A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
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Friday, December 30, 2011

Song of the Day: Albania 2008

Despite Festivali i Këngës not quite being the right vehicle for finding the right song for Eurovision, the FiK jury got it right more times than they got it wrong.

This is an excellent example of when things go right and the winner both has a distinctly national flavour (or at least I think it is) as well as a really graspable chorus.

Olta Boka was very young when she won the national final, and perhaps her nerves got the better of her in the Belgrade final (this clip is from the semi final), but she compliments her song very well.

Olta Boka - Zemrën e lamë peng (Albania 2008)

Olta's song was also one of the songs that needed the least amount of revamping after the Festivali i Këngës. A slightly more crisp arrangement and the removal of the rather heavy choir parts was all it took.

A very good entry, in my book. Albania usually delivers, you know.

Olta Boka - Zemrën e lamë peng (Albania 2008 national final)

ESC 2012: "Suus" for Albania

Albania's national final was held over four nights in Tirana and resulted in a very clear victory for "Suus" performed and co-written by Rona Nishliu, a 25 year old singer from Kosovo.

The jurors were rather unanimous in their decision, and the audience in the hall audibly agreed that the right song won.

The right song for Festivali i Këngës, that is. This is a prestigious old festival with a history very much of its own, designed for very different purposes than to find a three-minute pop piece to knock the socks off European competition.

Eurovision demands different things from what a contest like FiK would, could or should produce. Most of the FiK winners have lent themselves quite well to the ESC format, but that is more a co-incidence than anything else.

I dare suggest that Rona Nishliu might get a hard time trying to sell "Suus" to the European audience it wasn't designed for.

Maybe it would be time for Albania to let the Festivali i Këngës be what it is and flourish in its own right and find another modus to select their Eurovision entries?

Rona Nishliu - Suus from ESC 2012 on Vimeo.

Rona Nishliu - Suus (Albania 2012)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Preview clip: Spain 1973

Arguably one of the best songs ever to grace the stage of the Eurovision Song Contest, Spain's 1973 effort was not only a strong entry but it also came in nice packaging.

Particularly in the preview shows. The previews were a relatively new and fresh approach still, and TVE made a certain effort to make their entry look good.

Easy tricks for sure - mirrors on both sides of the studio and a nice panorama shot - but the result is very nice. Had I been around in 1973, I'm pretty sure I would have been ready to bet everything I owned an more on Spanish victory.

Mocedades - Eres tú (Spain 1973 preview clip)

In the end, Mocedades didn't quite deliver. Lead singer Amaya Uranga got a bit too tense in the end while Anne-Marie David, representing host nation Luxembourg, stormed in and nailed cameras as well as every single note and won the whole thing by a margin of four points.

Mocedades - Eres tú (Spain 1973)

Shape it up like Albania

The prestigious Albanian Song Contest that since 2003 has served as national final for Eurovision is usually held sometime around Christmas. I hope Santa brings them a whole lot of luck in a package.

The Albanian selection modus is a bit risky indeed. The time limit for songs in Festivali i Këngës, if there is one, does not correspond to the three minute rule in Eurovision and some years there has been a lot of repackaging to be done once there is a winner.

It worked well with the 2004 entry, which became more modern and snappy in its shorter version, and it seemed to work wonders with the tune for Kyiv as well.

Ledina Çelo - Nesër shkoj (Albania 2005 national final)

The four minutes of Nesër shkoj were efficiently boiled down to a rather perfect ESC version in English, and quite a few people were convinced Albania was about to land another top ten finish.

Ledina Çelo - Tomorrow I Go (Albania 2005 preview clip)

But as rehearsals progressed in Kyiv, all Albania fans woke up to a new reality. Ledina, who had started rehearsals brilliantly, started to grow more and more nervous, she started losing her camera angles and - worst of all - she started to sing badly.

The last rehearsal, the one the backup-juries listened to, was outright terrible.

It all went a bit better on the big night, but completely without the security, gravity and finesse there was to start with. Albania finished in 16th place on the night.

Whoever wins the upcoming Festivali i Këngës, I wish them the opposite experience to Ledina's. It would be awfully nice to see Albania back in top ten again.

Ledina Çelo - Tomorrow I Go (Albania 2005)

Song Of The Day: Yugoslavia 1984

To celebrate the return of Montenegro, my song of the day highlights one of their finest moments. Depending on how you see it.

Reliable sources claim that TV Titograd won the 1984 Yugoslav final due to extensive cheating (including lots of online whispering), and the song hasn't even got a very strong montenegrin connection at all.

Vlado Kalember was the former singer of Srebrna Krila from Zagreb. Izolda Barudžija had been a member of Aska (representing TV Beograd) in 1982, and in 1983 she provided backing vocals for Yugoslavia together with her sister Eleonora.

Their duet had apparently been turned down by TV Zagreb for the 1984 national final, possibly even with the same song. "Ciao amore" was credited to Montenegrin songwriters (as the rules stipulated this), but the rest of the duo's subsequent album was mainly written by Sarajevo-born Đorđe Novković.

In Luxembourg, Izolda and Vlado (credited as Ida & Vlado) bombed completely and ended second last out of nineteen participants. I never understood why the judges had to be so harsh (or how they could prefer drivel like that song from Switzerland) but those are the rules of the game.

Izolda & Vlado - Ciao amore (Yugoslavia 1984)

The fun doesn't end there, though. You should also check out the duo's hot and revealing video clip - a bit too much so for mainstream taste. Turkish television deemed it improper and refused to broadcast it during their preview show.

What do you say, is this too much skin for your liking?

Izolda & Vlado - Ciao amore (Yugoslavia 1984 preview clip)

Montenegro is back!

After two years of absence (and, seemingly, a change of heads in the entertainment department) TVCG has decided to join the fun again and send an entrant to Baku.

A smart move, really.

A small and relatively new country like Montenegro, with a heavy tourism sector, couldn't really afford staying away from such relatively cheap advertisement as taking part in the ESC.

Not that any of their entries as independent country so far has had a lot of impact. Montenegro is yet to make it out of the semi finals, and with entries like "Ajde kroči" it is not a real surprise either.

An internal selection has appointed Rambo Amadeus to represent his country in Baku and a man with a name like that certainly deserves some attention. He is the stage persona of Belgrade-based poet Antonije Pušić and sounds quite a bit like a local Serge Gainsbourg.

Being quirky in an oddball way could be a good idea in Eurovision (think Laka of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2008) but also disastrous (think Gipsy.cz).

Equipped with a good song and a graspable chorus, Rambo Amadeus could hopefully provide us with three rather interesting minutes in Baku.

Rambo Amadeus - Urbano, samo urbano

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Melodifestivalen gem: Copycat Hadar 1975

Recently, I posted Glenmarks' 1974 melodifestivalen entry, a lovely little song that stood out as very different in their standard repertoire.

One year later, they would be back again, but this time mainly as a backing group for young Hadar Kronberg - a fresh talent recently signed by Bruno Glenmark's record company.

The question here is how obviously you can steal someone else's idea without decomposing with shame.

This song is a catchy little number by singers in extravagant outfits and a pseudo-historical effective title gimmick with a vaguely French connection. I wonder what Abba were thinking when they saw this.

Abba's conductor had the Napoleon outfit, Bruno Glenmark conducts with toy guns in his hands. This links in with the lyrics about two men duelling about this woman they both love. Duel or possibly Russian roulette, the lyrics are a bit vague on which method is chosen in the end.

All in all, a rather dubious package from a copyright perspective. But it is a very jolly and upbeat schlager. Surprisingly much so for a song that deals with imminent death.

Hadar & Glenmarks -Lady Antoinette (Sweden 1975 national final)

ESC 2012: Poland stays at home?

It seems Poland will not be present at the next Eurovision Song Contest, according to unofficial messages made by broadcaster TVP.

The demanding task of co-hosting the European Football Championships in combination with a disappointing run of results is, seemingly, what lead up to this decision.

I do think that Eurovision should be one big, great European party and the more participants, the merrier. I would really like for each and every European country to be represented and every country that drops out is a shame.

And there was a time where a Polish withdrawal would stand out like a disaster to me. Back in the day, Poland was one of my favourite countries that kept providing artistic entries with style, class and grace.

But ever since their first relegation in 1999, it felt like Polish television struggled. The average Polish entry was no longer particularly original or exciting. Other countries filled that space and Poland fell behind.

Maybe it is a good thing for them to pause and figure out what they really want. With a music industry like the Polish, winning the ESC would be piece of cake. If only you wanted to.

