Your guess is as good as mine really but we’ll soon learn the language of music transcends any other language so I figured the same could be applied to titles of blogposts. We’re in Riga for the 48th edition of our beloved Contest and after two rather disastrous editions we’re in desperate need of one that not only the fans might (on a blue monday) approve of. Hello Latvia?
LTV clearly took the time to figure out what worked and what didn’t in the past couple of years and gives us – slippery slope ahead! – a near impeccably organised show that’s quirky and flashy without going overboard. I simply adore the plasticine concept that’s used throughout the show, the way the introduction movies are edited and last but not least the entire stage set-up which is ented on the 1997 concept (with the giant arches) but given a modern twist with the integrated light effects. In other words: two thumbs up! Even for the hosts: Marie N (a better host than a weener in my book) & Renars Kaupers are charming and (kind of) witty and look dashing in their colourful outfits (loved the tiny sequence with th coats) – even though the introduction takes faaaar too long again (what on earth do we need Lys Assia, Elton John and the ISS guys for?). But so far: me a happy bunny. And the enthousiastic audience seems to agree!
Musically I’m happy to report things are movin’ on up as well – we have a couple of gems awaiting us in my top ten. And a couple of turds at the bottom (no pun intended, I swear!) as well of course, no yin without yang now! Simply the worst for me is definitely Ukraine’s debut that might sound to some as a prime Eurovision entry but to me is an accumulation of clichés that serve no purpose and I simply do not like Olexandr Ponomariov‘s colour of voice. Not far behind we find Sweden’s sterile bunch of clichés, followed closely by Israel’s pile of desperation, Malta’s cheap Britney-ballad copy, Poland’s peace plea (I really do not see the attraction in this), Romania’s nasal chaos (a prime example on how presentation can ruin a song), Bosnia-Herzegovina’s pale Sexbomb and Cyprus’ lame duck (not looking half as alive as he claims to be). And the Epic Fail of course that is the United Kingdom – so out of tune, that’s hardly ever heard of (bar Luxembourg 1984). Not to mention the third grade choreography, Gemma Abbey‘s thing with the lips or the fact that Chris Crombey wore (such ghastly) jeans on stage – off with his head. But I kinda liked their song. Well, I liked it better than their last attempts anyhow.
Hm, that’s a good 40% of the field already! Oops! Not that Germany’s Joker (is she really only 39? I’m not buying it. And Siegel: you are past perishable date) or Greece’s dominatrix (all I see is Boob) managed to convince me but I just didn’t flunk them. Nor did I flunk The Talk Of The Town way back then – anyone who believed t.A.T.u. to be a real couple raise your hands. Nobody? But then can someone please explain to me just how they got to be such a hype? Can’t be because of their singing skills (the ginger one particularly has a knack for attacking my nerves). I do like their entry though but the musical production could have been better – it all sounds so empty! A modern entry yes, but slightly butchered in my eyes (and ears).
Which leaves four countries falling right outside the top ten: Ireland with their Olsen Brothers tribute, Spain with their okay pop song dipped in ’70s icedancing choreo, Latvia with their lyrical mystery that’s held up solely by that catchy chorus (and I love the harmonies!) and Croatia with the fabulous and bubbly Claudia Beni who’s stuck in a dodgy routine and surrounded by some dodgy figures.
A nice field all in all where even the bad ones are somewhat entertaining but it’s the top ten that makes me love this year – here are the points of the Dimivision jury:
1 point: Estonia – ’80s coming back
If only Ruffus would stand still a bit more. Or would have had a decent shave. Or would sing a bit more instead of shouting. But. I do like his casual way of performing, it suits the song well and the vibe reminds me a bit of My Star. I like the song, even though it’s more ‘Britpop meets the ’70s’ than ’80s coming back. And all hail the piano solo replacing the electric guitar!
2 points: France – Monts et merveilles
Another one that deserves a slap across the face for screwing up a great song. Louisa Baïleche messes up her hair ànd the song – those are poor vocals honey! I love how the song, in good old French tradition (Amina, Joëlle Ursull etc), builds a bridge between the traditional French chanson and ethnic sounds but it needs a singer in the same league as those two examples to really translate the feeling of romantic desperation in the lyrics. Such a shame, such a shame.
3 points: Slovenia – Na na na
So daft this, I can’t help but like it! It’s Bananarama teleported into the new century and even though Karmen Stavec is too good a vocalist for this fluff of a song it doesn’t hurt its chances either for me. Plus it’s got fire-desire so we’re good. Not too much hassle as well, just a simple rendition for a simple song which is always a plus. Perhaps Europe was dozing off after 25 songs so it skipped this one, but far worse songs have done far better – the one that came right before it in the line-up for example!
