Eurovision Review – 1999: What the hell, Israel?

Posted: 21/01/2012 in Eurovision Song Contest Reviews

After two splendid editions and the fact that the orchestra was put out with the garbage cans it was to be feared the ’99 edition would turn out to be a weak one – Johnny Logan would refer to the fact that a studio backing track would be used and only the vocals had to be live as ‘karaoke’ and he’s not far off the mark really, bar the fact that the artists are singing their own songs and not someone else’s. You’d think it would make it easier for the performers but we’d soon find out it doesn’t make a difference at all…

And so we’re back at the International Convention Center, the rather modest location IBA als used for the 1979 edition – a bit contradictory with the evolution of the Contest itself really, certainly with the stage taking up half the space! It’s really enormous but the set-up is rather awkward with half a catwalk on the left hand side, a couple of heavenly bodies spread around at will and a gigantic sun at the back of the stage that demands so much attention it takes some away from the performers – not always a bad thing I have to add, but paradoxical nonetheless. The sound is not very professional either, ruining almost every entry. It does feel like everything has been thrown together at the last minute and the three presenters only add to that feeling. Yigal Ravid looks and sounds as if he’d rather be on the sofa watching the entire thing instead of presenting it while Dafna Dekel & Sigal Shahamon are constantly trying to out-coo each other as if they’re two overly enthusiastic women on the first day of sales fighting over a pair of shoes. I didn’t count how many times they’ve welcomed Europe (followed by an extensive applause) but once would’ve been more than enough. Not too keen on the introduction movies either – we get it, you’re the centre of the religious world but do you really have to rub the Bible in our faces every godforsaken time? Oy vey!

Musically I’m, as I feared, extremely underwhelmed as well. A couple of countries don’t seem to realise the orchestra’s gone and decided to stick with the good old Eurovision Ballad-Midtempo Recipe which blew right in their faces. First and foremost there’s our own Belgian entry, waving the flag to run forever free but turned out to be extremely static – I get a bit of a wannabe Enya feeling with this. And what’s with that…flute? Is it a flute? We should have gone for Alana Dante (click to view), packing a modern song in our national final but robbed by some Christer Björkman clone (ie. someone who claims to Know How To Do Well At Eurovision) who focused on the vocoder she used to create a mechanical sound – incidentally the same device the Olsen Brothers used in 2000. How typical. Now thàt needed to get off my chest!!
Others that forgot to evolve along with the Contest were Slovenia (everything BIG – Ballad, Dress, Colour, Smile, Voice – except for the impact), Spain (as if anyone paid atention to the song with THAT poor excuse for a dress), Denmark (a snoozer Glee pastiche), Poland ( beautifully sung but utterly forgettable), France (she’s got her Lipstick on, here she comes da da dum), Portugal (a walking L’Oréal commercial) and Ireland (the cow and the foghorn) – wake me up before you go-go!!

And of course there are those that did try to take advantage of the backing track to treat us to a bit of a modern vibe but they all Failed Epically, mainly thanks to poor vocals and highly unprofessional performances. Top of that bill is Norway, responsable for the third zero I ever gave a song, with that awful outfit, those 5ive-like moves and being out of tune all of the time – highly UNcool, no matter what he thought. Same goes for the home entry where the Eden lads went straight (no pun intended) over the top with their spastic moves and rather odd rhyming – we still say ‘happy birthday to you, chalomot yitgashmu’ at my house because it sounds so silly. Their Maltese counterparts were equally as Epic, looking like three hairdressers that hardly had enough braincells to remember the lines, let alone those moves – loving the blonde one sneaking into the picture time after time.  Almost as bad as the UK entry, where singer Louise Rose – the only spark of talent in the group- must have cried her eyes out when she saw whom she had to put up with. Just how random is that bunch? Awful! And of course there’s Cyprus. Like many a fan I had Marlain down as my favourite beforehand only to see her Bomb on the night like almost nobody had before. Ruining the somewhat intriguing composition behind Tha’ne erotas with those shrill vocals, the lack of charisma, the preposterous backings, the sweaty cleavage and those hairy armpits is unforgivable: bye bye career!

Awful year really, and my top ten contains some compositions that wouldn’t have made it out of the bottom half in many other editions. Here are the votes of the Dimivision jury:

1 point: Lithuania – Strazdas

I know Lithuanian television had some financial issues, explaing their absence the past couple of years, but this is VERY demure isn’t it? I know gymnasts are used to perform alone, but with only Aisté and her bellybutton on stage this comes across a bit bewildering, certainly in that fickle composition. It is quite intriguing however, the lyrics bring it together when you take the effort to look at them, and I have a soft spot for this because it’s so out-of-the-box – but to think this could ever be a strong contender? Nah.

2 points: Iceland – All out of luck

I’m one of those people who think this is an okay piece of pop, nothing memorable however, that’s quite harmless and fails to excite me. Selma seems like a lovely girls and the overall approach has been well planned but it screams Carola to me with that insipid dancing – what àre those raincoats about by the way? And if Croatia’s being penalised over that synthesizer sounding like a man’s choir (their explanation, not mine), why isn’t Iceland being penalised over those Papapa’s all over the chorus that nobody seems to sing live yet sound like vocals? Huh? Fanwank.