So Poland, speaking as your friend - take a year, take two, and get your act together. Then come back with something as brilliant as you used to send in. You will be most welcome.

Anna Maria Jopek - Ale jestem (Poland 1997 preview clip)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Romania 1998: Goodbye Mălina

Sad news reached the world of Eurovision today as it was reported that the 1998 Romanian representative Mălina Olinesu is no longer with us.

Reports suggesting that Mălina would have committed suicide, aged 37, makes the story even more sad.

Mălina was the second performer to represent Romania in Eurovision and holds the less flattering record of achieving the country's lowest score to date. Six points and a twenty-second place did not help her career back home, and she faded from the brightests spotlights.

Mălina Olinescu - Eu cred (Romania 1998 preview)

I always found the preview version of this song understated in an attractive way, while the final version in Birmingham felt a bit overblown in comparison. Maybe it showcases Mălina's voice but takes away quite a lot of the song's discrete charm.

Mălina Olinescu - Eu cred (Romania 1998)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

ESC rejects: Israel 1989

At the time, being 13, the Israeli entry for Lausanne hit me like a brick on the head.

The sweet tune and the appealing set-up made it my firm favourite for many years to come and I identified very strongly with little Gili, facing the huge responsibility of representing his country.

(To be honest, he could very well be my first eurovision crush ever. But I wouldn't have understood to phrase it like that back then. Enough about me.)

Gili & Galit - Derech ha'melech (Israel 1989)

Nowadays, I find it a tad too sugary for my liking, even if I still recognise good handicraft when I see it.

I would have preferred to look into that wonderful magical parallel universe to find out what perky girl trio Mango could have done to the scoreboard. The song is catchy and the sound far too modern to sound good with the Swiss orchestra.

But could the girls have bettered the very disappointing 12th place of the boy soprano?

Mango - Yedidai (Israel 1989 national final)

ESC reject: Norway 2010

We hear so many of these stories at Eurovision; a relationship on the rocks but I promise to change so give me another chance and please stop looking like you're actually leaving. This is yet another one, but with a few more twists in the tale than most.

This girl really has a problem, doesn't she? She's not just a tad jealous, this one. She goes berserk as soon as something slightly female approaches and it is a mystery she can go through three minutes on stage without attacking her attractive backing singers.

Venke Knutse's sweet baby voice delivery goes very nicely together with the Mad Glenn Close-attitude (neat reference to "Fatal Attraction" in the lyrics), even if I might have wanted a little more of Lena's "maybe I'm cute but I'm also lethal so beware"-approch, used in Germany's 2011 entry.

You sort of understand the bloke and can't really blame him for leaving. Until the bridge, that is, when the lyrics suddenly reveal that this jealousy is rather well founded and triggered by the man himself.

What is left is the feeling that this couple probably deserves each other. That, and a miraculously sweet, fluffy and appealing little pop creation.

How Norway could select that pompous and sopophoric mega ballad instead is beyond me.

Venke Knutson - Jealous 'Cause I Love You (Norway 2010 national final)

ESC 2012: the Swiss are Unbreakable

The first entry for Baku has been decided upon, as Switzerland selected their representative out of a line-up consisting of fourteen songs.

The winner had been sent in by the Italian-languaged branch of Swiss television, and it must be underlined how much it adds credibility to the Swiss choice that a representative from the smallest of the three major communities can win through.

The shocker for many fans was, of course, that Dame Lys Assia - winner of the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 - failed to even reach top three on the evening. I say it is better like that. Not only was her song aggressively dated (and somehow lacking in melody), but Eurovision has changed a lot since Lys last took part in 1958.

I get exhausted by two weeks of Eurovision. I'm 35. Lys is 87. She is far better off like this. And so is Eurovision.

The winning act are Ivan and Gabriel, two brothers from Losone, making up the duo Sinplus. They now have five months to polish and improve their act and my best advice would be to brush up on the stage output as well as the pronounciation.

Their song is a good one - a slightly repetitive (or, if you prefer, catchy) soft rocker, reminiscent of Switzerland's 2009 entry by the Lovebugs who failed to qualify largely due to bad pronounciation and a lack of stage output.

If the boys get their act together, Switzerland could very well make the final for the second time in a row. I guess it would please Schweizer Fernsehen quite a bit if they pulled that trick off.

Sinplus - Unbreakable (Switzerland 2012)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

ESC reject: Norway 1984

In 1983, pop/rock/ska duo Monroes hit the Norweigan pop scene in a big way and sold more than 130,000 copies of their debut album before grabbing a Spellemann Award as best act. It was a real scoop for NRK to announce that this successful act would enter the 1984 Norweigan final for Eurovision.

Maybe it spoiled the fun a bit that they only agreed to write a song, not to perform it themselves, but several hopeful young talents auditioned to sing it. As a media stunt, it was a very successful one.

As young Beate Jacobsen entered the stage her inexperience shone through, but at least she nailed the cameras and her voice grew stronger throughout the song.

Unfortunately, "Strand Hotel" didn't sound like an immortal masterpiece on night. It is a somewhat shaky construction that sounds more diffuse than it would need to, given the orchestral arrangement.

Beate Jacobsen - Strand Hotel (Norway 1984 national final)

It is much easier to get a hang of the song in its recorded version. A snappier production and clearer arrangement clarifies the chorus that suddenly gets a lot easier to grasp.

It would have needed only three points to win - chances are that it would, had it sounded like this.

Beate Jacobsen - Strand Hotel (English studio version)

Monroes continued their career successfully for many years to come, while Beate recorded one album before slipping back into anonymity again.

Song Of The Day: Portugal 1973

When Portugal made its Eurovision debut, the country was still under harsh dictatorship and its first ten entries were all products of the totalitarian regime and its cultural rules.

Since you were not allowed to speak your mind, the domestic poets tried to sneak their lyrics past the strict censorship of the national broadcaster and win a place in the national song contest.

Ary Dos Santos played this game very well, he wrote the lyrics for no less than four winning songs, some of which had critical messages between the lines. "Tourada" being a very fine example of this.

The song is not exactly your typical pop hit, but it has a very persistent chorus that is catchy in its own little way.

Fernando Tordo - Tourada (Portugal 1973)

This lyric doesn't stand out as particularly dangerous to me but apparently it contains blistering criticism of the country's leadership as well as the double standards of a society that puts up with being controlled.

And somehow you can hear how scornful it is. It sounds really cheeky, obnoxious and arrogant in a refreshing way. Hearing it today, I'm sure it would still annoy the life out of somebody. Fernando Tordo is also a very likeable performer, almost as cheeky as the song itself.

It was also given quite an amusing preview clip, I must say.

Fernando Tordo - Tourada (Portugal 1973 preview clip)

Not only did it result (surprisingly) in one of Portugal's better placings, it is also (less surprisingly) a real evergreen on home ground. When covered by another of my favourite Portuguese ESC performers of recent years, it recieved a very enthusiastic response from the audience.

Rui Drumond - Tourada

Melodifestivalen gem: Glenmarks 1974

Ann-Louise Hanson has the record number of songs performed at Swedish national final Melodifestivalen - nobody sang as many times as she did.

After being a tremendously successful solo singer throughout the 60's, she joined the vocal ensemble Glenmarks in the early 70's. The group was assembled by her husband Bruno Glenmark and, apart from them, included his nephews Anders and Karin.

Most of their material was pretty middle-of-the-road, clean-cut schlager for the masses, with the odd piece of fine singing in between.

Therefore, their 1974 MF entry is a bit of a shocker.

It is an experiemental piece, a slow verse that turns headlong into a soulful outburst of a chorus in a surprisingly heavy arrangement, with matching, rather abstract, lyrics. Far too demanding for the juries, who were about to select a Very Commercial Winner for the first time ever, and who could not be bothered with ambitious pieces like this one.

Of course it wouldn't have stood a chance in Brighton, but it is a very good song once you get into it.

It also shows a glimpse from a parallel universe that could have been, if Ann-Louise Hanson had decided to drift from schlager into more progressive material. Judging from this, she might have pulled it off really well.

Glenmarks - I annorlunda land (Sweden 1974 national final)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Song Of The Day: Slovenia 1995

Slovenia had flopped rather a lot at their debut as independent country in 1993. Nine points was all they got and they had to stay out for one year as punishment.

In 1995, they were determined to do a lot better and sent in one of their biggest voices equipped with a warm, breezy, impressive song.

