for a NY based correspondant she turned rather quickly into one of the most annoying hosts since Toto Cutugno. I also dislike the special effects during the songs very much as there is no added value at all – on the contrary they only add to some irritation that begins to develop…

So it really is a dim lit path ahead and the music on offer does not make me any more cheery. Mostly because most songs on offer are often drenched in a kind of sadness – thanks for that, Secret Garden – but also because there are some really bad ones among them. I am looking at you Malta (the way she butchered Mariah in the intro movie said enough really), Slovakia (I want the short version of that coat but they can keep that snoozer of a song), Iceland (the English terms are far fatched and the entire thing is just forced) and Switzerland (she’s way too insecure and her song’s a bore). Bosnia-Herzegovina was rather uneventful as well sadly, Cyprus felt the incomprehensible need of adding the – OH NO – electric guitar to their recipe which made it bomb completely and Austria tried to liven things up with three songs for the price of one which was a bit much.
The ones I did like but did not make it to the top ten all have one thing in common: they could have done with a bit more seasoning. The Netherlands had a nice enough gimmick with Mini & Maxi but that chorus was quite meih, the same goes for the shrieking sirene from Croatia, Slovenia was a bit too sweet, Greece should have left that dancer in Athens and Belgium missed the mark as well when it came to the presentation of the song (the dress, the live music, the male backing! and yes, the lyrics!). Pity.

A pity as well to say goodbye (for one year) to a couple of household countries as Germany and Israel, not surviving the newly installed and highly unsuccesful audio semi. A couple of the ones that passed could have easily been swapped for some non-qualifiers, but then again this is not the first time I am baffled by the choices of the juries…

So these ten are the logical ones to have made it through – here are the points of the Dimivision jury:

1 point: Finland – Niin kaunis on taivas

Following right after Eimear Quinn in the line-up couldn’t have been a more unlucky draw for this little troll from the North. Jasmine packs a happy enough song which comes across very silly and light after the powerhouse that is The Voice. The presentation, a bit clumsy with those guitars, is a tad too basic and could/should have been a bit more in the feeling of the cheery atmosphere of the song. But it’s all just so charming in the end, isn’t it? I wanna pinch her cheek – obviously nót the ones covered by yellow fabric…

2 points: United Kingdom – Just a little bit

I don’t think we’ve had a song this commercial in ESC since the mid ’80s so it’s quite clear the Brits were on a Mission. It really sounds very mid ’90s and it’s got the same problem as the rest of those pop/dance charttoppers from that time: the vocals work in the studio version but are absolutely shite live. Gina G is often so far off the mark they’re not even in the same venue anymore, but I have to admit she makes up for it with her energy – she’s selling her song well and that dress must have set the rare straight male viewer on fire. Could have done without the dancers, but the schwung in this makes me like it more than I remember and care to admit.

3 points: Turkey – Besinci mevsim

Bonjour, pre-nosejob Şebnem Paker with your lovely Parisian vibe! It’s the accordeon that does the trick and it creates a relax atmosphere – a nice theme to accompany a spring picnic somewhere on the banks of the Seine. A bit uneventful perhaps, yes, but beautiful nonetheless.

4 points: Norway – I evighet

I don’t know about you, but the countless gipsies on markets all over Belgium/Europe trying to sell cd’s full of covers of world hits butchered by the panflute have somewhat dampened my love for the instrument – and consequently my love for the panflute extravanganza that is the Norwegian entry. La Bettan is brilliant of course, the vocals on that woman are simply unbelievable and she looks amazing, but I would have loved to see/hear her in a more exciting entry than this standard ballad.

5 points: Sweden – Den vilda

The Highland‘ers treat us to a surprisingly modest ballad that has got more going on live than in the studio version but still lacks a bit of impact on stage. The build-up isn’t very efficient, I would have liked to hear it explode a bit more and a bit earlier as to allow the spicy personalities of Nanne Grönvall & Maria Rådsten to shine through. But it is quite lovely and the fairytale atmosphere does deliver.

6 points: France – Diwanit bugale

Sanomi‘s predecessor seems to try to upgrade Nocturne‘s concept by adding a lot more lyrics to the moody equation but Dan Ar Braz do not get the same result. Although it feels very authentic it’s not instant enough to grab you and move you during those short three minutes as its pace is quite mellow – something I like but it’s not exactly Eurovision gold is it? I’d still take this any day over the countless schlager entries though.

7 points: Poland – Chcę znać swój grzech

Hm, somebody seems to be not wearing a bra. But one hell of a dress! Poland thinks out of the box again with this passionate song, full of sorrow and pain. So uncoventional yet so haunting and beautiful and Kasia Kowalska does a great job in translating that feeling – she’s a bit sharp at times but gets the message across. Chills up and down my spine.

8 points: Estonia – Kaelakee hääl

Beauty and the beast again, though with that lazy eye I’d have to think two seconds about who I’d deem what. This somewhat unlikely combination manages to strike gold: Ivo Linna‘s deep voice is the perfect counterweight for Maarja-Liis Ilus‘ high flirty voice and they team up well in this airy springtime song, like grandfather and granddaughter singing an ode to mother nature. That blue suit is a definite No though but luckily doesn’t ruin a thing. I would have that keyboardplayer checked out ifI were them, he doesn’t seem to be completely ‘there’. Love this!

10 points: Portugal – O meu coração não tem cor

Such a close call, and I’m still tempted to give Lúcia Moniz my douze. Such a lovely girl, such a lovely voice, such a lovely song with such lovely use of the orchestra – it’s all just so LOVELY!! Very playful and yet with a powerful message – I think this is genius.

12 points: Ireland – The voice

The only reason I’m picking this over Portugal is the entire idea of the concept which works extremely well – I realise this doesn’t entirely fit the timeframe it’s in but then again it almost sounds so timeless it doesn’t matter which year it would have been an entry. It really does sound very Irish on a musical level and Eimear Quinn‘s frail voice only adds to the dark and moody Celtic vibe. Her sound is quite unique and to build the entire concept around it was a brilliant idea. I even manage to filter out those deep breaths as she’s trying to keep up with the pace. A well deserved winner in my book.

So there you go, I agree with the winner again! Best cherish this moment, things’ll change soon enough!

No chance in hell for Spain to ever be considered a winner this year – I suppose it sounds very Spanish but to me he is just suffering very loudly. A wooden spoon if ever there was one.

France approaching the top spot there but NL has got more 10’s on their curriculum for now. Ireland pushes Spain to tenth place and with all traditional countries getting lost as Eurovision’s preparing to dive into the new century things will soon start to change…

1             Netherlands 170 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
2             France 170 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
3             Belgium 157 (1968 – 1983 – 1986-1990)
4             Finland 146 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989)
5             Italy 144 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
6             Portugal 136 (1972)
7             Germany 129 (1959 – 1975)
8             United Kingdom  127 (1961 – 1965)
9             Ireland 119 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
10           Spain 118 (1973)

And now… on to my two favourite years!!

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