3 points: Turkey – Dön artik

This very Turkish, eller hur? Perhaps even more so than Dinle, and it lacks a proper chorus to make it equally succesful. It’s very cheery however and I find it funny enough to enjoy it for three minutes – even though Tuğba Önal‘s broad smile does get annoying after a while, as does her eternal playing with her dress. But I’m willing to go along with it.

4 points: Netherlands – One good reason

This to me is very symptomatic to what’s annoying in the broad Dutch music scene – cheery but a bit anonymous, the one instantly exchangeable for the other. Marlayne is the middle of the road sister of Ilse Delange, giving us a very standard countrypop love anthem instead of a teardrenched narration of how somebody trampled her heart. But she can sing, there’s no doubt – just would have loved a bit more personality in this. And what’s with that outfit?? *roles eyes*

5 points: Germany – Reise nach Jerusalem

One of the sneakiest entries ever this, based on a children’s game and slowly developing into a peace anthem while merging a couple of cultures along the way – this can only be the work of R. Siegel & B. Meinunger. But it works and Sürpriz consists of a couple of characters that appeal to a broad audience: the hot one, the silent cheery one, the clown, the young girl, a hot fellow and an anonymous housewife. An odd bunch, but in this field they provide a nice comic relief without it turning into a farce, so good on them. And I’d prefer them over Corinna May any day.

6 points: Croatia – Maria Magdalena

Let’s get right down to it: this is Cheating With A Capital C. No denying, no contesting: you hear a man’s choir and you see one tiny little lady doing the backing vocals – something’s fishy. If they’d given it the proper performance they might have been my Douze, but now: no way. But I like the song, with a nice fat beat and a big chorus – even though it’s religiously inspired and it’s too obvious a choice for a Contest in Israel. Doris is a vocal powerhouse and delivers what we expected, but what’s with that sportsbra? And that tiny striptease? So many wrong choices here, it’s a missed opportunity if ever I saw one.

7 points: Austria – Reflection

With the likes of Lene Marlin running loose all over Europe I get this choice, and even though the chrous is a bit flat and very repetitive I quite like this. It’s got a cheery vibe to it, is sweet enough and Bobbie Singer, not the cleverest of artist names, comes across nicely. Not the most impressive performance evvah but in this year it’s enough to have a whiff of professionalism to convince me.

8 points: Sweden – Take me to your heaven

The 15th song of the evening and the first one that manages to get my attention from start to end. granted, it may not be the most innovative of winners – more than a hint of ABBA I’d say – but the build-up is very effective, the vocals are great, the approach is simple but works and Charlotte I-Change-My-Surname-Every-Decade sells the song very well. No wonder it won. Too schlagery for our own good obviously, but what the hell.

10 points: Bosnia-Herzegovina – Putnici

Me so happy this got to go instead of Hara Mata Hari! It offers a lot of musicality – a feat desperately lacking in this edition – and a great idea in the chorus. The hint of just conjugating the French verb avoir raises eyebrows but as soon as we get to eventual idea it just makes me smile from ear to ear. A bit philosophic almost, so rare for a Eurovision song, and Dino‘s look only adds to the vibe – along with the hobo approach in the prancing and the music. The combination with Beatrice is golden, both in sound and in look and I think this is hughly underrated.

12 points: Estonia – Diamond of night

Isn’t she lovely? Evelin Samuel might not pack the most exciting song, nor the most innovative, nor the most modern, nor the easiest of sounds (voicewise) but that big sparkle in her eyes lights up the moodiest of atmospheres and all the elements work extremely well together – I love the visual set-up as well where the sun in the back is as good as invisible. Très relax, très douze.

Happy that’s over and done with – even though I fear the worst is yet to come!

The Netherlands still reigning the all time top 25, who would have guessed?? Sweden sneaks back into the top 10 at the cost of Spain (who shall most probably not return any time soon) and Estonia claims a modest spot as well – curious to see how the next orchestraless decade will influence it all:

1             Netherlands 188 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
2             France 176 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
3             Belgium 157 (1968 – 1983 – 1986-1990)
4             Italy 149 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
5             Portugal 148 (1972 – 1998)
6             Finland 147 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989)
7             Germany 134 (1959 – 1975)
8             United Kingdom  132 (1961 – 1965)
9             Sweden 122 (1974)
10           Ireland 119 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
11           Spain 118 (1973)
12           Norway 108 (1966 – 1982)
13           Israel 102 (1976)
14           Switzerland 72
15           Denmark 71 (1957 – 1963)
16           Greece 71 (1981)
17           Turkey 60
18           Austria 47
19           Slovenia 42
20          Croatia 40
21           Iceland 34 (1987)
22           Cyprus 33
23           Bosnia-Herzegovina 29
24           Poland 24 (1997)
25           Estonia 20 (1999)

Now off to Globen! Hello Stockholm?

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