Darja Švajger - Prisluhni mi (Slovenia 1995 preview)

Just the kind of song that would sound fantastic with an orchestra, right? Think again. The RTÉ orchestra managed to take every ounce of punch out of the arrangement, so instead of bombastic it sounded a bit flat.

Darja still sang it beautifully enough to end in seventh place, still the best showing for independent Slovenia at the ESC.

Darja Švajger - Prisluhni mi (Slovenia 1995)

This song has stood the test of time really well and aged more gracefully than most of its competitors in Dublin. This became really clear when one of the contestants of Misija Eurovizija sung it the other night. Darja can be proud, and so can all of Slovenia.

Eva Boto - Prisluhni mi

Sweden 2012: fingers crossed for Ulrik

One thing that has surprised me is that no singer has ever progressed from the Junior Eurovision Song Contest (or its Nordic equivalent MGP Nordic) to the Real Big Thing of a contest.

Quite a few of the participants have popped up in national finals, but nobody has ever been to the ESC. (If I'm wrong here please correct me, but I can't think of anyone.)

Ulrik Munther from Sweden could have the potential of being the first to do the trick. When he won the 2009 MGP Nordic (the last edition to date), I was doing Finland's commentary and was pretty sure from the word go that Ulrik was a winner.

He was cute, charming, had a strong presence and a very good voice, confidence and that certain something that is so hard to put your finger on. Many singers in that final were impressive but Ulrik stood out.

Ulrik - En vanlig dag (MGP Nordic 2009)

Sure thing, the heart-throb from Gothenburg won hands down but then he also managed to cut himself a neat little career in Sweden.

Maybe the nickname "Sweden's Justin Bieber" isn't pure flattery in the business, but at least he has assembled himself an impressive fanbase in short time. The single "Boys Don't Cry" is a success and now he will take the MF stage in February.

Win or lose, it is a brave thing to enter Melodifestivalen at this early stage of his career. On a good day he can gain several new fans, and on a bad day he can lose it all.

But I keep my fingers crossed. He is a good kid, and I hope his song will be good also this time around.

Ulrik Munther - Boys Don't Cry

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tobson's Wish List: Donkeyboy for Norway

They made quite a splash with their single "Ambitions", but I somehow managed to miss the whole Donkeyboy phenomenon until I went to see them in concert in Helsinki about a year ago.

And I was pretty much blown away.

Great stage presence, great songs, great songs and I had to get their really fine album as well. I found on the net that it had recieved some catty reviews, pointing out that the final album could not live up to the promise of the fantastic single, but don't be fooled. Donkeyboy are a most impressive pop act.

Of course I want most impressive pop acts to go to Eurovision, and as Norway went face first into the ground in 2011 (when "Haba Haba" only ended third last in its semi) they could be eager to make an impression in Baku.

I'm not sure this band would see themselves on a Eurovision stage, but here's hoping.

Donkeyboy - Ambitions

Monday, November 14, 2011

Song Of The Day: Switzerland 1974

Maybe I have already posted this once or even twice, but for me this remains as massive a chorus as the Swiss Alpine Massive and I cannot quite grasp that it ended in shared last place with Germany, Norway and Portugal.

Piera Martell was said to be a construction worker who had decided to slip into showbiz, citing the likes of Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand as her biggest sources of inspiration.

Despite a spirited performance, this Swiss Streisand failed to impress the juries. Probably had she scored better with the current points system, introduced the year after in Stockholm.

Win or lose, Piera went home and cut herself a neat little career that lasted until 1981, when she decided to retire from the business altogether.

Piera Martell - Mein Ruf nach dir (Switzerland 1974)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Melodifestivalen gem: Lena Ericsson 1982

Today, the whole list of songs for Melodifestivalen was published. Thirty-two songs that will be wildly discussed throughout spring and who are already focus for an awful lot of speculation.

It would be nice if Sweden kept its positive trend after Eric Saade's third place. Sweden needed a couple of slaps across the face, but I believe the message - you can't keep sending in the some old thing over and over again - has sunken in.

Of course it will be interesting to see who wins and all, but I am more looking forward to finding a new set of personal favourites, those tiny little pearls that the masses may forget about but that will stay with you forever.

Like the runner-up in the 1982 Melodifestival from Gothenburg. A complete commercial failure, totally forgotten outside the eurovision circuit. But to me, it is a precious little gem that lives very close to my heart.

Lena Ericsson sings it very well and the adorable lyrics, carefully crafted by Britt Lindeborg, makes me go all bubbly and happy inside.

Lena Ericsson - Någonting har hänt (Sweden 1982 national final)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Song Of The Day: Cyprus 1999

It seemed to be written in the stars that an island nation was going to win the 1999 Eurovision Song Contest held in Jerusalem.

Most media predictions seemed to favour Iceland's Selma to win hands down (possibly facing some stiff competition from Marlayne of the Netherlands) while the loudest group of fans on the still rather new internet forums had their mind set on Cyprus.

Seldom has the voice of the fans spoken so unanimously about one specific song, and in quite an unpleasant way too. There was no room for speculation, no room for opinion. As soon as anyone articulated anything less than praise for the Cypriot song, that somebody was quickly taken down and ripped to shreds.

The Cypriot song seemed to be in with a chance, in all fairness. It did had a slightly confusing structure, starting out as a ballad before turning into a dance anthem, but once it got down to its real self it had a solid chorus and sounded modern enough. But not modern in a way to scare older viewers off.

Unfortunately, this was a battle lost in advance. Marlain proved to be over-styled, over-choreographed and severly over-excited, giving an almost frantic impression while trying to keep her song together. When she started to skid across the higher notes, it left the track in ruins.

In the end, Cyprus scored a mere two points and ended second last. A not too graceful exit for one of the top favourites.

And all the loud fans fell silent for a while...

Marlain - Tha'ne erotas (Cyprus 1999)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Song Of The Day: Greece 1980

Anna Vissi was still a promising girl from Cyprus, yet to morph into the superstar of song she was destined to become, when she represented Greece at the 1980 ESC in The Hague.

She had almost represented Greece already two years earlier in Paris, as she sang both the winner and the runner-up in the internal jury vote to determine the national entry. However, both songs were deemed ineligible and Tania Tsanaclidou got the Paris ticket instead.

When winning the Greek final in 1980, Anna narrowly beat trio Epikouri and it was subsequently decided for them to act as backing group at Eurovision.

The song, a light-hearted ode to the joys of hitch-hiking, is perhaps a bagatelle but you can tell Anna Vissi is a star in the making. She fills the little song with energy, passion and a certain sense of gravity. Together with Epikouri, she puts on a splendid little show that impressed several journalists and commentators on location.

However, reports suggest the Greek delegation had severe sound problems during the dress rehearsal that the juries listened to and voted on. That could explain the surprisingly low 13th place.

But Anna would be back with a vengeance. Not only at the ESC, but at the world of Greek pop at large. She wasn't going to win at eurovision, but at least she is Number One in Greece. That must count for something.

Anna Vissi & Epikouri - Autostop (Greece 1980)

ESC reject: Gina de Wit

Gina de Wit had her first real break when she won the 1986 Soundmixshow - the Dutch tv format where people try to sing like famous performers. Gina sang like Linda Ronstadt and convinced the juries she was the best in the running.

She then had a stab at establishing herself in her own right, she took part in several Dutch national finals for Eurovision and also wrote one of the songs for Ruth Jacott's private national final in 1993.

In 1996, she was one of five acts in the (not too star-packed) Dutch final and this time she managed to get really close to victory. In the end Maxine & Franklin Brown were stronger, but I have a tingling little feeling that Gina's song could have been quite a good choice as well.

Gina de Wit - De wereld is van jou (Netherlands 1996 national final)

She tried again four years later and would, for certain, have made a lousier choice for Stockholm. That year turned out to be a very strong, contemporary and dynamic line-up where this kind of old-fashioned ballad had been bound for the bottom placings.

But at least she was the first person to ever sing a song in Frisian language in a Dutch final and that must be worth something as well.

Gina de Wit - Hjir is it begin (Netherlands 2000 national final)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turkey 1979: I love (but I won't go to Jerusalem)

Turkey selected its third eurovision entry in a national final held on February 24th in Istanbul. Seventeen juries voted and gave a very close victory (by one point only) to Maria Rita Epik & 21. Peron performing "Seviyorum" (I love).

This is what we know for sure before things begin to get a bit fuzzy. Sometime from this time until the distribution of the preview clips, Turkish television decided to withdraw from the contest.

