Eurovision Review – 1997: Girl Power!

Posted: 07/01/2012 in Eurovision Song Contest Reviews

After the dark ’96 edition and a slightly out-of-place winner things needed to be shaken up a little and who better to lighten things up than the, for obvious reasons, experts from the Irish television? Pop music was at a high, with the Spice Girls at the top of their game, and RTE made some clever references to the world out there – a world Eurovision sometimes has trouble relating to. And of course, after Eimear Quinn being the 26th female winner out of a possible 41, Girl Power took over the Point in 1997 – and we’d know it.

1997 was one of the first Contests I started to watch consciously – much to the pleasure of others – and I can think of worse editions to start your fandom with. Even 15 years later I consider this to be one of the highlights in Eurovision’s history, and it’s not at all (only) for sentimental reasons.

RTE took the example NRK set the year before in combining an experienced media face with an international pop star to take care of the presentation but they spruced up the concept a little by giving us a duo that obviously targetted a younger audience. Carrie Crawley is just magnificent, very professional and tongue-in-cheek enough while Ronan Keating was surprisingly demure and shy – I almost feel like petting him on the head, bless! The stage design was very impressive yet again, like a high tech bat cave, but this time the performance area was clearly marked so nobody could disappear in the backdrop (cfr ’94 and ’95). The playfulness with the television screens, the cheeky interjection by former winners (no Annefrid or Agnetha to be found anywhere, sadly) and the impeccable lighting and camerawork top it all off – this edition me likey!

Even on a musical level I am more than happy to pop in the dvd and rewatch it from time to time – there’s a lot of diversity to be found, a lot of international sounding melodies without ‘betraying’ the sound of the homeground.
Of course that does not fly for everyone, perfection is sadly never an option is it now. Among the 25 contestants there are four I truly detest with a passion. Leading the Crap Pack is Norway, responsible for my second ZERO ever which they got in real life as well and with that awfully sung parody (though surely not intended that way) on the Beach Boys‘ back catalogue it was truly well deserved. Not far behind however we’ve got Germany with the most outdated tune of the evening, and while Bianca Shomburg might have the same dress sense (or lack thereof) as her big example Celine Dion she’s got long ways to go yet when it comes to performing. The polarising Denmark didn’t cut it for me either – far too busy overall, with those pants and the dancers and the telephone thing and those pants and the reception lady and the rapping in Danish which to the rest of Europe sounds like Thomas Lægård was trying to eat a very hot potato and of course those pants!! Which could easily be said about Barbara Berta as well, with that snakeskin pattern all over her pants ànd vest. It’s sadly the most exciting thing to report, because neither her snooze of a song nor her lack of singing skills are something to write home about.
Other entries that didn’t manage to convince me but don’t bother me thàt much are the bleak Take That copy from Hungary or the wannabe Julio Iglesias from Spain, drowning in his vest whilst pulling faces to express his emotions – doesn’t make me swoon at all.

In the middle field we start with the cameltoe from Austria – or is that colour just too daring for a catsuit?  It’s all a bit forced really, with the prancing around and the bright colours and the English interjections, but I have to admit that Bettine Soriat manages to cope with everything busy quite well. She’s joined by the Croatian wannabe (haha!) Spice Girls bunch in those almost carnavalesque outfits – only in Eurovision. Too bad they forgot to pack a song as well. Which is the complete opposite of neighbour Bosnia-Herzegovina, who gave us a nice little song (though I frown at that English title, why oh why?) but left me very uninspired when it comes to the rendition of it all. Quite like the Portuguese bunch really, where Celia Lawson should have left her male backings slash bodyguards in Lisbon as I feel they interrupt the atmosphere she tries to build so carefully. The Swedes gave us something very standard (again…) and Ireland kept it very traditional with their pleasant but slightly boring ballad – been there, done that (though I wish I could say the same about Marc Roberts, if you catch my drift). Malta managed to ruin a (quelle surprise!) rather decent song with THAT dress (even Barbara Dex wouldn’t wear thàt) and Estonia gave us a lovely if somewhat sterile ballad by the still-trying-to-look-too-mature-for-her-age-but-singing-so-well teenager that is Maarja.

The battle for tenth place was a tough one and eventually was lost by a pair that had always been in my top 10 but I feel I’m a bit over their happy if somewhat taupe pop song – so bye bye Cyprus, make way for some Girl Power. Although for some of them it’s a while ago since they were girls. Here are the points of the Dimivision jury:

1 point: Russia – Primadonna

Alla Pugacheva treats us to pure theatre and – as poetic as the lyrics may be – all of Europe, including yours truly before writing this bit, must have thought she was singing an ode to herself as we only understand the rather general title and the bravo’s that accompagny it right at the end. Perhaps it’s her accent, but I could swear she sounds a bit drunk which only makes the faux drinking in the last seconds even more hilarious than it already is. I keep hearing/reading negative comments on her outfit but I find it rather flattering on her as it makes her look less old and frumpy – those shoes deserve douze points all on their own by the way. It may be somewhat of a pastiche, but a rather good one.