4 points: Portugal – Deixa-me sonhar (só mais uma vez)
Rita Guerra looks positively mermaidish in this very Big Ballad that’s perhaps a bit too corny slash by-the-book to really rattle my cage. One of the few examples where the language switch doesn’t bother me but that’s probably because the song is so standard it translates the same in any language. Hm, that’s not a big compliment is it? But miss Guerra’s smooth low voice makes up a lot for me and that endless section around the bridge leaves me gobsmacked – haven’t been able to imitate it as of yet, and I’ve been practising ever since 2003! Such a sucker for diva’s!
5 points: Netherlands – One more night
Now, ever since 2003 I’ve considered this (much like Estonia and Slovenia) to be somewhat substandard but having watched the Contest with Fresh Blogeyes I have to admit that it’s a nice little pop song that’s extremely well sung – not only by Esther Hart but the backings as well (I heart the harmony with the leggy backing in the bridge!). The problem is that they’re very pumped so they’re almost overselling the song and the styling doesn’t help – I can’t for the life of me figure out what they’re trying to convey. That golden suit with the laced cleavage is too much anyhow. But well done – though I do still wonder how Ebonique would have done…
6 points: Austria – Weil der Mensch zählt
As far as anti-entries go this probably is the best, alongside Guildo Horn obviously. I suspect Alf Poier got inspired by mister Horn but thankfully kept his own perspective on matters and this little concept just works from start to end. The faulty backings, the pulling of faces, the cardboard animals, the daft lyrics, the rock interjections – I love everything about this. To all who deem this unworthy: go get yourselves an ounce of humour. Ow, and senior backing rules!
7 points: Iceland – Open your heart
As far as opening songs go I think this must be one of the best in the history of the Contest as it sets the mood perfectly: it’s a nice happy pop song with a lot of atmosphere that gets the crowd going. No fuss, just musical happiness. I even think to two flowers, tiny as they may be, are too far fetched – just keep it basic and simple. Birgitta‘s vocals are a bit hoarse and in the high regions they can become quite sharp but it’s all forgotten seconds later and even her heavy accent doesn’t bother me – this is simply lovely.
8 points: Norway – I’m not afraid to move on
Did people seriously compare Jostein Hasselgård to Brad Pitt?? I don’t see it – it’s like saying Dana International is Linda Evangelista. But physical appearance aside I was happy this turned up in the line-up as it provides a nice little pause from all the busy vocals and choreographies we got showered with since… well the start of the show really. Hasselgård certainly isn’t the best vocalist of the evening but the, here we go again, simple presentation and performance of this contemporary ballad works wonders for me. But Brad Pitt, really??
10 points: Turkey – Every way that I can
I first saw Sertab in 2000 at a folkfestival over here in Belgium and was intrigued by her voice and her ethnic pop songs – when I heard she’d be representing Turkey I was over the moon and when I first heard her entry I understood her choice. It was about time Turkey brought bellydancing to the Eurovision scene and who better than this spicy little lady? On the night itself though I was, and still am, somewhat disappointed in her vocal rendition. She sounded a lot sharper than I remembered and I feared that would be her downfall. It clearly wasn’t, but to this day I still have the feeling it could have been better. But it’s Eurovision genius obviously.
12 points: Belgium – Sanomi
Again a group I’d seen before and I was confident RTBF had made a brilliant decision when they went for a folk group to represent us in Riga. Urban Trad had a lot of negative publicity however in the weeks running up to the Contest and the obvious quality of their song got lost in all of the commotion. The fact that they went for an imaginary language was spot on for me, as it clearly shows music transcends any language and diversity in musical genre and language is necessary to keep things interesting. Plus you can sing whatever you want when you sing along and you’ll always have it right! That said, UT kept things simple and just made the song speak for itself (except for those redundant gestures at the beginning) which is a plus as well and the folksy feeling in a Eurovision structure works very well. I genuinly love this and I nearly died on the night when I saw my two favourites, one of which was my home country, battle it out – something that undoubtedly will never happen again.
A great year holding some fond memories! And the last one in the ‘old’ format – the semis are coming! Not for me though – but more on that in my 2004 review.
On to the all time top 25 where France is likely to cross the 200 points border very soon, Portugal makes its way back into the top 5 and Norway back into the top 10:
1 France 197 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
2 Netherlands 193 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3 Belgium 169 (1968 – 1983 – 1986 – 1990 – 2003)
4 Portugal 152 (1972 – 1998)
5 Finland 149 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989)
6 Italy 149 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
7 Germany 134 (1959 – 1975)
8 Sweden 134 (1974)
9 United Kingdom 132 (1961 – 1965)
10 Norway 128 (1966 – 1982 – 2000)
11 Spain 128 (1973)
12 Ireland 119 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
13 Israel 102 (1976)
14 Turkey 86
15 Denmark 84 (1957 – 1963 – 2001)
16 Greece 79 (1981)
17 Switzerland 72
18 Austria 59
19 Slovenia 58
20 Croatia 46
21 Iceland 41 (1987)
22 Cyprus 37
23 Bosnia-Herzegovina 31
24 Russia 30 (1994)
25 Estonia 30 (1999)
Now on to the bridge between East and West!