Swedish and Finnish press at this time appear a bit confused as to why Turkey has decided to stay at home. Speculation then, and now, suggests that Turkey, as a muslim nation, was put under pressure from the Arab world not to take part in a contest hosted in Israel.

Turkey would have performed as eleventh in Jerusalem, sandwiched between the Israeli winner and French Anne-Marie David, ending in third place.

It is an educated guess that "Seviyorum" wouldn't have made a huge difference to the final result. Jaunty and upbeat, but possibly a tiny bit bland, it would probably have ended up where Turkey used to end up back in the day.

Far far back.

Maria Rita Epik & 21. Peron - Seviyorum (Turkey 1979, never took part) 

PS. Twenty years later, the ESC was again held in Jerusalem. This time Turkey proudly took part in the competition, ending in 16th place with Tuba Önal.

Song Of The Day: Lebanon 2005

I was very pleasantly surprised when Lebanon registered for the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest. Through the history of the contest, only one Arab country had taken part before and it seemed about time to have another one in the running.

Tunisia intended to enter in 1977 but pulled out after the running order was established (and would have performed as fourth in London, between the Netherlands and Austria had they stayed in), so Morocco remains the only Arab nation to have taken part.

Morocco ended second last at their only attempt, and it is my firm belief that Lebanon would have done better hadn't politics gotten in the way.

Aline Lahoud was internally selected to sing "Quand tout s'enfuit" in Kyiv, but the lebanese pulled out only hours before the drawing of lots in March 2005.

When pressured by the EBU, Télé-Liban admitted they had no intent of showing the Israeli entry during their broadcast, claiming promotion of Israel would clash with Lebanese law.

So Aline had to stay home and we will never know how her dramatic, slightly oriental-flavoured ballad would have fared.

Hopefully, in the future, one or several Arab nations would decide to enter the ESC and participate alongside Israel. Showing themselves, and the world, that singing together is a pretty harmless activity and nothing to be afraid of.

Aline Lahoud - Quand tout s'enfuit (Lebanon 2005, did not participate)

Iceland 1997: What a shocker!

This could be hard to believe these days when almost nobody goes to Eurovision without an elaborate stage show or pyros or dancers, but the 1997 entry from Iceland hit the ESC in a most dramatic way.

The audience was still used to singers coming on stage, performing their songs just like that. Paul Oscar demanded a white leather sofa and brought dancers dressed in latex.

He was also the first openly gay performer to take to the ESC stage and he made quite a big deal out of it. His song is a melodrama about the depraved diva who lived a hard life, burnt out and is now about to dance her last dance, sing her swan song and make her grand exit.

These days, this would not be shocking at all, but in many ways Paul Oscar triggered a new development. He challenged the formula - what a eurovision entry could and should look and sound like.

Also, as the juries made thumbs down but the televoters made thumbs up, it was yet another factor in favour of abandoning the jury system and have televoting instead.

I just wonder what an entry would have to do today to become as influential as this performance has turned out to be?

See Paul Oscar's performance from Dublin here .

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Song Of The Day: Switzerland 1992

Switzerland decided to disqualify the winner of its 1992 national final and sent the runner-up to Malmö instead. Daisy Auvray did her best to convince Europe that a little bit of blues would do us all good on a Saturday night.

In the preview, host Lydia Capolicchio called it "a pleasant number for all of you who enjoy taking your clothes off in a rhytmical manner" while Swedish commentator Björn Kjellman declared it by far the worst song in the running.

A Swedish tabloid wondered why the originally chosen song had been disqualified, "hopefully not because it was inferior to this one".

It can be questioned how much a song like this added to a pop contest in 1992, but it did sound better with the orchestra than most of the others.

Daisy Auvray - Mister Music Man (Switzerland 1992)

The song that won the national final was disqualified because it had already been rejected by the French languaged selection jury before being translated into German and accepted by the German branch of the broadcaster.

Apparently, this was against the Swiss rule book and Géraldine Olivier had to stay home.

If it is inferior or not, I leave for you to decide. (But my money is actually on Daisy.)

Géraldine Olivier - Soleil Soleil (Switzerland 1992 disqualified)

Veronika Fischer didn't stand a chance

"East German stars come up in the East and go down in the West." That was a catch phrase with quite a bit of truth to it among musicians in the German Democratic Republic.

No matter how popular and acclaimed you were in East, very few of the musicians who fled to the West maintained any kind of star status there.

When the Wall had fallen, top singer Tamara Danz stated that the GDR had no freedom of speech, but in the West, instead, there was the dictatorship of commercialism. There was no room for creating art unless nobody was willing to buy.

Veronika Fischer already knew this. After four top-selling albums to her name, she left for the West in 1981 and tried to maintain the same level of artistry in her new country. It proved to be not too easy.

She had always been a wild child - humourous and whimsical at one moment, deeply sincere the next, then experimental, then jazzy. Far too irregular to be a perfect record label product, in other words.

In 1983, she entered the German selection for Eurovision (to be held on home ground in Munich) with a song rather reminiscent of some of the ballads on her albums back East.

Veronika Fischer - Unendlich weit (Germany 1983 national final)

Slow, demanding and better suited to be an almost six minutes long album track, this song was strongly applauded in the studio but stood no chance in the voting and ended second last.

Veronika Fischer - Unendlich weit (album version)

Oddly enough, when released as a single (in its pre-selection format), its B-side was Veronika's version if "Wir beide gegen den Wind", the song Wenche Myhre performed at the same national final.

Veronika's material turned more schlager and less experimental, and she managed to keep her career alive and is still an active and loved performer today.

I think Veronika is a unique talent and can't help but wonder how different the outcome might have been, had she been able to bring some of her older material to Eurovision instead. Would the West have understood?

Veronika Fischer und Band - He, wir fahr'n mit dem Zug

Veronika Fischer und Band - Hans im Glück

Veronika Fischer und Band - Blues von den letzte Gelegenheit

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tobson's Wish List: Antti Tuisku for Finland

This would be one of my biggest wishes on the list, actually. You see, I think the Eurovision Song Contest is the best pop contest there is and every country should send their best names in pop into competition.

Antti Tuisku is indeed one of the biggest names in pop in Finland. He is the biggest success to come out of the Pop Idols format domestically and after winning Tanssi tähtien kanssa (Finland's Strictly Come Dancing) he has crossed over from youth icon to a real household name.

He has a distinct look, a distinct sound and he largely divides opinions. Just like any Pop Star should. Few other Finnish pop acts could dance the rumba one week, then make a Christmas album, then go on tour for full crowds.

In many ways, he is Finland's own Kylie Minogue. And he sure knows how to work a song.

Antti Tuisku - Ei aikaa

Antti Tuiski - Juuret

Antti Tuisku - En kiellä

Since the list of contenders for next year's Finnish final is already official, I know for a fact this wish won't come true. Not for 2012, at least.

But here's hoping for the future.

Song Of The Day: Lithuania 2010

How about going a little bit crazy? Offer Europe some funk, some kazoo, some rather gorgeous legs? No?

Lithuania's best placing to date came with another humourous effort, a joking protest song, in 2006, so nobody can blame them for trying the concept again.

And in all fairness, InCulto had remembered to pack a far better song in their suitcase when leaving for Oslo than LT United had in Athens. And compared to the other bunch, who were unhappy about the fact nobody ever votes for Lithuania at eurovision, InCulto had a little bit of a message in their entry.

Lithuania and its brothers in the East feel like second class countries in Europe, and when they go west it is only to end up as second class citizens who clean other people's homes and then wash other people's dishes. And who's going to tell them they are wrong?

Right or wrong, the voters remain relatively unmoved and this anthem for anyone who ever felt a bit outside in the Europan family did not make it to the final.

InCulto - East European Funk (Lithuania 2010)

I think they should, though. It is a rare thing at Eurovision to come across humour songs that actually are a bit funny. And InCulto amuse me very much.

They already did back in 2006, when their entry "Welcome To Lithuania" ended second in the national final.

InCulto - Welcome To Lithuania (Lithuania 2006 national final)

Greece 1974: everybody freeze!

Greece made its debut at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, and when I first heard this song, from a not too scratchy vinyl single record, I could not believe how it could fail to score better. I found it happy, clappy, dancy and bouncy.

And the studio version, also used for the preview clip, really is infectuous and bouncy.

Marinella - Krassi, thalassa ke t'agori mou (Greece 1974 preview)

The live version, however, is not. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw this performance for the first time. I'm not sure I ever saw a eurosong performed with such a lack of zeal, passion and attack.