2 points: United Kingdom – Love shine a light

I know, I know – bad Dimi. Certainly a deserved winner, there’s no contesting that. And Katrina is vocally just in a league of her own – without her this Big Anthem wouldn’t have been half as powerful as it came across at the Point. But it’s all too One-Big-Happy-Loving-Family-World-Peace for me really. And what’s the fuss about her 2 pound green shirt when the real upset is that pair of pants?

3 points: Greece – Horepse

The first pair of fingercimbals in this top 10 but the second pair of the evening in real life and I’m making a mental note to order some for practicing in the privacy of my home – no Youtube trail planned, rest assured. Not too sure about that bag of dried grapes that has to pass as an instrument though. But I’m getting sidetracked. Marianna Zorba – does it get any more Greek than that? – is vocally spot on in this cheery ditty and I love the playfulness of it all, but keeping the lyrics in mind I feel it could’ve done with a bit more sensuality in the performance. But I still keep on singing along phonetically with all my might, such fun!

4 points: Netherlands – Niemand heeft nog tijd

Now, I’m sure to non-Dutch speakers this comes across as one big pile of well orchestrated and choreographed chaos but believe me when I say this is rather clever in set-up and the performance only adds to the genius of it all. The media called Mrs. Einstein “the Spice Girls’ mums” but I don’t necessarily think they’d be the ones to go down in a head-to-head situation. The certainly manage to out-girl power the Croatian imitation. The tempo is nothing short of excrutiating but these ladies manage it on a breeze and I love the camera work by the Irish television. But it does get a bit too hectic towards the end, doesn’t it?

5 points: Italy – Fiumi di parole

Girl Power from the Italian school with Alessandra Drusian aka the voice of an angel – I refuse to even discuss her bearded and highly redundant compagnon. The duo, together Jalisse, spoil us with this excellent ballad with a lovely melody that’s slightly overpowered by la Drusian’s vocals and gets a bit repetitive towards the end. But it’s beautiful obviously and just unlucky to be surrounded by such strong contenders. And I wouldn’t have worn that stern black suit if I were her – too gloomy for this airy song.

6 points: France – Sentiments songes

Fanny must be one of the most weird looking girls I have ever seen in my life, as if she’s a living porcelain doll. But awkward physical appearance aside this young girl sells her song very well with a confident performance, both on stage and vocally. I love the way her very French melancholic sound enhances the moody sadness of the song and the dark atmosphere is emphasized beautifully by the strings. Adore this.

7 points: Turkey – Dinle

Bonjour, post-nosejob Şebnem Paker! The new nose is accompagnied by a whole new sound and attitude compared to her ’96 entry. Dinle sounds a lot more exotic and La Paker translates the feeling very well, twisting and bending herself around the microphone in her itsy bitsy dress. Vocally she’s even stronger than the year before and the sensuous rendition works extremely well. If only she’d smiled – at least once! Oh, and: fingercimbals, yay!

8 points: Slovenia – Zbudi se

Slightly reminiscent of last year’s winner Eimear Quinn (in physical appearance anyway) it’s Tanja Ribič‘s turn to defend the colours of the Balkan country that managed to convince me in their first two attempts and by God/Allah/Jaweh/Shiva (scratch what doesn’t fit or feel free to add) does she succeed. So rich, so gloomy, so dark yet so beautiful – a real piece of art, this. The music is slightly bizarre but stunning and the harmonies are exquisite, in short: it’s got everything I love. A flying douze points in any other year, and a permanent resident in my all time top ten.

10 points: Iceland – Minn hinsti dans

Not entirely Girl Power but let’s just say it’s close enough with the fabulous diva that is Paul Oscar. If he’d participate right now with the same song and concept it would still be one of the most modern entries, so hat off to him: he knew exactly what he was doing. The build-up in the act supports the build-up in the song in a fantastic way, I love the extra dimension the orchestra brings to the song and I’m basically just jealous I couldn’t do it instead of him – which is the highest praise I could give anyone obviously. Marvellous and a happy camper (pun intended) in my all time top 5.

12 points: Poland – Ale jestem

Surprise! Probably the weirdest, nay out-of-the-box, song in the field but if you listen close enough you’ll discover an entire universe of fascinating sounds, melodies and other treasures that completely consume you during these three (too short!) minutes. So magical, so enchanting – and I’m not even talking about the fantastic vocals by miss Anna-Maria Jopek. That musical build-up is so exciting and sweeps me off my feet – music is a universal language and surpasses the rather complicated Polish language, even though the lyrics are a poetic pearl on their own. The cherry on top? This is my all time number 1.

So there you go, a storm of positivism – which will end soon enough, the nillies are coming up now!
Oh, and: bye bye Italy, I shall miss you and your lovely melodies – why the ego? Sad face!

This is the last all time top ten I’ll post, I’ll extend it to a top 25 as from 1998 as so many countries have joined the Eurovision family in the last few years and otherwise I’ll soon have nothing new to report really! Apart from that: say hello to my new number one:

1             France 176 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
2             Netherlands 174 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3             Belgium 157 (1968 – 1983 – 1986-1990)
4             Italy 149 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
5             Finland 146 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989)
6             Portugal 136 (1972)
7             United Kingdom  129 (1961 – 1965)
8             Germany 129 (1959 – 1975)
9             Ireland 119 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
10           Spain 118 (1973)

And now it’s time for my favourite Contest EVVAH – yay!

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