Marinella is of course the Greek goddess statue personified, she is excused. And she does pick up a tambourine by the end, in a vain attempt to save the day.

But what are those backing singers up to? How can you perform such a happy song without transpiring the slightest hint of happiness? Sing such a swinging entry without moving a muscle? Suddenly the verdict of the judges started making more sense, I must give them that.

Marinella - Krassi, thalassa ke t'agori mou (Greece 1974)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Finland 2012: 40 songs are online

Finland is re-inventing its national selection for Eurovision, trying to wash as much of the ESC out of the mix as only possible.

The classic name "Euroviisut" has been ditched for the new "UMK" (The Competition for New Music), which is supposed to be an independent hit song contest in its own right.

The winner will also be Finland's entrant for Baku, but focus will be put exclusively on finding hit songs that could storm the domestic hit charts. Eurovision is just a bonus, the icing on the cake for the winner.

Out of 540 submitted entries, a professional jury has whittled the number of songs down to forty hopefuls that were published online this week for everyone to hear and see.

The audience can vote for the songs online, but that is just a fun feature. In the end the jury will select the twelve finalists as they please, not necessarily paying any attention to what the audience has liked.

The hottest names of contemporary Finnish music are keeping as firm a distance from this new competition as they have done with Euroviisut for the last few years, but among the forty contenders there are quite a few songs that could turn out quite nicely with some work.

There are bit too many hastily produced electropop entries and the old Finnish lack of decent choruses persists. But here and there, you can find some pretty good pop songs. Finland surely has a chance for 2012.

And there is a song in Swedish - for the first time since 1994. I keep my fingers crossed for Pernilla Karlsson to make it far in the competition and for her not to change the language during the competition.

For the time being, you can find the forty songs here. Which one would you like to see in Baku?

ESC reject: Yugoslavia 1987

Josipa Lisac was still in her teens when she first entered a Yugoslav national final for Eurovision. She never won, but manage to turn into a megastar - a monument of pop art with a very special place in domestic showbiz.

She is not only a singer, but also an actress and a style icon with her very own sense of fashion.

When she returned to the Yugoslav final in 1987, Josipa was the sensation of the evening with her modern sound, great presence and a most flamboyant hairdo (that would be outright dangerous if worn in public during rush hour).

This didn't matter much as the juries remained unmoved and left her in ninth place, sending super bouncy Novi Fosili off to Brussels instead, where they equalled the best Yugoslav placing until then.

Since then, Josipa the Great has not bothered to enter any national selections again, but her 1987 selection entry has turned into an evergreen, also covered by Slovenian singer Nuša Derenda.

Josipa Lisac - Gdje Dunav ljubi nebo (Yugoslavia 1987 national final)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Song Of The Day: Netherlands 1993

Many moons ago, the world looked mighty different in many ways. Imagine the Netherlands being a progressive, exciting and interesting competitor - a competitor that would send in progressive, exciting and interesting songs, sung by impressive performers.

Hard to picture after some ten years of Treble, Re-Union, Sieneke and Toppers.

But once upon a time, the Dutch were determined to make a difference and decided to enter a splendid artist like Ruth Jacott. Not only, they also dressed her up with a song like "Vrede".

Maybe it didn't age all that well, but back in 1993 it was shockingly modern for Eurovision. The song incorporated modern elements and Ruth wrapped it up in a warm and sensual air of sparkle and sexiness, back in the day when sexy didn't necessarily mean "minimal outfit".

I would be so happy if the Dutch would find that sparkle again, burst through to the final and achieve their best placing since 1993. So happy. Not to mention so surprised.

Ruth Jacott - Vrede (Netherlands 1993)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Song Of The Day: Yugoslavia 1991

We didn't know it at the time, but this would be the last entry ever entered by Former Yugoslavia as a united nation. Whoever expected a tasteful and dignified last kiss had something complete different coming.

While Yugoslavia was falling apart politically, the country had finally started doing really well at Eurovision and I for one expected this outburst of Serbian samba to score quite heavily as well.

At least the preview looked very promising (apart from the dodgy lip-sync).

Baby Doll - Brazil (Yugoslavia 1991 preview clip)

In Rome, apparently, Baby Doll spent her week being unfriendly to staff, singing out of key and telling journalists she was not willing to reveal her exact date of birth but insisting on being in her early twenties (uh, yeah, right).

Despite being the first song in the running and being one of very few uptempo songs in the line-up, Yugoslavia recieved only one poor little point (from Malta) and made its worst showing since 1984.

The year after, Yugoslavia would still be on the scoreboard, even though the country represented had ceased to exist.

Baby Doll - Brazil (Yugoslavia 1991)

Baby Doll, or Bebi Dol as she spells it way back home, was a big, established star at home (she still is) and had already come close to representing Yugoslavia on several occasions.

Her 1991 victory had very little to do with music, as the entire voting is tainted with politics. TV Belgrade had decided to win at any cost, but why they decided to promote themselves with "Brazil" of all songs remains a mystery.

The version performed at the national final in Sarajevo was also radically different to the one used in Rome. Had this heavier beat attracted more points or would even the Maltese have made thumbs down?

Bebi Dol - Brazil (Yugoslavia 1991 national final)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Germany 1980: Beware of apples!

If I keep on like this, I'm afraid the German embassy will soon call me in for a serious discussion on the picture I paint of German music, but I can't resist sharing this masterpiece.

A good friend reminded me about this via Twitter , so here you all get to enjoy Adam & Eve from the 1980 German final. You'll never forget them.

Adam & Eve - Hallo Adam! Hallo Eva! (Germany 1980 national final)

Of course, one's mind fills up with questions after seeing this. How would this song have fared in The Hague? Is that giant apple a real apple? Who decided that the fabric of her dress would pass as skin-coloured? And who are these people?

Adam & Eve were actually a successful schlager act for many years, created by Eva "Eve" Bartova who came to Germany from her native Czechoslovakia in the early 60's. She formed her own band, then set up the duo Adam & Eve.

After a few years, she had the original Adam replaced with Harry Schairer and then the duo really took off. The couple got married and had a number of hit singles, most notably perhaps "Ungarische Nächte" which made it to the no 1 spot of the ZDF-hitparade.

When success ebbed away, the couple split up and Eve again emigrated, this time to the US, where she died of cancer in 1989.

Adam & Eve - Ungarische Nächte

Germany 1996: Surfen surfen, Tag und Nacht!

I gave you "Can Can", so there is no reason why I should not share "Surfen Multimedia" from the 1996 German final.

Germans always had a strong fascination for new technology and more than once stated this fascination in song. So, when the internet came into our lives, why not make a Beach Boys-esque song to celebrate it?

The link is obvious, right? Beach Boys - surfing! Internet - surfing! You're with me, right?

These girls are impossibly happy and cheerful, while something tells me they were yet to see a single webpage.

What the EU-flag tops and the flag skirts has to do with anything is a subject far too deep for my shallow analysis, but click the link. I know you want to. And the EuroCats know it too!

EuroCats - Surfen Multimedia (Germany 1996 national final)

ESC reject: Finland 1991

The first Finnish final I ever saw was Euroviisut 1991 - a relative in Stockholm recieved Finnish television on cable, so she recorded it on a VHS videotape and sent it to me in an large envelope. (Oh gosh, this really was back in the day, wasn't it?)

Out of the ten finalists, my instant favourite was Arja Koriseva's "Enkelin silmin". Very direct, very catchy, maybe a tiny bit old-fashioned, delivered in a very cheerful manner by a likeable singer, written by the same successful team that wrote "La dolce vita" in 1989.

The expert jury left "Enkelin silmin" only in fifth place, and opted for Kaija Kärkinen's "Hullu yö" instead.

Kaija Kärkinen - Hullu yö (Finland 1991)

These days, Kaija is a personal favourite of mine as well as another of the songs I can't believe the juries didn't vote for. In Rome, it recieved a grand total of six points and a 20th place.

"Enkelin silmin" became a big hit in Finland and is still seen as an evergreen and is one of Arja's most well-known and loved songs.

I can't help wondering how it would have scored in Rome, also given it would have granted some bouncy sing-along clap-along qualities in a line-up full of ballads.

Arja Koriseva - Enkelin silmin (Finland 1991 national final)

Germany 2006: Vicky should be grateful

The 2006 Eurovision could have seen not just one but two previous winners battling it out for a second victory. Sweden gave Carola renewed confidence while Germany rejected Vicky Leandros in their national final.

Surely Vicky, who sang twice for Luxembourg and who is still a solid name within German showbiz, must have felt a bit deflated when defeated by hobby project Texas Lightning. But in retrospect, maybe she would be grateful rather than anything else.

First of all, her self-composed song may be clean-cut and robust but is, above all, fantastically dull. There is not a single element of surprise during these three minutes, and when the song is so undynamic in itself, Vicky's emotional delivery almost turns comical.

I am a big fan of Vicky and her singing style, so I am quite pleased that she never got to expose herself like this Europe-wide. Now she is left with her dignity in tact.

Also, while Carola's fifth place was not a fiasco it wasn't really a success either. Not a single country had her in their top spot, and no comeback winners have fared well ever since.

Charlotte Perrelli flopped in Belgrade, Niamh Kavanagh crashed and burned in the Oslo final and Dana International didn't even make it out of the semi finals in Düsseldorf. You will not be automatically loved by the audience just because you won the whole thing once.

Vicky Leandros should be very grateful, indeed.

Vicky Leandros - Don't Break My Heart (Germany 2006 national final)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Germany 1998: Everybody Can Can!

I could say a lot of things about this clip.

For instance, I could say that the 1998 German national final in many ways sounded like a musical madhouse and looked like a freakshow but, in retrospect, was the first serious attempt of bringing Eurovision back to its former glory in Germany.

I heard that the blond girl dancer (who gives the impression of not being able to carry a tune in a bucket) later teamed up with DJ Bobo and was the female vocalist in the 2007 Swiss entry. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

I could point out that the presenter is indeed Nena, one of Germany's top stars, who should clearly be taking part instead of hosting.

I could also say that this was the first really scary proof of things falling apart for Ralph Siegel. First you write Dschingis Khan, Theater and Johnny Blue, only to put your name on something as dubious as this?

But I will content myself with stating that this is so wrong on so many levels, but yet so fantastically entertaining. For all the wrong reasons, sure, but entertainment is never out of place.

Ballhaus - Can Can (Germany 1998 national final)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1992

In the early 90's, BBC really tried turning things around, getting their national Song for Europe-final back on track after being reduced to something of a talent show for some years.

Getting Michael Ball, a hot star from the world of musicals, to do the job was a real scoop. Having a powerful and convincing performer does a lot for a song in the ESC. Michael Ball would get to show just how true this is.

Out of the eight songs he performed, the British audience decided that "One Step Out Of Time", a truly square, old-fashioned and predictable up-tempo belter, was the suitable number to send off to Malmö. Michael Ball put on a brave face, but it was easy to tell he was not all smiles about the outcome.

Michael Ball - One Step Out Of Time (United Kingdom 1992 preview)

In Malmö, he managed to kick enough life and sparkle into his dull little ditty to land in second place out of twenty-three countries.

If Michael Ball was enough for a second place, how heavily wouldn't he have scored had he had something decent to sing? Like the song ending in second place, co-written by Andy Hill - the man behind all of Bucks Fizz' hit singles as well as Céline Dion's "Think Twice".

Could "As Dreams Go By" have beaten Ireland's Linda Martin in Malmö? I'm pretty sure it could.

If so, would Ireland have won as many times during the 90's anyway? I'm not so sure at all.

Michael Ball - As Dreams Go By (United Kingdom 1992 national final)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Song Of The Day: Andorra 2004

2004 was an exciting year with no less than four debutant countries in the line-up (well, Serbia-Montenegro had been in it before under Yugoslav flag, but still), including tiny Andorra.

Most people would have expected the small state to be in it just for a laugh, but when the preview clip landed by our feet quite a few people started thinking the Andorrans could be able to pull off something special.

Their selected song sounded modern, radio friendly, catchy and fresh, performed by Marta Roure who oozed with star quality in the clip. This seemed very promising indeed.

Marta Roure - Jugarem a estimar-nos (Andorra 2004 preview clip)

Unfortunately, Andorra's best discipline in the ESC turned out to be over-choreographed busy little numbers that would try to squeeze too many things into the short space of three minutes, leaving very little room for the audience to pay attention to the song in question.

Marta's performance was possibly a bit too out of breath for comfort, but certainly not the least inspired on the night. The non-qualification came as at least half a surprise, but the fact that Andorra had scored in one country alone (neighbour Spain, awarding maximum twelve points) was a real shocker.

After this, Andorra never really got their act going and never reached the final in its six participations despite some good efforts (getting really close only once, in 2007).

I keep my fingers crossed that they will come back one day to achieve the heavy scoring that Marta Roure and the others never got.

Marta Roure - Jugarem a estimar-nos (Andorra 2004)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Song Of The Day: Germany 1977

In a parallel universe, had everything gone according to plan, Germany would have won the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest with its very contemporary disco sound, effective chorus and flawless performance. Then the BBC technicians went on strike and ruined the whole thing.

It had never happened before and it has not happened again that the ESC was postponed, but the initially scheduled London final had to be pushed back five weeks from April 2 to May 7.

In the world of disco, five weeks equalled half a dozen light years. Silver Convention's hit was timed perfectly to co-incide with the final and to sound as fresh and exciting as only possibly, but was already growing off people when the juries finally sat down to vote.

The world had moved on to other disco songs (and there were plenty of them around at this time) so the glitzy trio had to content themselves with a pale and disappointing eight place.

Unlike most of the disco songs of the era, however, "Telegram" was not going to vanish. It has eaten its way into the eurovision history books as possibly the best disco track ever ignored by the juries, complete with a choreography that anyone can have a stab at on any old dance floor.

Silver Convention - Telegram (Germany 1977)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Would Paola have done the trick for Germany?

Swiss star Paola Felix-del Medico did better at Eurovision than most of her compatriots: both times she represented her mountainous homeland she landed top five placings.

Paola - Bonjour, bonjour (Switzerland 1969)

Paola - Cinéma (Switzerland 1980)

She was also a notable figure in German showbiz, both as entertainer and television presenter, and twice she tried to represent Germany at Eurovision.

In 1979, she ended in third place with the atmospheric "Vogel der Nacht" and three years later she was the only one to give Nicole a run for her money with Ralph Siegel-penned "Peter Pan".

It is never a bad idea to employ anyone as stylish, glamourous and radiant as Paola to sing for you at Eurovision, but Germany did really well with their choices both these years. 

Could "Vogel der Nacht" have topped the 4th place achieved by Dschingis Khan in Jerusalem? And would "Peter Pan" have given Germany its first victory in Harrogate, like Nicole did?

Paola - Vogel der Nacht (Germany 1979 national final)

Paola - Peter Pan (Germany 1982 national final)

Song Of The Day: Switzerland 1970

A most original and slightly bizarre little love song about a man leaving his loved one behind for some time. He will go out and have a good time with other girls elsewhere, but she need not worry as he is sure to return.

And when he does, he will tell her everything he has done - how, where, when and who with. Not a very catholic thing to do.

Surely, all this is to inject some passion and sparkle into this relationship with a most forgiving, understanding and (if you read the lyrics properly) somewhat cold girl.

Henri Dès gave up on trying to make pop music for adults, but cut himself a very successful career writing songs and performing for children. Not a huge surprise, really, when you hear this song.

Love it or hate it, but try getting this chorus out of your head if you can.

Henri Dès - Retour (Switzerland 1970)

You would hardly recognise the Turks

It is hardly an understatement to say that Turkey struggled during their first twenty-five years in Euroland. Whatever star performers or hit choruses they sent in kept coming back home largely ignored and with a minimum of points to their names.

In the 80's, Turkish television started to look for qualified help in order to make their own entries more appealing. The song that won the national final was sent off to some music company (often in Germany) that would add a helping touch here and there.

Some years, they did far more than just the odd fine tuning. Some years they added long segments, cut whole verses out and - in severe cases - added a hook or a whole chorus.

Watch and compare for yourself. How would the original versions have fared at Eurovision?

1984 - Luxembourg

Bes yil once, on yil sonra - Halay (Turkey 1984 national final)

Most of this song is fully recognisable from the national final, but recieved a somewhat softer arrangement and a less busy choreography. And - a chorus, including a handle for the juries to hold on to. Result - a 12th place, which was the best Turkish showing until then.

Bes yil once, on yil sonra - Halay (Turkey 1984 eurovision version)

1986 - Bergen

Klips ve Onlar - Halley (Turkey 1986 national final)

For some reason, I can only find a very short clip of the national final version of this one but I think you will get the big picture. This entry is, in short, a complete mess. A heap of good ideas thrown together with no structure and nothing in particular going for it.

The musical helpers slowed down the pace considerably and added a very contemporary sound to the final arrangement, which resulted in Turkey's first ever top ten showing.

Klips ve Onlar - Halley (Turkey 1986 eurovision version)

1988 - Dublin

MFÖ - Sufi (Turkey 1988 national final)

This is a schoolbook example of how little it takes to turn something promising into something really good. These two versions are not so far apart, really. What is added is - again - a more modern touch to the sound as well as a distinctly oriental flavour and an instrumental hook most europeans would understand as typically Turkish.

The final version also has a better flow and sounds more melodic and catchy. It was quite rightly mentioned as a dark horse and possible outside at Eurovision, before finishing in a most disappointing 15th place.

MFÖ - Sufi (Turkey 1988 eurovision version)

1990 - Zagreb

Kayahan - Gözlerinin hapsindeyim (Turkey 1990 national final)

The first minute is almost the same, only the arrangement is different - more pompous and old-fashioned than the final version - but then the original throws itself head first into a difficult, un-catchy chorus. The production company would have nothing of it and cut it all out, replacing it with a much simpler singalong, still with a slightly oriental feel.

This was not a huge success and ended in 17th place in Zagreb, but I suspect the original version would have fought it out in a battle for the very last places.

Not bad, but in no way user friendly.

Kayahan - Gözlerinin hapsindeyim (Turkey 1990 eurovision version)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Song Of The Day: Belgium 1969

There has been quite a lot of Belgium in this blog lately, so why not keep on going with that trend?

I don't have an awful lot to say about this song, only that it is a most contemporary and gentle song with a quality melody line of a kind that was very present in the late 60's, complete with a lyric about one of these enigmatic and multi-faceted women who also populated pop culture at this time.

Everything about this entry is pure elegance (apart from the choreography spasm that occurs at the beginning of the first verse) and is maybe the single entry of 1969 that best represents the musical trends at the time.

Louis Neefs was an institution of Flemish showbiz, and his untimely death in a car crash late 1980 left the entire country saddened. Since 2007, there is a bust of him in his home town Gierle - an honour not bestowed upon just any old singer.

Louis Neefs - Jennifer Jennings (Belgium 1969)

Tobson's Wish List: Jelena Rozga for Croatia

She had a hard act to follow - when the elegant, sophisticated and highly appreciated Danijela Martinović wanted to leave Magazin shortly after their 1995 Eurovision adventure in Dublin, young Jelena was taken in to fill her shoes.

Danijela went on to have quite a successful solo career, perhaps peaking when representing Croatia again in Birmingham in 1998.

Jelena was first entered into the Croatian national final as a solo singer in 1996, and this first try was perhaps not completely convincing. She danced sweetly but struggled to hit the higher notes and seemed not too confident on stage.

Almost ten years with Magazin turned the tables completely, and since going solo in 2006 she is leading a remarkable career in Croatia. She has won the Grand Prix of the important Split festival every year since 2008 and was the first female performer in her country to sell out a concert hall of 12,000 seats.

Given how low interest is for the once so glorious Dora - the Croatian national final - and how popular Jelena is, it wouldn't be a bad idea to select her internally to represent her country in Baku.

After two flops in succession (and not a single top ten finish since 2001) it would be about time for Croatia to make an impression again.

Jelena Rozga - Bižuterija

Israel 1979: Shake it like Sherry

In 1978, the Israeli Song Festival was also used to select the national entry for Eurovision, resulting in instant victory and Jerusalem welcoming all Europe to friendly competition.

No wonder that a great deal of zeal and enthusiasm went into organising the 1979 Israeli Song Festival. The enthusiasm would only be topped a couple of weeks later, when it turned out that also this year's winner would go on to win Eurovision.

The Israeli Song Festival has an incredible track record in other words: twice it was used to select the Israeli entry, twice it produced a Eurovision winner. In 1981, the special Kdam Erovizion contest was created to act as national final, and it is yet to produce a single ESC winner.

The festival did more than finding a future world smash winner, it also produced a real sleeper hit. More than fifteen years later, the entry of Sherry hit the domestic charts and became a real evergreen.

I'm more surprised to find it wasn't a real hit back then. This is a fine track with a very convincing chorus as well as a very lively performance. What wouldn't I do to be able to shake it like Sherry's backing group? Those clever moves and those wonderful outfits leave me with a slight sense of regret that we never got to see Sherry on the Eurovision stage.

Could this song have done the same thing that Hallelujah did? Could it have been a second consecutive victory for Israel?

Sherry - Leolam be'ikvot hashemesh (Israel 1979 national final)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Belgium 1979: what if Micha Marah had it her way?

A number of countries have a tendency of getting it wrong at their national finals and end up sending weaker acts off to Eurovision, leaving stronger songs behind. Finland, Slovenia, Latvia and many others do this on a regular basis.

However, few national heats create the kind of chaos that has ensured after a number of Flemish finals.

Like in 1979, when Micha Marah sang all the songs in competition and was sent to Jerusalem with a song she truly hated (ending in shared last place with Austria once all points were cast).

Micha Marah - Hey Nanah! (Belgium 1979)

The song Micha had been backing all the way was a not too different number called "Comment ça va", and I can't help wondering how this song would have fared in the voting.

It is a bit of a loud monster of a song, maybe not quite as catchy and easily accessible as Micha herself seems to think. But just look at the conviction she puts into the performance. She transforms from a somewhat coldish chanteuse into a wild-eyed powerhouse.

Look at those eyes! Look at those hand movements! Look at her complete attack and dedication! And this is just the national final. Imagine how much energy she could have worked up on stage in Jerusalem.

All you people out there who have seen film noir classic "Sunset Boulevard" - don't you also almost expect Micha Marah to end this performance by saying "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up"?

Micha Marah - Comment ça va (Belgium 1979 national final)

Finland 1980: Goodbye, night (and goodbye, points)

Just like Yugoslavia, Finland was a country somewhere in between East and West during the days of the cold war. While looking west culturally, there was a large neighbour in the east that should be kept happy at any cost.

One of the things this resulted in was Finland taking part not only in Eurovision of the West, but also in the socialist equivalent - the Intervision Song Contest in Poland.

For some years, Yle decided to devote equal time to both contests and organised a national final split in two: during the same show, seven songs competed for a Eurovision ticket, seven songs competed to go to Intervision.

Intervision never gained any real popularity in Finland, though. There was little, if any, interest for the songs from the other countries, Intervision was never broadcast live and it lacked in excitement as there was no voting sequence during the show.

In an attempt to make Intervision more appealing, Yle asked Marion Rung (who sang for Finland at Eurovision in 1962 and 1973 and was, until the victory of Lordi, the best place Finlander ever at the ESC) to sing all seven entries for Intervision. The winning song, "Hyvästi yö" (Goodbye, night), didn't only turn into a big hit and a real evergreen, it also went on to win first prize (in one of the many categories) of Intervision.

Marion - Hyvästi yö (Finland 1980 Intervision)

At the same time, the national final for Eurovision held a remarkably low standard, offering a line-up of surpringly un-catchy songs, resulting in victory for actor Vesa-Matti Loiri equipped with a song that was not bad but complete shark feed in a commercial pop contest. At the final in the Hague, "Huilumies" (Flute man) ended on nineteenth and last place.

The big question remains why Yle threw away a brilliant song with big hit potential to a song contest nobody cared for while sending a no-hoper to the most watched and loved song contest of the year.

Vesa-Matti Loiri - Huilumies (Finland 1980)

Song Of The Day: Spain 1986

In a moment of rare clarity, Terry Wogan stated that Spain had been drifting away from the European mainstream in Eurovision, sending entries that stood out in a different light compared to most others.

Indeed, Spain had been doing this and would keep on bending the rules concerning what an ESC entry could/should look like and sound like.

In 1986, Cadillac sported a very contemporary sound and offered a song that was far more laidback and slick, far less depending on any typical formula and with not even the shadow of a proper key change in it. Instead it relies on it's hook, the very instant "Valentino"-singalong in the chorus.

Cadillac - Valentino (Spain 1986)

It managed to sneak into the top ten but not more. Perhaps the juries wanted something more easily digested (the victory of Belgium could suggest this), perhaps the visual presentation was not as exciting as it could have been. The preview, for instance, is more dynamic and suggestive.

But a good little 80's pop song it is, and a welcome reminder of the good old days when Spain made a difference at Eurovision.

Cadillac - Valentino (Spain 1986 preview)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tobson's Wish List: Mika for France

Five years ago, Mika was an international pop smash with his very own mixture of styles and sounds. At some point, around hit singles as "Relax (Take It Easy" and "Grace Kelly", he was quoted as saying he'd love to go to Eurovision at some point. For his country of birth, Lebanon.

Maybe it was a joke. Maybe he thought it was safe saying so as Lebanon is quite unlikely to enter. I can't even remember what magazine asked the question, whether it is the least bit reliable.

But I think Mika would be great for Eurovision - an established pop act, whose runner-up album didn't quite affect the charts the way it was intended to.

Especially as he recently released his first ever French-languaged single, and French television has made it a thing of their own to walk their own original ways, he would be an excellent representative for France.

He is just as international and multi-cultured as French society in itself, and despite being renowned for heavy ballads, the French have always had a soft spot for bubbly pop à la chewing-gum.

The presence of Mika would surely make Baku a livelier place come May. I say go for it. I say danse! danse! danse! (And if he would bring Fanny Ardant - leading lady in this clip - to Baku, I would promise him my personal 12 points on the spot.)

Mika - Elle me dit

Monday, October 10, 2011

Everybody wanted to be Abba

At some point in life, all children just want to close their eyes, make a wish and transform into something else. At some point, every little girl would want to be a princess and every little boy an astronaut.

In the late 70's, quite a few groups entering Eurovision really wanted to be Abba.

Not surprising, given Abba's remarkable success at the ESC itself and even more so afterwards, when conquering the world.

But being Abba takes a little bit more than just being two girls and two guys singing together. As the juries cast their votes, it was time for these acts to wake up and face the music.

(At some point, maybe Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida watched the ESC, looked at each other with puzzled facial expressions, thinking to themselves: "is this really what these people think we sound like?")

The Swarbriggs Plus Two - It's Nice To Be In Love Again (Ireland 1977)

Gemini - Dai-li-dou (Portugal 1978)

Nazar - Sevince (Turkey 1978)

R.I.P. Ingvar Wixell

The internationally renowned opera singer Ingvar Wixell has passed away, at the age of 80.

In 1965, he was selected internally to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest in Naples. His graceful appearance and smooth voice was meant to make the judges focus on melodic qualities instead of voting for the young lasses performing the songs.

The winning song of the national contest caused a bit of a stir on home ground, as it beat the slightly more commercial bossa nova "Stilla och tyst" and was considered a bit too sophisticated to go down well. A musical gourmet meal thrown at an audience that usually prefers hamburgers.

Ingvar Wixell - Annorstädes vals (Sweden 1965)

In Naples, the Swedish delegation deemed themselves chanceless but, in an attempt to increase the possibilities of anyone understanding, it was decided for Ingvar to perform the song in English. This was not against the rules, but the EBU officials were not amused and added a clause about everyone having to sing in (one of) their native languages from 1966 and on.

For me, this stands out as a most enchanting and appealing little song with a superb delicacy and finesse, especially the original Swedish lyrics were written with a very light and poetical touch.

And again, the great masses understood nothing. Apart from the three Swedish entries never recorded by the original performer (1958, 1960 and 1966), this one possibly has the distinction of being the least selling Swedish eurosong ever (in a tight battle with the 1994 entry).

Ingvar Wixell - Absent Friend (Sweden 1965)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Song Of The Day: FYR Macedonia 1996

During all the years Former Yugoslavia participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, TV Skopje did not manage to run off with victory even once. In 1996, they wanted to enter under their own flag for the first time, but it wasn't to be.

Kalopi Grill impress the jurors of the Skopje festival with her self-penned number "Samo ti", but in the odd, non-public, pre-selection for Oslo - where 29 candidates were cut down to 22 - the juries made thumbs down.

It's not that I don't see why. I can sort of understand why this passes over the heads of the masses.

But Kaliopi sings wonderfully and this song is an unusual, demanding and intriguing little soul number that could have made more than a tiny difference in Oslo.

Kaliopi Grill - Samo ti (FYR Macedonia 1996 - rejected in the pre-selection)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Song Of The Day: Austria 1987

Gary Lux is a real eurovision trooper who sang solo twice, sang in a group once and acted as backing singer no less than three times. He should have a medal for his devotion and endurance.

Not that he ever came home with a real success under his arm. In 1983 and 1985 he was tipped to do a lot better than he did in the end, and in 1987 he only scored a humble eight points.

Rightly so, most people would say. They would use words like "tedious", "insignificant" or "hopeless" to describe this soft little pop ballad. And I have to admit it is no real blockbuster. But I like it anyway. It has a certain something, a touch of je-ne-sais-quoi, that makes me really fond of it.

I like the vague and soft intro, and I like the tone of Gerhard's voice. There is something about the bridge and the saxophone break. And how it finally falls back into the same vague but pleasant little part that keeps running like a red thread through the entire song.

I wouldn't give it twelve points, certainly not. But I would never push fast forward either.

Gary Lux - Nur noch Gefühl (Austria 1987)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Annica could have been Kylie

The youngest participant in the 1988 Swedish national final was Annica Burman, only 15 years of age when she entered the circular stage of Malmö Stadsteater in the end of February.

She made the super final and ended in 6th place with the song "I en ding ding värld" (almost identical to the Swedish title of the 1963 hit comedy "It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world).

Annica Burman - I en ding, ding värld (Sweden NF 1988)

The song was written by Bruno Glenmark, whose record label took on Annica with the purpose of making her a Swedish equivalent of Kylie Minogue. Unfortunately, the label folded, taking its acts (beside Annica also quirky pop band Carmen Kane and poodle rockers Talk Of The Town) with them into obscurity.

A shame, given the material they had to work with. Annica's follow-up single (complete with a most entertaining video clip) could have been a smash hit given the right promotion. (Or any promotion, actually.)

Now it was just another good pop single to pass unnoticed. Annica moved on to the States, where she worked as a secretary (according to an old newspaper article) and also as a singer (according to Swedish Wikipedia).

Annica Burman - I Can't Deny A Broken Heart

Preview clip: Yugoslavia 1989

Back in 1989, aged only 13, I might have been the only person alive to see Yugoslavia as a serious contender for victory after seeing the previews. Everyone else claims to have been deeply surprised by Riva taking the crown, but I loved this from the word go.

Especially I loved the cute preview clip, re-telling the story of the English lyrics (while the original lyrics say something completely different). I just loved the happy ending, I loved the movement, the colours and, above all, the sense of fun.

Former Yugoslavia usually made really fun video clips, packed of shiny, happy people who ran around town and did crazy and wonderful things.

I was convinced Yugoslavia was a country where everyone was happy all the time and where fun reigned supreme all day long (and quite a bit into the night as well). Two years later Yugoslavia collapsed into horrific civil war and I realised I am an impressionable fool who knows nothing, and that I should never try to understand the world with the aid of eurovision previews only.

But I still think the clip is really cute.

Riva - Rock Me (Yugoslavia 1989 preview)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Song Of The Day: Israel 1973

Israel made its eurovision debut in Luxembourg 1973, seemingly because singer Ilanit really wanted to take part and represent her won country.

She surely must have felt the need to impress as many people as possible, and commissioned a specially crafted song from well renowned composer Nurit Hirsh. She listened to several successful ESC entries in order to find a structure that would appeal to an international contest before writing "Ey Sham".

And what a piece of art that song is. It starts gently with a plain piano introduction before Ilanits warm voice blends into the mix, singing a few lines before the whole thing erupts into a long, dynamic chorus, where the lyrics by Ehud Manor makes Hebrew sound soft, poetic and appealing.

Cleverly, the song never repeats the exact structures - short verse followed by long chorus, then a long verse followed by a short chorus, then an instrumental break before another short chorus wraps the whole thing up.

IBA could not afford sending any backing singers along to Luxembourg, but the clever arrangement almost makes up for that. The orchestra is conducted by Nurit Hirsh herself, being the second female conductor ever at the ESC (out of a grand total of three).

Ilanit - Ey Sham (Israel 1973)

In my book, Israel is yet to send any song as powerful and convincing as this one. Even if it sounds even a tiny bit better in its studio version, thanks to a certain atmosphere the Luxembourgois orchestra could not create (as well as the lack of backing vocals).

Ilanit - Ey Sham (Israel 1973 preview)